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Two West Highland white terriers on the back of a couch.

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Terrier group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height — 10-11 inches
  • Weight — 15-20 pounds
  • Coat length & texture — Coarse double coat
  • Coat color — Characteristically all-white coats, with which puppies are born and carry into adulthood
  • Exercise needs — Average
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — Frequent
  • Life span — 13-16 years
  • Temperament — Happy, loyal, and tenacious
  • Hypoallergenic — No, but their low shedding and drooling make them a good option for owners with allergies
  • Origin — Scotland

West Highland white terrier fun facts

👉 Coming up with a pet name can be fun but tricky. Search no further! According to PetScreening’s 2024 database, the majority of our users name their male West Highland White Terriers Winston; Bentley is the 2nd most popular male name. Meanwhile, most of our users with female West Highland White Terriers love Lucy, then Daisy.

  • They were originally called the Poltalloch terrier. These dogs were first named after Edward Donald Malcolm, the 16th Laird of Poltalloch. The terriers Malcolm bred were intended to exterminate rodents on his estate.
  • The Westie has celebrity status. The trademark white coat and soulful brown eyes are a popular site in television commercials. Westies have been the trademark face of the Cesar dog food brand since the late 1990s.
  • Early Scottish dogs were likely bred from the same lines. Historians who trace the ancestral histories of West Highland white terriers, Scottish terriers, and cairn terriers believe that these three breeds all came from common stock. They were bred primarily by the color of their coats to suit their breeders’ needs.
Westie on a walk

West Highland white terrier temperament and characteristics 

West Highland white terriers, or Westies as they are affectionately known, are beloved for their lively, fun-loving, and good-natured personalities. They are eager to please, extremely loyal, and love affection. A Westie can thrive in just about any environment. They will love running around the countryside or a large yard, but can also be just as comfortable in a city apartment. Westies are an excellent small dog breed choice for families with children, though it is always important to teach young children how to behave around a dog.

West Highland white terriers typically also do well with other dogs and or a cat in the house. Because they have a strong prey drive, it isn’t recommended to have them in a house with smaller pets such as rabbits or gerbils. Westies do need plenty of attention and can be prone to separation anxiety if left alone for too long. While training can help them be comfortable being on their own for short periods, Westies do best in a home where they can be with their humans often.

Common West Highland white terrier health problems 

Westies are overall a healthy breed with a longer lifespan than the average dog. But as with any dog breed, it’s good for pet owners to be aware of certain health issues Westies may face.

  • Hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is a common condition where a dog’s hind leg doesn’t fit neatly into the hip joint. Although more common with larger breeds, the spunky nature and high energy of the Westie can make them prone to this condition.
  • Allergies. West Highland White Terriers can be prone to atopic dermatitis caused by allergic reactions to certain foods, chemicals, or seasonal allergies.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) . Distinct from Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, IBD is a chronic inflammation of the large and small intestines and is a very serious condition that should be treated immediately by a vet.
  • Addison’s disease . This very serious condition is caused by poor production of adrenal hormones. Symptoms of the disease include lethargy, poor appetite, and vomiting.

Cost of caring for a West Highland white terrier

Bringing a Westie into your home will ensure a lifelong friend and years of happiness together. But with every  pet comes financial considerations. If your West Highland white terrier is prone to allergies, the cost to test allergens can run anywhere from $500-$1000. Allergy treatments for dogs are variable in cost, but will end up being a lifelong commitment. If your pup should develop hip dysplasia, the costs can be great. Orthopedic surgery for hip dysplasia can total more than $4,000 per affected leg.

Considering pet insurance is a great strategy to help offset medical expenses for your furry friend. Securing a plan early ensures dog owners get the most benefit from their pet insurance. No matter your financial needs, dog owners will want to make sure they budget well for pet costs through every stage of their dog’s life. Starting a pet savings account can also help in financial planning for your Westie.

Westie giving their owner a kiss.

History of the West Highland white terrier 

It’s commonly believed that all terrier breeds from Scotland, including the Westie, Skye, Scottish, Dandie Dinmont, and cairn terriers, are all branches from the same family tree. But the scrappy and loveable West Highland white terrier can trace their official beginnings back to the 1700s. Originally called the Poltalloch terrier, these pups solved a common problem among nobles and farmers alike in Scotland – vermin who invaded their food stores and carried diseases. These dogs, also known as “earth dogs ”, would sniff out and exterminate rats and other vermin on many landed gentry estates.

The distinctive white color of these terriers was a purposeful choice based on a tragic event. Col. Malcolm Poltalloch (for whom the breed first earned its name) sadly shot and killed his darker haired terrier by mistake after he mistook him for a fox. Afterwards, he vowed only to have white dogs to ensure that such an accident never happened again. The name West Highland white terrier surfaced in the late 1890s, when the breed was first shown in Scottish dog shows. The name referred to the northwest region of Scotland from where Westies first originated. The breed eventually made its way to the United States, and the Westie was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1906.

Caring for your West Highland white terrier 

From day one of a Westie pup joining your family, you’ll have plenty of new activities for your to-do list. Adding these items to your checklist before you bring your puppy home will help ease the stress.  Be sure to puppy-proof your home before bringing your dog in the house, and get tools to help with your pup’s teething. Also, schedule your first trip to the vet for your puppy’s vaccinations. While it’s no fun to think about losing a new dog, FidoAlert provides a free Fido ID and tag so you’re prepared just in case.


West Highland white terriers are a spunky, energetic and sassy breed. For a little dog, they’ve got a lot of stamina and can play for hours. While their short legs don’t make them a good choice for a running companion, most Westies will be glad to join you on long walks or hikes. Always be sure your terrier is on a leash, as their high prey drive and stubborn nature can lead them to rush off after a squirrel at a moment’s notice. Their high intelligence also makes them well suited to agility training and dog sports such as flyball.

Westies are an interesting breed in that, while they all seem to have that same jaunty and affectionate personality, no two are exactly alike. Some Westies love the cold, while others prefer warmer climates. Some would love to join their humans for a swim, while others strictly prefer dry land. Even as they age, a well cared for and healthy West Highland terrier will maintain their pep well into their senior years.

Westie in garden


Westies have a lovely and distinctive white coat, and their grooming care is fairly low maintenance. They should be brushed every day with a pin brush or slicker brush to work out tangles and avoid mats from forming under their legs and paw pads. If you’re thinking of showing your dog, Westies should visit a professional groomer who is trained in a special grooming process called stripping, which is done by hand to remove dead hair from the outer coat. But if your Westie is just your fuzzy household companion, a regular brushing and a bath once every six months will suffice.

Westies are prone to having dental problems which can lead to heart issues, so being sure your pup’s teeth are brushed regularly is important for long-term care. Also, keeping up with nail trimmings at least once a month will help keep your dog’s nails from getting too long or breaking.

While the Westie is sometimes labeled a hypoallergenic breed, it’s important to note no dog breed is truly hypoallergenic. A dog considered hypoallergenic simply means that they shed less, and thus have less of an effect on people with dog allergies. Allergic reactions occur due to the protein found in a dog’s dander, hair, and saliva.

Diet and nutrition

West Highland White Terriers do well on a diet of high-quality dog food. Westies do tend to be picky eaters, and their stubbornness means they will turn their nose up during mealtimes until they get a dish they like. Once they find a food they like, however, they can’t get enough of it, so it’s important to make sure your Westie isn’t overeating. On average, an adult Westie eats ½ cup to 1 ½ cups of food per day, spaced out over two meals. Treats are an excellent training and bonding tool, but should be given sparingly to prevent excessive weight gain.

Training your West Highland White Terrier

Westies are a highly intelligent breed, and are occasionally known for being a little too smart for their own good. Training should begin for your Westie the day you bring them home. Early socialization with other people and dogs in a puppy kindergarten class will help set your new pup up for success in their behavior. Although Westies are famous for their sassiness, they are also a sensitive breed and are eager to please their humans. It’s best to train with positive reinforcement and lots of praise to prevent your Westie from developing anxiety or other behavioral issues later. But this doesn’t mean a Westie wants to be overly pampered! Rather, keep training interesting and fun for your dog. Because Westies are very smart, they take well to agility training and other activities that exercise their minds as well as their bodies.

Westie laying in flowers

Breeds similar to the West Highland white terrier

Not quite sure that a West Highland white terrier is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Scottish terrier. Scottish terriers, or Scotties, are gentle dogs who tend to be more on the independent side than Westies.
  • Yorkshire terrier. A Yorkie is smaller in stature than a Westie. While they also need regular exercise, they only need about half an hour to a Westie’s hour-long walks per day.
  • Cairn terrier. The cairn terrier is slightly smaller and feistier than a Westie, and more likely to be a lapdog.

Frequently asked questions

Do West Highland white terriers bark a lot?

Westies do like to let their humans know when someone is at the door, and can have a reputation for being “mouthy” or sassy. Patience and training with positive reinforcement will help with excessive barking.

Do West Highland white terriers shed a lot?

While all dogs shed, Westies are known as a “non-shedding” dog. This means they do not have shedding seasons, and they are not prone to excessive shedding.

Are West Highland white terriers high maintenance?

Westies make a great choice for first time dog owners. They are eager to please, highly intelligent and very loving. Though all dogs are unique, they are not considered a high-maintenance breed.

How different is a Scottish terrier from a West Highland white terrier?

Westies have a uniquely white coat, while Scottish terriers (or Scotties) are characteristically black. Scotties also tend to be slightly shorter than Westies, and have longer and thicker jaws.

How much should you expect to pay for a West Highland white terrier from a reputable breeder?

The cost of a purebred Westie depends on several factors including bloodlines, location, and more. Regardless of cost, you should always ensure that any breeder can provide health clearances from the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals).