Canine Breed Spotlight: West Highland White Terrier (Westie)

A look at the West Highland White Terrier (Westie)

Dog breed group: Terriers

Average life span: 12-17 years


The Westie shares a lot of history with many of the terriers from the same region, including the Dandie Dinmont, Skye and Carin Terriers. This breed was originally bred for hunting fox, badger, otter and rats. One story of this breed’s origin states that one day while hunting fox with his sandy colored terrier, the hunter accidentally shot his dog when he mistook him for a fox due to his coat colour. After that the hunter began to breed only white dogs so that they would not be confused with foxes. These dogs were called Poltalloch Terriers and as years progressed they may have have been interbred with Pittenweem Terriers, resulting in what we know today as the West Highland White Terrier.



Westies are a smart and fun loving breed. They have a happy disposition and enjoy playtime, belly rubs, toys and food. They are friendly and get along well as part as a family as long as they have been socialized properly from a young age. Due to their “terrier-ness” they are not lap dogs, but love but to run, play and show off their spunky attitude. They usually are not the ones to initiate a fight, but if faced with one, they most likely wont back down from it.


Is this breed right for you?

  • They are very self confident and this can make them overbearing and and potentially aggressive and possessive if they are allowed to be come the alpha in the family.
  • They have kept their terrier prey drive and this can lead to them being destructive in the house (chewing on things) or in the yard (digging holes) if they are not properly stimulated and left to get bored.
  • They like to bark! They are quick to bark at any new sound and sight.

Health concerns

Both pure-bred and mixed-breed dogs have varying incidences of health problems that may be either influenced by genetics or environmental factors. Here are some health concerns that more commonly affect the Westie.

Copper storage hepatopathy is a condition caused by an abnormal accumulation of copper in the animal’s liver. This causes progressive damage and scarring to the liver. It can be a genetic condition caused by abnormal copper metabolism in the body, or it may result as a secondary problem from some other health issue.

Westies are prone to developing skin issues caused by allergies. This can manifest itself as itchiness, recurring ear infections, moist dermatitis or other skin conditions.

Globoid cell leukodystrophy (terrier type) is a genetic disease that results in neurological symptoms of muscle weakness and uncoordinated movement, tremors and ataxia. This disease can progress to complete paralysis.