Westie – a terrorist with lots of energy!
The West Highland White Terrier, or Westie was developed from the Cairn terrier breed and was recognised by the Kennel Club as a distinct breed just over a hundred years ago, in 1907. It is clearly part of the terrier group of breeds. The name terrier comes from the Latin ‘terra’ meaning earth; these breeds were designed to flush vermin from holes in the ground.
As I have said before when talking about what type of dog you could have, terriers must NOT be confused with toy dog breeds – they are not lap dogs. Terriers are much more demanding, physically active and not as cuddly. The Westie is no exception to this rule. Tiffany sums up the breed well:
“If you are looking for a dog with a soft, docile, obedient nature, do not get a Westie! They are a whirlwind of energy, fun and naughtiness.”
Tiffany feels that the best thing about a Westie is his personality. Her dog, Dougie, very much knows his own mind. She says that when he’s got something to say, he can be vocal! If he doesn’t want to do something, he won’t do it! But every night when they get home, he greets them so enthusiastically. Dougie is so loving and Tiffany’s little shadow at home. She couldn’t imagine not having him.
Being a terrier, he is what might be called a bit of a ‘terrorist’. Tiffany says:
“Dougie definitely has ‘little dog syndrome’ and thinks he’s as big as a boxer. There is no predictability in which breeds he will be aggressive towards and which he will just completely ignore; sometimes that can be difficult.”
Dougie attended puppy training slightly late, around his first birthday. Tiffany found him to be a keen learner who would do anything for a treat! However, he is not as obedience as other breeds and outside he is easily distracted. She feels that Dougie has absolutely no road sense and could never be off lead anywhere other than away from all traffic.
Many small dog breeds have a tendency to be yappy. Terriers have plenty of energy and enthusiasm, which means that they can bark all day long! It is common for dogs like this to jump onto windowsills and bark at anything they can see outside.
Tiffany says that when younger he would bark all day. They started to leave the TV on in the kitchen to create some background noise. She drew the blinds and patio curtains too. Tiffany also hired a dog walker. She and her fiancé are at work full time, so they needed to ensure that he was given a good walk in the middle of the day.
Plenty of exercise
The Kennel Club guidelines for the Westie suggest they need up to one hour of exercise per day, but of course it depends on whether this is on or off lead, in parks or on pavements, along the same route every day or different places. Dougie is give three walks per day, with short walks morning and evening and an hour with the dog walker. At the weekends he is regularly taken on 3-5 miles walks.
Dogs like this are usually able to go for longish walks, but as with any breed, they need routine more than anything. Just like us, it is hard to go from a small amount of exercise to a long hike. Please take this into account when planning how much exercise to give your dog?
Tiffany feels that a garden is essential (as it is for any dog, in my opinion). Her Westie does like to chew fingers and jump up for a fuss. She doesn’t feel that he would tolerate being pulled around like a Labrador might. Dougie adores stuffed toys, but tears them to bits in minutes, rather than playing with them!
Despite being an older breed and a tough little terrier, Westies do have some health issues. Tiffany explains:
“The Westie is prone to skin and digestion issues and mine has both. In the summer when the weather gets warmer, he will start to itch and scratch. He is given an anti-histamine to keep the itching under control. They do suffer with allergies.
“My Westie also has an incredibly sensitive tummy. If he eats something that doesn’t agree with him, it can upset his whole digestive system, leading to an inflamed bowel. He goes off his food and then ends up with lots of acid in his tummy, which he will then sick up. This also requires medication.”
A final health issue relates to anal glands. These can become inflamed and even burst, which is messy and painful for the dog. Dougie has twice needed to be sedated and a had the area shaved and cleaned. As a result of this, he is given a grain-free diet. His glands are also checked and emptied regularly at the groomers. (This is rarely a problem suffered by Border Collies!)
Hair and grooming
The Westie has a typical terrier coat. It is not particularly long and they do not shed or moult a great deal, although they are not listed as a breed of dogs that don’t shed. However, they do require grooming and are usually taken to a groomers to have their coat ‘stripped’, to reduce the bedraggled look that terriers are prone to having, as well as keeping them cool in summer.
Always worth it?
Tiffany says that she hadn’t appreciated how much of her time and life revolves around her dog; it’s no different to having a child! She says:
“I certainly didn’t think I would love a dog, quite like I do. He is my baby and I would do anything for him. But they are without doubt a huge bind and we do rely on family and friends to help to look after him, whenever we have to work late or go away somewhere we cannot take him.”
Tiffany says that Dougie is full of life and always raring to go out, so most of their holidays are geared around walking holidays. Having a dog has made her go outdoors considerably more than she did before.
The personality of a Westie outweighs their sensitivities. They are always smiling and happy dogs. Dougie is small enough to take in the car and on holiday. He is so loving; Tiffany wouldn’t know what to do if he wasn’t par of the family. She recommends going to training as soon as possible and for a good while.
Thank you Tiffany, for a great insight into this cheeky little breed!
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