If you've fallen for a West Highland White Terrier and want to take her home to meet the family, it's a good idea to know what you've signed up for. Not that Westies aren't delightful, affectionate little dogs, because they are. However, it's always wise to bone up on breed facts before adopting any puppy.
Little Dog, Many Names
"West Highland White Terrier" is the long version of "Westie," but the name-calling doesn't stop there. Your little Westie pup might be also called by other names that refer to her homeland, like "Highlander" or "Potlatch terrier," referring to the region of Potlatch where the breed was developed. Although the Duke of Argyll was an avid fan of Westies, they're not referred to as "Argyll terriers" as tribute to him, but instead sometimes are called "Roseneath terriers," as that was the title of the Duke's estate. According to D.V.M. Dan Rice in his book on small dog breeds, Westie pups and dogs also are known as white Scottish terriers, little Skyes and little Cairn terriers.
Big Personality, Boundless Energy
Westies are true terriers, with a bit of a tenacious streak, and plenty of confidence, affection, cheer and loyalty. Your Westie pup will develop her own individual personality as she matures, but during her puppyhood an ideal Westie will be curious and playful as well as energetic without being hyper or aggressive. She'll make a charming companion, but will need training to give you the upper hand over her strong will as well as to occupy her curious and intelligent little brain.
Puppies of any breed don't typically need to be on a grooming regimen. However, since your Westie will need regular weekly brushing, it's wise to get her used to the routine and how the brush feels while she's still a baby. Start with a brief five-minute session just to introduce her to the practice and lengthen the sessions once she's accustomed to them. Your Westie pup might require a wipe-down now and then, too, with a dampened washcloth or puppy wipe to remove schmutz from her snowy-white coat. Don't worry about full-blown baths as they shouldn't be necessary until she is at least a year old, unless she gets into something particularly dirty or smelly. Puppyhood also is the perfect time to get your Westie used to brushing her teeth so that the chore is easier when she's grown up. Don't use doggie toothpaste until her adult teeth start coming in, but do brush her baby teeth with a soft bristled tooth brush. Don't worry about trimming your Westie pup's nails or hair. Those tasks are better left to a professional groomer once your Westie is older, but you can make those jobs easier as well through routine brushing and by handling her paws to train her not to jerk them away.
Choosing a Westie Pup
When you're picking a Westie from a litter of pups, there are some physical features you should keep an eye out for. Westie's can be prone to skin problems, so evaluate the entire litter to make sure none of the puppies has patches of dry, leathery or red skin. The puppy you choose should have clear, dark eyes that aren't running, red or tear stained. Her teeth should show no stains ,but be a bright white and they should line up with the upper incisors closing down over the lower ones. Check the puppy's gums and tongue; they should be very pink and healthy. Your puppy of choice should have a round, pudgy -- but not distended -- tummy and she should have a thin layer of fat over her ribs. Also, inspect the baby Westie's joints and feet. Her joints shouldn't be enlarged or tender to the touch, and her toes should point forward and not be splayed.
By Elle Di Jensen
American Kennel Club: AKC Meet the Breeds -- Get to Know the West Highland White Terrier
American Kennel Club: AKC Meet the Breeds -- West Highland White Terrier -- Did You Know?
Small Dog Breeds; Dan Rice
West Highland White Terriers; Dan Rice, D.V.M.
Vet Street: The Basics of West Highland White Terrier Grooming
Puppy Training the Guide Dogs Way; Julia Barnes
About the Author
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.