8 Westie Behavior Problems (And What To Do About Them)

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The West Highland White Terrier, affectionately called the Westie, is an energetic and lively little dog originally bred to hunt rodents in Scotland. Their confident, curious, and alert nature makes them a popular companion pet.

However, Westies are known for being independent, stubborn, and having a strong prey drive. Without proper training and socialization, they can develop problematic behaviors that may be confusing or frustrating for owners.

In this blog post, we will explore some of the most common Westie behavior issues owners may encounter. Understanding the potential causes behind these problems can help you address them positively through training, management techniques, and by meeting your dog’s needs.

From barking to digging, chewing, and chasing small animals, Westies exhibit behaviors that reflect their original purpose. By learning how to curb negative habits and reinforce desired ones, you can help your Westie become a pleasant and well-adjusted family companion.

8 Westie Behavior Problems (And What To Do About Them)
  1. Excessive Barking
  2. Stubbornness
  3. Potty Training
  4. Separation Anxiety
  5. Aggression
  6. Digging
  7. Destructive Behavior
  8. Overzealous Prey Drive

Excessive Barking

Westies are known to be vocal dogs that tend to bark more frequently than some other breeds. Barking is a natural dog behavior, but excessive barking can become a nuisance.

Westies may bark excessively in response to boredom, loneliness, fear, seeking attention, or as an alarm at sights and sounds. Their naturally confident, alert attitude makes them quick to sound the alarm at anything unusual. They also bark out of excitement, to greet owners, or when playing.

Excessive barking should never be punished, as this can increase a Westie’s anxiety. Instead, identify triggers and address the underlying motivation. Redirect your Westie’s attention with obedience cues or toys when barking unnecessarily.

Ensure they get sufficient physical exercise and mental stimulation. Avoid inadvertently reinforcing the barking by giving attention. With time and consistency, you can curb frequent vocalizations.


Westies are known for being independent, strong-willed dogs. Their innate stubborn streak can make training more challenging.

Westies like to follow their own agenda and may ignore cues or commands they find uninteresting. Their stubbornness reflects their tendency to be “independent thinkers”.

To deal with stubbornness, be patient and consistent with training. Use positive reinforcement like treats and praise to motivate cooperation. Keep training sessions short and engaging to maintain their interest.

Start socialization and training early to build respect and trust. Establish yourself calmly as the leader. Set boundaries and rules and stick to them. Be firm but never harsh. Seek professional advice if your Westie continues resisting training.

While it takes work, you can gain compliance from even the most stubborn Westie through dedication, consistency, and positivity. Tap into their natural desire to please by making training fun and rewarding.

Potty Training

House training a Westie puppy takes time, patience and consistency. Frequent accidents happen when a puppy cannot communicate need or follow a routine.

Set a consistent schedule for feeding, bathroom breaks, praise and rewards. Supervise closely or confine your Westie when unsupervised. Use potty training pads or designated relief areas.

Westies learn quickly with positive reinforcement. Reward with treats and praise for going in the right spot. Never punish for accidents.

Be vigilant about supervising and taking your Westie out regularly. Reduce freedom until their bladder control improves. Utilize crates and puppy-proofed zones when you cannot actively supervise.

Consistency and routine are key during the potty training process.

Separation Anxiety

Westies form strong attachments to their owners and can become anxious when left alone. Separation anxiety may result in whining, barking, destruction, or house soiling while their owners are away.

Gradually get your Westie accustomed to alone time by leaving for short durations and building up. Provide a safe, comfortable space with toys when you are gone. Ensure your Westie has sufficient physical and mental exercise before separations to reduce stress.

Ignore attention-seeking behavior before departures and greetings. Keep arrivals and departures low-key. Consider doggy daycare or a pet sitter to ease loneliness.

Medication may help in extreme cases, under a veterinarian’s guidance. With preparation and training, you can help your Westie gain confidence when left alone.


Westies are not inherently aggressive dogs. However, they can show aggressive behavior like growling, lunging, or snapping if they feel threatened or need to protect resources.

Potential triggers include fear, pain, territorialness over toys or space, lack of proper socialization, or negative past experiences. Anxiety and stress may also contribute to aggressive reactions.

Manage aggression by identifying and minimizing triggers. Socialize your Westie thoroughly to build confidence around new people, animals and environments. Use positive reinforcement training and counterconditioning to shift associations.

Always rule out potential medical factors like pain or illness. Consult an animal behavior specialist for advice on addressing aggression through training and management. With proper care and training, you can help your Westie behave more amiably.


Westies love to dig thanks to their historical role as hunters of vermin that burrow underground. Digging provides an outlet for their energy and curiosity.

Westies may dig holes in your yard or garden due to boredom, prey drive, or sheer enjoyment of excavating. They also dig to bury treasures like bones or toys.

Discourage digging in unwanted areas by using physical barriers like fencing, rocks or chicken wire. Provide an acceptable digging pit where your Westie can freely dig without destruction.

Ensure your Westie receives sufficient physical and mental exercise to prevent boredom digging. Supervise during outdoor time and interrupt or distract digging with a cue like “leave it”. Manage the environment and redirect your dog’s energy into more constructive outlets.

Destructive Behavior

While not one of the most destructive dog breeds, Westies may exhibit destructive behaviors like chewing, digging, barking, or eliminating in the home due to factors like boredom, anxiety, excess energy, or lack of training.

Prevent destruction by providing plenty of physical and mental stimulation. Give your Westie appropriate outlets for their energy through interactive toys, chews, and exercise.

Keep tempting items out of reach and supervise your dog closely to set them up for success. Crate train your Westie or confine them when you cannot watch them.

Use bitter deterrent sprays on off-limit items. Reward calm, resting behavior. Seek professional guidance on addressing separation anxiety, compulsive behaviors, or other roots of destruction.

With diligence and training, you can curb undesirable destructive habits.

Overzealous Prey Drive

Westies were bred to hunt rodents and other small game, so high prey drive toward critters like squirrels and birds comes naturally. This instinct makes them prone to chasing cats, small dogs or pets.

Curb overzealous prey drive through early socialization and controlled introductions to other pets. Supervise all interactions. Keep your Westie leashed when outdoors.

Build a reliable recall using positive reinforcement training. Use commands like “leave it” when they fixate on potential prey.

Keep their focus on you during walks using treats or toys. Ensure they get plenty of exercise to prevent pent-up energy from fueling the prey drive. With vigilance and training, you can manage your Westie’s strong instincts.

Overcoming Westie Behavioral Problems

Westies are lively, tenacious dogs whose behaviors reflect their heritage as robust and independent hunters. Common issues like barking, digging, chasing, and destruction stem from their energetic nature.

While their strong-willed personality presents some training challenges, you can successfully shape their behavior with time, consistency and positive reinforcement.

Meeting their needs for exercise and mental engagement also helps prevent problematic behaviors rooted in boredom or excess energy.

Remember to start training and socialization early and be patient with your Westie as they learn. Seek professional advice if needed for significant behavior issues.

With a commitment to understanding the motivations behind their actions, you can bring out your Westie’s best qualities and curb unwanted habits.

Dr. Shahzaib Wahid DVM

Dr. Shahzaib Wahid, DVM, currently works an Associate Veterinarian at an animal clinic in Islamabad, Pakistan. As an experienced veterinarian, Dr. Wahid has a passion for providing advice and helping pet owners.

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