West Highland White Terriers are much loved for their high energy, perky personalities, and their dazzling, long white coat. But bringing home a Westie means making a significant commitment to keeping that thick, white coat neatly trimmed and well taken care of, even if he's not destined for the show ring. In this article, we'll take a look at three of the important parts that make up coat care for Westies - stripping vs. clipping and care between baths.
Stripping vs. Clipping
Stripping is done on Westies that are destined for competition because it hardens the coat and makes it coarser. This is desired in the show ring because the standard states that the "ideal coat is hard, straight and white." When the Westie's coat is clipped, it is often softer and even curlier. For Westies that are pets, stripping or clipping is really just a matter of preference. Both can be done by the owner, and there are ample books and videos available for those that wish to learn to strip or shape the coat in the "look" that Westies are supposed to have.
Another option is taking your Westie to a groomer on a regular basis, but owners will need to do a significant amount of research if they want to have their Westie coming home with the accepted Westie "look." Finding the right groomer can entail contacting the local West Highland White Terrier association to ask for a referral, interviewing potential groomers, and even talking to a groomer's customers to find out if they're satisfied.
Care Between Baths
We won't go into great detail about bathing here (please see "Bathing Rules for the West Highland Terrier"), but it is generally accepted that pet Westies only need to be bathed three or four times a year. Keeping the coat clean between these baths does take an almost daily commitment, however. Brushing or combing should be done every day if possible; if not, at least three or four times a week. Brushing helps to keep the natural oils distributed throughout the coat and keeps it healthy and shiny. This is also a good time to check for matting, which can happen especially under the "arms." Matted hair can be very painful if left unattended for too long, but daily brushing will help keep this from happening.
Of course, Westies are going to get dirty between baths, no matter how often they are bathed. One of the great advantages of their double coat is that dirt often sheds out of the coat once it is dry, and will often come right out with a good brushing. If this doesn't work very well, you can always wash just the paws or the bottom of the 'skirt' to keep them clean. Making this into a game with your Westie will make it more enjoyable for him and you. Other options include using a dry cleaner that can be sprinkled on and then combed through or a self-rinse shampoo.