The West Highland White Terrier, commonly known as the Westie, has a characteristically round and hairy head. It will be friendly and with a balanced temperament, as long as it is properly socialized. As most Terriers, they are naturally energetic and brave.
“Westies” are descendants from the Cairn Terrier and it seems like this breed origin is related to the white specimens’ selection for hunting, because some hunters thought that it would be useful to have a white dog pack so they could distinguish them from their prey (foxes and rabbits), mostly dark colored.
During the Middle Ages, Terrier were used in Scotland to hunt little rodent, like mice, badgers, polecats and even foxes. During the XVIII century, in the Scottish Highlands, nobility and peasants used to breed these dogs according to the job they would do. In the first stages of the XIX century, the differences among the Highlands Terriers had emphasized, which caused a lot of different types of them, as we currently know, like the Scottish Terrier, the Cairn Terrier, the Skye Terrier, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier and the West Highland White Terrier.
El West Highland White Terrier is small dog with a strong structure and good bone. It has a round head and small ears, which are erect on the top. The tail is 15 cm long and it is lifted. Its coat is thick and pure white.
It usually weighs between 5 and 10 kg, and its height is of 28 cm to the withers. They have a soft and dense under coat, and a rough and thick outer coat, which is 5cm long. Its coat needs regular preparation and maintenance. Its coat is pure white, but some specimens may also have brandy stains on their back or paws, although it is not recognized for specimens destined to reproduction.
Westies have a strong personality; they are determined, stubborn, active, independent and brave. It is discreet, but that does not mean it does not need to be treated affectionately. It is very affectionate with children and loves taking part in their games. As all Terriers, they love countryside excursions, and it is probable for them to disappear following a track. It is characteristically tenacious and it is indefatigable when it comes to follow its prey.
It needs moderated but constant exercise; and because of their small size and medium energy levels, they are ideal for apartment lives. It is a dog which is alert most of the time and comes out to defend its territory when threatened; this is why, because of its small size and furious barking, makes it an excellent watchdog.
As a Terrier, it is extremely stubborn, and it will turn its training to be a patience test to its owners. It is recommended for it to be trained as soon as it steps in the house (generally as a puppy) for it to adapt and learn to behave properly, because if it is not used to follow orders quickly, its temperament will lead it to cross limits and play the leader.
The breed is prone to skin disorders and frequent bathing may make the situation worse. Generally, bathing them once a month –or in longer intervals- should not cause any problems. It is recommended to use neutral soaps or baby shampoos and avoiding products with aggressive substances, except the ones which are prescribed by the vet. After bathing, the ears must be completely dry. If it is daily or regularly brushed, its coat will stay healthy and glossy. It is also suggested to brush it and removing dead hair (this practice is known as stripping), a painless method done by groomers. This type of brushing will maintain the Westy’s white coat’s texture and characteristics.
It is also important to clean their ears weekly with wet cotton to prevent wax accumulation and avoid possible infections. Its snout must be cleaned with a wet cloth after eating or drinking or digging a well. It is also of great importance to clean its lachrymal to avoid rheum accumulation, because if a white colored dog does not maintain those body parts clean, they can turn to an unsightly brown and look dirty or sloppy.
When they are still puppies, they must be cleaned with baby wet towels, especially on its belly, because as it is a dog with small legs, it gets wet when it pees and they end up having a disgusting yellow color.
Because of its active personality, the Westie must do a lot of exercise, and it is recommended to take it out for a walk three times a day or take it to the park for a run until it gets tired.
Westie puppies may be affected by craniomandibular osteopathy, a disease also known as “lion jaw”, and is sometimes also referred to as “westie jaw”. The disease is an autosomal recessive condition, so a puppy can only be affected by it if both its parents are carriers of the faulty gene; unfortunately, the only way to detect this condition in a reproduction specimen is when a puppy is born and has it.
This condition usually appears between the 3 and 6 months of the puppy, and it disappears by the time the dog is a year old. Generally, radiographic testing can be conducted to diagnose the condition. Symptoms treatment consists in giving the dog different medications to let it eat and use its snout without being in pain. Corticoids are the most frequent therapeutic agents. This condition spontaneously disappears when the growth phase is over. If the animal still cannot eat and is in uncontrolled pain, then euthanasia may be the only medical option remaining.
You can download the FCI (International Cinological Federation) standard at the following link: http://www.fci.be/Nomenclature/Standards/085g03-en.pdf