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West highland terrier temperament: What are Westies really like?

This is something mum is often asked when she’s walking me. People give me a pat (or sometimes even a belly rub!) and then ask what the west highland terrier temperament is like, as they are thinking of getting a dog. Here is my view of the west highland terrier temperament, based on the Westies I have known and sniffed. :)

When you’re a Westie, everyone is a friend you haven’t met before

The most well-known aspect of the west highland terrier temperament is a Westie’s friendly nature. I’ve met many Westies, and they all love humans.

Why do we love humans? Because they give such pawsome belly rubs! Collecting belly rubs is my favourite hobby!

West highland terrier temperament: we love belly rubs!

What are Westies like with other dogs?

To be honest, that depends on the Westie: the west highland terrier temperament varies here, and also depends on our formative years.

Me, I was the runt of the litter, so I’ve always been non-assertive with other dogs. And I got attacked by some big dogs a couple of times. I am now very selective who I hang out with. My favourite furiend is my boyfriend Morris. He lives next door, and we spend time together regularly. I love Morris, he is pawsome!

My boyfriend, Morris, also a westie, is my bestie!

My boyfriend, Morris, also a westie, is my bestie!

 

West highland terriers love human companionship

Us Westies do like company. We like to be part of the (human) family, so we’ll happily go for rides in the car, plane, or boat with you. Being with our human pack is very impawtant.

My humans take me sailing, and I love it! Though the best thing about it is being with my humans. :)

Because west highland white terriers do like human company so much, don’t get a Westie if you’re going to leave him home alone every day while you’re at work. Your poor doggy will be miserable without you, and barking may become a problem.

Does that mean that Westies yap a lot?

No, Westies aren’t generally yappy dogs. They will bark if they are unhappy, for example if you leave them all day.

If persistent barking is a problem, that’s a training issue. You need to show the dog what’s acceptable behaviour and what isn’t.

Me, I only bark when people come to the front door. And then I bark with a very deep ‘woof’. People are often a little scared and expecting a big dog based on my big, deep woof! BOL!

Alert and good watch dogs… but terrible guard dogs

Most Westies will woof when someone approaches the front door. We are very alert, and it only takes the tiniest sound to rouse us from the deepest of sleeps.

However, as soon as the door is open, we wag our tails and hope to score a belly rub from the visitor. So if you want a dog that’ll put the bitey on intruders, the west highland terrier will disappoint you!

We chase things… like cats

Now there’s one kind of intruder that I’m very good at dealing with: cats! If a kitty cat ventures into my garden, I will give it a good chase. My motto is, “if it runs, chase it”… and all my Westie furiends are the same. My English furiends even get to chase things like squirrels and rabbits, lucky dogs!

Why do Westies chase other animals? Well, we were bread to hunt and kill rodents, so that is an ingrained part of the west highland terrier temperament. You will need to work hard with your Westie to train it not to chase furry critters.

Westies have terrible road sense

Because of our inclination to chase furry things at a moment’s notice, west highland white terriers have terrible road sense. Our reactions are generally a lot quicker than humans, so please, never let a Westie off the lead anywhere near a road.

If Westies chase animals, can they live with cats?

Despite our fondness of chasing furry critters, yes, we can live happily with cats. We quickly learn that cats have sharp, pointy claws – so please, protect your young pup’s eyes and nose in the early days.

The cat quickly becomes top dog in the household. Believe me, I’ve experienced it. I respect the claw!

Got a cat already? Westies will learn to 'respect the claw' very quickly!

Got a cat already? Westies will learn to ‘respect the claw’ very quickly!

 

Are Westies good with children?

This is a trickier question to answer, as it depends on the Westie, the parents, and the children. Generally, the Westies I know are very good with children, but (and this is a big but) the kids need to be trained how to handle and act around the dog.

Many dogs hate the sudden, jerky movements children make – they feel threatened, and may snap. This is just their self-preservation. Likewise, any dog might get a bit grumpy if its ears are pulled, fur is yanked, or things waved in front of its eyes. In particular, make sure children are careful around a dog’s food. Dogs may snap or bite if they think their food is being threatened, especially if a stranger (e.g. visiting child) goes near it.

For any dog to be part of a happy home, it means training both the dog and all the humans.

Training your Westie

The west highland terrier temperament is known as being a little, um, stubborn. So I shall write more about training your Westie another time. For now, all I’ll say is that you must plan on spending time training your Westie puppy each day, and puppy obedience classes are a very good idea.

Food

Me, I looooove food *drools at the thought*. My boyfriend, Morris, has a healthy appetite too. We will do anything we can to score some noms from you, and I have pawfected the art of using my ‘hypnotise-eyes’!

Westietude: Look deep into my eyes... feed me... feed me...

But other Westies I know are picky eaters. I think we’re all a bit different in this regard. However, I am doing my best to teach everyone my hypnotise-eyes tricks, there is a Minnie Merchandise range to help them with that!

Do Westies need much exercise?

Even though west highland white terriers are small dogs, we are not lap dogs. We like daily exercise, thank you very much! I sometimes see overweight Westies, and that makes me sad. Our daily walks and sniffs are impawtant to us. If you are not willing to walk a dog each day, the west highland terrier is not the dog for you.

Westies love discovering new sniffs!

Westies love discovering new sniffs!

 

Napping

Most Westies will enjoy some naps throughout the day. Being this cute is tiring, y’know!

Oh, and our favourite napping position? Your bed. ;) You can always rely on a Westie to find the comfiest spot in the house, even if you don’t approve of it!

West highland terriers like a comfy bed (ideally yours!)

Skin issues and allergies in Westies

Yes, it is true that many Westies are prone to skin issues: I have had skin problems myself. There seem to be as many remedies as there are Westie owners; there is no hard-and-fast solution! Be prepared for some vets bills; and also the time to treat your Westie if a skin condition develops. Believe me, your Westie will repay you with love if you can make his skin comfy for him. :)

Here is my own experience of Westie allergies.

Grooming your Westie

Westies have hair, rather than fur, and it grows at about the same rate as human hair. Therefore your Westie will need to be groomed regularly. Me, I get groomed every 4-6 weeks in summer, and every 6-10 weeks in winter. As well as getting a bath and hair cut, my groomer also clips my nails and cleans out my anal gland. Not all groomers provide the same, comprehensive so don’t assume that all groomers will do this – ask!

If you don’t want to pay for someone to groom your Westie, you could learn to do it yourself.

In between grooms, your Westie will also need its hair brushed and maybe the occasional bath. (Me, I get a shower every week or two… I actually quite like it, and it soothes my skin!)

Wow, I hope you enjoyed this information on the west highland terrier temperament. Talking about Westies is one of my favourite subjects!

For a light-hearted look at the Westie’s attitude, check out my series on Westietude!

Love ‘n’ licks,

Minnie x

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