WHITE TERRIER WEST HIGHLAND
Let’s Talk Breed Education!
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Official Standard of the West Highland White Terrier General Appearance: The West Highland White Terrier is a small, game, well-balanced hardy looking terrier, exhibiting good showmanship, possessed with no small amount of self-esteem, strongly built, deep in chest and back ribs, with a straight back and powerful hindquarters on muscular legs, and exhibiting in marked degree a great combination of strength and activity. The coat is about two inches long, white in color, hard, with plenty of soft undercoat. The dog should be neatly presented, the longer coat on the back and sides, trimmed to blend into the shorter neck and shoulder coat. Considerable hair is left around the head to act as a frame for the face to yield a typical Westie expression. Size, Proportion, Substance: The ideal size is eleven inches at the withers for dogs and ten inches for bitches. A slight deviation is acceptable. The Westie is a compact dog, with good balance and substance . The body between the withers and the root of the tail is slightly shorter than the height at the withers. Short-coupled and well boned. Faults - Over or under height limits. Fine boned. Head: Shaped to present a round appearance from the front. Should be in proportion to the body. Expression - Piercing, inquisitive, pert. Eyes - Widely set apart, medium in size, almond shaped, dark brown in color, deep set, sharp and intelligent. Looking from under heavy eyebrows, they give a piercing look. Eye rims are black. Faults - Small, full or light colored eyes. Ears - Small, carried tightly erect, set wide apart, on the top outer edge of the skull. They terminate in a sharp point, and must never be cropped. The hair on the ears is trimmed short and is smooth and velvety, free of fringe at the tips. Black skin pigmentation is preferred. Faults - Round-pointed, broad, large, ears set closely together, not held tightly erect, or placed too low on the side of the head. Skull - Broad, slightly longer than the muzzle. not flat on top but slightly domed between the ears. It gradually tapers to the eyes. There is a defined stop, eyebrows are heavy. Faults - Long or narrow skull. Muzzle - Blunt, slightly shorter than the skull, powerful and gradually tapering to the nose, which is large and black. The jaws are level and powerful. Lip pigment is black. Faults - Muzzle longer than skull. Nose color other than black. Bite - The teeth are large for the size of the dog. There must be six incisor teeth between the canines of both lower and upper jaws. An occasional missing premolar is acceptable. A tight scissors bite with upper incisors slightly overlapping the lower incisors or level mouth is equally acceptable. Faults - Teeth defective or misaligned. Any incisors missing or several premolars missing. Teeth overshot or undershot. Neck, Topline, Body: Neck - Muscular and well set on sloping shoulders. The length of neck should be in proportion to the remainder of the dog. Faults - Neck too long or too short. Topline - Flat and level, both standing and moving. Faults - High rear, any deviation from above. Body - Compact and of good substance. Ribs deep and well arched in the upper half of rib, extending at least to the elbows, and presenting a flattish side appearance. Back ribs of considerable depth, and distance from last rib to upper thigh as short as compatible with free movement of the body. Chest very deep and extending to the elbows, with breadth in proportion to the size of the dog.
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Loin short, broad and strong. Faults - Back weak, either too long or too short. Barrel ribs, ribs above elbows. Tail - Relatively short, with good substance, and shaped like a carrot. When standing erect it is never extended above the top of the skull. It is covered with hard hair without feather, as straight as possible, carried gaily but not curled over the back. The tail is set on high enough so that the spine does not slope down to it. The tail is never docked. Faults - Set too low, long, thin, carried at half-mast, or curled over back. Forequarters: Angulation, Shoulders - Shoulder blades are well laid back and well knit at the backbone. The shoulder blade should attach to an upper arm of moderate length, and sufficient angle to allow for definite body overhang. Faults - Steep or loaded shoulders. Upper arm too short or too straight. Legs - Forelegs are muscular and well boned. relatively short, but with sufficient length to set the dog up so as not to be too close to the ground. The legs are reasonably straight, and thickly covered with short hard hair. They are set in under the shoulder blades with definite body overhang before them. Height from elbow to withers and elbow to ground should be approximately the same. Faults - Out at elbows. Light bone, fiddle-front. Feet - Forefeet are larger than the hind ones, are round, proportionate in size, strong, thickly padded; they may properly be turned out slightly. Dewclaws may be removed. Black pigmentation is most desirable on pads of all feet and nails, although nails may lose coloration in older dogs. Hindquarters: Angulation - Thighs are very muscular, well angulated, not set wide apart, with hock well bent, short, and parallel when viewed from the rear. Legs - Rear legs are muscular and relatively short and sinewy. Faults - Weak hocks, long hocks, lack of angulation. Cowhocks. Feet - Hind feet are smaller than front feet, and are thickly padded. Dewclaws may be removed. Coat: Very important and seldom seen to perfection. Must be double-coated. The head is shaped by plucking the hair, to present the round appearance. The outer coat consists of straight hard white hair, about two inches long, with shorter coat on neck and shoulders, properly blended and trimmed to blend shorter areas into furnishings, which are longer on stomach and legs. The ideal coat is hard, straight and white, but a hard straight coat which may have some wheaten tipping is preferable to a white fluffy or soft coat. Furnishings may be somewhat softer and longer but should never give the appearance of fluff. Faults - Soft coat. Any silkiness or tendency to curl. Any open or single coat, or one which is too short. Color: The color is white, as defined by the breed's name. Faults - Any coat color other than white. Heavy wheaten color. Gait: Free, straight and easy all around. It is a distinctive gait, not stilted, but powerful, with reach and drive. In front the leg is freely extended forward by the shoulder. When seen from the front the legs do not move square, but tend to move toward the center of gravity. The hind movement is free, strong and fairly close. The hocks are freely flexed and drawn close under the body, so that when moving off the foot the body is thrown or pushed forward with some force. Overall ability to move is usually best evaluated from the side, and topline remains level. Faults - Lack of reach in front, and/or drive behind. Stiff, stilted or too wide movement.
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Temperament: Alert, gay, courageous and self-reliant, but friendly. Faults - Excess timidity or excess pugnacity.
Approved December 13, 1988 Effective February 1, 1989
JUDGING THE WEST HIGHLAND WHITE TERRIER
DR. GERRY G. MEISELS
C onformation judges hold the long-term future of the breeds they judge in their hands. Half a century ago, a few knowledgeable judges such as Alva Rosenberg and Billy Kendrick could influence the development of a breed because there were fewer shows and fewer judges. Today, there are thousands of shows; and nearly six hundred judges are approved for Westies. These judges now collectively share the responsibility to help guide our breed’s development. To meet this responsibility, they must evaluate not only those characteristics that are common to many breeds, such as movement, they must also understand type and use it in their decision-making. The following discussion assumes that you, the reader, have thorough knowledge of the standard and of canine anatomy and movement. Judging requires the ability to see and evaluate type, structure, and movement, and especially, a clear understanding of what is important in the breed. This understand- ing underlies the ability to judge the whole dog rather than a single feature, such as shoulder layback or front movement. Seeing and judging the whole dog is essential to good judging. Examination of Westies follows a process that parallels the approach most judges use for all breeds. However, at each step, the evaluation must pay special attention to those aspects of conformation that help to define Westie type. Not all judges do this in exactly the same way, so the following description is only that of a typical approach. The evaluation begins at the moment when the class first enters the ring and the handlers set up their dogs. The outline or silhouette alone should immediately say, “This is a Westie.” You should see a level topline, and proper balance or proportions of the parts. The standard is clear about some aspects that can be translated into the draw- ing below, based on an 11-inch male. For a 12-inch dog, these measurements would, of course, be proportionally longer; for a 10-inch dog or bitch, proportionally shorter.
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The proportions of Skull S, Muzzle M, Neck N, and Tail T cannot be derived quantitatively in the same way. The standard calls for the head and neck to be in proportion to the body or to the remainder of the dog. Judgment of the proper proportion is informed by knowing the working function of the Westie. To do his job, the Westie’s neck has to be both strong and supple. Too long a neck will produce a “mop at the end of a broomstick” and will not provide the strength to dispatch quarry underground. Too short a neck reduces flexibility and the ability to respond to the quarry’s quick movements. The size of the head also has to be balanced between the power to hold and dispatch the quarry and the ability to get through tight spaces in the narrow and contorted cairns of his homeland. The muzzle should be slightly shorter than the skull. When muzzles become a great deal shorter, there is a tendency for bites to become undershot; when muzzles are too long and narrow, the appearance becomes that of a snipey, foxy face. The tail should not extend above the skull, and should be carrot- shaped and carried vertically. Curved tails carried over the back and pointing forward are incorrect and interfere with outline and overall balance. Before the judges move on, they should reflect on what they have seen and make mental notes about what they may want to examine in more detail later, especially when the dog is on the table. It is now time to walk down the lineup and look at each dog’s head and expression. This provides another piece of information on the head, and the first look at the front. Suspicions of excessively turned-out feet, long or narrow muzzles, and other questionable characteristics may surface now and can be noted for further exam- ination on the table later. Most importantly, this is the time to start looking at expression and temperament. Expression is much in the eyes, and temperament reflects itself in the dog’s responsiveness to the judge and the handler. Again, take a moment to organize your thoughts, and then ask the class to go around the ring with the first dog to be put on the table. As you watch them gait, pay special attention to topline, reach and drive, balance between front and rear movement, and tail carriage. When the dog is on the table, it is time to “see with your hands” as well as with your eyes. This is especially important in Westies because, with only a superficial look at a dog, a good groomer can hide many faults. Take a moment to re-examine the outline and re-evaluate balance, then move to the front of the dog. Are the eyes widely set apart and deeply set, dark brown, intelligent, and of the correct almond shape? Eyes are important because they are key to expression. Is the stop that helps protect the eyes well-defined? Is the nose large and all black, are the eye rims black, and is there sufficient pigment on the inside of the ears? Place your hands on the head to feel for length and breadth of skull and muzzle, and fill beneath the eyes. Try not to crunch the tease too much by using your fingers like calipers. The examination of the bite follows; it should be scissors or level with large teeth, and all incisors should be there. Pre-molars should be visible, but it’s okay for one to be missing. Then go down the front to check shoulder angles and chest overhang. Is bone substantial and are legs straight with elbows close to the body? Putting a hand under the chest displays whether the chest reaches at least to the elbows and whether the elbow-to- ground distance is the same as the withers-to-elbow distance. You can feel the width of the ribcage and its desired heart shape by moving your hands down behind the front legs; a round or barrel chest is incorrect. Sliding the hand down the side from front to back locates the end of the rib cage, so you can now compare the
Expression is much in the eyes, and temperament reflects itself in the dog’s responsiveness to the judge and the handler.
length of the rib cage with the coupling, from its end to the thigh, which should be as short as is compatible with free rear movement. Now check the tail set, which should be high enough so that the spine does not slope down to it. Then run your hands down the hind legs. Lack of rear angulation is common and is often dis- guised by expert grooming. Are hocks well let down? There should be “dog behind the tail,” but this is not often seen. Finally, exam- ine the coat, looking for the ample harsh and wiry outer coat and the softer undercoat. The coat should be white as the breed’s name requires, but wheaten tipping is allowed if the coat is very harsh. Look for evidence of bleaching that can sometimes lead to brittle coat texture and a grey hue. Evaluation of movement comes next. We will not dwell on this because good movement is similar in many breeds. Making dogs move away and back or in a triangle is typical, and so is checking for the dog’s reaction on the return in order to get a sense of the dog’s alertness and responsiveness—which are important parts of temperament. Then, the individual examination is finished by tak- ing the dog around the ring and carefully looking again at the side gait for evidence of crabbing, interfering, unmatched front and rear movement, etc. Most importantly, look for reach and drive, and for the topline to remain level. When all dogs have been examined individually, you must decide whether to spar the dogs. If you have some doubt on how the class should be placed, then don’t spar. (Your worst conforma- tion dog may be the one that is most animated and you will be in a quandary and tempted to wrongly put showmanship above essential conformation qualities.) To spar correctly, pull out two or three dogs at a time (never do it by turning dogs on each other in line), and keep them at some distance from each other. You want to see tails and ears come up, and the dogs focused on each other as shown in the accompanying illustration. The standard calls for penalizing excessive timidity AND pugnacity. A dog should be heavily penalized for shying away, and equally so for growl- ing, threateningly lunging, and attacking—because that is NOT
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“Montgomery County 2011” ©2013, Allison Platt.
correct temperament in a breed that was developed to hunt in packs. There is some debate among longtime, well-respected Wes- tie judges as to the merits and usefulness of sparring, especially as far as bitches are concerned. Many judges do not spar bitches at all because bitches have a softer personality and rarely spar well. Personally, I almost never spar bitches except when the class is of uniformly high quality and I have trouble choosing between the best of them! All along, the judge collects mental notes on each of the dogs. In smaller and weak classes, the judge may well have decided on placements along the way. In larger and strong classes, it is best to have a strategy on how to make the final selections. The chief con- sideration should be given to the main characteristics that define Westie type. The standard lists many characteristics, but gives little guidance on which ones are most important. Fortunately, many well-respected judges agree on the most important criteria for evaluating Westies. Some years ago, I asked
a number of respected Westie judges what the five most important characteristics were on which they based their judgment. Most of the judges listed balance/proportion, head, movement, coat, and temperament, not necessarily all in the same order. A survey by Nikki Riggsbee, published in Dogs in Review , found a very simi- lar consensus. All of these characteristics, except movement, are essential expressions of type!! This is not a choice between type and structure. Like Winnie the Pooh, when confronted with a choice of sugar or honey for his tea, here too the right answer is “both, please.” Each dog should be rewarded in proportion to the degree to which it approaches the ideal in type and anatomy, with type weighted more heavily. Judges should be guided by what I was told more than four decades ago by Westminster BIS winning Terrier handler, and later AKC Executive Field Representative, Jimmy Butler: “You can find soundness in any pound, it is type that sets the breed apart.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Gerry Meisels and his wife, Sylvia, have owned, bred, and shown Westies since 1959. Their love of Westies began with a daughter of Westminster BIS winner Ch. Elfinbrook Simon. Gerry’s job took the couple from Pittsburgh to Ramsey, New Jersey, Houston, Texas, Lincoln, Nebraska, and Tampa, Florida. They have lived in the Tampa area since 1988. They are primarily breeder/owner-handlers who have finished 68 home-bred Westies, and have repeatedly received parent club recognition for BBE success and top-producing bitches. Their GCHG White Oaks Invincible Snowplow was the No. 1 Westie in 2014. Their daughter, Laura, still holds the record as the youngest handler (at 8 years of age) to ever go BIS at an all-breed show, and she currently shows three young dogs from their last litter. Gerry has judged Westies since 1972 and all Terriers since 1982. In 1976, Gerry and his family spent three months in Great Britain, visiting kennels and dog shows every weekend, and acquiring six Westies. Gerry has been AKC Delegate, Officer, and President of several all-breed clubs. He was founding President of the Westie specialty clubs in Houston and Tampa, and was on the Board of the WHWTCA. Gerry was born and raised in Vienna, Austria. He came to the US in 1951 as a Fulbright pre-doctoral fellow in Chemistry at the University of Notre Dame, receiving the Ph.D. in 1956. After 26 years of research and teaching, he became Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Nebraska, and later, Provost and Vice President at the University of South Florida. He retired in 2021, a few days after his 90th birthday.
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BY ANNE SANDERS and LISA PACHECO
F or those of you who have ever been owned by a Westie, you understand the curious, happy with an attitude, and sometimes stubborn nature of these marvelous creatures that let us inhabit their world. For those who have not had the pleasure, we hope to shed some light on some pertinent points of the breed. How the Westie came to be is an interesting legend. The short- legged Terriers of Scotland are now recognized as the Scottish, Skye, Cairn, Dandie Dinmont, and West Highland White Terriers. They all, undoubtedly, descend from the same roots. All of these dogs were valued as intrepid hunters of small game. Originally, their coat colors ranged from black to red to cream or white. Colonel Edward Donald Malcolm, of Poltalloch, Argyllshire, Scotland is generally credited with breeding the white dogs true, although he took none of the credit onto himself. As the legend goes, a reddish dog of his, emerging from cover, was mistakenly shot as a fox. Malcolm is said to have decided on the spot to breed only for white dogs that could
Balance—Measuring slightly shorter from withers to base of tail than from withers to ground. (From our judges education presentation)
be readily identified in the field. The breed was listed officially as the West Highland White Terrier in 1907 at the Crufts dog show in England. The name was chosen for the rugged character of the dogs and the area of their development. The West Highland White Terrier Club of America was founded in 1909 and is a member club of the American Kennel Club. The Westie is described as hardy, game, and possessed of no small amount of self-esteem because of the work they do. They are small, well-balanced, and strongly built, deep in chest and back ribs. The ideal size for a bitch is 10 inches at the withers and 11 inches for a male, although a slight deviation is acceptable. The body between the withers and the root of the tail is slightly short- er than the height at the withers. The distance from the point of shoulder to the elbow should measure approximately the same as the distance from the elbow to the foot, all coming together to por- tray the balance as required in the standard. Their neck is moder- ate in length, muscular, and well-set on sloping shoulders, which blend into a level topline both standing and moving. Their body is
“THE WESTIE IS DESCRIBED AS HARDY, GAME, AND POSSESSED OF NO SMALL AMOUNT OF SELF-ESTEEM because of the work they do. THEY ARE SMALL, WELL-BALANCED, AND STRONGLY BUILT, DEEP IN CHEST AND BACK RIBS.”
pictured above, left: Colonel Malcolm—Generally credited with breeding the white Poltalloch Terriers.
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there appeared to be some confusion on the concept of “overhang.” Overhang is created when the Westies’ legs are well-set under them instead of being set too far forward on the body. In our opinion, lack of over- hang or forechest is a trend we are seeing in the ring today. Westies are not supposed to have what is commonly known as a “Ter- rier front” as displayed on the Fox Terrier. The overhang is created by proper length of upper arm and legs set well under the body, which is needed to perform the free and easy gait as talked about in our standard. Why is this important? If you go back to the premise that the purpose of dog shows is the evaluation of breeding stock, then these trends that appear in the show ring can be a detriment to the breed going forward, should these attributes be rewarded. Preservation breeders have the duty to ensure the strength and vitality of our beloved breed for generations to come. Breeders adhering to our standard—and judges rewarding dogs that exhibit those characteristics—are the blueprints that will ensure that the dogs of the future will most closely match the ideal Westie that is described in the standard.
pictured above, from left: Westie Head—A beautiful head with no ratting, and hair length of 1–1.5 inches. (©Custom Dog Designs); Westie Head Sketch—Proper head with good eye and ear placement. Note the line from the tip of the nose, passing just on the inside of the eye, to the ear tip.
teeth that are large in size for the dog. Scis- sors or level bites are equally acceptable. An occasional missing premolar is acceptable. (A note should be made here to current or future judges that missing premolars should not be a disqualifier.) If built correctly, the Westie’s gait should be straight, free and easy, and powerful, with reach and drive, which is best evaluated from the side; all the while the topline remaining level. Follow- ing the theory of form following function, of particular interest is the movement of the Westie which, when free and easy, enables the dogs to reach their prey without tiring. One of the perks of being asked to write an article is being able to expound on some personal observations and opinions. While giving a recent AKC webinar on the Westie
compact, and of good bone and substance. Ribs are deep and well-arched, forming a heart shape, and extend at least to the elbows. Shoulder blades are well laid back and well-knit at the backbone with an upper arm of moderate length, preferably close to equal in length of the blade it is attached to. Front legs are reasonably straight and are set in under the shoulder blades with definite body overhang. Thighs are mus- cular and well-angulated, not set apart, with hock well bent, short, and parallel to the ground. Their head should be of good bone with dark almond-shaped eyes widely set apart that give a piercing expression. The skull is broad and slightly domed with a defined stop. Muzzle is blunt, powerful, and slightly shorter than the skull, with
pictured left: Westie Gaiting—Side movement showing reach and drive. (©Dog Ads) pictured above right: Forechest—Demonstrating how to feel for the overhang/proper forechest.
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Musings of a BREEDER/ EXHIBITOR JUDGE by MELINDA LYON
W estie, originated in the Western Islands and Highland of Scotland. They were called terrieres or earthe dogges, and, at that time, came in a variety of colors and sizes. The Malcolms of Poltal- loch are credited with the development of the breed following a hunting accident where Laird Malcolm shot and killed one of his favorite reddish brown Ter- riers, mistaking it for the game he sought. After that tragic incident, he bred to only get the lighter or white tinged coats. Here I must stress that these dogs had a specific purpose, dispatching vermin such as fox and badger that were a constant threat to the livestock, as well as rats that invaded the farmyards and grain sup- plies. When they accompanied their master on hunts, these small, game, strongly built Westies had to tra- verse the jagged, rocky terrain and challenging hill- sides of the Scottish Highlands. Such a dog needed to be able to scramble over, under and between these rocks, squeezing through tight spaces, and, at the same time, be able to turn around to get out again. The ability to perform these specific tasks is made possible by the anatomical structure and tenacious temperament of these game little dogs we call West Highland White Terriers. “Breed type” is what allows you to recognize a particular dog as it is described in the Standard. A Westie has a beautiful and distinct outline that should
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adequate length of upper arm, the front legs should be under the shoulder or withers. One last thing I must touch upon is Westie Temperament. It is important to remember that a Westie, “possessed of no small amount of self esteem”, worked in packs and, therefore, had to get along. I do like to spar my dogs in the ring but never more that 2 or 3 at a time. I ask them to go to opposite corners and walk back toward the center, just looking at each other. The purpose is to have them pull themselves together, come up on their toes (ears alert, neck arched, tail up and quivering) assess- ing the situation. Done correctly, it’s a beau- tiful sight; however, excessive aggressiveness is not a desirable trait. I hope it is obvious that my passion is preserving the integrity of my breed, along with true Westie type. In closing, I’d just reiterate a couple of points I stress in my seminars. “A good West Highland White Terrier of true type and sound structure should be able to show himself, unassisted, displaying the qualities and spirit specific to the breed.” Lastly, I would remind you, “That a good dog can be made to look bet- ter is the art of grooming and handling. That an unsound dog can be made to look good is the art of deception.” This respon- sibility falls to the breeders who must edu- cate themselves and strive to continually upgrade their breeding programs. Recog- nize your bitch’s weak points and go to a Stud dog that has the potential to improve your area of weakness. Always strive for bet- ter and best. ABOUT THE AUTHOR I have been owned by a West Highland White
Scapula (Shoulder blade)
Humerus (Upper Arm)
Maximum reach with 45˚ blade
Fig 1 An example of how the shoulder with a proper 45-degree angle will operate.
Short Upper Arm
Terrier since 1972. Shortly thereafter I attended my first dog show and found my happy place.
Fig 2 An example of the “Terrier front”, a short upper arm results in a more upright front, but the 45-degree angle is retained.
While still working full time as a Nurse Anesthetist, my breeding program was very limited, but I managed to finish approximately 50+ Westies, many from the Bred By Exhibitor class. In 1992 I applied to AKC to judge and I now do the Terrier and Toy Groups as well as some Non-Sporting breeds. It has been an extreme honor to judge Sweepstakes twice and the Regular classes three times at the WHWTCA National Specialties. Over the years I’ve served in many various capacities for the WHWTCA, as well as the Louisville Kennel Club. For the past 10+ years it has been my privilege to serve as Chairof Judges Education for the Parent Club. My passion for educating prospective new judges is with the objective to preserve and protect the integrity of my breed.
be balanced and display no extremes. Move- ment is another vital component which is determined by proper anatomical structure. When the front and rear angles match, a free, easy and powerful gait with reach and drive comes into focus, while the topline remains level. A male Westie should be “ideally 11 inches at the withers, well balanced with good substance and a body between the withers and root of tail that is slightly shorter than the height at the withers.” The standard calls for the “shoulders to be well laid back” with an “upper arm of moderate length and sufficient angle to allow for defi- nite body overhang.” Richard Beauchamp considered “fronts to be the least under-
stood and most underestimated portion of a dog’s Anatomy” and I have to agree. Proper angles in the front give the Westie reach; if the upper arm is shortened, this restricts movement, causing the dog to take twice as many steps as necessary to get from point A to point B. (Fig. 1) This results in very inefficient, mincing and tiring movement. Referring to Terrier fronts, (Fig. 2) as if they all are identical, is another pet peeve of mine. This is a fallacy and has resulted in my second area of concern which is front legs being moved forward to such an extent it eliminates the desired “body overhang”. In some Westies, the fronts are so straight that it looks like their legs are coming down from their ears. With proper angles and
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OWNING A WEST HIGHLAND WHITE TERRIER By Allison Platt
F rom the first time I ever saw a West Highland White Terrier when I was in my twenties, it was love at first sight, and I have never seriously considered another breed since then. If you are con- sidering adding one to your life, there are many reasons why you might want one. You might be considering purchasing your first show dog, or a new breed to show if you are a breeder/exhibitor. You might want a pet for yourself or your family. I have owned, bred and shown Westies for more than 30 years, and although they are the perfect breed for me, they are not for everyone. In this article I hope to give you enough information to know if Westies are the right breed for you. My colleague Ger- ry Meisels has an article elsewhere in this issue about the conformation and judging
of Westies, so I will consider how the Wes- tie is to live with, their health, and what they are capable of outside the show ring. Breed Purpose & Temperament Westies are big dogs in small bodies, and like most terriers, they think they own the world. Th is is a natural outgrowth of their original purpose, which was to rid farmers in Scotland of rodents and hunt small animals such as badger and fox. To do this, they had to be fearless, small enough and tough enough to follow often dangerous animals to ground, tenacious, and loud barkers (it was their job to follow or find animals in their underground dens and bark loud enough that the farmers could dig to them and dispatch the game). Th e standard says they should have “large teeth for their size” which they needed for this dangerous work. Th eir
purpose as a breed explains their tempera- ment, which is outgoing, self-confident, and occasionally pugnacious if provoked. Th e endearing aspects of their person- alities include curiosity, intelligence and playfulness. Most Westies are devoted to their owners and are happy to lounge beside (or on) you in quiet moments. I have seen one of my dogs take a toy and use it to bat around another toy so they could then chase it, or roll on their back and hold a toy in their paws. Westies of all ages love to wrestle and play keep-away with toys, often sound- ing ferocious but meaning no harm. Be warned, however, that if you get a Westie and then ignore him, he will make up his own amusements, and you may not like his choices (digging, chewing the furni- ture, etc.). To be healthy and happy, Wes- ties need exercise, alpha leadership, and “The endearing aspects of their personalities include CURIOSITY, INTELLIGENCE AND PLAYFULNESS.”
“Snowdogs” © 2009, Allison Platt. Photo by Mary Bradley.
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something to occupy their minds. To satisfy this need, you and our dog can walk together or participate in one of the many dog sports open to Westies, including agility, tracking, obedience, rally and EarthDog. See the sidebar for more on this. While Westies are very loving and fun to live with, they also have minds of their own. Th ey are happy to please you as long as they feel there is also something in it for them, too (think: really good treats, a walk, a game of toss). Some individuals, especially bitches and the occasional dog, have more laid-back personalities, and these individuals are best suited to be pets. If you want more than one Westie, the best combination is probably a male and a female, as two of one sex can sometimes disagree and require separation (not the best formula in a pet home). While there are certainly some males that get along fine with other males, and packs of Westies often play together happily, there is the chance that some may not, even after years of peaceful co-existence. Since they will feel it is their job to alert you to any perceived danger, they are not always universally friendly towards strangers or children, and this is important to know if you are considering adding a Westie to your household. If a Westie has the proper temperament and is carefully intro- duced to children, they can be patient and loving companions, but only if the children are also properly supervised and introduced to the Westie. Coat Th e Westie coat is an important consideration for anyone wishing to own one. Th e prospective pet owner needs to understand that they do not naturally look like all the pretty pictures in dog magazines. Th eir coat requires considerable care to look good even if you have no inten- tion of ever showing them. When properly groomed, Westies have a double coat with a harsh outer layer meant to protect them from the weather and from the rough underbrush of their native Scotland, and a downy undercoat intended to keep them warm (actually, because it is white, their coat is also excellent at keeping them cool in the summer). Th e double coat sheds dirt and stays clean without much bathing. If they are only clipped, however, the coat will become soft, o ff ering little protection from the elements and tending to attract and hold dirt and stains. Th e best solution for keeping up the coat on a pet Westie is to find a groomer who is either a terrier breeder or who knows about ter- rier coats, or you can learn how to groom them yourself. Pet owners do not have to keep the dog in show coat, but it is healthier for them if the coat is hand stripped occasionally (pulled or plucked to promote a harsh coat) and scissored rather than clipped. Not all Westie coats are the same, and this is important to know if you want to show your Westie. Coats range from pure white to white with tan “tipping,” especially along the dorsal strip on the back. Pure white is preferred, but our standard allows both, because dogs with tan (or “wheaten”) tipping often have the harshest coats, and often as the dog gets older the color fades. Within the range of color, there are also coats that vary from wavy to straight and from soft to hard. Th e ideal, of course, is a straight hard white double coat which is, as our stan- dard says “seldom seen to perfection.” A harsh coat, if even minimally maintained, will remain healthy and beautiful throughout the life of
Above: “Hair” © 2009, Allison Platt. Photo by Susan Hind. Below: “Truman and Maybe” © 2007, Allison Plattt.
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the dog. Th e problem with the softer coats is that although they often have abundant furnishings (leg and belly hair), those fur- nishings tend to mat. If you aspire to show Westies, you should be aware that grooming a Westie for show is more an art than a skill. You will need to attend many (preferably specialty) shows to study the breed and to learn about the coat, the tools and techniques needed to strip the coat, and the current “styles” of grooming. Our standard, written over 100 years ago, calls for a coat that is about 2" long, but today a dog with 2" coat would look unkempt in the ring. Coats are short- er, heads are often teased, and “product” is often used to add texture to the coat and body to the furnishings. Many breeders and exhibitors to not think this is a good trend, but the truth is that a dog without these enhancements would probably not pass muster with most judges. Th ere are videos available on Westie grooming, but if you want to learn how to groom a Wes- tie, the best thing you can do is to find a breeder whose grooming you admire and ask for pointers or lessons. Health Westies are generally healthy, but there are problems (as in all breeds) that a pro- spective owner should be informed about. Probably the biggest problem with the breed is allergies, either environmental or food-related, but there are other genetic problems as well. Th e Westie Health Foun- dation (westiefoundation.org) is work- ing hard to understand the genetic links to this and other problems in the breed, and their web site is a good place to learn more about health-related issues and about progress being made towards diagnoses, control, and identifying genetic mark- ers to help eliminate problems over time. Th e best way to find a healthy Westie is to go to a reputable breeder who tests their stock and breeds for conformation and health. You can find a list of breeders at the West Highland White Terrier Club of America website (westieclubamerica.com). It doesn't hurt if breeders also have dogs in their line that excel in dog sports, because this demonstrates that their dogs are bred not only for conformation and health, but
also for working ability, mental stability, and drive. Who could resist a Westie that is healthy, beautiful, and smart? Th ey say that there are not only terri- ers, but terrier people, and I believe this is an absolute truth. If you are thinking of acquiring a Westie, you need to be sure you have the correct terrier temperament to match their large personalities. If you do, you will never lack for lively compan- ionship from this independent, beautiful, and fun-loving breed.
Westies In Action Westies are beautiful in the show ring, but they also excel in all types of performance activities. Westies have earned more tracking titles than any oth- er terrier breed. Many are avid hunters and compete successfully in earthdog tests that showcase the dog's hunting instincts. Th ey can compete successfully in obedi- ence, although, being terriers, they aren't big on drilling for perfection (unless per- haps they are well paid with treats!). Th ey prefer rally to obedience, because their owners can encourage them during competition. Many dogs and their han- dlers love agility, which requires hard work, quick thinking, and teamwork. Th ese activities are open to all Westies (including rescued Westies with ILP numbers), and you can learn more about all of these activities on the AKC website (akc.org). And if none of these activi- ties is possible for you, then your Westie would also be happy going for a walk in the woods or a stroll in the neighborhood. Good for the owners, too!
BIO Allison Platt has owned, bred and shown Wes- ties for more than thirty years. Her Westies have com- peted successfully in conformation, agility, tracking,
obedience, and earthdog. She has been a member of the West Highland White Ter- rier Club of America for over twenty-five years, and was the president of the club in 2009 when they celebrated the 100th anni- versary of Westies in the United States. She is on the Advisory Council of the Westie Health Foundation and is Chair of the Illustrated Standard Committee. Her dog Spenser (BIS BISS Ch. McAlp- in Claim to Fame at Kirkton, TD) was the #1 Westie in the US in 2003, and won the breed at Westminster in 2002 and 2003. Her bitch Sprite (Ch CT Kirkton Quick- silver Girl, AX, OAJ, ME, RN) was the first terrier to earn the AKC VST (urban tracking) and CT (Champion Tracker) titles in 1999. She has judged numerous national spe- cialties sweepstakes and has bred numer- ous Champion Westies with multiple per- formance titles, but tracking is her favorite activity with her dogs, and she has been an AKC tracking judge for 15 years. She paints in her spare time, including the drawings included with this article (wes- tieartwork.com). In “real” life, Allison is a landscape architect and urban designer based in North Carolina. And she is definitely a terrier person.
Above: “Sprite in Agility” © 2007, Allison Platt. Below: “Hide and Seek” © 2009, Allison Platt. Photo by Mary Bradley.
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WESTIE PERSONALITY, TRAINING & GROOMING
By Sandy Campbell Camcrest Westies
‘ H mmmm, that looks like a squirrel just out of my reach … unless … maybe … If I could just find something I can climb up on I could jump over the fence and once on the other side I can jump on that pesky little rascal. Hmmmm, no such luck; nobody left a chair, table, planter or anything which could help me. Th ere is no place I can even get footholds to climb over. Wait, I have another plan. I will try the gate. Hmmmm, I see a little daylight under it, maybe I could dig a hole and that would let me at that little varmint. Wow, what fun it
is to get my nails and feet in the good old soil. Watch out squirrel, here I come!’ Many Westies are thinkers and planners making them delightful companions— fun and entertaining to say the least. Th ey are very good trainers and can keep you on your toes. A Westie will know when you are planning to go somewhere, maybe by how you are walking around finding what you need to leave. Car keys are a dead give- away. Th ose dogs will try everything in their power to manipulate you into invit- ing them along, such as assuming they are going and dance around at your feet, or if that doesn’t work they give you “guilt”, the poor-me look.
Having said this, there are exceptions to the rule, so don’t think every Westie is manipulative and conniving, but in my experience which spans over 50 years of breeding, grooming, training and han- dling West Highland White Terriers, the ones worth their salt are just that, ever entertaining and the greatest compan- ion. Westies are not generally a needy dog, meaning they don’t sulk and destroy things from panic when left. Th ey will try to talk you into taking them along, but once they realize their tricks didn’t work and you are out the door and down the driveway, they find their place of residence, some on the back of the sofa watching for
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squirrels out the window. I had a girl that loved TV and would watch that especially when her favorite ads came on, preferably something with action such as horses or animals doing their act. She could tell by the music starting the ad and she would come from anywhere in the house at a full run, skidding around the corners. Westies were bred by Scotsmen for hunting vermin of all shapes and sizes. You can read their history in various books about Westies. My favorites are Earthdog Ins & Outs by Jo Ann Frier-Murza and Th e New West Highland White Terrier by Daphne S. Gentry. Westies are hardy, focused on what interests them at the moment and loyal to the one they are with. Westies are adaptable to change and bore easily, something to keep in mind while housebreaking, encouraging performance activities such as agility, rally, earthdog, tracking and yes, even obedience. Th ey work for food, not for your approval. Th ey love the one they are with, if that one has the treats. A Westie will always be nearby no matter what you are doing: showering, napping, watching TV, or at your com- puter, but not so much in your lap unless it is their idea. Again, this not every Wes- tie, but I have found these to be the most prevalent features of their personality and what really endears them to people who want a dog that is somewhat independent and comedic. Westie males love the female humans and female Westies control the man in the family. Males are more apt to want to please and show more a ff ection while females are wondering what is in it for them. Manipulative, charming and con- niving little girls they are. Nothing is too good for them as far as daddy is concerned. Each breed of dog has certain char- acteristics which are appealing or not so appealing depending on the wants and needs of the person seeking a companion. Perhaps you will extend the relationship beyond companionship to being partners in performance or even breed competition. By this I am referring to what motivates an individual to be interested in a Westie or a particular breed of dog. Often times the person has known someone who has a Westie or maybe grew up with Westies
so are familiar with the breed. Th ey have had personal experience, been up close and personal with Westies or maybe they have seen one on a commercial or in a car or a park and think they are oh so cute. And they are, “oh so cute”. A person or family may decide that the Westie is the dog they want. Th ey then go in pursuit of finding a puppy which is “oh so cute”. Each and every dog in a breed will have certain characteristics which are associ- ated with that breed. When researching a breed of dog, often times the person may have in mind that the “oh so cute” dog may be like a stu ff ed toy when in reality they were bred to hunt down and destroy vermin. Some Westies may not take kindly to being coddled and held tightly for more than a couple of minutes. Westies, on the whole, fit into the latter category, that of
not being a “lap dog”. Most of the time, Westies will love to be in your lap as long as it is their idea. As I said, it is in their nature to be very close to their person. No matter what you may be doing—sitting at the computer, watching TV, taking a walk or sleeping—your Westie will be close by. After you have your puppy and have decided to train it, the first thing to know is that your puppy is ever so smart and may be training you. Westies are fun dogs and you will get more out of a Westie if you understand how they think. Th ey work for food and get bored easily, so give your Westie treats and make it fun and they will be more apt to do what it is you desire them to do. Most Terriers will chase anything that moves, so keep in mind that your dog must be kept on a lead or in a fenced area. Th ey are quick and at times S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , M AY 2014 • 229
they retrieve information as to where other dogs, animals and people have been and even who might have sat in their favorite chair. A dog uses its nose constantly, espe- cially when they are out for a walk. We call it reading the newspaper, because they are gathering information as to who, what and where have been at that spot and what direction they may have gone. It is truly amazing what a dog can tell by sni ffi ng. Th ere are books which can help you learn more about all of these activities and you can find them through AKC or Amazon. Th ere are other sports such as Fly Ball and Lure Coursing in which I have not par- ticipated myself so have no experience. More information about all of these activities and where they occur can be found on the Amer- ican Kennel Club website, www.akc.org. GROOMING YOUR WESTIE Grooming is very important for dogs of all kinds for various reasons, health being one. When you bathe brush and comb your dog, you may find hidden prob- lems such as ticks, tumors, a bite or weed penetration which can become infected. Bathing and drying will help to find such problems and if done correctly and with love and reassurance, your dog will be happy to have the attention. Understand that nobody likes water and air in their face, so take it easy when working near the head. Learn your dog’s tender spots and reassure them it is in their best inter- est that they allow you to do whatever it is you are doing. If the dog has tangles, work from the end of the tangle while holding the tangle securely to prevent pulling the skin. Brush it against your fingers and if necessary, use scissors or thinning shears to cut the tangle. Th e dog will accept the brush and comb if you are careful not to hurt them. Having said that, there is the show dog which gets its hair stripped or plucked or pulled. Di ff erent terms are used by the persons doing the deed. Show grooming is a subject into and unto itself. If you are planning to learn to groom your own dog and you want your dog to look like the breed it is then you need to get the correct tools for the job. Grooming your pet will require a coat king, thinning shears, scissors and clippers. You can ask
are deaf to the recall. If you use treats to get your puppy’s attention and teach them to come to the word you choose for their reward, you are more apt to get their attention when it is most needed, which can be vital in an emergency. I use the word “cookie” and try to keep cookies in my pocket at all times when with the dogs during potty breaks and for a walk. I don’t teach my puppies to lead by pull- ing or jerking them; I use the words “here” and “here puppy, cookie”. Soon that pup- py is responding to “here” or “puppy” or “cookie”. Any of those words will get their attention because there is always a reward. If you lie to them, they will not respect you and will soon ignore anything you ask them to do. Give a “Go potty” treat when the puppy goes potty. “Go Poo Poo” or “Go Pee Pee” are my two requests as soon as my puppies can be in their own area. When traveling and when I put them out in the morning, my dogs know they will always get a treat once they have done their job.
is a natural thing for them to do. You can learn more about this from the breeder or club member in your area. Go online and find a Terrier club or Earthdog club or go www.westieclubamerica.com for more information. Agility is another fun sport and dogs seem to love it providing it is made fun. Again, do not over train. A Westie is smart and if trained according to their individual character, will learn fast. If asked to repeat an exercise too many times the dog will think to itself, “Gee, I must be doing it wrong, so maybe I had better try another way. Oh look, there is something moving over there, I think I will take a closer look”. You will have lost their attention. Th ey are not Border Collies or Golden Retrievers and if the person from whom you are tak- ing lessons trains those breeds, the instruc- tor may expect your Westie to do as they do, but that will not be the case. My dogs and I love Rally because we like to do sports which are fun. Yes, you can be an over-achiever and want high scores, but I just like to pass the test. Obedience is just that and Westies are not obedient dogs; they are as explained above—smart, fun and full of themselves and love the life of a comedian, which is what endears a Westie to the people who have them. When list- ing sports for your Westie, we should not leave out Tracking. Sni ffi ng is the way
ACTIVITIES FOR YOU & YOUR WESTIE
Speaking of training, there are many activities which you may enjoy with your dog. Hunting is one. Earthdog Tests and Barn Hunts are their favorite activities. Westies were bred to go to ground, so it
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