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West Highland Terrier

Our guide to the breed

My ideal owner | Exercise | Temperament | Health | Appearance | Cost | History

Key facts

Height: 25cm – 28cm

Weight: 7 – 10kg

Life Expectancy: 14 years

Exercise Needs: High

About West Highland Terriers

Hey there! I’m a West Highland Terrier, also known as a Westie. I’m a sociable and confident pup – I love meeting new people and I live happily with other dogs and cats. I’m at my happiest spending time with my people – whether that’s chilling on the sofa or zooming round the park. I’m easy to train as long as you stay positive and consistent, and I’ll even turn my hand to all manner of canine sports.

My Ideal Owner

I’m a happy pup who gets on well with people from all walks of life, and thanks to my small size I can be fairly low maintenance as well. I can live happily in a home without a garden as long as I get regular walks, and I’m a great choice for first time owners and families with children. My owners will need to be committed to my training, but if you find the right motivation for me I’ll pick up tricks quickly.

First time owners

First time owners

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Family with kids

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A home without a garden

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Committed to training


There’s all sorts of personalities amongst Westies – some of us are friendly, whilst others are more shy, some of us are independent whilst others are reliant. It all comes down to our experiences, especially in our early years.

Overall, we’re known for being fearless pups with plenty of confidence. We make friends with all sorts – people, children and dogs – thanks to our merry demeanour. We love to please and take training well, especially if you find the right motivation for us!


We’re a healthy bunch on the whole, but like many purebred dogs there are some conditions that we might be more prone to. Many of these can be tested for, so if you’re buying a puppy, make sure the breeder has had all the necessary checks done.

What is a luxating patella?

A luxating patella is a medical term for a slipping kneecap. This can happen as a result of certain ligaments being misaligned.

How is it diagnosed?

If your dog has a bow-legged stance or occasional limping, they may be suffering from luxating patella. A vet will carry out an initial physical exam and, if necessary, refer your dog to an orthopaedic specialist. They may then carry out diagnostic imaging, such as a CT and MRI scan, to establish the extent of movement in the affected joint.

What is the treatment for a luxating patella?

Treatment for a luxating patella depends on the severity of the issue. Treatments include:

  • Weight management
  • Physiotherapy
  • Exercise programs
  • Anti-inflammatory painkillers
  • Surgery

*This information should not be considered to be veterinary advice. Please always consult your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.

What is dry eye?

Dry eye is a condition that results from the lack of normal tear production. The affected eye becomes dry, red, and sore, and can often become infected.

Dry eye can be caused by a variety of issues including autoimmune problems, disease, side effects of medication, hypothyroidism, and diabetes.

How is it diagnosed?

The symptoms of dry eye included conjunctivitis, redness, or soreness in the eye. You should visit your vet as soon as you notice any symptoms.

Your vet will carry out a basic ophthalmic exam and may conduct a simple test to measure the production of the tear ducts. 

What are the treatments for dry eye?

The most common treatments for dry eye are eye drops or creams that may stimulate natural tear production and supplement artificial tears. Other types of eye drop may also be used to treat infections as a result of dry eye.

In the most severe circumstances, your vet may recommend surgery carried out by a specialist ophthalmic veterinary surgeon. 

*This information should not be considered to be veterinary advice. Please always consult your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.

What is Westie jaw?

Westie jaw is an inherited condition prevalent in West Highland Terriers. It causes bones in the skull and jaw to grow excessively, resulting in a wide and thick lower jawbone. The additional bone can make it difficult for your dog to open and close their mouth properly, even to the point of causing immobility. 

It affects young dogs under a year of age, after which time the excess bone growth stops, sometimes even receding. 

How is it diagnosed?

There are a number of symptoms you should look out, especially in dogs under a year old. These includes:

  • Pain when eating food
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Excessive drooling
  • Swelling around the jaw
  • Bulging eyes

If you notice any symptoms you should visit your vet. They will conduct a physical exam and x-ray to confirm the diagnosis and recommend a treatment plan.

What are the treatments for Westie jaw?

Treatments for this condition are focused on treating the symptoms, especially since many dogs recover as they mature, with bone growth receding in some cases.

Your vet may recommend medical treatments to help your Westie with their appetite issues, loss of mobility, fevers and pain. 

In severe cases your vet may recommend jaw surgery to remove excess bone.

*This information should not be considered to be veterinary advice. Please always consult your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.

What is Westie lung?

Westie lung is a condition affecting the normal function of the lungs. Over a period of time the tissue of the lungs becomes scarred and loses its elasticity. This makes it difficult for oxygen to enter the bloodstream. Sadly, for many Westies, this has fatal consequences.

How is it diagnosed?

There are a variety of symptoms of Westie lung that you should watch your dog closely for. Your dog may show some or no symptoms.

  • Loss of stamina/tires easily
  • Dry cough
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should consult your vet. They will be able to confirm a diagnosis following a physical examination. Occasionally they may take a lung biopsy, but this is an invasive procedure that carries its own risks.

What are the treatments for Westie lung?

It’s important to note that most treatments for Westie lung are unsuccessful and the earlier treatment begins, the better the chance of success. 

Your vet may recommend a range of medication to try and prevent scarring and treat resulting infections. You should also keep your Westie cool, especially in the summer since the risk of them overheating is increased.

*This information should not be considered to be veterinary advice. Please always consult your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.

What is Legg-Perthes disease?

Legg-Perthes disease is a condition that causes your dog’s hip joint to crumble and collapse. It is a painful condition that is commonly seen in young dogs, usually affecting one hip.

How is it diagnosed?

The symptoms of Legg-Perthes include:

  • Stiffness and limping in one back leg
  • Shrinking leg muscles due to underuse of the leg
  • Pain

These usually begin from 5 months old.

If you notice these symptoms you should visit your vet for a diagnosis. They will  carry out a physical examination and may take an x-ray.

What are the treatments for Legg-Perthes?

There are a number of treatments for Legg-Perthes that your vet will recommend depending on how severe your dog’s condition is. This can include:

  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Surgery to remove the damaged bone
  • Physiotherapy (especially after surgery)
  • Hip replacement surgery

*This information should not be considered to be veterinary advice. Please always consult your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.

Exercise needs


I’m a high energy terrier, so I need plenty of daily exercise. I love my walkies, but you should also make time for play and training. I’ll take well to canine sports like earthdog, agility – even flyball.

Get your dog’s tailored exercise goal by downloading the free PitPat app


With my small sturdy stature and my bright white coat, I’m easily recognisable. I am a little high maintenance though – I need daily brushing and regular professional grooming to keep me looking great and feeling comfortable.

Whilst some of my owners prefer to clip me themselves, but it usually easiest to have a professional do the job. You’ll be able to choose the style, so I can get a new look for each season!

As an alternative to my haircut, you can choose to hand strip me – that means pulling away the rough dead fur from the top layer of my coat. It’s usually best that this is done by someone in the know, so that you don’t pull out too much fur or do it in a way that might hurt!



Grooming needs

Regular professional grooming

Daily brushing

Bathe 3-4 times per year


Yes, depending on the severity of your allergy.


One off costs


This includes the average cost of a puppy, and all the gear they will need, like their collar, bed and grooming tools.

Ongoing costs

£23 per week | £101 per month | £1212 per year

This includes your ongoing costs such as insurance, food, toys, and standard veterinary care, but not dog sitting, training or veterinary costs not covered by insurance.


Us Westies hail from Scotland, where we’ve historically been used for badger, fox, and otter hunting, as well as killing small vermin like mice and rats. Our origins go back to at least the 16th century when King James VI of Scotland sent a gift of a dozen Scottish Terriers to the Kingdom of France.

It wasn’t until the 19th century that white terriers like us started to become popular though. In that time, two distinct breeds appeared – the Roseneath Terrier and the Pittenweem Terriers. Towards the end of the century Edward Donald Malcolm, 16th Laird of Poltalloch, started selecting for white terriers specifically for working game. He insisted that our breed should be called the West Highland Terrier, which is how we got our name today.

We were recognised by the Kennel Club in 1907, and until 1924, we were allowed to be crossbred with Cairn and Scottish Terriers. Since then, we’ve been Best In Show at Crufts on three separate occasions.In the past century we’ve soared in popularity. We remain the go-to option for many shepherds, but we’ve also excelled in many different walks of life. We’re a common sight in canine sports including agility, flyball, disc dog, obedience, showmanship and, of course, sheepdog trials.

Even though we’re not often used for hunting anymore, we remain a popular breed and a firm favourite with families.

West Highland White Terrier1

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