Photo by Chris Jimenez

West Highland White Terrier - Breed Profile:

Origin: Scotland
Size: Small
Type of Owner:
Exercise: Vigorous
Grooming: Regular
Trainability: Can be slightly difficult to train
Combativeness: Not generally dog-aggressive
Dominance: Moderate
Noise: Likes to bark

Physical characteristics

The West Highland White Terrier is a strudy compact dog with pure white coat and sharply-pointed erect ears. The deep chest extends to the elbows. The forelegs are straight, muscular and well-boned. The skull is wide and slightly rounded. The blunt muzzle has a defined stop; it is a bit shorter than the skull. The almond shaped eyes are set widely apart. They are dark brown with black eye rims. The large nose is black. The teeth are relatively large for the dog's size. The bite can be scissors or level. The tail is rather short and carrot-shaped, carried gaily. When it stands erect, it is never extended above the top of the skull. The gait is free and easy.
Westies weigh 15 to 18 pounds. Their height is 10 to 11 inches.


Westies are lively, ardent and outgoing. Devoted to their family, these dogs know they are wonderful and can be somewhat cocky. Less obstinate than many other terrier breeds. Westies will adapt to a household with children, but do better in one without. They may chase a cat for fun, usually not really to hurt it, but it is wise to protect all non-canine pets from your Westie correcting any attempts of such chasing behaviour. This is a high energy breed, so it needs long daily walks and preferably a fenced yard. Mental work is also important as these dogs are extremely smart and need something to occupy their mind with. Easy to train and easy to travel with. They are extremely self-assured toward other dogs, but will not pick fights if their owner knows how to display proper leadership. If a Westie is allowed to become the pack leader, it may become snappish, combative, possessive about food and furniture, and so on. These dogs like to dig and bark.

Coat and grooming

The coat of Westies is double and always pure white. The outer coat consists of straight hard hair about two inches long which is not supposed to be silky or soft. The undercoat is dense. The hair on the ears is customarily trimmed to be short. It is smooth and velvety, free of fringe at the tips. A quick daily brushing with a stiff bristle brush is best. Shedding is very little.


Generally healthy, but some lines are prone to skin conditions, Legg-Perthes disease, hernias, liver disease and jawbone calcification.
The lifespan is 12 to 15 years.

Other interesting facts

The West Highland White Terrier is said to originate from Poltalloch, Scotland. Due to this, it was originally known as the Poltalloch Terrier. It was also sometimes referred to as the Roseneath Terrier, after the Duke of Argyll's estate.