I recently met Bill and Denise from Cat and Dog World Kennels, they had just taken a West Highland White Terrier, who had been with them for boarding, back to its owner. They were telling me about their Westie puppies, so we naturally got talking about the breed. Denise told me that West Highland White Terriers are happy, affectionate, busy little dogs who always want to be with the family and in the very thick of things, they can be quite mischievous and love a ” rough and tumble” making them ideal family pets and very good companions.
The West Highland WhiteTerrier is commonly known as the Westie or as it’s called affectionately by Bill and Denise, the “Pestie Westie”, it’s not because they are pests in the slightest she said, but a nickname given out of love for the breed.
There are many legends to explain the origin of this little white Scottish dog , the most well-known one being that Colonel Edward Donald Malcolm from Poltalloch (Argyllshire) in Scotland was hunting with his pack of terrier dogs and some friends one day when suddenly one of his dogs, that had a red coat, jumped out of the undergrowth and was mistaken for a fox and unfortunately shot by one of the hunters during the heat of the hunt. Colonel Malcolm decided there and then to breed only white dogs in future so as they could never again ever be mistaken for a fox and shot.
Whether that is true is not known but the Westie did originate in the middle of the 19th century in Scotland, the first one gaining attention in 1907 as the Poltalloch terrier, named after the home of Col. E.D. Malcolm, who had been breeding the short-legged white terriers for the previous 60 years as working dogs that helped to keep the land clear from rats, foxes, otters, badgers and animals that were considered vermin at that time. They were also valuable in the hunt of small game such as rabbits and hares.
The breed has gone under several different names, including Roseneath, Poltalloch, white Scottish and little Skye. The name was changed to West Highland White Terrier in 1909. Since that date it has made quite a name for itself and is now one of the most popular terriers kept as pets worldwide.
The Westie is a very alert, courageous and often quite fearless little dog making them good guard dogs who are totally loyal and loving to their family. Denise says she often thinks some of hers think they are Rottweilers and will try to take on the world, then they turn into lap dogs who just want a cuddle! When getting a puppy early socialization is advised, as with any breed, they will then always be happy to meet and be friendly with other dogs, but being a terrier an owner should be careful when introducing a adult Westie to a cat, rabbit or pet rat etc for the first time as their hunting instinct from generations past may rear its head.
Although a small dog, standing approximately 9 to 12 inches high at the shoulder and with an ideal weight of around 6 to 10kg, depending on sex, a Westie is very active it will happily live in an apartment but needs daily exercise and would love agility training. A Westie is very intelligent so you must be firm but kind with its training, it will then always want to do anything to please you.
A good Westie coat, which is only ever white, is course, straight and non shedding, making it ideal for people with allergies. Nevertheless, if you, or a member of your family, suffer severe allergy attacks you should ask your GP to test you for allergic reaction to any dog you want to make a member of your household.
A Westie’s coat will need to be professionally trimmed about every 3 months but not bathed in between trims, Denise tells me if it gets dirty ,as it will because mess is irresistible to Westies, let it dry and then give it a good brush to remove whatever its rolled in! A good brush two or three times a week should be enough to keep it looking nice.
Denise invited me to Cat and Dog World to see her “babies”, who she obviously adores, so I am really looking forward to having a cuddle with her Westie and Labrador puppies and of course her beautiful Russian Blue kittens.