West Highland Terrier

Also known as: White Roseneath, Westie, Westy, Poltalloch Terrier, Roseneath Terrier
  • West Highland Terrier
  • West highland terrier

General description

Apartment dog with a motivating intelligence and not many demands.

West Highland Terrier in short

  • Group 3: Terriers
  • Height from 25 to 28 cm
  • Weight from 6 to 10 kg
  • Longevity from 12 to 16 years

Aspect and attributes

Characteristics accepts by FCI:

  • Colors: white
  • Hair: wiry, short
  • Coats: double coated

The fairly small build of the breed makes it a favorite for apartment living. Although it has quite a narrow shaped body, its fairly wide and steady torso is supported by rather short and stocky legs. A fairly squared and relatively elongated head, when compared to the rest of the body, combined with a rather tight jaw are typical features of this breed. As a general rule, there is not a noticeable difference in size between males and females. The average height is around 28 cms at the withers with a rather long tail, reaching up to 15 cms in length.

Looking for West Highland Terrier?

Costs and maintenance

Except for the initial cost covering the first years of its life, including vaccines and regular vet checkups, the main expense related to owning a West Highland White Terrier can be found in the diet although, thanks to its small size it will still be considerably less compared to other breeds. Two meals a day should be more than enough to maintain an adult individual in healthy conditions. Other expenses are related to regular grooming which may include bathing when the dog is fairly active outdoors and tends to appear dirtier due to its white coat.

Within the average with particular care to coat cleaning

Characteristics Summary


Suitability to apartment life

The nature of the West Highland White Terrier makes it a perfect "apartment dog". This small and adorable dog easily adapts to life indoors and actually prefers this to the lifestyle of a dog used to long, wandering runs outdoors. Its high adaptability makes it the perfect pet for any kind of apartment. The limited size of an adult West Highland White Terrier is ideal for those owners who don't have much space but still love pets.

Great apartment dog without the need of great spaces

Tolerance for solitude

The West Highland White Terrier is an incredibly docile and calm dog. It is the perfect breed for those who want a pet but also have to spend time working outside of the house without worrying too much about what may happen when the dog is left alone. Such a calm dog must still be properly trained to achieve this kind of behavior. Once it is raised and trained to be apart from its owner for part of the day, it will behave as the perfect roommate.

Calm and comfortable when left alone

Suitable as first pet

Choosing the first puppy is always a challenging process for someone who loves animals. The West Highland White Terrier is a great first choice. Although it may seem a bit stiff at times, this breed tends to easily get comfortable around its owner and demonstrate tame gratitude so that owners will find it hard to regret their choice. This is obviously a very intelligent dog who is able to understand the interaction with its owner and behave accordingly by making the initial training and adjustment to the new environment very easy processes.

Perfect for first time owners


The initial impact with this dog can leave somewhat speechless. Its nature is calm and not too prone to excessive displays of affection. This peculiar characteristic may affect training. The West Highland White Terrier slowly adjusts to positive reinforcement and doesn't react well to any imposition unless it is based on a positive interaction with its owner. Its high intelligence however, aids it in quickly understanding the owner's expectations.

Very sensitive depending on the type of training

Tolerance for cold temperatures

As already stated, the West Highland White Terrier easily adapts to apartment living. This peculiar feature is undoubtedly linked to this kind of interaction. In fact, one of the main features of this breed is the rather active interaction when outdoors, especially in households with a large backyard which allows it to build an appropriate tolerance to not so moderate climates.

It adapts to outdoor living even in low temperatures

Tolerance for high temperatures

In extremely hot summer days, the West Highland White Terrier tends to display signs of discomfort. The quite even thickness of its coat along the entire body, makes it less suitable for higher temperatures in the house. A more definite grooming is recommended during warmer months, especially in the back and legs area but avoiding the face which is so particular because of such long hair. Shade and a bowl filled with water will help ease the discomfort caused by excessive heat.

A water bowl near by will suffice if the temperature is not extremely high

Friendliness and sociability

Affection towards family

One of the main traits of the West Highland White Terrier is its discreet presence. Obviously, its presence in the house is clear to everyone and the color of its coat combined with the naturally curious but discreet gaze, make it the main character within the family. The West Highland White Terrier is extremely intelligent and pleasantly responsive to the attentions received by family members. It shares affection with them, and proves to be a great companion especially for children and its owner.

A calm and quiet dog who can be very affectionate towards its family

Friendly towards children

One of the best features of the West Highland White Terrier is the ease in adapting to life with children. It is a great playmate for kids as it knows how to interact in a gentle manner by self-restraining certain behaviors which could otherwise become aggressive. Specifically, it doesn't differentiate between children who are part of the family and ones that are simply visiting. Particularly with children, this breed proves its ability to balance affection and playfulness.

Perfectly adapts to children

Relationship with strangers

The West Highland White Terrier is extremely friendly and this trait shows in the ability to bond with more than one individual. Its interaction with other people is based on a genuine and equal interest towards any subject interacting with it. It is tolerant towards anyone and doesn't differentiate based on personal traits. As long as this breed's nature is understood and indulged, the West Highland White Terrier is capable of developing a pleasant interaction with anyone.

It also interacts well with strangers in front of the owner

Friendliness towards other dogs

It tends to choose smaller groups of dogs and it is comfortable regardless of the gender. It knows how to entertain itself with other docile dogs and tends to be friendly towards them, especially in outdoor meetings. Interaction should be balanced and, like other dogs, it doesn't really appreciate a boisterous or impolite behavior. It is vital that the owner is present during this kind of interaction.

It is most comfortable with calm and gentle animals

Care and health

Coat care and shedding

Despite having a relatively thick coat, the West Highland White Terrier does not shed a lot. This feature makes it a perfect pet for apartment living. Regardless of the surface it lays on, it won't cover it in hair. Like many other breeds it goes through a fairly substantial moulting during the hot months however, with regular care this should not become too much of an issue.

It doesn't shed much if well groomed

Salivation and drooling restraint level

Even when evidently most excited or prior to meals, the West Highland White Terrier is not affected by an abundant salivation. This contributes to its reputation of being a fairly clean breed, especially if considering it definitely prefers to spend most of the time indoors.

Little salivation even during typically exciting situations

Easiness to clean

As its coat is made of smooth, grease-free hair that doesn't collect excessive dirt, the West Highland White Terrier is a breed that doesn't require particular attentions in regards to personal hygiene. Generally, regular grooming should be combined with the use of shampoo to keep its coat clean. Dogs such as the West Highland White Terrier who feature a pure white coloring, require care in cleaning the coat in order to maintain their natural whiteness.

Regular, due to coloring of the coat

Health and diseases

Although it tends not to develop serious or disabling disease, regular care should be taken into consideration as it regards this breed's general health as it can present craniomandibular osteopathy, muscular atrophy of the legs, pulmonary fibrosis and joint dislocations. All of these issues may occur with low incidence however, they should be taken into serious consideration before adopting a West Highland White Terrier puppy.

Generally in good health but it requires regular checkups

Tendency to gain weight

Despite its physique, the West Highland White Terrier is actually quite the athletic breed. Put it in the right situation and it will prove natural agility and desire to interact with other dogs and people. Provided it is taken care of, this breed tends to maintain quite a slim figure although its cleverness and food drive could convince you to overfeed it and therefore, gain weight. Keep an eye on the figure!

With care and exercise it maintains a perfect figure

Learning skills

Intelligence and training

The West Highland White Terrier is an extremely intelligent breed who is capable of quickly understanding any command given during training. This breed will happily respond to positive reinforcement and, on the contrary, not so well to an abrupt or inappropriate owner. Inadequate training could result into an incorrect response or, even worse, into a dog that completely ignores any kind of command given by the owner.

Great responsiveness if treated appropriately

Loyalty and inclination to escape

Once the West Highland White Terrier is raised in a domestic environment as a puppy, there is nothing that will make it change its ways. A West Highland White Terrier puppy prefers cozy and comfortable spaces, choosing to follow its owner during outdoors activities only when strictly necessary. In general, this dog will only cover great distances alongside its owner and family. It is pretty comfortable during holidays or road trips that may cover medium to long range distances.

Loyal and fond of all domestic environments

Inclination to bite

One of the best features of the West Highland White Terrier is its tameness which does not limit its playfulness but rather keeps it to a steady level of interaction, unless it finds it self in the "right mood". Depending on the context in which it finds itself, the West Highland White Terrier can show two different kinds of behavior: at home, although always alert it is usually very relaxed; outdoors, it is definitely more interested in any activity without having that exuberance which could push it to bite during playtime. It is generally quite reliable in this respect.

Calm behavior and little inclined to biting other than nipping during playtime

Hunt drive

When looking into the history of the West Highland White Terrier, we can see how it is almost entirely related to hunting. The major preys in its reach were rodents, otters and badgers although in some occasions, it proved itself as a perfect fox hunter. With evolution, these hunting skills got lost, although it is still very much attracted by these kind of animals and could easily be trained to regain its hunting nature as much as other hunting breeds.

Substantial, if trained for this purpose

Inclination to bark or howl

In this sense, It is a perfect host. The West Highland White Terrier will normally bark at anything in sight and considered as a possible threat. It usually doesn't bark in all instances but it definitely has the ability to sense other animals roaming around the backyard or a guest arriving, or even the postman approaching the front door to deliver your mail. As for many other features, the tendency to bark and howl can be managed by taking advantage of this breed's intelligence and through appropriate training.

Great host and never excessively noisy

Exercise requirements

Energy level

As all small size dogs, the West Highland White Terrier tends to move by putting great energy into any activity. In this sense we could say it displays a dual type of behavior. This dog is perfectly able to behave in different ways depending on the environment: calmer at home; more excitable when in the backyard or at the park. In this regard, it is important to monitor the West Highland White Terrier's activity, especially in a nicely landscaped garden as it tends to dig holes of a certain depth. However, it is safe to say this is a rather calm breed.

High energy levels depending on the environment


Its great intelligence is often showcased in this context. This breed is perfectly capable of discerning situations in which it can release its energy (i.e during a run or when interacting within the environment) and others in which it must restrain itself, like more "delicate" areas of the house or public venues. In this sense, its dual behavior and intelligence combined with its lack of dullness can be appreciated even more, ranking the West Highland White Terrier as one of the favorite breeds.

Calmer indoors and more energetic outside

Exercise requirements

Training this dog breed is quite easy. Quick learner and perfectly capable of sensing the behavior desired by the owner. This feature is very helpful in managing the breed's everyday life and regular exercise time as it keeps the dog responsive and in good health. It is not a breed that requires lots of exercise however it should be challenged with at least a few daily walks. A walk around the block or a few hours in the back yard to stretch its legs.

It requires exercise a few times a day

Tendency to play

Spending time playing with a West Highland White Terrier can be a fascinating activity thanks to its intelligence and responsiveness, as well as a great exercise to maintain our own physical and mental health. This breed can provide great satisfaction during playtime as well as gentleness and absolute safety during the interaction with children. These features are almost considered inbred within this breed however, are highlighted by training that stimulates its intelligence.

Intelligent and motivated during playtime, it gives great satisfaction

Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn more