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Male vs Female West Highland White Terriers: What Are the Differences?

Nicole Cosgrove

Once you decide to add a West Highland White Terrier to your household, get ready for a friendly and happy little dog that will entertain you with their silliness. There’s only one more thing left to decide: Should you get a male or female? Boy and girl Westies are similar in appearance and personality, but there are several differences between the two. From size to temperament, let’s explore the key characteristics in males and females so you can decide which one is right for you.

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Visual Differences

Male vs Female West Highland White Terriers - close up
Image Credit: Left – Male Westie (zoosnow, Pixabay); Right – Female Westie (bici, Pixabay)

At a Glance

Male West Highland White Terrier
  • Average height (adult): 11 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 15–22 pounds
Female West Highland White Terrier
  • Average height (adult): 10 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 13–20 pounds

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West Highland White Terrier 101

A West Highland White Terrier is lovingly referred to as a Westie. Originally bred for catching rodents, this quick and obedient dog loves any chance to be active. It’s common to see them making their way through obstacle courses in agility classes.

Today, rather than chase rodents, the West Highland White Terrier is bred to be a family companion. Any type of living situation suits this dog fine, from apartments in the city to farmhouses in the country. They make wonderful family dogs, showing affection to every member of the household rather than bonding to just one person.

Westies have a sweet and gentle disposition and get excited whenever it’s time to play. They require daily exercise and mental stimulation. Provided that they receive the proper amount of playtime, they’re agreeable to being home alone while you’re at work.

A Westie’s calm nature can change once they get outdoors. You’ll see the transition happen before your eyes as they speed around the yard or dog park. Start throwing a ball or squeaky toy, and you’ll wonder how a game of fetch can last so long.

Another activity that a Westie loves is digging. This is an inherited trait from their days as ratters. With proper training, it can be discouraged. Just don’t leave your Westie outdoors without supervision!

This friendly dog gets along with everyone, including kids and other pets. They have a confidence about them that makes them fun to be around but also brings out a bit of their mischievous side. While they enjoy being around their families, this is no lap dog. They enjoy affection but are too active to be couch potatoes.

Westies are favorites among people looking for an easy-going dog due to their intelligence, ease of care, and adaptable nature.

Male Pet Breed Overview

West-Highland-White-Terrier-and-Poodle_BIGANDT.COM_shutterstock
Image Credit: BIGANDT.COM, Shutterstock

Personality / Character

Male Westies are playful, independent, and relaxed. They’re larger than female Westies, standing about an inch taller and weighing a few pounds more. They are energetic and athletic, making them perfect for playing with children. They’re a small breed, but not as fragile as other small breeds. They can keep playing for hours.

Males Westies mature later than females. Their puppy energy lasts longer, which can make them more difficult to train.

Males are territorial and tend to be aggressive toward other male dogs if they feel like they’re being threatened, especially while on a leash. They also take longer to adjust to a new pet that is introduced to the household.

They can be vocal, especially if they want something that they’re not getting (like outdoor playtime or food). Proper training, socializing, and neutering can help curb a few of the male Westie’s undesirable traits.

Training

It’s best to start training early with a male Westie. Since their puppy phase lasts longer, their training does too. It’s harder to get their attention when they’re young because all they want to do is play! Male Westies are smart and can be trained well. Their independent nature takes over and they want to do things their own way. They require patience and consistency in showing them the proper ways to behave.

While male Westies are friendly dogs, socialization is important from the time that they’re puppies, to help them gain confidence and lose any fear that they may have of new situations or people. The more experiences that they are exposed to while young, the more social they’ll be when they get older.

Health & Care

Male Westies should be groomed and their coats clipped or stripped a few times a year. If you don’t want to or can’t do this, a professional groomer can do it during a full grooming session, which includes a bath and a nail trim. Clipping is giving your dog’s coat a cut with scissors or electric clippers. Stripping is a method of removing loose, dead hair from the coat with your fingers.

While this is an overall healthy breed, there are a few genetic predispositions to health problems that affect West Highland White Terriers. These issues can affect both sexes, but in males, some health risks increase if the dog is not neutered. Neutering your dog may also decrease any unpleasant aggression or marking behaviors.

Breeding

If you are interested in using your male Westie to stud, the first step is to rule out the chances for any of these health problems to occur. Genetic testing is required to thoroughly check the health of your dog. Only healthy male Westies should be allowed to breed. Decreasing the chances of these health issues in future dogs is the ultimate goal when breeding any dog. The male Westie should only be allowed to breed with a healthy female dog.

Pros
  • Affectionate
  • Playful
Cons
  • Takes longer to reach maturity
  • May be difficult to train in adolescence

Female Pet Breed Overview

West Highland White Terrier standing on rock
Image Credit: Morten Hjerpsted, Pixabay

Personality / Character

Female Westies love being the center of attention. If they think that they aren’t getting enough attention, they’ll bark until they do. They will also bark until they know that you have determined why they’re barking, and then they feel that it’s okay to stop. They have every lovable trait of this breed, but in a household, they consider themselves leaders of the pack.

They mature faster than the males, making them slightly easier to train. They are also protective of what they consider theirs, whether that’s a person, toys, food, or their own space. This behavior can be diminished through proper training.

Female Westies are smart, and this intelligence helps them think of ways to get what they want. They are confident, loyal, and independent. They have charming personalities and are always ready for playtime, walks, and adventures.

Training

You can train a female Westie, but it should be done from the time that they’re puppies to ensure the most success. They want things their way, even while training. They’re usually thinking of a way to get the reward without having to follow the command. Remember to try to stay one step ahead of them during training sessions.

Since females mature faster than males, it’s easier to hold their attention and teach them while they’re young. Even with their independent streak, they can learn what you want them to do.

Health & Care

The female Westie’s grooming routine is similar to the male’s. They don’t differ in coat care needs.

The health of a female Westie can be affected by whether they are spayed. If you’re not going to breed your dog, spaying will decrease the risk of certain health problems:

Additionally, females are at the same risk as males for the following major and minor genetic health conditions:

Breeding

If you’re not going to breed your dog, spaying them will keep them healthier and happier. If you are going to breed your dog, testing is required first to make sure they are healthy enough for breeding and giving birth. Caring for puppies is a job that can only be done well by a healthy dog that’s been given clearance by a veterinarian to proceed. A healthy female Westie should only be allowed to breed with a healthy male dog.

Pros
  • Mature faster than males
  • Easier to train
Cons
  • Can be independent and stubborn
  • View themselves as alpha

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Which Westie Is Right for You?

Both male and female West Highland White Terriers make wonderful family companions. While they both share certain characteristics, they also differ in certain ways. This isn’t a guarantee for every male or every female dog, however. Each dog’s personality will be determined by the individual dog and not their sex. How each dog is trained, socialized, raised, and treated will also play a large part in the dog’s demeanor and attitude.

Whether you decide to get a boy or a girl, regular health checks by a veterinarian are necessary to make sure your Westie stays healthy. Remember to spay or neuter your dog if you don’t plan on breeding them. This will decrease health risks and add to the dog’s overall contentment.

Each Westie is intelligent, playful, and full of energy, so you will have an active pup no matter which one you decide to welcome into your home. We hope that this article has given you the information that you need to make your decision. With Westies, you can’t go wrong!


Feature Image Credit: 1 – Justgreatphotography, Shutterstock, 2 – anetapics, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.