The West Highland White Terrier, or Westie, is everything a terrier was meant to be: self assured, spunky, curious, fearless and tenacious. These little dogs need plenty of walks and interactive play time, and like to be fully involved in all household activity. They are curious and like to get into everything, poking around in closets, cabinets and perching at the window to keep up on the neighborhood happenings. Westeis are excellent watchdogs, as they will bark at the slightest noise they hear, but after they are done barking at your guests, they will greet friends with a polite wag of the tail and then go about their business. They still possess a strong desire to hunt rodents, so if you live in the suburbs or on a farm, you can be assured your property will remain pest-free, but beware, he is likely to present his “prizes” to you as a gift. Westies get along well with other family dogs and enjoy playing with older children. They are a versatile dog, who make great companions for families of all sizes and ages.
Though they are small dogs, Westies require regular exercise in order to maintain happiness and an even temperament. They should be walked daily and allowed to run and play in the yard whenever possible. For Westies who don't have fenced in bark yards or who live in apartments, weekly trips to the park are required.
These smart little dogs also need to work their brains as well as their bodies. If they don't have a productive way to channel their energy they will chew destructively or dig holes in the backyard. They excel in agility competition and also enjoy flyball and earthdog activities. Earthdog is especially appreciated, as it allows the Westie to hunt and dig for rodents in safe, controlled environment where neither dog not rat can be hurt.
West Highland White Terriers have a stubborn and independent streak and generally don't like being told what to do. They approach everything with a “What's in it for me” attitude, and training is no exception. Be prepared with lots of treats to motivate your Westie and keep sessions short and activities varied, as they can be easily distracted. Never treat your Westie with a heavy hand because they will snap and bite if they feel threatened, and once they lose trust in you, it can be nearly impossible to gain that trust back.
Socialization around people and other animals should begin early and often. Westies are more tolerant of other dogs than many of their terrier cousins, but if not socialized, they can become dog aggressive. Westies are naturally wary of strangers, but are not aggressive towards people. Overly sheltered Westies, however can become a handful if they do not spend enough time around new people.
Barking is a common complaint among West Highland White Terrier owners. They are alert watchdogs, but their barking can get out of hand. Proper training, exercise and socialization can minimize their barking fits, but it is essential for your sanity to teach your dog to obey commands to quiet down.
Westies will chase small animals with little regard for your commands to back down. For his own safety, as well as the safety of other animals, you should never allow your Westie to be off leash in an unfenced area. If he takes off after a squirrel, he will completely disregard your commands to return.