Science Names Westies Most Independent Terrier Breed [Most Stubborn] is reader-supported. If you buy a product through a link on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.

As Westie owners, we have all known for years that our dogs can have an independent streak – which is just a nice way of saying they can be stubborn little… well you know.

Now Science has confirmed it – Westies are the most independent terrier breed. And that’s saying something because terriers are all known to be a little stubborn at times.

The evidence comes from none other than a study published in the academic journal Science.

I’ve experienced first-hand Murphy’s steadfast resistance to a walk when she wasn’t in the mood and it’s somehow reassuring to have my personal experience validated scientifically.

So fellow Westie owners, our understanding of our dogs is now officially backed by scientific research.

Read on the learn more about the study.

Science Names Westies Most Independent Terrier Breed [Most Stubborn]

Study Explores How Genetics Shapes Behavioral Traits

The Science journal recently published a groundbreaking study that seeks to align genetics with breed characteristics. The study is the result of DNA sequencing from over 2000 dogs, both purebred and mixed-breed, coupled with comprehensive owner surveys.

Its findings shed light on how genetic factors play a significant role in shaping the physical and behavioral traits of our four-legged companions.

A fascinating aspect of the study was its exploration of modern domestic dog breeds. Although these breeds have only been around for roughly 160 years and were initially selected based on specific cosmetic traits, the study found that behavior is much more variable among individual dogs.

The researchers used data collected through the community science project Darwin’s Ark to investigate the genetics of complex behavioral traits. Dog owners were invited to enroll their pets, and this inclusive approach allowed the collection of extensive samples needed to examine such complex traits.

One of the key findings from this research is that the heritability of physical traits was a greater predictor of breed but did not necessarily inform breed ancestry in mixed-breed dogs.

Even more intriguing is the finding about “biddability,” defined as how well dogs respond to human direction. This trait, according to the study, was the most heritable by breed, yet it varied significantly among individual dogs.

The researchers found that knowing a dog’s breed ancestry could make behavioral predictions more accurate for highly heritable traits like biddability.

However, for less heritable traits, like agonistic threshold (how easily a dog is provoked by frightening or uncomfortable stimuli), breed information was almost uninformative.

While we are focusing on one aspect of dog behavior (biddability) that appears to be predicted by dog breed, overall this study underpins a crucial perspective: breed, in general, is a poor predictor of individual behavior.

Hence, it should not be used as the sole criterion when selecting a pet dog. Understanding this can help us better appreciate the individual personality and uniqueness of our pets, irrespective of their breed.

Biddability Dog Breed Rankings

When it comes to a measure of independence, or as the study calls it, a lack of “biddability,” Westies have garnered quite a notable ranking.

In fact, amongst terrier breeds, Westies clinched the top spot for being the most independent. They stand proud as the champions of free will, the epitome of individualism, within the terrier family.

But that’s not all. When we consider all breeds, Westies still rank impressively high. They secured the 8th spot overall in the list of the most independent dog breeds.

Overall, the most independent breed goes to the Basset Hound.

Westies secured the 8th spot overall in the list of the most independent dog breeds.
When in comes to Westies, they think they are in the driver’s seat.

Interestingly, the terrier family claimed two spots on this list, with Yorkshire Terriers coming in at number 10.

The Belgian Malinois took the top spot as the most biddable dog breed.

Not surprisingly, no terrier breed is featured in the top ten most biddable, or responsive to human direction.

This difference shines a spotlight on the characteristic independence of terriers, especially Westies, but embracing their unique independent streak is part of the joy of having a Westie as part of your family!

See the full list of the 10 most stubborn dog breeds.

Tips to Train Your Independent Westie

While Westies may have a bit of an independent streak, it doesn’t mean they can’t be trained. In fact, they can be incredibly rewarding to train with their clever minds and spirited personalities.

It just means we might need a little more patience and a few more tricks up our sleeves.

Dog behavioral expert, Cesar Milan, offers some excellent tips to help you get your Westie to listen:

  1. Remove Excess Energy: Westies are active dogs with high energy levels. Try to incorporate plenty of playtimes and walks to help them burn off some of their energy. This can often lead to better focus during training sessions.
  2. Be Consistent: Consistency is key when training any dog, but especially so with independent breeds like Westies. Make sure the rules and commands stay the same, and everyone in the family follows them. Mixed signals can lead to confusion.
  3. Master Your Energy: Dogs are incredibly intuitive and can pick up on your emotions. If you’re anxious or frustrated, your Westie will sense it. Try to stay calm and confident during training sessions.
  4. Go Back to Basics: If your Westie is struggling with a command or trick, don’t be afraid to take a step back and reinforce basic commands. This can help them regain confidence and build a strong foundation for more complex commands.
  5. Stop Relying on Verbal Commands Alone: Dogs understand body language much better than verbal language. Using hand signals along with verbal commands can improve communication and understanding.
  6. Notice Your Dog’s Emotional State: If your Westie is stressed or scared, they may not be as responsive to commands. Make sure your dog is in a calm and relaxed state before starting a training session.

Remember, the key to training an independent Westie is patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement.

Every dog learns at their own pace, so don’t be discouraged if progress seems slow. The important thing is to celebrate the small victories and continue to provide your Westie with lots of love and encouragement.

With time and patience, your Westie will surprise you with their ability to learn and follow commands.


Embracing a Westie’s independent streak isn’t just about understanding their stubborn moments, but about celebrating the unique personality that sets them apart.

It’s about loving them for their quirks and cherishing the challenge they present. Training might require a bit of extra patience, but the rewards are undoubtedly worth it.

So here’s to our lovable Westies – scientifically, the most stubborn and independent of the terrier family.

Kevin William

Kevin grew up with a female West Highland White Terrier named Murphy who was always by his side. Kevin currently lives in New York state with his family including a Labrabull (Labrador Retriever Pit Bull) named Lily.

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