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West Highland Terrier Barking Guide: Why, Problems and How to Stop

Westie headshot indoors

Introducing a new dog to your household is a big responsibility.

If you’re considering adding a West Highland Terrier to your family, it’s a good idea to find out as much as you can about what to expect from the breed. One of the most important considerations is how noisy your new bundle of fluff is going to be.

You love the Westie’s looks and personality, but are they too yappy?

West Highland White Terriers are strong-willed and expressive dogs that were bred to hunt and alert with their voice. They have a strong attachment to their human family, which they may show by barking in certain situations. If not raised properly, Westies can be noisy and bark a lot, but this can be minimized with persistent training.

Let’s look at some reasons for excessive barking and ways to minimize it.

Table of Contents

The West Highland Terrier Barking Guide

I’m going to get into the whys of Westies barking in this article. But first, I want to make sure you know what you’re getting into with these clever little dogs and answer a few of the most common questions about Westies and their barking if you’re thinking of getting one.

West Highland Terriers are one of the breeds that were specifically bred to be hunting dogs; it’s in their blood and bones, so they will always need something constructive to do. That means your Westie will need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation every day or he’ll find his own way to amuse himself – which usually means barking at everything he sees when outside or inside the house (or both).

And although they develop very strong bonds with their owners, they also have an instinctive desire for independence. The Westie needs a human leader with strong energy (you can’t let this little guy push you around)!

These dogs are not vicious, but they can be aggressive when defending themselves or their territory. Some Westies can be aggressive toward other dogs, so it’s important to socialize your pup carefully when he’s young.

Do Westies Bark a Lot?

The answer is open to interpretation since some owners find the bark endearing or cute, while others think it’s too much noise in an apartment building or neighborhood. A good rule of thumb is whether the barking is causing issues.

West Highland Terriers are prone to developing a barking habit. Our adult Westie used to bark often when we first got him, especially at people walking past the front door out of protective instinct. He tends to be quieter these days and communicates in different ways.

Other Westies can be big barkers. They will bark when left alone, at other dogs, and just for attention from their owners.

One reason why West Highland Terriers bark a lot is down to the way in which they have been bred. They have evolved to be hunting for vermin, rather than a breed designed to be a companion dog for humans.

What Does a West Highland Terrier Bark Sound Like?

If you want to hear a Westie bark, play this video:

Why Do West Highland Terriers Bark?

West Highland Terriers are inquisitive, active little dogs that enjoy being with their owners and exploring all sorts of new places. Their barking can however be a problem if it starts happening regularly or for no clear reason.

Owners state a few different reasons for their Westie barking which include:

  • A need for attention: This is quite common in dogs who have been left alone too often or when they’re bored. They need to do something with you and reminding you that they’re there, or will bark to bring you back home.
  • To protect their territory: Owners have said this as a reason for the Westie barking when someone they don’t recognize comes to the house and again, particularly if they’re left alone. According to some owners their dogs bark at people passing by outside, other dogs, etc.
  • To let you know there’s something wrong: This could be anything from needing to go outside to being frightened for example.
  • To get you to play: It seems barking is a good way to tell their owners that they want attention.
  • When in pain: This is a good reason for Westies to bark and definitely something that should not be ignored. If they’re in pain, they need help and treatment.
  • When left in the crate: It’s not surprising that Westies are less than happy in crates if they are not used to it, and some will use barking as a way to let you know.
  • When bored: Westies are active dogs and when left at home alone, they can get very bored.
  • When anxious or stressed: As with humans, if Westies are stressed, they’ll bark.
  • When tired: Very active dogs when they get tired can be excitable and waggy and some may bark as a bit of a release.
  • When excited: After returning home from a long day at work, your Westie is bound to bark seeing you out of joy and excitement. This is quite normal and their way of greeting you. Other occasions that make him excited when you take out his leash or when you bring his food. Westie’s barking out of excitement is usually not that loud.
  • When hungry: Westies don’t like to be hungry and they won’t let you forget when it’s their mealtime.
  • When scared: When a Westie is fearful, he will bark differently than in other situations. Common reasons that can cause fear are loud noises, strangers, or some unknown object. Some of them can even be afraid of large objects like an umbrella, stool, or even a black dog in the distance that they can’t make out.
  • Separation anxiety: Westies are prone to separation anxiety and this can be very serious. Our Westie had this problem after taking him home from the shelter. It’s as if he thought he’s been abandoned and we’d never come back.
  • Poor socialization: Poorly socialized dogs will bark at other people and animals. They can even get anxious in a room with lots of people.
  • Aggression: Westies are friendly animals and it is uncommon for them to bark out of aggression. If it does occur, just take him away from the situation. Aggressive behavior should be handled with love and care, rather than screaming.

What Do West Highland Terriers Bark at Most?

You might be wondering, “What does a Westie bark at?” Well, it depends. Sometimes the reasons they bark are different from one another.

Here’s what we know about barking in general: dogs often bark when people come to the door or when strangers come up to them on sidewalks. They also sometimes bark when left alone for too long or when crated for extended periods of time. And some dogs will even bark during car rides.

Some of the most popular examples are below:

  • barking at the door
  • barking at other dogs
  • barking when left alone
  • barking at strangers
  • barking for attention
  • barking when crated
  • barking in the car

Other specific questions that may arise:

Do West Highland Terriers Bark for Attention?

West Highland Terriers bark to communicate with humans. Westies often bark for attention, meaning they want something, or to alert their owner of a problem either with the dog or the environment.

Westies that are constantly barking may have an issue with their health, behavior, or anxiety. Along with humans, Westies often bark at other animals, such as birds or squirrels. They will also bark at household items that move, such as ceiling fans or vacuum cleaners. This is because the dog perceives these things to be a threat to their territory and therefore feels as if they need to alert their owner of the “intruder”.

Do West Highland Terriers Bark Loud?

Like other small terriers, Westies were bred to go after small game, which is why they tend to bark when they see what they perceive is prey or are provoked. It was important for them to be heard in case they got stuck in an underground burrow or if their human warder was far away. Therefore, it’s not unknown that they bark loudly.

However, PetHelpful states that the following breeds create the loudest barks: Alaskan Malamutes, Australian Shepherds, Australian Cattle Dogs, Bloodhounds, Basset Hounds, Beagles, Border Collies, Miniature Schnauzer, Old English Sheepdog, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Rottweilers.


A Westie won’t produce a deep bellow like some of those breeds mentioned, but they can be pretty loud and noisy when they want to be!

Do West Highland Terriers Bark When Left Alone?

Some West Highland Terriers will bark when left alone which can be for various reasons such as boredom, restlessness, fear, and separation anxiety. If your dog is prone to barking and whining while you’re gone, it can lead to problems with the neighbors.

You can avoid barking from your Westie when they are left in the house for a few hours by giving them plenty of exercise, putting the radio on, and making sure they have their favorite toys.

West Highland Terrier Barking Problems

Out of control and excessive dog barking can lead to immense stress to their owners and annoy other people around them too. Although Westies generally don’t cause havoc with their barking, it is good to be aware of what could signal it as problematic behavior.

Here’s a list of the things that West Highland Terriers could bark at leading to issues:

  • Other dogs.
  • Cats.
  • Their owners.
  • Babies and kids.
  • Cars or being in the car.
  • Everything and everyone… all the time.
  • Guests and house visitors.
  • Horses, squirrels and other animals.
  • When meeting people for the first time.
  • At night when left in the dark to sleep.
  • Being territorial or protective of their owner.
  • Telling you they need to be let outside for the toilet.
  • Indicating to you that they are in pain or distress.
  • The sound of the TV or radio.
  • For attention.
  • When the door knocks or the doorbell rings.
  • When left alone and bored.
  • When left in their crate.

How to Stop a West Highland Terrier Barking

If you find that your little white bundle of joy has become less than endearing with incessant barking, the first thing you need to do is find out why the dog is barking in order to end it.

Whether it’s for fear, boredom, health, or just fun reasons, there are things that can be done to correct it before turning into a nuisance. If you think your pup is barking to signal an underlying medical issue, then please consult your vet.

How Do I get My Westie to Stop Barking?

Let’s help you calm and quiet that barking!

You can help your dog understand what you want by associating silence with something pleasurable because dogs learn best through triggers and association. By rewarding your Westie for stopping its nuisance barking, it will begin to associate silence with good things and will be more likely to stop barking in the future.

Good things can include petting, treats, and affection. The aim is simply to associate positive experiences with silence, rather than punishing your dog for something they find natural and enjoyable (barking).

1. Train them not to bark with a “quiet” command

First of all, it is essential that you teach your dog not to bark excessively by using a technique known as the “quiet” command.

This is a simple method, that rewards them for being silent.

The Dog Training Excellence website has a great set of visual instructions on how to teach it:

  1. Wait for your dog to stop when they’re in a barking session.
  2. Then say “quiet”, followed by “good boy”.
  3. Then reward them with a treat.
  4. Keep repeating often daily and adjust steps as required

how to stop a french bulldog barking

Infographic by

2. Stay calm and don’t shout

When training a Westie to stop barking it’s important to remain calm and avoid getting angry or frustrated. Shouting and trying to stop a Westie from barking with threats and commands are unlikely to work, as barkers tend to be stubborn and respond best to positive encouragement techniques.

Shouting at a dog is the complete opposite of how they should be trained, making them more anxious, aggressive, or become scared. When an animal feels threatened they will be a lot less likely to cooperate and follow commands.

3. Ignore the barking

Since many Westies bark for attention, by not paying any attention to them when they are barking will go a long way into breaking the habit. When ignored, they learn that there’s no need to bark as it won’t gain their attention.

Ignoring means not looking at, talking to, touching, or even calming your dog.

For those attention-seeking puppies, this can work like a treat, rewarding them only when the barking ceased completely.

4. Never reward barking

Unfortunately, dog owners can unwittingly reinforce barking. As simple as it may sound any kind of attention when barking can mean your pet feels rewarded and will be encouraged to carry on with it.

If your pet is barking, calmly wait a few minutes until he quiets down. If you acknowledge your dog’s barking by calling his name or attempting to discipline him in any way, you are only reinforcing the behavior. The more attention and energy you give it, the louder and longer your dog will likely bark.

5. Get him used to the triggers

To easily stop your West Highland Terrier barking, make sure to identify the specific triggers. For example, try to introduce them slowly to someone who they always bark at.

Teach your dogs to accept the sound of the doorbell so they’re not bothered about it. To do this, use the quiet command after ringing your doorbell, followed by a reward.

This should also work with other triggers, since repetition, familiarity, and reward are the name of the game.

6. Keep your dog active and exercised

Dogs who live in environments that do not provide much stimulation may resort to barking excessively. Are you exercising your Westie enough with plenty of space, and does he have enough toys to stay mentally active?

A tired dog will often mean less barking and better behavior.

7. Socialize your Westie

Providing a West Highland White Terrier with an opportunity to socialize will help him become more comfortable in unfamiliar environments.

A dog that has not been adequately socialized may bark at new people, dogs, or other animals. If new faces trigger your Westie into unstoppable barking, the best thing to do is to keep introducing people in a gradual manner. Encourage playing with him, and even teach him a few tricks. The more your Westie interacts with strangers, the more comfortable he will be.

8. Get professional help

As a last resort, if your Westie won’t stop barking at everything, you may need to seek professional help.

Once your veterinarian has ruled out any potential health issues, they should recommend talking to a dog trainer about behavior.

Other tips to stop the noise

  • Always have a favorite treat available, works well with Kong
  • Get a dog whistle
  • Start socializing from a young age
  • Get a second dog as a companion
  • Use a spray bottle

Never Give up on Your Westie’s Barking

West Highland Terriers in general can develop an unwanted barking habit. With the right training and reinforcement, they will respond well.

However, that doesn’t mean they won’t ever bark again in excitement or for other reasons, as this is just their way of communicating.

If your Westie’s barking excessively, creating problems, establish the cause of this behavior and work to train it out.

West Highland Terriers can be difficult to train. However, this is not a reason for discouragement. With patience and hard work, you can generally modify your Westie’s barking habits.

It’s totally worth getting it right and your Westie will be a happier dog because of it.

Thanks for reading, and we hope this helps you train your Westie to stop barking!

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