Frequently Asked Questions

Are Westies good with kids?

Westies love attention and human company, they enjoy being part of all family activities. Westies are sturdy for their size, have lots of energy and love to run and play, so they can be a great match for kids, but they must be well socialised first.
A Westie puppy coming into a home with young children will become accustomed to them, but it is as much about training the children on how to treat the puppy as it is about training the puppy to treat the children.
Don't play games where a toy is waved in their face as this encourages them to bite or snap at the toy and they won't see a difference between the toy and a child's fingers.
A Westie that has had no exposure to children will not know how to react when coming into contact with a child for the first time. The child's erratic movements may scare the dog and lead to growling or nervous biting, or they may trigger the Westie's prey instinct causing the Westie to chase them and nip at them.
If the child pulls their tail or hair, sits on them or tries to pick them up, an unsocialised Westie could injure the child.
Don't leave very young children unsupervised with any dog.

Should I get a male or female westie?

Many people contact breeders looking for a female puppy because they want a nice sweet little doggy. While much of their behaviour will come down to their individual personality, generally males are more playful and easy-going. The doesn't mean a female Westie can't be happy-go-lucky, but they often like things on their own terms and can be more bossy and demanding than males - there is a reason call female dogs bitches ...

If you are planning on having two Westies, two desexed males generally get along well together as do a desexed male and desexed female.

Two desexed females can sometimes be an issue when an older or more established female is in place and then a younger more dominant female joins the family. Initially the older Westie will assume that they are ahead of the younger one in the pecking order, but the younger one may in time decide that she should rule the roost and this may lead to fighting between them. If they do not resolve the issue in a short time, as the alpha member of the pack, you, the owner need to intervene and reinforce the pecking order. This can be done by making one dog wait their turn while you give the other attention and make one dog wait while you give the other its food first.

How often should I bath my Westie?

If you are using the right type of shampoo and ensuring that you brush and comb your Westies before you bath them, then there is no reason why they can't be bathed once every two weeks.

Make sure you are using a gentle shampoo, such as Goats Milk shampoo (try to avoid the Oatmeal shampoos recommended by pet stores as many Westies are allergic to grains).
Some breeders will recommend that a Westie is bathed only 3 or 4 times a year as they fear washing a Westie will strip the oil from their skin. Perhaps the reason for this is that some of the soaps and shampoos used in the past were harsher than those available today.

What are the most common health issues in Westies?

An internet search will quickly tell you that the biggest problem that Westies face are skin issues. The most common skin issue is a Yeast Infection. Conditions that can cause this are, allergies (food and/or contact allergies), reactions to fleas and an increase in humidity. Some Westies are actually allergic to the yeasts themselves. In most cases these issues are easily treatable and in the case of allergies, there are preventative steps you can take.

What should I feed my Westie?

A good breeder will recommend a diet for your Westie based on the food they feed their own dogs when you pick up your puppy.
Most Westie breeders will recommend Chicken and / or Lamb based diets, but surprisingly many Westies are actually allergic to Chicken or Lamb. Beef should be avoided as it can contain hormones that will trigger hot spots on your Westie and as a rule it is safer to avoid grains, many of which are used as fillers in commercially produced dog foods.
An alternative is a fish based diet, consisting of Tuna, Sardines and Salmon.

How long do Westies live?

On average, Westies live to around 12 to 15 years of age, but older dogs are not uncommon.

What is the black spot on my Westie's tail?

Spot on Westie tail

Westies have an gland in their tail and when over-stimulated, it secretes excess oil. Dirt will then stick to the oil and stain the area, causing the appearance of a black spot.

To remove the spot, put a dab of dishwashing liquid on the area and lather it up, then rinse it off. Repeat everyday for a few days and it should disappear.

Why haven't my puppy's ears come up?

Some Westie puppies take longer than other for their ears to stand up. For some puppies, they come up, but then start to droop when they are teething. If your puppy's ears are not standing up when you collect your puppy at 8 weeks old, gentle massage the ears every time you pick up your puppy. This will help to stimulate the blood flow to the muscle that holds the ears up. Also trim any excess hair from the back and side of the ears to lighten the load. If this doesn't work with a couple of days, try holding them in place with some Gentle Paper Tape (Medical Tape).

If your puppy's ears are not erect by the time they are 16 weeks old, it could be that the ear cartlage is damaged and there is a strong chance that they will never come up. .

Are Westies easy to train?

Westies are very intelligent and learn quickly. The down side to this is that they can get bored easily and also, if left to their own devices, learn things by themselves which you may not want them to know, such as how to get over, under or through a fence.

They key to training a Westie is to keep your sessions short to start with, making sure you maintain their attention. When teaching them new commands, repeat and reinforce any lessons learned the previous session before moving on to new tricks or commands. Some Westies are very food motivated and will do almost anything for a treat, but in most cases, attention and praise is enough reward for them, as they do love to please their human companions.

One handy tip is to use the normal actions to reinforce a command. For example if you are teaching them to come, the next time you see them running towards you, use the 'come' command and then praise them when they arrive. They were coming to you anyway, but the combination of the command and the reward will help to remind them, so next time you call them they will remember that coming to you means they get rewarded.

Are Westies good with other pets?

A Westie puppy will generally accept any existing pets as part of their new family when they go to their new homes. Be sure not to ignore your existing pet when the new puppy comes home, so that they don't act out or resent the puppy.

If you have a Westie and are considering getting a new pet, be sure to supervise them after you introduce them and be sure not to ignore your Westie in favour of the new pet. Beware that Westies have a strong prey instinct so if your new pet is a quick moving small animal, don't leave them alone with your Westie until you are sure that the Westie understands that the new pet is a sibling and not dinner or a new toy!

What is the red stain on my Westie's mouth and feet?

In most cases the red staining that appears around the mouth of Westies is from acid in their saliva. If they lick their feet excessively they may also have staining there too.

A simple trick to try if it looks like your Westie is starting to get red stains, is giving your Westie a tablespoon of plain Greek Yoghurt with their food. This will help to neutralise the acid in their salvia and the probiotics in the yoghurt will help to balance the bacteria in their gut.

The staining will not simply disappear. If you resolve the issue, the hair will still have to grow out before it disappears.

How do I stop my Westie getting car sick?

The most effective way to stop your Westie from getting car sick is to get them used to being in a moving vehicle. Try not to take them anywhere immediately after they have eaten, or you will end up having a big mess to clean up.

Take them on lots of short journeys and gradually build up the length of the trips. Make it a fun experience for them. Drive to a nearby park and run around with them and then drive back home. If the only time they get in the car is to go to the Vets to get a needle, they will get stressed as soon as you try to put them in the car.

Make sure that they are secure and comfortable in the car. If possible have someone sit with them. Talking to them and petting them will help to relax and distract them.

Remember not to leave them in an unattended car, especially in summer when a car can be a death trap for a dog.

When should I get my Westie de-sexed?

Most Vets will recommend that your Westie is de-sexed at 4 to 5 months. There is a growing school of thought that it is better to wait until they are 10 or 11 months old (or around a month after their first season for females) as the additional growth hormones that their bodies produce will help you strengthen their bones and make them healthier in the long run.

The down side to waiting is that you will have to be vigilant to ensure your female does not come into contact with any entire males when she comes into season.

Talk to your Vet and make the choice that you think is best for you and your Westie.

Should I let my Westie have a litter before I de-sex her?

If want to breed you Westie for the following reasons, then you should strongly reconsider:

  1. 1. It will help to fulfil their natural needs.
  2. 2. It will improve her temperament.
  3. 3. I paid a lot for this Westie and I want to make my money back.
  4. 4. My friends and family all want a Westie puppy of their own.
The reasons why neither of these are good ideas are:
  1. 1. De-sexing your Westie will remove the instinct to breed and your dog has no conscious knowledge or regrets about what it is missing. Don't try to place human emotions on your Westie.
  2. 2. A dog with an unsuitable temperament should not be bred from, since temperament is most often the result of hereditary factors. Your Westie's temperament will not likely improve and then you will be left with a litter of puppies with bad temperaments.
  3. 3. Breeding Westies is an expensive process. Stud fees, Vet fees and the cost of raising and feeding a litter puppies is high. If a caesarean section is required, it can double your costs. In most cases you need to have at least 2 puppies to break even and Westies only average 3 to 4 puppies per litter.
  4. 4. What do you do if she has a large litter? What will you do with the puppies? Would you buy a Westie from an unregistered breeder who cannot supply pedigree papers?

    If you have a female, no responsible breeder will let you use their male for stud if you are not a registered breeder. Using a male dog of unknown background or worse a male dog of another breed or mixed breed on your female could introduce a whole host of hereditary issues to the puppies.
  6. What if something goes wrong? You could lose your Westie and all of the puppies!
If you do want to become a Westie breeder, talk to other breeders, make sure the breeder you are getting your Westie from knows that you are planning to breed, so that they can make sure you get a puppy that is suitable for breeding. Register with your local kennel council and follow the steps to become an accredited breeder. Sign up with a Westie Club to look for more experienced breeders who are willing to provide advice and support.

Where can I learn more about Westies?

Here are some suggestions on how to get more information on Westies