TAKING THE BEST LOVE & CARE OF YOUR West Highland Terrier

Are Westies Aggressive

Are Westies Aggressive?

I consider Westies adorable dogs that attract new fans everywhere they go. Anyone who has interacted with a Westie knows them to be energetic, excitable, intelligent, perky, and stubborn, with a distinct zest for life. However, you may be naturally worried about whether Westies may be prone to aggression.

Westies do not have a genetic predisposition to aggressive behaviors like biting, growling, snarling, lunging, or barking. However, they are easily excitable and can quickly learn aggressive behavior from neglect or mistreatment. They are prolific barkers, but this is typically not from aggression. 

Westies who exhibit aggressive behaviors such as biting, lunging, snarling, growling, or barking have needs that are not being met. I would highly recommend prioritizing these needs so that the Westie can have the confidence to behave in their natural bouncy, loving, energetic, and playful manner. It is important to understand the natural temperament of a Westie and what they need to be happy. Keep reading to learn what I have discovered about aggressive Westies. 

Things That Make a Westie Aggressive

There are a few reasons why a Westie may display aggressive behaviors, and they are all preventable. While individual Westies do have different temperaments, they are not considered to be dangerously aggressive dogs. A 1985 study by Benjamin Hart and Michael Miller was published in JAMA and sought to classify dog breeds according to personality types.

The Westie was classified as one of the most excitable breeds and prone to barking. Anyone who has a Westie must agree. When combined with other signs of aggression such as snarling, they do not typify a Westie. Westies are barkers, but they are typically: 

  • Sweet
  • Playful
  • Curious
  • Stubborn

These natural tendencies to bark, jump and play can easily be trained into aggressive behaviors in a Westie. This happens when Westies are abused, caged, tied up, hit, neglected, or otherwise mistreated. Additionally, a Westie that shows signs of aggression such as snarling when approached for petting or handling should see a vet. This could be a sign that the dog is experiencing pain.

  • Westies expect to be a part of the pack. The family is their pack. When they are caged or tied up, they are not able to satisfy their desire to be a part of the group. This will cause them to lunge, bark excessively, and lose trust in their family.
  • Westies are stubborn. They can be hard to train because they are stubborn. They are smart, they have their own ideas, and they want to do things their own way. This must be gently trained to more productive traits early on. Owners who hit the Westie from frustration will damage the relationship and cause the Westie to snarl and bite in return.
  • Westies want to dominate. They must be taught from puppyhood to respect the pack dominance of their adoptive family. This should be done as early as possible by attending obedience and respect training with the Westie. Failure to do this may result in a Westie who bites and nips to have their way with the family.
  • Westies who are neglected and ignored will develop prolific barking habits. They bark to notify owners of changes in the surroundings. They also bark when they are bored. Westies are easily bored. They must have interactive humans around, toys to play with, and ample exercise to avoid developing excessive barking habits.
  • Westies that are not properly socialized with both people and other dogs from puppyhood will develop a sense of ownership over items and surroundings that will make them aggressive. This shows up often as toy, pillow, and food guarding. This is easily trained out of them during puppyhood with gentle reinforcement of sharing.
  • Westies who have been abused are naturally fearful. Those who adopt Westies that have been abused may find that the dog snarls or bites when they want to pet and cuddle the dog. This will go away gradually as the Westie learns to trust again. It is best to give the dog loving respect for its need for space.

Westies who are in good health and are trained and socialized well as puppies do not have any real tendency toward aggression. They are excitable and tend to jump, but this is not aggressive and can also be trained out of them with gentle and consistent instruction and positive reinforcement of good behavior.

Intact male Westies do trend toward aggressive behavior much more readily than do neutered males and females.

Natural Westie Behavior

Westies are some of the most beloved family dogs and for very good reasons. They are not just adorable. They are also playful, curious, robust, friendly, and agile. They have a good stubborn streak and quite the diva disposition which makes them equally challenging and charming. 

There are a few methods I rely on to make sure that a Westie puppy develops a well-rounded personality. Fortunately, they are all fun and easy ways to interact with young Westies. Adopted dogs benefit from the same interactions, but it may take a while for them to calm down and learn to trust and love again.  At their core, Westies are loving dogs, so this trust can be re-established over time. 

  • Enroll in puppy behavior training. A certified dog trainer will help both owners and the puppy to learn to interact together in ways that are beneficial, enriching, and ensure a healthy relationship for a lifetime.
  • Socialize the Westie puppy as often as possible. The more positive interactions that a Westie puppy has with all different people and all different dogs, the less alarmed they will be as adults. They will have fewer fear aggression reactions and be more amiable and charming dogs.
  • Westie puppies are easily trained to become lap dogs. Adult Westies are not naturally prone to hop up and cuddle. Owners must be respectful of the Westie’s personal space needs while making themselves available for petting and cuddles. Westies slowly warm up to more personal interactions over time and come to love their family cuddles.
  • Give substitutes for bad behavior along with positive reinforcement. For example, do not hit a dog for chewing a shoe. Instead, remove the shoe from the dog’s possession and quickly give the dog a bone or toy to chew on, while praising the dog for chewing the new item. Westies are smart. They will get the picture.

Whatever owners choose to do regarding training, it is most important to remember to keep the mood upbeat and playful. Westies are playful, curious, and love to have a good time. Training that is kept lighthearted, full of positive reinforcement, smiles, and pats will be much more productive. The dog will learn more quickly and seek to please the owner.

Westies may be stubborn, but deep down they always want to please their owners. They get distracted by squirrels, birds, and creepy crawlies in the grass, but they do want to have positive interactions with their owners. When they are taught to pay attention, they learn to do what is right and they will happily do so consistently when they receive loving and happy reinforcement.

Conclusion

I believe Westies are one of the most lovable breeds of dogs because of their intelligence, canine wit, playfulness, and agility. They are wonderful guard dogs who can learn to alert once and then stop barking. They can play games in the backyard or go on a mountain adventure without getting hurt. They can learn to appreciate downtime and cuddle during naptime.

Westies who are not properly trained and socialized can exhibit aggressive behavior, but this is not normal Westie temperament. Aggressiveness comes from a lack of training, mishandling, abuse, and neglect of the dog. Like other dogs, I have found that Westies crave attention, companionship, interaction, and exercise. If you can meet these needs, then your relationship with a Westie will blossom into a wonderful companionship.