- Pets and Animals
West Highland White Terriers: Westies
WEST HIGHLAND TERRIERS
West Highland White Terriers—Westies—are a dog breed originally bred in the West Highlands of Scotland. They are related to the Scottish Terrier. While Scottish Terriers can be black, red, cream, or white, the Westies are always white.
The story goes that Edward Donald Malcolm (1837-1930), 16th Laird of Poltalloch, was troubled that his reddish-brown terriers he used as game dogs were being mistaken for foxes and shot at. His solution was to breed only his white dogs and thus was born the West Highland White Terrier.
These distinctive dogs were officially named the West Highland White Terrier in 1908 by the American Kennel Club. For several decades, Westies have consistently been about the 30th most popular dog in the United States, out of around 100 breeds. They are the 3rd most popular terrier dog in Britain, though only half as many of them are bred today in the UK as ten years ago.
THE WESTIE DOG
The first West Highland White Terriers landed in America in 1908, and they were immediately popular.
There have been white terriers in Scotland since at least the 16th century when King James I of England gave a dozen of them to France as a gift. Some say they originated on the Isle of Skye.
The Westies were first used to control rats, foxes, badgers, and other small animals. Hunters of small game trained them as game dogs. These men were from isolated clans that lived in the harsh environment of the vales and glens of the Scottish Highlands.
The Westie terrier proved to be rugged earthdogs, well suited to rough and dangerous conditions. Their double coat protects them in bad weather.
WEST HIGHLAND WHITE TERRIER
The West Highland White Terrier is a robust, muscular dog with a distinctive, remarkably bright, white coat. It's dry coat needs daily brushing and regular stripping. The undercoat is soft and dense; the outer coat is rough.
An adult Westie weighs 15-20lbs. The male stands about 11" tall and the female around 10". They have pointed prick ears, that stand erect and wide apart. The straight short tail is shaped like a carrot. They have bright, deep set, almond shaped, dark eyes.
The Westies are well balanced, agile, strongly built dogs with powerful jaws and big teeth for a small dog. They have a deep chest, very muscular thighs, and a distinctive gait that is free and easy. The typical life span is 12-16 years.
THE WESTIE TERRIER
West Highland Terriers are active, independent, confident, strong-willed, stubborn, hardy, happy dogs with high self-esteem.
They make for wonderful traveling companions that are social, friendly, loyal, faithful, devoted, and obedient.
They are good natured, and they love people, especially children.
The Westie dog is noted for its high prey drive. It loves toys and loves to chase balls and play fetch. They are an inquisitive earth-dog that loves to dig holes. It is an excellent watchdog that tends to bark a lot.
If a Westie is allowed to become pack leader it may snap when irritated and be combative to other dogs. Its owner must be a firm consistent leader.
THE LEADER OF THE PACK
Your dog depends on you for survival. Dogs have helped men hunt and guarded us while we slept for Lord knows how long. They are naturally inclined to cooperate with people.
Nonetheless, dogs retain their animal instincts and part of that is the instinct to test your authority. A dog has deep inside the instincts of a wolf. And in no wolf pack is there more than one leader. The most important thing about being a dog owner is to be the pack leader in your house.
A fish swims, a bird flies, a snake slithers, a dog walks. Your dog needs to walk every day with you to release energy. The most important part of that walk besides the sunshine, fresh air, and exercise, is that you are leading the dog—it is not leading you. In a dog's mind the leader always leads the way.
If you ever watch a pack of wolves walking, the leader of the pack is always out front and everybody else follows him. Make your dog heel; make it learn to follow you. Do not let it pull you on the leash. Do not let your dog sniff anywhere he wants or eliminate anywhere he wants.
Do not let your dog go through a doorway before you. If you are going to take her outside, you go out the door first. If she gets habituated to going out ahead of you, she will begin to think of herself as your leader.
It is OK for a dog to sleep with you but it should be taught to never jump onto your bed uninvited.
It is best not to play with your dog when it approaches you with a toy in its mouth. Ignore it and wait a while until the dog forgets the toy, and then you pick up the toy and throw it for the dog to fetch. YOU initiate the action.
Do not play tug-of-war with a dog but if you ever do YOU must win. It might be OK to throw something for your dog to fetch if it submissively sets it down at your feet and then sits quietly. Teach your dog that it must release a ball or toy if it expects you to play.
Affection should be initiated by you. Dogs may come over to paw your leg, bat your arm, stick their head in your face, or try to climb up on you—demanding affection. That is dominating behavior; pack leader wolves exhibit that same behavior. Shoo them away. When a dog is calm, relaxed and being perfectly obedient is when you softly say her name and give her warmth and affection.
If your dog is sleeping on the floor, never walk around it as wolves do their pack leader. Either make it move out of your way or step right over it.
When you establish eye contact with a dog, it must always look away first, as a wolf will do with its leader. If you avert your gaze first your dog is dominating you.
Dogs should not have a perpetual food supply available. It must learn the important lesson that to obey is to eat. You decide the time and place that your dogs feed and make sure they know it.
Do not use your dog's name during correction or out of anger. Only use its name when giving positive reinforcement.
All animals including dogs understand a universal language—they read energy and emotions. They do not reason; they react.
Many Americans treat dogs as if they were human children. They bend over backwards to be "nice" to them. They think this is what will make them happy. But what really makes a dog happy is being welcome in any and all social situations and for that to be the case it must be well behaved. A happy dog is not a confused dog as to who the leader of the pack is. Firmly establishing that you are the leader is what will make a dog feel safe, secure, and happy.