6 Things You Must Know about the West Highland White Terrier Temperament  

The West Highland White Terrier, (a.k.a. the “Westie”), is a Scottish breed of terrier, and the West Highland White Terrier temperament has a more mature disposition than you might expect from such a tiny dog.  It is also perhaps more erratic in terms of its behavior, depending on the dog.

Aspects of the West Highland White Terrier Temperament

Every Westie is different, so it’s difficult to gauge a “normal” West Highland White Terrier temperament.  Some Westies are great with kids, while others would rather be left alone.

They can also be possessive with both their toys and their food, and they won’t stand for rough handling like, for instance, a child pulling at its ears or tail.

Here are some more elements that make up the West Highland White Terrier temperament:


The West Highland White Terrier is a lively one, and its ears will perk up if there’s another animal around to chase, like a cat or another small dog.  They’ll also take off after said animal, so it’s important to keep an eye on them and to reprimand them if they do this.

  • Friendly

While mentioned above that the Westie will give chase whenever possible, he’s still a rather friendly dog.  This typically also includes strangers and children.  He’ll jump at the chance (perhaps even literally) to indulge in some companionship.

The West Highland White Terrier is a loyal dog, and he is the friendliest and happiest of all the Scottish breeds of terrier, which include the Scottish Terrier, the Cairn Terrier, and the Skye Terrier.

  • Courageous

The West Highland White Terrier is rather self-confident while in the presence of other dogs, so you have to take care in training him not to pick fights, which is something that he’ll be inclined to do, despite his tiny size.

  • Hardy

You may be surprised, but the Westie actually makes for a pretty good watchdog, despite her smaller stature.  Two things she loves to do are dig and bark, and she’ll do plenty of the latter if she feels her territory is being encroached upon.

  • Active

If you want to take your Westie on vacation with you, he’ll love the idea!  And, considering his tiny size, he’ll fit easily into a carrying case.  The Westie is a robust dog, and he’s generally up for any challenges you want to throw at him.

  • Independent

One thing to watch out for is Small Dog Syndrome (SDS), which is a condition that small dogs can sometimes develop if their owners are softer on them in the training department.  Dogs with this condition are tiny but mean because they’re allowed to get away with more than bigger dogs would who carried out the same actions.

The dog needs to see you as his true pack leader.  You must be firm, confident, and consistent.  Else he can take up such unsavory behavior as biting, snapping, or guarding disorders (like guarding his food or the furniture).  He could even seek out fights with other dogs.

  • Stubborn

Another thing to keep in mind is that a Westie may need his training refreshed every once in a while.  He can be stubborn at times and give in to his instinctual drive to hunt, preferring to chase  a ball into the street, rather than remain on the property where he belongs.

The same goes for barking and digging.  Because these are two of the West Highland White Terrier’s favorite things to do, you may have to remind him at times that barking at the mailman or digging up your flower bed is not part of the deal.

The Health and Lifespan of a West Highland White Terrier

On average, West Highland White Terriers are estimated to live about 12 to 16 years.  Unfortunately, this breed carries with it a host of predispositions to health conditions that can affect her quality of life.

Abdominal hernias are one such condition, as is a disease known as Craniomandibular osteopathy, a.k.a. “lion jaw.”  This is also called the “Westie jaw,” and it is typically found in dogs under a year old.  This condition makes it difficult for the pup to chew and swallow food.

Test can be done to diagnose this condition, and it often reaches its peak by the time the dog turns one year old, sometimes even regressing.  Unfortunately, if it does not, euthanasia may be your only option.

Some other of the more common Westie health conditions include skin disorders, globoid cell leukodystrophy (a neurological disease that causes tremors, muscle weakness, and difficulty walking), and “White Dog Shaker Syndrome,” a condition involving tremors and muscle coordination problems that can last longer in males than females.

Bringing Home a Westie

Now that you know more about the West Highland White Terrier, you can make a better informed decision about whether or not you want to bring one home.  As far as the West Highland White Terrier temperament is concerned, you’ll be taking a loyal, active, and happy pup into your home.

Just be careful that you don’t give him too much leeway, or he’ll go from happy to scrappy in no time.

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