With its playful and sweet-natured personality, the beautiful Westie makes the perfect companion for individuals and families. By Helen Frost.
Personality: Most commonly described as lively and playful, the Westie is a sweet-natured breed and incredibly loyal. If your Westie wants your attention, it will do anything to get it. They are very intelligent and are fast learners, however their independent spirit can sometimes make them a challenge. Westies have tremendous courage and are outgoing, ever faithful and love human company. Being terriers, they have a hardy personality and can also be very inquisitive.
Suitability: Westies are ideal companions for any individual or for the family as a whole. They are equally at home in the suburbs or the country and love to go for walks, play ball, or simply be with their owners. They don’t need a lot of exercise but do need to be taken out and walked — sometimes you have to prompt them to come with you. Their size and stamina make them the ideal playmate for children. They are not really a one-man dog and will show affection to the whole family. This does not mean, however, that they may not show a slight preference for one particular person.
Backyard requirements: Gardens need to be well fenced as some Westies enjoy wandering o#. They are also known to dig so make sure it is a sturdy fence. A large yard isn’t necessary as long as you provide regular walks and lots of attention. Most Westies can live with an existing family pet, such as another dog or cat, although breeders recommend not having Westies with guinea pigs or rabbits.
Watchdog qualities: This breed will alert you to someone new approaching the house. Although great for signalling unwanted visitors, the barking can become more consistent if the dog is neglected and not given enough attention and affection — they really need to be included as part of your family. The Westie is alert and inquisitive and it certainly doesn’t miss a trick.
Hereditary diseases: As with most breeds, there are hereditary faults in Westies and it is the responsibility of breeders to try to eliminate these problems. Legg Perthes affects the head of the femur but is operable and usually affects Westies under 12 months of age. Craniomandibular Osteopathy (CMO) is a calcification of the joint between the lower jaw and the skull and is very rare in Australia. The main health problem to be aware of today would be skin allergies caused by a variety of factors including fleas, plants, carpets and diet.
Care of the breed
Daily: Shade, fresh water and a wellbalanced diet are essential. Show Westies are groomed very differently and their coats are hand-stripped every day for around 15 minutes.
Weekly: Westies do not shed their hair in the normal way; they may lose a few hairs but that is all. You should brush your pet Westie regularly — daily if possible — as this prevents the coat becoming tangled and knotted. The coat does grow quite thick and long, so professional grooming every 12 to 14 weeks is suggested.
Other: You need to make sure your Westie is wormed, vaccinated and regularly checked for ticks. Vaccination is annual, monthly worming is only done if using an all-in-one product (for heartworm, intestinal worms, “leas etc), and checking for ticks should be done daily if living in a tick area.