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The West Highland Terrier: An Independent Family Dog
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The West Highland Terrier: An Independent Family Dog

Rachel, Critter Culture Staff
Updated Sep 30, 2020

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The West Highland terrier is a small dog from Scotland that is completely aware of how great it is. They're loaded with self-esteem and are always ready to make you laugh. This breed has a bold personality wrapped up in a tiny package. They reach about 10 to 12 inches at the shoulder and weight between 13 and 22 pounds.

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1

They make wonderful family dogs

family dogs children Salima Senyavskaya / Getty Images

While West Highland terriers do have a hunting instinct, they are a family dog. They love life and will stop at nothing to make their owners smile. This breed is great with kids of all ages, though they tend to get excitable and should never be left alone with children.

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2

Westies are true to their terrier roots

terrier ratting hunting Aliaksandr Lapo / Getty Images

True to their name, the westie has common terrier traits. The breed was originally developed for hunting and ratting, and they still have that instinct. West Highland terriers are hard-wired to work. They excel at agility and obedience competitions, including tracking and flyball. Westies also make great therapy dogs, and some have even been included in search and rescue teams.

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3

Westies are a bit selfish

selfish big personality Salima Senyavskaya / Getty Images

West Highland terriers have a unique personality. It's not unusual for a small dog to be larger than life, but Westies are more concerned with what's in it for them. They're not temperamental, and they don't challenge authority, but they are usually only willing to comply with your demands when they know they're getting something out of it.

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4

This breed doesn't mind being left alone

alone easy traveler Eudyptula / Getty Images

Westies are independent dogs, making them a great choice for people who have to go to work and leave their dog at home all day; just make sure they have enough toys to play with to keep them busy. These adaptable dogs are also good travellers who love to tag along for a weekend away or a quick trip to the store.

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5

With the right approach, training is easy

training clicker method LSOphoto / Getty Images

Although they can be a little selfish, West Highland terriers are easy to train. They're smart and learn fast, as long as they're interested and getting rewarded. Positive reinforcement is key, and clicker training is often very effective. Harsh treatment will cause this breed to shut down and outright ignore the trainer's requests.

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They love to play and can get a little crazy outside

play outside messy corners74 / Getty Images

West Highland terriers are pretty calm when they're indoors, but they can get a little rambunctious when they get outdoors. While they'll happily sit on the couch at home, they zoom around in the yard and enjoy hiking, digging, and throwing toys around. It's a good idea to get Westies outside once or twice a day to let burn off some steam.

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7

Westies are good with other dogs and cats

friendly dogs cats Augustcindy / Getty Images

West Highland terriers do well in multi-dog homes, but be a little more careful about males who may see other males of any breed as a threat. Westies can get used to cats when socialized properly, though they may occasionally chase them. This breed does do not do well with smaller pets, like rabbits and hamsters. They are bred to go after animals like this and will see them as prey.

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8

This breed can live for a long time

long lifespan healthy corners74 / Getty Images

Westies are generally healthy and can live for as long as 16 years. If you're buying a puppy, make sure you use a reputable breeder. West Highland terriers are prone to developing a few health conditions, including jaw problems, cataracts, pulmonary fibrosis, dislocated kneecaps, and a condition called Legg-Calve-Perthes disease that affects the blood supply to the femur.

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Grooming is pretty simple

grooming coat trim Gail Salter / Getty Images

West Highland terriers have a white double coat, with a topcoat that's close to two inches long. They're easy to groom, but they do require regular brushing and trims every so often, especially around the feet, eyes, and ears. Westies barely shed, and they only need bathing when they get messy. For a Westie, though, this may be quite often.

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Some westies are prone to gaining weight

weight gain diet Gail Salter / Getty Images

West Highland terriers need about 1/2 to 1.5 cups of high-quality dog food, split between two meals a day. This breed is pretty active, but they do tend to gain weight. Be careful when training that they're not receiving too many treats, and don't leave food out for them around the clock.

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