West Highland White Terrier

AKC Terrier Group


Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

The West Highland White Terrier may have been developed from a few naturally occurring white Cairn Terrier puppies in mid-nineteenth century Scotland. Though bred originally for controlling the population of rats, fox, otter, and other vermin, this charming terrier is now mostly a companion dog. It was first registered by the AKC in 1908 as the Roseneath Terrier, but its name was changed in 1909.


The West Highland White Terrier is a sturdy, hardy, compact little white terrier with small, erect, sharply pointed ears and a black button nose. The skull is wide and slightly rounded. The blunt muzzle has a defined stop and is a bit shorter than the skull. The dark, almond-shaped eyes have a keen expression. The hair on the head is clipped for a shaggy, rounded appearance. The teeth should meet in a scissors or level bite. The top of the back should be straight and level. The length of the back between the withers and root of the tail is slightly less than the height at the withers. The undocked 5- to 6-in. carrot-shaped tail is carried gaily, but not over the back. The Westie has a double coat. The hard-textured outer coat is about 2 in. long, and always pure white. It is not supposed to be silky or soft.

Key Facts

  • Height:  Averages 11 in. (male); averages 10 in.
  • Size:  Small
  • Weight:  15 to 18 lbs.
  • Availability:  May take some effort to find
  • Talents:  Watchdog, hunting (rodents), earthdog, tracking, agility, obedience, and performing tricks


Westies will be OK in a household with children, but do better in one without. They are easier to train than many terriers, as they are smart; but they also bore easily, so training sessions should be kept short and positive. A quick daily brushing is best to prevent matting, and shaping and scissoring every three months will keep the white coat looking its best. Westies may chase a cat for fun, but usually not really to hurt it. It is wise to protect all non-canine pets from your Westie. Always keep him on leash when out and about. Some males are combative with other males, but the breed is generally not dog-aggressive. The Westie is a high-energy breed, with “ETE” (excess terrier energy) that needs to be let out. Therefore, Westies need a fenced yard; any other type of containment does not work well. This short-legged dog is not a good companion for jogging. Westies tend to run in spurts rather than for prolonged periods of time, and would bore easily with a jogging type of exercise. They think it’s much more fun to chase, bark (“give voice”), and dig. Westies tend to be easy to travel with. This is a long-lived breed, but some lines are prone to skin conditions, Legg-Perthes disease, hernias, liver disease, and jawbone calcification.


Lively, ardent, sunny, and outgoing. Delightful and alert. Self-assured, cocky, and spunky. Knows he’s wonderful. Playful and happy. Devoted to his family. May snap when irritated. Not as willful as many of the other terrier breeds.


  • Children:  Best with older, considerate children
  • Friendliness:  Fairly friendly with strangers
  • Trainability:  Can be slightly difficult to train
  • Independence:  Fairly independent
  • Dominance:  Moderate
  • Other Pets:  Generally good with other dogs in the household; do not trust with non-canine pets
  • Combativeness: Not generally dog-aggressive
  • Noise:  Likes to bark
  • Indoors:  Very active indoors
  • Owner:  Good for novice owners


  • Grooming:  Regular grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping:  Skilled trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat:  Medium coat
  • Shedding:  Very light
  • Exercise:  Needs lots of exercise
  • Jogging:  Poor jogging companion
  • Apartments:  Will be OK in an apartment if sufficiently exercised
  • Outdoor Space:  Best with at least an average-sized yard
  • Climate:  Does well in most climates
  • Longevity:  Moderately long-lived (about 12 to 15 years)

Useful Links

AKC® West Highland White Terrier Breed Standard


West Highland White Terrier Breed Club


Search for a Breeder


Rescue Organizations


Books about the West Highland White Terrier


West Highland White Terrier Gifts