The beautiful, shaggy coat, button nose and small, erect ears make this breed very attractive. Their bodies are compact and their heads have a fox-like appearance. The white coat, however, is their hallmark: a double coat, the outer coat being straight, hard hair and the under one being soft and plentiful. Adult Highland Westies measure 28cm and weigh 7-10kg.
The West Highland White Terrier was bred to hunt otters, foxes and vermin. From the rough-coated terrier stock in Scotland, white whelps were selected to form this breed. James 1, King of England in the 1620s, requested some 'little white earth dogges' out of Argyleshire in Scotland and these were possibly Westies! Col Malcolm of Poltalloch, Argyleshire, accidentally shot and killed his favourite terrier (a dark coloured one) and vowed from then on only to have white dogs – then called Poltalloch Terriers. The Duke of Argyll's estate at Dumbartonshire was called Roseneath and in the 19th century, these white Terriers were then known as Roseneath Terriers in honour of his patronage and interest.
The West Highland White Terrier is cheeky, confident and affectionate characters, totally loyal to their families. They are alert and courageous, making them good watch dogs and they can also be cunning and stubborn. However, they must be introduced to cats when they are young, as they will chase them once they get older. They can have a mischievous streak, so training is recommended!
The most common health problem encountered are skin allergies. The breed can also be affected by an inherited bone disorder of the jaw.
West Highland White Terriers need exercise. They are energetic little dogs who love to play with a ball. They enjoy digging and some do wander off, so make sure the garden is well fenced. As a guide, an adult needs about an hour's daily exercise, though these active dogs will happily take more!
Small dogs have a fast metabolism, meaning they burn energy at a high rate, although their small stomachs mean that they must eat little and often. Small-breed foods are specifically designed with appropriate levels of key nutrients and smaller kibble sizes to suit smaller mouths. This also encourages chewing and improves digestion.
When a West Highland White Terrier gets dirty it is best to let the mud dry on them and brush it off when dry. The coat needs to be hand plucked two or three times a year by a professional groomer. A weekly groom is all that is needed to get rid of the loose hairs.