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  • Temperament: Loyal, Happy, Entertaining
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 41 of 194
  • Height: 11 inches (male). 10 inches, female
  • Weight: 15-20 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 13-15 years
  • Group: Terrier Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

West Highland White Terrier head facing forward
West Highland White Terrier head facing forward with tongue out
West Highland White Terrier sitting facing forward
West Highland White Terrier

Find a Puppy: West Highland White Terrier

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GENERAL APPEARANCE

The West Highland White Terrier is a small, game, well-balanced hardy looking terrier, exhibiting good showmanship, possessed with no small amount of self-esteem, strongly built, deep in chest and back ribs, with a straight back and powerful hindquarters on muscular legs, and exhibiting in marked degree a great combination of strength and activity. The coat is about two inches long, white in color, hard, with plenty of soft undercoat. The dog should be neatly presented, the longer coat on the back and sides, trimmed to blend into the shorter neck and shoulder coat. Considerable hair is left around the head to act as a frame for the face to yield a typical Westie expression.

HEAD

Shaped to present a round appearance from the front. Should be in proportion to the body. Expression – Piercing, inquisitive, pert. Eyes – Widely set apart, medium in size, almond shaped, dark brown in color, deep set, sharp and intelligent. Looking from under heavy eyebrows, they give a piercing look. Eye rims are black. Faults – Small, full or light colored eyes. Ears – Small, carried tightly erect, set wide apart, on the top outer edge of the skull. They terminate in a sharp point, and must never be cropped. The hair on the ears is trimmed short and is smooth and velvety, free of fringe at the tips. Black skin pigmentation is preferred. Faults – Round-pointed, broad, large, ears set closely together, not held tightly erect, or placed too low on the side of the head.

BODY

Neck – Muscular and well set on sloping shoulders. The length of neck should be in proportion to the remainder of the dog. Faults – Neck too long or too short. Topline – Flat and level, both standing and moving. Faults – High rear, any deviation from above. Body – Compact and of good substance. Ribs deep and well arched in the upper half of rib, extending at least to the elbows, and presenting a flattish side appearance. Back ribs of considerable depth, and distance from last rib to upper thigh as short as compatible with free movement of the body. Chest very deep and extending to the elbows, with breadth in proportion to the size of the dog. Loin short, broad and strong. Faults – Back weak, either too long or too short. Barrel ribs, ribs above elbows.

FOREQUARTERS

Angulation, Shoulders – Shoulder blades are well laid back and well knit at the backbone. The shoulder blade should attach to an upper arm of moderate length, and sufficient angle to allow for definite body overhang. Faults – Steep or loaded shoulders. Upper arm too short or too straight. Legs – Forelegs are muscular and well boned. relatively short, but with sufficient length to set the dog up so as not to be too close to the ground. The legs are reasonably straight, and thickly covered with short hard hair.

COAT

Very important and seldom seen to perfection. Must be double-coated. The head is shaped by plucking the hair, to present the round appearance. The outer coat consists of straight hard white hair, about two inches long, with shorter coat on neck and shoulders, properly blended and trimmed to blend shorter areas into furnishings, which are longer on stomach and legs. The ideal coat is hard, straight and white, but a hard straight coat which may have some wheaten tipping is preferable to a white fluffy or soft coat. Furnishings may be somewhat softer and longer but should never give the appearance of fluff. Faults – Soft coat. Any silkiness or tendency to curl. Any open or single coat, or one which is too short.

TAIL

Relatively short, with good substance, and shaped like a carrot. When standing erect it is never extended above the top of the skull. It is covered with hard hair without feather, as straight as possible, carried gaily but not curled over the back. The tail is set on high enough so that the spine does not slope down to it. The tail is never docked. Faults – Set too low, long, thin, carried at half-mast, or curled over back.

HINDQUARTERS

Angulation – Thighs are very muscular, well angulated, not set wide apart, with hock well bent, short, and parallel when viewed from the rear. Legs – Rear legs are muscular and relatively short and sinewy. Faults – Weak hocks, long hocks, lack of angulation. Cowhocks. Feet – Hind feet are smaller than front feet, and are thickly padded. Dewclaws may be removed.

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west highland white terrier illustration

About the West Highland White Terrier

Standing 10 to 11 inches at the shoulder, with dark piercing eyes, compact body, and a carrot-shaped tail wagging with delight, the Westie’s looks are irresistible. Beneath the plush-toy exterior, though, is a true working terrier of gameness and courage. Bred to hunt rats and other underground rodents, Westies are surprisingly strong and tough. The all-white double coat is hard to the touch, not soft and fluffy.

Alert and active, Westies exhibit traits of a plucky and self-reliant ratting terrier: They require no pampering, they will chase after anything that moves, and their independence can make training a challenge. But, thanks to their faithfulness and keen intelligence, Westies will train nicely with time and patience.

National Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
West Highland White Terrier

Find a Puppy: West Highland White Terrier

AKC Marketplace | PuppyFinder

AKC Marketplace is the only site to exclusively list 100% AKC puppies from AKC-Registered litters and the breeders who have cared for and raised these puppies are required to follow rules and regulations established by the AKC.
Find West Highland White Terrier Puppies

Care

NUTRITION

The West Highland White Terrier should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.

GROOMING

To keep the Westie looking his best, regular grooming is a must. Stripping (or plucking) the old, dead hair is the traditional way of taking care of the terrier coat, and it is the grooming method that must be used if you’re interested in showing your dog. Pet owners often have their dogs’ coats clipped for neatness. Most people find a professional groomer who will help keep that beautiful Westie look. Usually a visit to the groomer every 4 to 6 weeks will work just fine. Daily brushing and combing are important. Because the Westie has a hard coat, bathing too often can do more harm than good.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Specialty/Professional
Daily Brushing

Shedding

Infrequent
Frequent
Seasonal

EXERCISE

Westies love to romp and play, and they enjoy a nice walk. Since by nature they will run after anything that moves, the breed does best in a fenced area or on a leash. With their intelligence, energy, and can-do attitude, Westies excel in a variety of canine sports and activities, including obedience, rally, and agility. True to the breed’s original purpose, they have the instinct to go to ground and are superstars at earthdog events.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity
Regular Exercise

TRAINING

Smart, confident, adaptable, and endlessly entertaining at play, the adorable Westie has charmed owners for more than 300 years. Like all terriers, Westies were bred to work alone. This terrier independence can make training a challenge, but thanks to their keen intelligence Westies take to patient, consistent lessons that are kept upbeat and interesting. Despite their size, Westies are sturdy, no-nonsense dogs who require little pampering.

Trainability

May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
Agreeable

Temperament/Demeanor

Aloof/Wary
Outgoing
Friendly

HEALTH

West Highland White Terriers are generally healthy dogs, and responsible breeders screen their stock for health conditions such as cardiac disease and patellar luxation. A Westie’s teeth should be brushed often, using a toothpaste formulated for dogs. Regular visits to the vet for checkups and parasite control help to ensure the dog a long, healthy life.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Patella Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation

Read the Official Breed Club Health Statement.

West Highland White Terrier
West Highland Terrier
West Highland Terrier
West Highland Terrier
West Highland Terrier

History

The nobles, landed gentry, and poor farmers of the long-ago British Isles all faced the same problem: infestations of rodents that pillaged grain stores and carried disease. The solution was the development of a vast array of terriers, “earthdogs,” adept at finding and dispatching rats.

It is thought that the terriers of Scotland—including the Westie, Cairn, Skye, Scottish, and Dandie Dinmont terriers—are all branches of the same family tree. The exact beginnings of the Westie’s forerunners are, in the poetic words of one historian, “cloaked within the mists of the Scottish hills.”

The breed we know today as the West Highland White Terrier comes into historical focus in 1700s, when the Malcom clan began breeding the little white exterminators on their estate, called Poltalloch. The breed was sometimes known as the Poltalloch Terrier; an alternate name was the Roseneath Terrier, named for another Scottish estate where early breedings were done.

By 1896, when the breed was first shown at Scottish dog shows, it was known as the West Highland White Terrier, referring to the northwest part of Scotland where Westies earned their fame. Westies were first shown at AKC shows in 1906. Amusing, spunky, and portable, the Westie has been a popular companion dog in America for well over a hundred years. Juicy Couture and Black & White Scotch whisky are two of the brands that have used the Westie’s delightful image to attract customers.

Did You Know?

This is a game terrier and has a very strong will.
The West Highland White Terrier, according to notable authors originated at Poltalloch, Scotland, where they had been bred and maintained for more than 100 years prior to their appearance at dog shows. In 1916 Colonel Malcolm of Poltalloch said that his father and grandfather both kept them. It is probable that the lineage of the Malcolm dogs goes back to the time of King James I, who asked for some "earth-doggies" out of Argyleshire.
It is probable that the West Highland White Terrier and all the terriers of Scotland came from the same stock; the Scotties, Cairns, Dandie Dinmonts, and West Highland Whites are branches from the same tree and its roots.
The first show held for the breed was at Crufts in London in 1907. The first AKC registration was in 1908. Originally registered as the Roseneath Terrier, the name was officially changed to West Highland White Terrier on May 31, 1909.
Years ago the breed was known as the Roseneath Terrier, also as the Poltalloch Terrier. The name Roseneath was taken from the Duke of Argyll's place in Dumbartonshire, Scotland.
As the legend goes, a reddish dog of his, emerging from cover, was mistakenly shot for a fox. Malcolm is said to have decided on the spot to breed only for white dogs that could be readily identified in the field.

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

The West Highland White Terrier is a small, game, well-balanced hardy looking terrier, exhibiting good showmanship, possessed with no small amount of self-esteem, strongly built, deep in chest and back ribs, with a straight back and powerful hindquarters on muscular legs, and exhibiting in marked degree a great combination of strength and activity. The coat is about two inches long, white in color, hard, with plenty of soft undercoat. The dog should be neatly presented, the longer coat on the back and sides, trimmed to blend into the shorter neck and shoulder coat. Considerable hair is left around the head to act as a frame for the face to yield a typical Westie expression.

HEAD

Shaped to present a round appearance from the front. Should be in proportion to the body. Expression – Piercing, inquisitive, pert. Eyes – Widely set apart, medium in size, almond shaped, dark brown in color, deep set, sharp and intelligent. Looking from under heavy eyebrows, they give a piercing look. Eye rims are black. Faults – Small, full or light colored eyes. Ears – Small, carried tightly erect, set wide apart, on the top outer edge of the skull. They terminate in a sharp point, and must never be cropped. The hair on the ears is trimmed short and is smooth and velvety, free of fringe at the tips. Black skin pigmentation is preferred. Faults – Round-pointed, broad, large, ears set closely together, not held tightly erect, or placed too low on the side of the head.

BODY

Neck – Muscular and well set on sloping shoulders. The length of neck should be in proportion to the remainder of the dog. Faults – Neck too long or too short. Topline – Flat and level, both standing and moving. Faults – High rear, any deviation from above. Body – Compact and of good substance. Ribs deep and well arched in the upper half of rib, extending at least to the elbows, and presenting a flattish side appearance. Back ribs of considerable depth, and distance from last rib to upper thigh as short as compatible with free movement of the body. Chest very deep and extending to the elbows, with breadth in proportion to the size of the dog. Loin short, broad and strong. Faults – Back weak, either too long or too short. Barrel ribs, ribs above elbows.

FOREQUARTERS

Angulation, Shoulders – Shoulder blades are well laid back and well knit at the backbone. The shoulder blade should attach to an upper arm of moderate length, and sufficient angle to allow for definite body overhang. Faults – Steep or loaded shoulders. Upper arm too short or too straight. Legs – Forelegs are muscular and well boned. relatively short, but with sufficient length to set the dog up so as not to be too close to the ground. The legs are reasonably straight, and thickly covered with short hard hair.

COAT

Very important and seldom seen to perfection. Must be double-coated. The head is shaped by plucking the hair, to present the round appearance. The outer coat consists of straight hard white hair, about two inches long, with shorter coat on neck and shoulders, properly blended and trimmed to blend shorter areas into furnishings, which are longer on stomach and legs. The ideal coat is hard, straight and white, but a hard straight coat which may have some wheaten tipping is preferable to a white fluffy or soft coat. Furnishings may be somewhat softer and longer but should never give the appearance of fluff. Faults – Soft coat. Any silkiness or tendency to curl. Any open or single coat, or one which is too short.

TAIL

Relatively short, with good substance, and shaped like a carrot. When standing erect it is never extended above the top of the skull. It is covered with hard hair without feather, as straight as possible, carried gaily but not curled over the back. The tail is set on high enough so that the spine does not slope down to it. The tail is never docked. Faults – Set too low, long, thin, carried at half-mast, or curled over back.

HINDQUARTERS

Angulation – Thighs are very muscular, well angulated, not set wide apart, with hock well bent, short, and parallel when viewed from the rear. Legs – Rear legs are muscular and relatively short and sinewy. Faults – Weak hocks, long hocks, lack of angulation. Cowhocks. Feet – Hind feet are smaller than front feet, and are thickly padded. Dewclaws may be removed.

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west highland white terrier illustration

Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
WHITE Check Mark For Standard Color 199

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