Home /

Dogs / Breeds / West Highland Terrier

/ 13 Westie Personality Traits: Why Are They So Popular?

13 Westie Personality Traits: Why Are They So Popular?

Westies are popular due to their fun and lovable personality. They are energetic, fun to be around, and make great family dogs. This breed has a well-developed protective nature and forms strong bonds with all family members.

Westies were the 46th most popular breed in the United States in 2021, according to the American Kennel Club. This is towards the popular end of the spectrum.

But what about their personalities makes Westies so loved by people?

This article explores the following personality traits of Westies:

  1. Suitedness for families
  2. Friendliness to cats
  3. Intelligence
  4. Trainability 
  5. Affection
  6. Friendliness to children
  7. Aggression 
  8. Hunting behavior
  9. Cuddliness 
  10. Activity levels
  11. Stubbornness
  12. Friendliness to dogs
  13. Barking instinct

Westie Personality Overview

Westies are friendly and fun to be around. They are protective of their loved ones and their territory. This breed has a well-developed prey drive and easily recognizes dangerous situations.

The personality of dogs is often referred to as temperament. The Temperament Test Society has developed a test[1] that reveals valuable information about different breeds’ personalities. 

Westies passed this test 89.7% of the time in 2017[2], which means they have stronger personalities compared to other breeds.

Here are the six traits measured by the Temperament Test:

  1. Protective instinct
  2. Friendliness
  3. Shiness
  4. Stability in behavior
  5. Prey instinct
  6. Ability to assess the threat level of various situations

This table lists the main characteristics of Westies.

Protective nature5/5
Aggressive 4/5
Good family dogs4/5
Good with kids3/5
Good with other dogs3/5
Friendly to strangers4/5
Easy to train3/5
Affectionate 3/5
Hunting instinct5/5
Barking 5/5
Energetic 5/5
Stubbornness 4/5

1. Are Westies Good Family Dogs?

Are Westies Good Family Dogs

Yes, Westies make good family dogs. They are loving and form strong bonds with their owners. While they are not good with babies, they are great with older children that know how to handle dogs with care.

Westies were bred to hunt in packs and they love to be a part of the family. They are friendly, affectionate, and have wonderful personalities. 

West Highland White Terriers form bonds with all family members, not with just one owner. 

They are suited for active families due to their energetic nature and don’t like to sit around all day.

2. Are Westies Good With Cats?

Are Westies Good With Cats
Image Source

No, Westies are not good with cats. They are triggered by small animals, as they were used to hunt rodents and rats. If they grow up with a cat, they can be friendly though. 

The best way to get Westies to like cats is to socialize them with cats during puppyhood when they are between 3 and 12 weeks of age. 

Westies experience their most influential period in terms of social behavior between 3 to 5 weeks. This is the best time to introduce them to cats.

3. Are Westies Smart?

Are Westies Smart

Yes, Westies are smart, displaying above-average intelligence. They are not as smart as Poodles or Border Collies but are a lot smarter than Afgan Hounds or Basenjis. Westies are as smart as Scottish Deerhounds.

West Highland White Terriers came up 47th of 130 breeds in a study[3] on dogs’ working intelligence and obedience.

They understand new commands in between 25 and 40 repetitions, and they obey your first command 50% of the time.

4. Are Westies Easy To Train?

Are Westies Easy To Train

Westies are neither hard nor easy to train. They are quick learners but sometimes stubborn and self-willed. Early training is extremely important, as they can be possessive of their food and toys.

Westies are easily distracted by small objects, animals, or sounds. They need short engaging training sessions. 

Avoid using punishments or yelling while training your Westies. Research suggests positive reinforcement[4] is more effective.

Begin your Westies’ training in early puppyhood to avoid behavior issues when they grow up.

5. Are Westies Affectionate?

Are Westies Affectionate

Yes, Westies are affectionate towards their family. Some westies are independent and don’t seek affection, but they never refuse a cuddle. 

Some Westies show a lot of affection, others not so much. Here are ways in which Westies manifest their affection:

  • Seeking your company
  • Licking you
  • Jumping on you
  • Wagging their tail when they see you
  • Seeking physical contact
  • Leaning on you
  • Resting their head on you

6. Are Westies Good With Kids?

Westies can be good with kids, but not all are. Some Westies are tolerant and patient, while others don’t like hard handling. Westies generally don’t do well with babies.

Westies are often bothered by children who pull on their fur or ears. Young children like to pull dogs’ tails and hit them. 

Even if they are tolerant, Westies can be taken by surprise by this behavior and react accordingly.

Some Westies enjoy being around children and are highly tolerant of any type of handling.

Regardless of your Westie’s friendliness towards children, it is best to supervise any interaction.

7. Are Westies Aggressive?

Are Westies Aggressive

Yes and no. Westies are moderately aggressive by nature, but socialization during puppyhood highly influences their aggressive behavior. 

A study[5] on canine aggressive behavior collected data from 13,715 dogs and suggests small breeds are more aggressive than large ones. 

The same study concluded that some other factors influence aggressiveness in dogs:

  • Gender (males are more aggressive)
  • Age (older dogs are more aggressive)
  • Lack of company (especially with other dogs)
  • Being an owner’s first dog
  • Fearfullness

Westies’ aggressiveness can be controlled through training. Some can display aggression in certain situations though. 

Some health issues are also correlated with aggression in dogs:

  • Pain
  • Hypothyroidism[6]
  • Cushing’s Disease
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

Males Westies often engage in biting. Because of their size, their bite is not dangerous compared to other breeds. 

This table compares Westies’ bite force to other breeds.

BreedBite Force
Cane Corso 700 PSI
Dogo Argentino 500 PSI
Rotweiller 328 PSI
American Bulldog305 PSI
German Shepherd238 PSI
Pit Bull 235 PSI
West Highland White TerrierBelow 200 PSI

8. Are Westies Hunting Dogs?

Are Westies Hunting Dogs

Yes, Westies were initially bred for hunting underground rodents and rats. They are strong and tough, despite their small stature. Their double-layered wiry coats are useful to protect them against the dangers they go through while hunting. 

In the present, Westies are mostly used for companionship but have many hunting dog traits:

  • Excellent smelling and tracking ability
  • Eagerness to please
  • Great running shape and stamina
  • Emotion display
  • Dependable work ethic

9. Are Westies Cuddly?

Are Westies Cuddly

Yes and no. Some Westies love cuddles while others are more independent and don’t like to display their affection too often. 

Westies are cute and fluffy, which makes people want to cuddle them. Still, they were initially bred for hunting, which makes them active and curios, and keeps them busy all day. This is why they are not always drawn to cuddles.

Even though Westies are affectionate, it’s hard for them to sit still for prolonged periods. 

Don’t take it personally if they don’t want to cuddle all the time. Westies are Terriers and have high energy levels. They are happy when they play, run, or exercise.

10. Are Westies Lap Dogs?

Yes and no. Westies were not bred as lap dogs but they do love to sit on laps. They form strong bonds with their owners and enjoy one-on-one moments. This is only true when they are in the mood. Similar to other Terrier breeds, they are energetic and are happiest when chasing small animals. 

Lap dogs were bred to warm up their owners when centralized heating was not invented. 

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are lap dogs, bred for this specific purpose. 

Westies don’t make great couch potatoes and some have independent personalities. Others become clingy. It all depends on the individual.

11. Are Westies Stubborn?

Are Westies Stubborn

Yes, Westies are stubborn. They can be strong-willed, which makes them problematic to train. Westies can be independent and don’t always obey your commands. This happens especially when they are engaged in an activity they are passionate about.

Despite their stubbornness, Westies like to please. If they are trained properly in early puppyhood, they are more likely to be obedient rather than stubborn. 

Westies are not as stubborn as other Terries but more stubborn compared to other breeds, such as Golden Retrievers or Border Collies.

12. Are Westies Good With Other Dogs?

Are Westies Good With Other Dogs

No, Westies are not friendly with other dogs. They aren’t completely hostile but not loving either. Westies behave well around dogs they grew up with or dogs they spend a lot of time with.

Because of their well-developed hunting instinct, Westies are reactive. If a dog isn’t aggressive towards them, they act friendly. Despite their initial reluctance. 

They are also territorial and don’t like dogs trespassing their territory. If you have a friend with a dog coming over, introduce the dog yourself into your Westie’s space.

13. Are Westies Barkers?

Are Westies Barkers

Yes, Westies bark a lot and are more vocal than many other breeds. They use barking to express their emotions, to signal changes in their environment, and because of several health issues.

Here are some possible reasons why Westies bark[7]:

  • Health issues
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Excitement
  • Need for attention[8]
  • Boredom 
  • Loneliness[9]
  • To protect their territory
  • To signal a potential threat in their environment.

This table illustrates the types of barking Westies engage in.

CauseType of Barking
Pain Single or rapid, at a high pitch
ExcitementWith a rising pitch
Seeking attentionPersistent, high-pitched
FearFast, long, high-pitched, with a howl at the end
Anxiety or lonelinessContinuous, with pauses
BoredomRepetitive, monotonous


Westies’ personality is engaging and fun. They are affectionate towards their owners but are not always fond of young children pulling on their hair and hitting them. Westies are not always easy to train because they are stubborn. They bark a lot and are not friendly to dogs and cats because of their well-developed hunting instinct.

Westies have above-average intelligence and make good family dogs. Still, they are sometimes independent and like having their own space. This breed is eager to please and makes a great addition to active families. 

About Ioana Moldovan

Ioana is a Misfit Animals staff writer and psychology student interested in animal behavior. She likes to dive deep into the newest scientific studies to find out the latest discoveries in the field.

Looking for something?

Try searching our website!