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Are Westies Good Pets? The Pros and the Cons (with a Cautionary Tale)

Are Westies Good Pets

If you’re considering adopting a West Highland White Terrier, you are naturally doing your due diligence, finding out all you can about the breed.

After all, you want to have the perfect dog that’s going to be a good fit for the entire family. Westies are a long-lived breed, with average lifespans ranging from 12 to 16 years, so you’ll be able to enjoy your new pet’s company for many years.

One of the most common questions people ask is, “Are Westies good pets for the family?”

Generally, West Highland White Terriers make excellent pets. Westies are small, hardy and they love their human family. But they can be stubborn and difficult if not trained correctly. Westies are good with children but they must respect him, otherwise, he may snap in self-defense.

You may have heard different stories from Westie owners about what these pets are like and since no two dogs are the same, their behaviors are likely to be different as well.

I can tell you what I have learned in my time owning a Westie, and hopefully, this will give you an insight into what you’re in for.

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Westies As Family Pets

West Highland Terriers are dogs that are fiercely loyal to their family members and are known for being very protective of them.

If they are raised with children they are likely to get along fairly well. However, they are more likely to bond with one or two family members over the others.

This breed of dog is known to be stubborn and individualistic, therefore early training is a must in order to ensure they are well behaved. It is wise to establish a consistent routine from the beginning so that your dog will know what’s expected of him.

You should set up his own space where he can feel safe and secure, possibly a crate or a special room with his own bed. He will especially need this space when you are not around to supervise.

West Highland Terriers are typically very playful dogs that are affectionate towards their family. They are quite alert too which makes them good watchdogs, but this can get irritating if he’s allowed to bark at everything that moves.

Though we could classify Westies as one of the more difficult breeds to train, they respond well to a strong leader and with a little bit of persistence and patience you are likely to see good results.

Pros and Cons of Westies as Family Pets

All dog breeds present unique pros and cons. A West Highland Terrier is certainly no exception.

If you are considering adopting a Westie but are concerned about certain aspects of their personality or what they are known for being good at and not so good at, then keep on reading to find out!

But first, here’s my personal story of rehoming a Westie, who didn’t get along well with children in his previous home.

Our Westie was just over 5 years old when he came to live with us. We have limited information about his background, but we know he had to leave his original family for becoming aggressive towards the toddlers, possibly because he was tormented. He had quickly accepted his new home and formed a close bond with us, but unsurprisingly he’s also developed some problems.

From day one, he was very territorial and had separation anxiety. This took a long time to correct but we never gave up on him. He is now the most loving and fun little dog you could imagine.

Pros of Westies as Family Pets

Smart, and mischievous

Westies are intelligent dogs that are known to be quite curious as well. They are also mischievous and when they are left to their own devices, they’ll surely find ways to keep themselves busy!

A cutie

Most people just love Westies! With their sweet little faces and adorable demeanor, they will melt anyone’s heart. It won’t take long before people stop you on the street wanting to know all about your doggie. They are a popular breed and are definitely a favorite among the general public.

Small, but not delicate

Westies are a relatively small dog breed which makes them ideal pets for apartments or smaller homes. They aren’t a lapdog, however, and won’t tolerate being picked up for long periods, but are still quite affectionate.

Fun and playful

This dog breed is known for its high energy and is typically a very playful dog. They are great at catching a frisbee, running around in the park like a lunatic or playing tug of war. They just love to do things with their humans and will keep you entertained for hours.

Moderate exercise

Having said that, they won’t need to exercise that much, an hour a day will suffice. But don’t expect them to go running with you, as they are more interested in getting to know what smells other canines left behind.

Minimal shedding

Westies are among the dog breeds that are likely to shed hair continuously but not excessively. They benefit from daily brushing to remove dead hair and to keep the coat glossy and healthy. They really enjoy being brushed and it’s an ideal opportunity for bonding.

Friendly and loyal

West Highland Terriers are quite friendly and good with children because they are so playful and get along great when introduced from early on. These are affectionate dogs that offer great companionship and require you to be around most of the time.


Regardless of their size, Westies are known for being quite vigilant and like keeping a close eye on everything that is going on. They are great watchdogs and are able to defend themselves when necessary. However, it is important that proper socialization takes place at an early stage to avoid negative behavior, such as constant barking at the door.

Cons of Owning a Westie

Health issues

Unfortunately, West Highland Terriers are prone to serious health issues, such as skin conditions, joint problems, eye ailments, liver disease, etc. Additionally, they are known for suffering from separation anxiety, especially if left alone too long. Acquiring a dog from a trusted breeder can reduce the risk of possible health issues.

Stubborn and self-willed

Because of their streak of independence, Westies can be challenging and they will try to impose their will on others. They can be trained nonetheless and be shown who is in charge in the family, or they will gladly assume this role!


Westies are known to be friendly towards people but are also territorial. They can develop aggression or fear toward unfamiliar dogs that are introduced suddenly, so it is important that proper socialization takes place early on. They are possessive of food and toys also.

Regular grooming

Westies have a double coat consisting of harsh outer hair and a soft, short undercoat. They need regular trimming and bathing to keep it in good condition and to avoid the fur become matted. It’s recommended to visit a professional groomer 3-4 times a year.


It is not uncommon for West Highland Terriers to bark quite a lot for all sorts of reasons. They were bred to hunt for vermin and it was important to be vocal to alert and in case they got stuck in a burrow. Their bark is quite large for a little dog.

Terrier temperament, digging

Being a typical Terrier, Westies are known for being energetic, hard-headed, and bossy. They are good dogs to have if you are around most of the time because they can become destructive when they are left alone too long. They also love to help out with gardening and can uproot a plant in a matter of minutes! This behavior is in their nature and they are quite difficult to train out of.

Not ideal as a first-time dog

Westies are not always easy to train since they can be stubborn, which might be challenging as they quickly lose interest in that sort of thing. Their training can take up a considerable amount of time and patience as well, whether they are a puppy or an adult.

Considerations Before Adopting a West Highland Terrier

Pets are a great way to teach children responsibility. Dogs require care, in terms of feeding and walking them, and lots of attention, both from the humans they live with as well as outside visitors. West Highland Terriers are not typically “cheap” to buy or maintain and they also need a fair bit of exercise.

Since they have strong terrier instincts, training and proper handling are vital in order to integrate them into family life, especially if children are involved.

Westies have high energy levels and could be on the go all day. So it’s important for your dog to understand when is and isn’t a good time to play. You all need to follow and stick to the same routine as a family when it comes to the pet. There’s nothing worse than a pet receiving mixed messages. Kids especially need to be aware that Westies don’t appreciate rough handling.

Devoting a portion of your day for game is essential, and will help them release steam and unused energy.

Are westies good dogs?

Westies are known for being affectionate toward children but are wary of any sudden movements and don’t particularly enjoy being tugged on. They are not a dog to leave unattended with young children as they are known for nipping. A westie should be socialized early on with other animals such as cats (see also Are Westies Good With Cats?), but may never see eye to eye with rodents.

Do westies like to cuddle?

Erm, not really. Although Westies love their humans, and are loyal and protective of their family but they are not cuddly lap dogs by any means.

Is a Westie the Right Dog for You?

A Westie is a high-spirited, intelligent, and attractive dog. As a companion dog, many are devoted and faithful, as well as very cute.

He is energetic and somewhat noisy. He was bred to be a ratter and loves children. However, there are some problems that are common to the breed which needs to be considered before taking on this adorable bundle of fur!

West Highland Terriers are a great family dog choice if you are looking for someone that will stay by your side and is ready for adventure! Properly socialized, trained, groomed, and exercised they are sure to bring you companionship and joy for many years.

Thanks for reading this article. Keep up to date with Westie Wisdom for more great posts about our canine friends.

Check out our Resources page where we put together a collection of products and links to organizations for Westie owners. We only recommend products that we believe will enhance your Westie’s quality of life.