Is A Barking Westie Right For You
The term "barking Westie" immediately sends up a red flag for anyone trying to decide on which breed of dog to get, but doesn't particularly want one that brings with it some noise issues. That is one problem often encountered with an otherwise very desirable breed, the West Highland Terrier, referred to by more than one owner as "my barking Westie".
If you can get around the barking problem, or if a dog that likes to bark often and for most any reason doesn't particularly bother you, and you’re looking for a loyal, affectionate, and entertaining companion, a barking Westie might just be your cup of tea.
The West Highland Terrier is a small breed of dog, standing around 10" at the shoulder, and is as cute as the literal bug's ear. At first glance, the Westie might seem like just another toy breed or small lap dog. As affectionate as it is, the Westie seldom is happy spending much time on anyone's lap. It is a true terrier, with the all the energy, self-reliance, and curiosity that most terriers seem to have.
As far as the barking part is concerned, the dog was bred that way, which can make breaking or controlling the habit a chore at times. Trained to hunt small rodents, the Westie will also stand its ground against an animal bigger than it is, using steady barking as a means to summon help or to cause the opponent to retreat or back down. That doesn't mean that the Westie can't be trained not to bark, though that might be very difficult, but at least it can be trained to bark selectively. It's just that when it's barking, the West Highland terrier is doing what a dog always does best. It's being a dog.
The Behavior, Not The Bark - A new Westie owner may need some help in working the barking issue. Obedience training can help, and a professional trainer can help as well. It's really more a matter of teaching obedience than trying to stop the barking. Barking is natural behavior, and something you usually don't want to discourage completely in a dog. But barking at anything and everything would be considered nuisance behavior, and it's the nuisance behavior that needs to be worked with.
Barking Collars - There are barking collars that can be purchased that are often effective. An electric shock collar works well, even on a barking Westie, but some owners don't like the idea of giving their pet an occasional zap, plus the electric collar often has the disadvantage of being set off by another dog barking. You don't want to place your doggie in a kennel for boarding if it is wearing a shock collar.
Another type of collar which would seem to be a little more humane, or at least less stressful for the dog, would be a citronella collar. When the dog barks, citronella scent is released, pleasing to us humans, but not so enjoyable to a dog. Once the barking Westie figures out the connection between barking and citronella scent, which may only take a few barks, the barking problem may be solved.
Training Is Best - The best approach, though requiring time and patience, and my not always be successful, is to train the Westie not to bark at certain things but let it bark at other things. In this way, your Westie can still serve as an excellent watchdog, but won't be barking at every other object in the house or every other thing that moves by the window.
A terrier is a terrier and will do as it pleases if you let it, so training can be a challenge at times, as anyone with a Jack Russell terrier will tell you. The West Highland terrier isn't a lot different. It is smaller and more cuddly looking than a Jack Russell, but has every bit as much energy and needs every bit as much attention.