If you're thinking of bringing a West Highland White terrier puppy into your life, prepare yourself for a spunky little dog. Better known as a Westie, this confident, determined canine can be easily identified by his solid white coat.
Your Westie traces his ancestry back to Poltalloch, Scotland, in the early 19th century. Before receiving the current breed name, the Westie was known as the Poltalloch terrier or the Roseneath terrier, the American Kennel Club states. He's related to similar-looking terriers from the British Isles, including the Cairn, the Scottie and the Dandie Dinmont. As the Roseneath terrier, the breed first appeared at England's prestigious Crufts Dog Show in 1907. These dogs entered the AKC stud book the following year and had the name changed to West Highland White the year after that. Like most terriers, his primary job was vermin extermination, but he was also cherished as a family pet.
Your puppy exhibits the happy disposition typical of his breed. He loves his owners and other family members. Remember he's a terrier -- watch out for smaller pets in the household. He may get along with your cats if they show him who's boss, but strange cats outdoors are fair game. He'll dig if given the opportunity. Although friendly, Westies can be independent, another terrier trait. Even though he's small, he'll make a good little watchdog, although the barking can get excessive.
Your smart little puppy benefits from good training. Westies are relatively easy to train and housebreak. Your energetic pup could excel at various dog sports and competitions, including obedience and agility. Training creates an even deeper bond between the two of you.
Like all purebred dogs, the Westie is prone to certain genetic health issues. Some Westies are born deaf or may suffer from luxating patellas, when the kneecap goes out of joint. Cataracts may affect the eyes of even young dogs, although surgery can correct that. Inflammatory bowel disease and lymphoma also occur in the breed. One of the most common conditions affecting Westies is atopic dermatitis, an allergic skin condition causing constant itching, hair loss, lesions and infection. In Westies, atopic dermatitis generally shows itself between the ages of 6 months and 3 years. Treatment involves narrowing down the causes of the allergic reaction, followed by medication, special baths, topical applications and dietary changes.
All Grown Up
When your pup reaches adulthood, he'll stand between 10 and 11 inches high at the shoulder, weighing between 15 and 21 pounds. He should be your devoted companion for the next 12 to 14 years.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.