West Highland Terrier

  • Overview

    These adorable little white terriers have a determined, perky carriage and a fun-loving attitude. They are generally about 11 inches tall and weigh between 15 and 21 pounds, but they are not delicate and they will hope to strut their stuff in all types of weather.

    The Westie's personality makes him a popular, involved companion. Westies refuse to be ignored, and they are used to winning praise for their bright white coats as well as for their affable, confident attitudes.

    View Grooming Diagram for west highland terrier
  • Personality

    Westies are bold and confident little dogs who are overjoyed to spend time with their owners and receive attention for their playful behavior. These fun-loving dogs make delightful, if not particularly willful companions. They are self-assured enough not to need pampering, but they enjoy feeling as if they are part of the action. He is tenacious and deliberate even in play, but he should not be overly combative or aggressive. Westies should not be overly pugnacious, even though they will be snappish toward other dogs if they have not been socialized as puppies.

    These are cheeky little dogs who will bark or assert themselves if they feel they have been slighted. Positive, consistent training with plenty of rewards will work best to help the Westie's self-esteem and sensitive nature stay intact.

  • Coat Care

    The Westie's white coat is of upmost importance in the show ring, and it is a clear indicator of good breeding. Healthy dogs have a double coat with a straight, hard white outer coat. The under coat is short but never fluffy or soft. Dogs with some wheaten coloring are preferred over dogs whose coats are too soft or silky. The coat should have the typical terrier texture.

West Highland Terrier
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Combing with a wire brush will not only prevent mats and help the coat stay tidy, but it will also help the hair maintain its critical terrier texture.

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With preparation, perseverance and a positive attitude, bathing can become a fun and fulfilling part of the regular grooming cycle, while helping your dog avoid many diseases and infections.

The general rule of thumb for dog bathing is every three months but wire-coated dogs can be done with greater frequency, often within a four-to-six week range. The coat should end up fresh smelling, shiny, with no loose or shedding hair. First give the dog a good brushing to remove dead hair and mats. Place a rubber mat in the tub to provide secure footing and fill the tub with three to four inches of lukewarm water. Use a spray hose, pitcher or unbreakable cup to wet the dog, taking caution to avoid getting water in the eyes, ears and nose. Massage in pet shampoo, saving the head for last. Immediately rinse thoroughly, starting with the head to prevent soap from dripping into the eyes. Towel dry. The coat should be fresh smelling, with no loose or shedding hair.

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Hair Clipping

Clipping the coat should be done in a way that helps the West Highland Terrier maintain its shape. Longer hair is blended and trimmed to blend into shorter areas around the facial furnishings. The hair on the head is clipped to maintain the shaggy Westie shape and blend in with the rest of the coat. If you plan to show your dog, his coat will have to be hand-stripped at least twice a year to maintain the desired Westie shape. The hair around the foot pads, ears and eyes should be trimmed to help your Westie stay clean, comfortable and free of infection or discomfort.

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Many dog owners are apprehensive about trimming their dog’s nails because they are nervous about cutting into the quick. But with the right conditioning and careful cutting, nail clipping can be a simple, stress-free activity for you and your dog.

Provide your dog with plenty of positive reinforcement and even treats to help associate nail clipping with a positive experience.  As you start to clip, gently press on your dog’s paws to help him become accustomed to the feeling of having his nails clipped. Then, work gradually, shaving down just a thin portion of the nail at first to make sure you don’t reach the quick. Clip one nail, reward your dog with a treat, and stop to give him some positive reinforcement before moving on. Gradually increase the number of nails you clip in one sitting to help your dog get used to the process. Never trim extremely long nails down to a short nail in one sitting, because this is an excellent way to accidently quick the dog’s nail. Instead, work gradually, shaving small portions of your dog’s nails off each time.

You can tell if you’re getting close to the quick by the texture of your dog’s nail. The nail is hard closer to the surface and becomes softer as you get closer to the quick. If your dog’s nail starts to feel softer, that’s a good indication that you’re getting close to the quick.

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Eyes / Ears

Not all breeds and coat styles require routine trimming in and around the eyes and ears but all should undergo regular inspection and cleaning around these sensitive areas. Doing so will help prevent the development of infections that could seriously damage these amazing organs.

It is always important to routinely clean your dog's eyes and ears, and examine for potential infections. Wire coated dogs have sensitive ears covered in hair that  need to be checked weekly for infection and cleaned with a cotton ball. Gently wipe a cotton ball moistened with mineral oil, olive oil or witch hazel in your dog's ear, being careful to avoid the ear canal. Never use a Q-Tip, which could cause damage to the inner ear if your dog suddenly shakes or jerks his head. Bushy hair growth within the ear can be thinned with tweezers or blunt scissors. Use a small trimmer to trim excess hair around the eyes, ears and face. West Highland Terriers and other small terriers with white coats are prone to developing tear stains around the eyes, so clean around their eyes with a cotton ball or soft cloth and use a small trimmer to trim excess hair around their eyes.

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Many owners do not realize how important it is to brush your pet’s teeth on a regular basis. Some dogs are prone to dental problems and sensitive teeth, especially small dogs with tiny teeth and dogs with special diets. These problems can be easily combatted with frequent brushing.

Cavities are rare with dogs but gum disease caused by tartar buildup is not, which is why they require regular brushing with toothpaste and a toothbrush formulated specifically for dogs. While daily brushing is ideal, doing so on a weekly basis will be a big help in avoiding the need to bring your dog to a veterinarian for a cleaning, which usually has to be done under sedation.