West Highland White Terriers are high energy, intelligent little creatures that make wonderful pets. But, like other small breeds, there are questions as to whether Westies are appropriate pets with small children or for families that plan to expand their family during the Westie's lifetime. The West Highland White Terrier Club of America recommends that Westies are not suitable for families with children under the age of ten, while others say that they are fine, as long as the children and dog are under constant supervision. In this article we'll take a look at the pros and cons of West Highland White Terriers as family pets.
For various reasons, small dogs like West Highland White Terriers and children are not always a good mix. This has little to do with how the dog is trained or how the children are raised, but rather due to their natural behaviors. Small dogs like Westies require a lot a rest and like to curl up in places that could make them invisible to a child's eye, like under a blanket on the sofa. Accidentally sitting or stepping on the dog could result in lasting damage. Children don't always understand their own strength and could play too roughly with the animal. Westies are also very protective of their food and toys, so a small child that innocently lays a hand too close in the dog's estimation may receive a defensive bite. Children's natural boisterous play and unsteady movement could make a Westie nervous, resulting in a shy pet. Finally, Westies are not only protective of their toys and food, but of their families as well, and may mistake the innocent play of children with their friends as an attack and try to defend their young family member.
These, of course, are generalizations, and not every dog is the same. There have been plenty of Westies that have grown up with children or have welcomed new members of the family into the home. Making these combinations work takes a large commitment from the parents of the family to make sure everyone understands what is expected of them. The key components are socialization, good obedience training, and making sure that the Westie is counted as a full member of the family.
Just as with a dog of any breed, good socialization skills and obedience training should start as early as possible. Socialization at a very young age will help Westies understand how they are expected to behave around people of all ages, as well as start to learn the cues that friendly people will give when they want to say hello or play. Good obedience training will also go a long way in helping a Westie understand where his boundaries are. This is also a great way to involve the children. Taking them along to obedience class with the dog will help them understand how the dog should be treated and what acceptable behavior with a Westie is.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that West Highland White Terriers are definitely pack animals and consider themselves to be a full member of their family. Introducing a new family member to a Westie should be thought out very much in advance, just as one would do with a small child. It's not fair to forget the needs of a dog because of a new child, when buying a dog means giving a fair commitment to it for its lifetime, no matter what.