Showsight Presents The West Highland White Terrier


Let’s Talk Breed Education!



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.



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



“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.”


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.


West Highland


White Terrier

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


pictured above, left: Colonel Malcolm—Generally credited with breeding the white Poltalloch Terriers.



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.



1. Where do you live? What do you do “outside” of dogs? 2. How many years in Westie? Showing? Judging? Breeding? 3. What, in your opinion, is the secret to a successful breeding program? 4. What do you feel is the condition of the Westie breed today? Pros and Cons? 5. What do you feel breeders need to concentrate on to improve the quality of Westie? 6. How do you feel about the influx of new judges, specialists and all breed, to our breed? Do you feel they have a grasp of the standard, do they know what compromises a good Westie? 7. The Westie is recognizable by people around the world who may not be familiar with most breeds. Is this an advantage? 8. Westies are currently ranked #42 out of all AKC breeds in popularity. Are you happy with this position? 9. What is your favorite dog show memory? 10. Is there anything else you’ d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate. LINDY BARROW

selection of breedings based on both phenotype and genotype. Then only keep pups that have what you want in type. This can be hard, sometimes an entire litter does not give you one you hoped for. When you are at shows (especially when there is a good size entry) look at dogs and bitches you like—check who the parents are. Look at ones you do not like—check who parents are. See if you are finding a certain dog that is producing offspring you like. Ask other breeders for their opinions. It would be nice to think that everyone is honest about health issues in their breeding line, but this is not always the case. I person- ally will discuss if there are any possible issues in a line when some- one is breeding to one of my dogs or looking to purchase a show puppy from me. In the early days of my breeding I did have a health issues and was honest about it and no one bred to my dogs for years, even though I had removed that part from my bloodline completely. Over the years, people know know will discuss a problem and have built a reputation on this. The condition of the Westie breed today? As with any breed they go through periods where there are some weaknesses. In Westies, the front assembly was getting far to straight with a lot of short upper arms. There have been some dogs with good fronts that helped to correct this in their offspring and have helped get the breed back on track. Westies can be prone to skin problems. This can be a very seri- ous type of health issue and not all pet owners can deal with it. Breeders need to work hard to not breed dogs with skin issues (or other known health issues). As breeders we are the ambassadors of the breed it is our responsibility to do all we can to improve the quality of the Westies.

I grew up with a Westie and knew exactly what breed I wanted to persue when my life settled that I could dedicate time to a breed. Although I compete in Conformation, I sup- port the other areas of the competition and help my parent club when they have barn hunts and earthdog events. Whatever it is that you do, just enjoy spending time with your

© Celso Mollo

“As breeders we are the ambassadors of the breed IT IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO DO ALL WE CAN TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF THE WESTIES.”

dog—be it your show dogs or your pet. I live in Caledon, Ontario, Canada and part time in Positano, Italy. Although retired I am president of three small companies. This keeps me busier than when I worked full time. I am on the board of a medical organization and head up a neighbourhood group which tries to protect the environmental status of our area. My first show Westie purchased in 1998, first litter in 1999. I have been showing and breeding for 20 years. The secret to a successful breeding program: there are many things. Starting with the best bitch you can. Be honest with your- self of the flaws in your dogs and bitches and try to breed to correct them. This may take a few generations. Know your breed standard. Learn how to read a pedigree—what did the ancestors look like, what were the traits they passed on (both good and bad). Don’t just breed to a dog because it was a big winner. Pedigree’s for me were easy as I came from a thoroughbred horse family. Make your


West HighlandWhite Terrier Q& A

“PERSONALLY I THINK THE WESTIE IS THE BEST BREED. A large dog attitude in a small package. Loving and fun. Clever and usually very easily trainable.”

How I feel about the influx of new judges, specialists and all breed, to our breed? This is a generic question. Some do and some do not understand the breed standard. As judges I think it is impor- tant that they study the breeds they judge and to constantly try to learn more through judging seminars or speaking to breeders that they think have knowledge. Is it an advantage that the breed is recognizable? I just travelled in Italy with one of my dogs. Yes, they are well recognized. Some people wanted to chat which did give me a chance to try and edu- cate them a bit about the breed. It certainly is not a disadvantage. Am I happy with the breeds’ current ranking? Where a breed is in the ranking changes. Breeds go in and out of favoritism. Being in the top 50 is a nice place. There are enough interested in the breed to make it easy for breeders to have good homes for their puppies. Being one of the most popular breeds can be a problem. If everyone wants one there are not enough quality puppies and this encourages puppy mills/back yard breeders to want to breed that specific breed. All breeders should be very cautious of where they sell their puppies so that the pups/dogs never end up in a puppy mill situation. My favorite dog show memory: there are so many. Showing my first dog, showing my second purchased Westie to Best Puppy in Show, winning the breed at Westminster. Watching my dog win his 5th BIS, the first I was there for. A few favorite memories are show- ing to certain judges that are no longer with us. Personally I think the Westie is the best breed. A large dog atti- tude in a small package. Loving and fun. Clever and usually very easily trainable. They excel in many sports from therapy dogs, agil- ity, to scent related challenges. CAROL BLAIN & LORI TUTTLE I moved to the Chicago area about 15 years ago. Originally I am from West Texas (Lubbock area). I have a PhD in Theater arts and had a full career working as a lighting designer, stage manager and all-around theatre person for many years in Texas. My first show dog and Ch. was Ch Lady CM MacBlain (Chewy Monster). Bred by Barbara Nesbit using Betty Williams wonderful dog Doon MacDuff St George. I started showing my own dogs after learning the ropes from CL. I have bred and finished the championships on many dogs under my MacBlain’s prefix over the years, and after moving to Chicago I have been the “other half ” of Lori Tuttle’s kennel, Nsase. Together we have finished 25 or 30 dogs and Lori was recently awarded Silver Breeder of Merit status.

I have judged Sweeps several times at specialties. I owe a lot to Denis Springer who brought me a wonderful bitch from England, Valu- cis Surprised By Joy, she hated the show ring but was a fabulous producer, as well as teaching me so much about Westies and how to trim! The secret to a successful breeding program? Health and tem- perament always have to be number one in my opinion. All of the dogs we breed will go on to pet homes (our house is a pet home!) and we want to produce animals that are beautiful and typey of course, but never at the cost of health or temperament. What I feel is the condition of the Westie breed today? I think the breed is generally sound for the average pet owner, but I think that for the true steward of the breed, we have some important issues to consider going forward. First, in the words of several old- time breeders and judges who I respect, “they’re getting too big”! The standard calls for bone and substance in a 10-11 inch package. Too much of the time now we see a 10 inch bitch or an 11 inch dog in the ring and they look like a peanut! I would hate to see us go to the wicket, but that’s what it might take, because the opinion is that those larger dogs have more presence in the group, and it’s hurting the breed. Also, the body jacket should have length and layers (the standard calls for two inches). On a dog with a correct coat, a two inch jacket is glorious, but we rarely see it these days. Now, to follow the trends, people take the jacket to a very short (1/4 in!) to create a “sculpted” look which is easier to make look perfect, but in my opinion is not correct at all. It’s pretty but it’s not a Westie. Finally, I believe that fronts are tending to be very much straighter than I would like. It’s hard to find a dog that truly moves with reach and drive, and the front assembly is often the reason. What I feel breeders need to concentrate on to improve the qual- ity of Westie? The above mentioned points of the standard, and also, to preserve health and temperament, we need to intelligently and thoughtfully and bravely use the information we are now being provided though advancements in DNA testing, to preserve the genetic diversity of the breed. When the studbook closed 100 years ago, we had all the genetic material we are ever going to have in those dogs. Through bottlenecks due to fads, wars, popular-sires, people leaving the breed, etc. we find that we have a lot less genetic diversity than we would like to have to maintain health. As stewards of the breed, we should come together and really work on this, per- haps by means that are not completely comfortable to us, but to do what we can to preserve the diversity our gene pool for the future. Lori and I have just started down this journey in the past few years with really promising results.


West HighlandWhite Terrier Q& A


I think that judges are for the most part good dog people who can interpret our reasonably specific standard for themselves. They just must have the courage to do so, which includes not rewarding that which is not correct. Sometimes that one dog who is different in the lineup is the correct one! Westies are universally loved, (as they should be!). It’s up to us to continue to show them dogs who truly meet the standard in every way. Westies are currently ranked #42 out of all AKC breeds in popu- larity. Am I happy with this position? Yes, we are finding more and more that people are being quite discerning about both the appear- ance and health of their Westie, they see the incorrect dogs who are not thoughtfully bred and want one that looks and acts more like the standard. This is education that we must continue to encourage, along with education on the high value that a responsible breeder offers to pet buyers. My favorite dog show memory: number one would be the thrill of handling to Best In Show with my fabulous import, CH Kings- view Pie In The Sky, bred by Julie Coley in England. Closely fol- lowed by a more recent thrill of Lori finishing the FCI champion- ship in Europe, on GCHS MG1 CIB CH IT/FIN/DK Nsase In The Zone. We think Enzo is the first American bred/owned/domi- niciled/handled Westie to get his FCI with all wins in Europe. We have had so much fun in recent years going over to World Shows in Helsinki, Milan, Leipzig, and Amsterdam, and have done some winning in the process! Both of these dogs had a fabulous head, the exquisite movement, the correct size, the never-let-down attitude, they only come along once in awhile at this caliber and we have enjoyed them immensely. SYLVIA &GERRYMEISELS Shortly after we

One of them (Ch. Ragus Lothario) went Best in All-Breed Show in 1977, handled by Gerry. In 1991 Gerry was named Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln. In 1988, we moved to Tampa where he was Provost at the University of South Florida, resuming a faculty position in 1996. We lived on the water in St. Pete Beach until 2001 when we moved onto six wooded acres in suburban Tampa. Gerry served two terms on the Board of the WHWTCA, as President of the Lakeland-Winter Haven Kennel Club and later of the St. Petersburg Dog Fanciers Association. We continued to breed and show our Westies, capping our show career with campaigning our GChG White Oaks Invincible Snowplow to No. 1 Westie in the country. Currently Laura (now married to Bill Brown) shows our bitch special GChS White Oaks Baby Beautiful (a Snowplow daughter) who was a top tenner in 2018. The number of dogs in our home has declined from 22 to 10. We miss puppies and plan to have a couple of litters later this year. We live in Tampa, Florida. I’m a Professor of Chemistry at the University of South Florida. I have 60 years of showing, 58 years of breeding, 48 years of judging Westies, 32 years of judging all terriers; We have had numerous dogs who placed in the top 10 Westies, beginning in 1978 and culminating in 2017 with GChG White Oaks Invincible Snowplow who was No. 1 Westie in All-breed competition. The secret to a successful breeding program is understand- ing the breed and knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your bitches. Selecting the studs that best complement them (rather than whatever is currently being promoted and winning). Overall Westies are better balanced than they were 60 years ago; they are also better presented and more of them are handled professionally Breeders need to concentrate on heads and movement to improve the quality of Westies. Do new judges know what compromises a good Westie? It depends on the individual. Most new judges have idiosyncrasies but can’t see the whole dog and Feature-Judge (place dogs on the basis of a single characteristic that may not be high on the breed’s priority list). The Westie is recognizable by people around the world who may not be familiar with most breeds. Is this an advantage? Probably, at least we can refer them to pictures in ads as a point of departure and immediately go to addressing their wonderful personality. Westies are currently ranked #42 out of all AKC breeds in popu- larity. Am I happy with this position? Yes. any higher would lead to commercial breeding (numbers) at the expense of quality. My favorite dog show memory: our daughter Laura’s setting the record as the youngest handler (age eight) to take a Westie (or any dog) to BIS at an all-breed show. In general, the superficial characteristics of presentation, which include but are not limited to grooming and showmanship, have become a good deal more important. Professional handlers devote much time and attention to these characteristics because they can be manipulated more easily and impress judges. They have more time to keep their Westies in show shape than amateurs. Westie exhibition has become professionalized, and rankings have become a priority but require dogs to be handled professionally because handlers can make many more shows than amateurs, and can select to show under judges favorable to them.

married in 1988 we decided to get a dog, we went to a number of dog shows in Pitts- burgh (where we then lived) and later in the New York City area. We finally, in 1959, got a bitch from Barbara Keenan of Wishing Well fame. She was a daughter of Westmin- ster Best in Show win- ner Ch. Elfinbrook Simon. We started

showing her after she had a litter, and finished her after we moved to Houston in 1965. Her son, Ch. White Oaks Sapient Sasser, fin- ished before her. In 1972 I became Chair of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Houston. We continued to breed and show, with our daughter Laura (then eight years old) taking our Ch. White Oaks Loverboy to Best in Show at an all-breed show. In 1975, we moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, and the following summer spent a lovely two months in England; we bought several Westies from Mrs. Beer of Whitebriar fame, and also five Norwich Terriers.



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

Shoulder Blade



Upper Arm

Last Rib


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



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 showWesties, 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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- 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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