West Highland Terrier
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West Highland Terrier
Other names: Westie
Dog Group Kennel Club: Terrier (AKC, KC)
West Highland Terriers are small compact, well-balanced and hardy looking terriers. They have shaggy eyebrows, a black nose, and small erect ears.
Westies have a double coat, the outer coat is straight, hard hair and the under coat is soft. Colour: always white with black pigmentation on the lips, eye-rims, the pads of the feet, and nails.
Weight: 15 – 22 lbs
Average Life Span: 13 – 15 yrs
Westies are cheeky, confident, affectionate, stubborn and friendly little dogs. They are not well suited with small children as they do not like rough and tumble play. They would be best suited for a family with older children who would respect this little dogs attitude. Overall they do make excellent family companions. Westies are good with other dogs as long as there have been properly socialised as a puppy. However, they must be introduced to cats when they are young as they will chase them once they get older. They are alert and courageous, making them good guard dogs.
Westies love to please people, so they do respond to training well. However they can be very stubborn so owners need to be firm and consistent in their training.
They should be groomed once a week to keep the coat clean and free of tangles. When the dogs get dirty it is best to let the mud dry on them and brush it off when dry. The beard is a particular trouble spot for matting with this breed due to food, this area may need daily brushing.
Westies need daily exercise to meet their medium energy requirements. They love to play with a ball. They also enjoy digging and some do wander off, so make sure the garden is well-fenced.
West Highland Terrier Health Issues
Cranio Mandibular Osteopathy (lion jaw): a painful though temporary inflammation of the jawbones in juveniles. Affected dogs will not eat because opening the mouth causes severe pain
Globoid Cell Leukodystrophy: a neurological disorder that results in the gradual destruction of white matter in the brain. Symptoms of GCL include: uncontrollable shaking, especially when exposed to bright greenish colors and/or slow pulsating light.
Hip dysplasia, a malformation of the hip joint resulting in a poor fit between the head of the femur bone and the hip socket. This condition can be alleviated by surgery, at some cost to dog and owner. Because dysplastic dogs often produce dysplastic puppies, buyers should ask if both the sire and the dam of the puppy in which they are interested have been rated clear of hip dysplasia. Do not take yes for an answer without seeing a certificate, and ask for a copy to take to your veterinarian.
Luxating Patella: Slipping knee joints (also referred to as luxating patellas, slipped stifles) are a common problem in small breeds. In this condition, the kneecap slips out of its groove and moves against the thighbone (femur) instead of along its natural groove. Although this has been found to be a heritable condition, small, active breeds are likely to aggravate it through the course of their natural activities (jumping up and down) around taller objects such as furniture.
Legg’s Perthes Disease (commonly mistaken for hip dysplasia) is due to the death of the head of the femur bone. This causes wearing and promotes arthritic changes. Therefore, after the condition has progressed for some time it is difficult to diagnose whether the resulting degenerated joint is a manifestation of hip dysplasia or Legg’s Perthes. This condition is congenital and has no known cure. The accompanying pain and arthritic changes can be controlled with steroids.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a hereditary disease of the eye that has been identified in this breed. PRA is a blanket term for many types of retinal diseases, all of which result in blindness. All Siberians, regardless of age or breeding status, should be examined yearly by a member of the Veterinary Opthalmologists.
Juvenile cataracts: a condition of opacity of the ocular lens causing total or some degree of blindness with an early onset.
West Highland Terrier History
West Highland Terriers are essentially originated from white Cairn Terriers, who occasionally whelped white puppies naturally, or white Scottish Terriers. In Argyll (or Poltalloch) in Scotland in the 1800s, Colonel Malcolm and his family bred these white dogs to develop a new breed. The white coat made them highly visible when hunting on the Scottish moors and easily distinguished them from their game. The “Westie” was bred to be small enough to fit between rocks and small passageways typical of fox dens in the Scottish countryside. The tail of the “Westie” is traditionally longer and straighter than most small dogs, because of their instinct to dive headlong into any fox/rabbit hole. They would often find themselves stuck in these holes and the tail proved to be a useful for their owners to hold on to and pull them out.
Originally the breed was known as Poltalloch Terriers, although they were also known as Roseneath Terriers, White Roseneath Terriers, and at the end of the 19th century, briefly as a white variety of the Scottish Terrier.