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Why Do Westies Growl So Much? How to Decode Growls

Why do Westies growl so much? Growling is one way your Westie uses to communicate with you, usually to tell you he’s got a problem. You just need to learn what the growls mean so you can solve the issue. 

The top six reasons for Westie growling are:

  1. Fear – your Westie is afraid of something
  2. Territorial – telling another dog to back off
  3. Frustration – hungry or wants a toy back
  4. Stress –  stressful situation
  5. Illness or injury
  6. Excitement – playful

Why do Westies growl so much?

Your Westie’s body stance can give you additional clues to help you learn to tell which type of growl your Westie is making.

  • Fear or Territorial – A rigid, stiff body, even accompanied by a snarl
  • Frustration – neutral body but insistent
  • Stress – backing away
  • Sickness – limp and weary
  • Excitement – relaxed and bouncy

Westies are strong-headed, lively, and bold terriers who love to express themselves, so rather than punishing them for growling, look for the information hidden in this type of behavior. 

There is usually a reason why your Westie is growling.

The temperaments of Westies differ widely, and growling in one Westie can mean something different from that of another Westie. It’s up to you to observe and learn to decode your Westie’s growls so you know how to act next.

Are Westies Aggressive? 

Westies are often perceived as aggressive. However, in general, Westies are not aggressive, but they might be anxious or over-assertive, which you might wrongly translate as aggression. 

West Highland White Terriers are frequently linked with words like strong-headed, stubborn, reactive and bossy. It is not wrong because they have a terrier temperament, and those are some of the reasons we love them so much. But does it mean they are aggressive? No!

We, as their proud Westie parents, need to understand their temperament and act accordingly. 

Make sure you know your Westie and train him early according to his unique personality

Why Is My Westie Growling At Me?

As we’ve mentioned above, Westie growls aren’t always for something bad or something you are doing wrong. If your Westie is growling at you, it’s because they want your attention and want you to fix something for them. It doesn’t have to mean they are angry with you or that you’ve done something wrong. 

1. Growling Because Of Fear

An angry, snarling growl together with a rigid, tense body is a display of fear or your dog being territorial. Is there a reason he might be scared? Are you pushing him to do something new, like swimming? Is there another animal nearby he’s not comfortable with? Did anything surprise him?

The best thing you can do now is to try and eliminate whatever it is your Westie is afraid of. If it’s another animal, try and remove yourselves from the area. If it’s a new activity, stop and try again another time.

2. Territorial Growling

Is your Westie guarding food or a toy? Is there another dog nearby, and he’s warning it to back off and stay away? Growling is also communication between dogs.

A territorial growl will be similar to a fear growl, with a rigid body stance that may be accompanied by showing teeth and snapping. However, it will usually be obvious if your Westie is protecting food or a toy or warning another dog, enabling you to distinguish between a fear growl and a territorial growl.

It can be scary when your terrier thinks it is a good idea to try to pick up a fight with a dog twice his size. And the reason? Westies can show dominance or try to protect themselves. For example, my Westie did this when she was tired of one dog trying to hump her in a dog park.

If you don’t know how to deal with this confrontational behavior yourself, it’s better to find qualified help and get training for your dog (and for you). Your Westie doesn’t know it, but your job is to keep him safe. 

Being overly territorial over food and toys is another thing that can be sorted out with training.

Socializing and training your dog at an early age can help lessen or even eliminate some of these problems.

3. Growling Out Of Frustration

Your Westie may be growling from frustration, which basically means his needs are not met, and he does not understand why he is not a top priority.

I really think you can say by just looking at your dog that he wants something. The posture, look on that cute white face with piercing black eyes, wiggling tail, and some growling.

Is he hungry and wants you to make his dinner? Does he want to go outside and play? Are you just not paying him enough attention?

Westie’s like to be vocal; it is not their problem that you are like 10 minutes late with their dinner time!

Your dog needs to know who’s boss and not dictate how everyone spends their time, but they are also a responsibility, and you do need to set aside time to take care of their needs and give them some attention.

4. Stress

A number of things can stress your Westie. It may be something he doesn’t understand, like a loud noise, or a change in routine that has his nose out of joint.

Here are some potential stressors for your Westie:

  • Has something changed recently in your daily routine?
  • Is there construction work nearby, including some heavy equipment, and your Westie is noise-sensitive or noise-phobic? I live in an apartment, and whenever a neighbor did any noisy reconstruction work, my Westie went straight into growling and barking crazy mode.
  • A thunderstorm, a noisy vacuum cleaner, or fireworks.
  • A new family member. Whether it is a newborn baby, your in-laws staying with you, or a new partner, all these are potential stressors for a Westie.
  • A stressful situation at home – were you arguing and shouting with a family member? Is that stressful atmosphere upsetting your dog?

If you can, remove or remedy the stressful situation. If that’s not possible (like a new baby, for example), gentle training and understanding will help your Westie learn to accept whatever was causing him stress.

Westies are very perceptive dogs who like to be in charge, and you won’t get away easily with sudden changes, and you are likely to hear about it!

5. Illness or Injury

A growl due to illness or injury will be more of a protective growl, and he may even seem a little weary if he’s feeling sick.

You may notice he doesn’t want you to touch certain body parts, or he doesn’t want to be touched at all because it is causing him pain.

If he’ll let you, look for the cause of the injury or pain and treat it if you can. If not, visit a veterinarian as soon as you can. 

6. Excitement

Are you playing a game? Your Westie might be growling out of excitement. Playful growling is nothing to worry about; your Westie is having fun and is vocal about it. 

However, if you think that it might be getting too much, take a break from playing and let your dog calm down. 

Your Westie might be growling affectionately from a belly rub or ecstatic ear rubs or any other enjoyable patting. It is quite a funny way to show you but it can be a dog version of a cat’s purring. To be honest, my Westie Tasha is not a lap dog, and she definitely has better things to do than being used as a cuddle toy, so we don’t experience this type of growling often!

If your dog is overly excitable, try more exercise to keep him pleasantly tired or try a new toy.

Training and Rewards

You will never totally stop your Westie from growling. And you don’t want to. It’s an important communication and warning tool in a dangerous situation. You need your dog to growl at a snake or another dog being aggressive.

It’s understandable if your dog is scared of fireworks. Or if he doesn’t want you to touch an injured paw.

And occasional growling as a reminder of a great personality is OK.

However, unwanted growling is not necessary and you have to show your Westie that you are the boss. Training is essential. Rewards and treats are a part of training and you must always make sure you reward your furry friend for good behavior, not the bad one. 

Westie Growling For No Reason 

I can assure you that there is always a reason behind growling; you just haven’t worked out what it is!

If your Westie is growling and you don’t know why, try to understand what your dog is trying to tell you by working through the six major reasons for growling.

How To Stop A Westie From Growling?

I think the answer is pretty apparent here. Find the cause of the growling and then deal with that. It can be eliminating as many stressors as possible or making gradual changes to your common routine, and last but not least, training. 

Wrapping Up

One more thing I want to say here is that Westies are generally easily trained but it must be consistent and persistent training with a dose of patience. Trust me; life will be better with your Westie as a companion, not a boss.

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