Are Westies Good Family dogs was produced in partnership with Legal & General.
We did a lot of research when choosing the breed of our family dog.
Not everyone does. According to research from Legal & General, 31% of dog owners don’t do any research before taking on a dog. No wonder that one in three of us say our dogs are more expensive than we expected!
When we chose to add a Westie to our family, I thought I had a pretty good idea what to expect. We wanted a small, energetic dog with bundles of personality, that would be loyal, but also quite independent. And that’s exactly what we got! Teddy fits in with our lifestyle and family, perfectly.
If you’re wondering are Westies good family dogs, we’re here to help! Here are some of the most important traits you’ll find in a Westie dog, including some you might not expect!
Westies are Surprisingly Active
You’ll see lots of older people with Westies, walking sedately at the park.
But actually, Westies are very active dogs and westies make good family pets, especially if you have older kids.
Teddy on a walk is basically self-exercising. She will run, and run, and run. She has two speeds: stop and full-speed.
Maybe as she gets older, she’ll slow down a little, but at the moment there are very few dogs at the beach that she can’t keep up with. Because Teddy exerts so much energy, her walks don’t always need to be very long.
Although we’ll hit the beach for an hour at the weekends, during the week, 20 minutes doing laps around the park will keep her pretty happy. Then she’ll come home and snooze for the rest of the morning.
Westies Don’t Care What You Think
Before we had Teddy, we used to have a Labrador. So I was used to owning a dog that wanted to please me.
Westies could not care less about your approval. Teddy’s approach to life is that she will do what brings her joy. Whether or not it brings ME joy? Irrelevant.
Things that bring Teddy joy include stealing small items such as socks, shoes and food (in our house we say, “Teddy’s found some joy.”).
Westies are Very Independent
Some breeds of dog will become your shadow. But westies are – in our experience – a little more independent.
Some evenings Teddy wants company, and will snuggle next to me on the sofa. But there are definitely evenings when she will take herself off to bed for some quiet time and a snooze.
This is another reason why westies are better suited to older children who understand the phrase, “let sleeping dogs lie”.
This independence means Teddy copes well if we need to leave her at home for a big chunk of the day. Our westie enjoys watching the world go by out of the window, and will nap. She’s really very content with her own company.
The upside is that when Teddy does spend time with us (and she does, a lot) it’s because she really wants to! She’s a very loyal, fun companion for Flea.
Westies Watch TV. Seriously.
Westies watch television in a way that I’ve never seen a dog do before. Teddy will recognise if there’s a dog on TV. But she can also recognise monkeys, horses, birds. Pretty much any animal, whether it’s real, animated or CGI, will captivate her.
She recognises music from commercials that feature animals. Sometimes a commercial will come on, and you hear Teddy thundering down the stairs because she knows it’s the advert with the meerkats, or for cat food.
This would be adorable if Teddy watched TV quietly. But we can’t watch the Netflix show Dogs in our house because Teddy tries to protect us by flinging herself at the TV screen, barking. Westies aren’t really yappy dogs, but TV is one of the few things that makes Teddy bark!
They Need Training
Like a lot of small dogs, Westies consider themselves the master of their own destiny. They are independent and stubborn, and will need consistent, firm training.
When it comes to the question of, are Westies good family dogs, the answer is they’re as good as you take the time to make them.
When we took a young Teddy for her inoculations, it took THREE adults to pin down my small west highland terrier. Westies are freakishly strong, and very determined.
This means we spent a LOT of time training. Some of this was basic obedience training. Teddy knows commands like sit, down, stay and wait.
More importantly, she also knows her position in the pack. We always feed her after we have been fed. She is turfed off the sofa or bed from time to time, to make space for a human.
Training a Westie isn’t as easy as some breeds, but with consistently you’ll get there. Especially with the knowledge that there is almost nothing a Westie won’t do for cheese.
It’s not uncommon for me to make a cheese sandwich and look down to find Teddy doing a perfect down/stay next to me, with a hopeful little face.
I’ve heard lots of Westie owners tell me that they don’t let their dogs off the lead.
But Teddy’s recall is fantastic. I’ve never had any problem letting her off the lead and knowing she will come back. That’s because as a puppy, we never went for a walk without my having cheese in my pocket.
Having said all this, there are some traits that I think are hard-wired into a Westie.
They have a strong chase drive, which makes them better suited to older children. And Westies don’t bark without reason, but they will bark if they feel threatened. In Teddy’s case, this means another dog has walked past our house, or she’s on the lead and has walked past a bigger dog she can’t run away from.
A Dirty Westie is a Happy Westie
My dog is magnetically attracted to dirt.
If we’re on an unfamiliar walk, and I persuade Teddy to avoid a muddy puddle, she’ll remember the location and dive into it on the way back home. The blacker and smellier she ends a walk, the better.
Unfortunately, Westies are prone to skin complaints so this is something you need to be careful of. We don’t tend to bathe Teddy often. I’ll usually just wait for the mud to dry and brush it out of her coat. This minimises her exposure to chemicals and detergents.
We also keep Teddy’s coat quite short, and ensure she’s groomed every 6-8 weeks. Again, this minimises the risk of skin problems. Even so, she can occasionally get itchy paws if they’ve been wet.
We use diluted Hibiscrub to bathe her paws. If you try this, be sure to rinse your Westie’s paws well afterwards. This seems to settle any issues quite quickly. But as they get older some Westies may need vet care or special diets to manage skin problems. This means if you’re insuring a Westie make sure you’re covered for long-term conditions!
Are Westies Good Family Dogs?
Yes! In our experience Westies are great family dogs. They’re low-maintenance, fun, playful dogs with lots of personality.
You will need to invest time in training a Westie and teaching them that they don’t actually rule the roost. And be prepared to care for your little fuzzy friend to ensure their skin remains as healthy as possible. Oh, and don’t forget the pet insurance!
If you’re unsure of what family dog to try, then please try this dog breed quiz from our sponsors at Legal & General. Answering a few simple lifestyle questions will show you what dog might suit your family best!