Westie Training Tips: How to Teach Your Westie Basic Commands

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West Highland White Terriers, affectionately called Westies, are a lively and curious breed known for their big personalities. While their antics can be endearing, it’s important to provide proper training to ensure good behavior.

Teaching your Westie basic obedience commands early on lays the foundation for a well-mannered companion.

In this blog post, we will explore the keys to effectively training your Westie puppy or adult dog.

You’ll learn the benefits of starting training early, tools you’ll need, the core commands to focus on first, and positive reinforcement methods.

We’ll also discuss common training mistakes to avoid, the importance of consistency and socialization, and when to seek professional assistance.

Whether you’re a new or experienced Westie owner, you’re sure to pick up some valuable tips to make training a fun, rewarding process. Let’s get started!

Importance of Early Training

It’s ideal to begin training your Westie as soon as you bring them home. Westies are intelligent dogs that thrive on mental stimulation. Starting training early allows you to establish good habits before bad behaviors develop.

Puppies go through critical developmental phases during their first year of life. This is when they are most receptive to learning obedience skills that will carry through adulthood. Early positive experiences also aid proper socialization with people and other dogs.

Teaching commands like “sit” and “stay” starting at 8-12 weeks provides structure while allowing your Westie to safely explore their environment. Formal training classes are great socialization opportunities for pups.

Consistency is key during the first year. Puppies need repetition to reinforce lessons. Be patient and keep training sessions brief and rewarding.

Proper early training makes your Westie more enjoyable and less challenging as they mature. It also strengthens the lifelong bond between dog and owner.

Tools Needed for Training

Westie sitting down wearing a leash. Training a young or older Westie doesn't need special gear. But having some essential items can make the obedience training process simpler and more successful.

Training a puppy or adult Westie doesn’t require extravagant accessories. However, having a few key supplies on hand will make teaching obedience easier and more effective. Here are some training tools you’ll want to have:

  • Treats – Small soft training treats like bits of chicken, cheese, or specially made training treats work best. Always give your Westie a treat immediately when they correctly perform a command. Treats are critical for positive reinforcement training.
  • Leash – A standard 6-foot leash is essential for controlled practice of commands like heel and come. Retractable leashes are not recommended for training. Use a secure harness or collar that won’t slip off.
  • Clicker – Clickers provide an instant noise marker to reinforce desired behaviors. The click sound paired with a treat lets your Westie know when they’ve done something right. This is more effective than verbal praise alone.

Having the right tools encourages faster learning.

Basic Commands

Mastering a few fundamental obedience cues will go a long way in training your Westie. Here are some of the most important commands to start with:


Teaching your Westie to sit on command provides essential impulse control. Start by attracting their attention with a treat. Slowly raise it up and back over their head until their butt hits the ground in a sitting position. Say “sit” then give the treat and praise. Repeat daily, asking for a sit before meals, playtime, etc.


Stay teaches your Westie to remain in place until you release them. Start with sit, say “stay”, take a step back, then return and treat. Gradually increase distance and duration. Stay allows controlled interactions with people and dogs. It’s vital for door manners and greeting guests without jumping.


A reliable recall or come command can save your Westie from dangerous situations. Start inside with few distractions. Say “come” excitedly while backing up. Give a treat when they reach you. Advance to longer distances and more distractions. Use a long lead if needed. Reward generously when they come each time.


Heel teaches your Westie to walk focused beside you. With your dog on leash and treats ready, step forward and say “heel”. Reward each time they are in perfect position. Change direction and pace. Use sparingly on walks at first, then build up duration. This gives better leash control.

Leave It

Leave it helps deter your Westie from undesirable objects or behaviors. Place a treat on the floor and cover with your hand. Say “leave it” and remove your hand only once they stop nudging and sniffing. Repeat this exchange often. Praise when they disengage. Leave it aids impulse and distraction control.

Positive Reinforcement

Effective training relies on positive reinforcement. This involves rewarding desired behaviors and ignoring unwanted ones. Primary tools for positive reinforcement are treats and verbal praise.

Immediately give your Westie a treat when they correctly execute a command. Use an encouraging, happy tone when giving praise. Even just a simple “good dog!” lets them know they did the right thing.

Avoid scolding or yelling when your Westie makes a mistake. Harsh corrections will undermine progress and trust.

Westie standing on hind legs for a treat. Reduce the number of treats as your Westie gets more consistent with commands. However, always give a treat for a newly acquired skill. Over time, transition from treats to just verbal praise to sustain the behavior.

While Westies can be stubborn, they also do strive to please their owners. Be patient and guide them back into position for success instead. End sessions on a positive note.

Wean treat frequency as your Westie becomes more reliable. But always reward a newly learned skill. Fade treats eventually to just praise for maintenance.

Positive reinforcement fosters an eager, attentive attitude during training.

Keep training sessions short, around 5-15 minutes. It’s better to do a few short repetitions multiple times a day than one long session. Follow each session with playtime or a walk as an additional reward.

Consistency is Key

When training your Westie, consistency is vital for cementing lessons. Dogs thrive on routine and can become confused by irregularity.

Establish a regular schedule for training sessions, such as 5-minute sessions 3 times per day. Try to train in the same location when possible. Always use the same command words and hand signals.

Be sure everyone interacts with your Westie the same way when it comes to commands, rewards, and house rules. Consistent training ensures behaviors stick.

Train even when your Westie seems to have mastered a skill. Periodic practice sessions prevent regression or selective forgetting. Keep reinforcing through distractions.

A steady training regimen requires commitment but leads to better reliability. Your Westie will look forward to your daily training rituals. Consistency builds both skills and bonds.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

It’s easy to inadvertently reinforce bad habits when training your Westie. Being aware of some common mistakes can help you avoid setbacks:

  • Overusing treats – Treats are important motivators but too many can lead to an obese, disengaged dog. Stick to one or two treats per repetition and phase out over time.
  • Inconsistent commands – Don’t confuse your Westie by switching up verbal or hand signals. Always use the exact same word and motion for each behavior.
  • Insufficient repetition – Be sure to practice obedience cues regularly, even when your dog seems to have it mastered. Periodic repetition prevents regression.
  • Punishing mistakes – Harshly correcting mistakes can damage trust and progress. Instead, gently guide your Westie back into proper position and patiently retry.
  • Ending on a bad note – Always finish sessions with a success. If your Westie is having an off day, go back to an easier skill they can accomplish. End positively.
  • Long, boring sessions – Training sessions should be brief, around 5-15 minutes max. Breaks are important to keep your Westie engaged and responsive.

Being aware of common training pitfalls will help you be a better, more effective teacher for your Westie!

Socialization as an Extension of Training

Proper socialization goes hand-in-hand with command training for your Westie. Socialization is the process of exposing your dog to new sights, sounds, people, animals, and environments in a positive, controlled way.

Continued socialization beyond the puppy phase helps reinforce training. For example, practicing commands with your Westie around other dogs improves distraction training. Meeting strangers expands their sociability.

Exposing your Westie to cats, car rides, elevators, crowds and other novel stimuli in conjunction with obedience cues builds confidence and level-headedness.

Enroll your Westie in organized training classes and activities. This provides vital social time with unfamiliar people and dogs in a structured setting. Classes also tire your Westie out!

Remember to start socialization slowly, provide ample praise and treats, and don’t flood your dog. Socialization paired with training enables your Westie to politely interact with the world.

When to Seek Professional Help

While many pet owners can succeed in training their Westie on their own, it’s important to recognize when to seek outside help. Here are some signs it may be time to contact a professional dog trainer or behaviorist:

  • Your Westie displays aggressive behavior like lunging, snapping, or biting that you are unable to control or curtail on your own.
  • Your Westie exhibits intense fear or anxiety around other dogs, strangers, or in public settings that is impacting quality of life.
  • Your Westie has a persistent house training issue or destructive behavior like chewing that has resisted your efforts.
  • You cannot achieve reliable leash manners, coming when called, or other basic obedience.
  • Your living or family situation has changed and your Westie is struggling with the adjustment.

Reputable trainers have expertise in modifying problematic behaviors through positive reinforcement and can provide an objective assessment. Ask your veterinarian for trainer referrals. Evaluate credentials and experience.

Group classes offer affordable training guidance while private sessions provide customized one-on-one support. Never hesitate to get professional assistance to help your Westie and improve your relationship.


Training your energetic Westie puppy or adult dog provides mental stimulation, reinforces good manners, and strengthens your bond. Starting obedience early establishes critical behavioral foundations.

Invest in basic leash, collar, treat, and clicker training tools. Focus first on vital commands like sit, stay, come, heel, and leave it using positive reinforcement methods.

Avoid common mistakes like overtreating or inconsistent cues. Adhere to a steady training schedule for best results. Pair socialization outings with command practice.

Seek professional help promptly for problematic behaviors. Be patient and keep sessions upbeat. With proper training, your Westie will become an even more delightful companion.

The key is to start training early and reinforce lessons consistently. The rewards of a well-behaved Westie are well worth the effort. Put these tips into action to get your Westie off to the best start.

Consistent, positive training will lead to years of happiness with your terrific Westie!

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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