West Highland White Terrier Community Survey

From the June 2019 Issue of ShowSight. Click to subscribe. Above photo: "Bonnie" photographed by D. Cartier for ShowSight Magazine.

We asked the following questions to people in the Westie community. Here are some responses. 

  1. Where do you live? What do you do “outside” of dogs?
  2. How many years in Westie? Showing? Judging? Breeding?
  3. What, in your opinion, is the secret to a successful breeding program?
  4. What do you feel is the condition of the Westie breed today? Pros and Cons?
  5. What do you feel breeders need to concentrate on to improve the quality of Westie?
  6. How do you feel about the influx of new judges, specialists and all breed, to our breed? Do you feel they have a grasp of the standard, do they know what compromises a good Westie?
  7. The Westie is recognizable by people around the world who may not be familiar with most breeds. Is this an advantage?
  8. Westies are currently ranked #42 out of all AKC breeds in popularity. Are you happy with this position?
  9. What is your favorite dog show memory?
  10. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate.



Lindy Barrow

I grew up with a Westie and knew exactly what breed I wanted to persue when my life settled that I could dedicate time to a breed. Although I compete in Conformation, I support the other areas of the competition and help my parent club when they have barn hunts and earthdog events. Whatever it is that you do, just enjoy spending time with your dog—be it your show dogs or your pet.

I live in Caledon, Ontario, Canada and part time in Positano, Italy.

Although retired I am president of three small companies. This keeps me busier than when I worked full time. I am on the board of a medical organization and head up a neighbourhood group which tries to protect the environmental status of our area.

My first show Westie purchased in 1998, first litter in 1999. I have been showing and breeding for 20 years.

The secret to a successful breeding program: there are many things. Starting with the best bitch you can. Be honest with yourself of the flaws in your dogs and bitches and try to breed to correct them. This may take a few generations. Know your breed standard. Learn how to read a pedigree—what did the ancestors look like, what were the traits they passed on (both good and bad). Don’t just breed to a dog because it was a big winner. Pedigree’s for me were easy as I came from a thoroughbred horse family. Make your 
selection of breedings based on both phenotype and genotype. Then only keep pups that have what you want in type. This can be hard, sometimes an entire litter does not give you one you hoped for.

When you are at shows (especially when there is a good size entry) look at dogs and bitches you like—check who the parents are. Look at ones you do not like—check who parents are. See if you are finding a certain dog that is producing offspring you like. Ask other breeders for their opinions.

It would be nice to think that everyone is honest about health issues in their breeding line, but this is not always the case. I personally will discuss if there are any possible issues in a line when someone is breeding to one of my dogs or looking to purchase a show puppy from me. In the early days of my breeding I did have a health issues and was honest about it and no one bred to my dogs for years, even though I had removed that part from my bloodline completely. Over the years, people know know will discuss a problem and have built a reputation on this.

The condition of the Westie breed today? As with any breed they go through periods where there are some weaknesses. In Westies, the front assembly was getting far to straight with a lot of short upper arms. There have been some dogs with good fronts that helped to correct this in their offspring and have helped get the breed back on track.

Westies can be prone to skin problems. This can be a very serious type of health issue and not all pet owners can deal with it. Breeders need to work hard to not breed dogs with skin issues (or other known health issues). As breeders we are the ambassadors of the breed it is our responsibility to do all we can to improve the quality of the Westies.

How I feel about the influx of new judges, specialists and all breed, to our breed? This is a generic question. Some do and some do not understand the breed standard. As judges I think it is important that they study the breeds they judge and to constantly try to learn more through judging seminars or speaking to breeders that they think have knowledge.

Is it an advantage that the breed is recognizable? I just travelled in Italy with one of my dogs. Yes, they are well recognized. Some people wanted to chat which did give me a chance to try and educate them a bit about the breed. It certainly is not a disadvantage.

Am I happy with the breeds’ current ranking? Where a breed is in the ranking changes. Breeds go in and out of favoritism. Being in the top 50 is a nice place. There are enough interested in the breed to make it easy for breeders to have good homes for their puppies. Being one of the most popular breeds can be a problem. If everyone wants one there are not enough quality puppies and this encourages puppy mills/back yard breeders to want to breed that specific breed. All breeders should be very cautious of where they sell their puppies so that the pups/dogs never end up in a puppy mill situation.

My favorite dog show memory: there are so many. Showing my first dog, showing my second purchased Westie to Best Puppy in Show, winning the breed at Westminster. Watching my dog win his 5th BIS, the first I was there for. A few favorite memories are showing to certain judges that are no longer with us.

Personally I think the Westie is the best breed. A large dog attitude in a small package. Loving and fun. Clever and usually very easily trainable. They excel in many sports from therapy dogs, agility, to scent related challenges.



Carol Blain & Lori Tuttle

I moved to the Chicago area about 15 years ago. Originally I am from West Texas (Lubbock area). I have a PhD in Theater arts and had a full career working as a lighting designer, stage manager and all-around theatre person for many years in Texas.

My first show dog and Ch. was Ch Lady CM MacBlain (Chewy Monster). Bred by Barbara Nesbit using Betty Williams wonderful dog Doon MacDuff St George. I started showing my own dogs after learning the ropes from CL. I have bred and finished the championships on many dogs under my MacBlain’s prefix over the years, and after moving to Chicago I have been the “other half” of Lori Tuttle’s kennel, Nsase. Together we have finished 25 or 30 dogs and Lori was recently awarded Silver Breeder of Merit status. 
I have judged Sweeps several times at specialties. I owe a lot to Denis Springer who brought me a wonderful bitch from England, Valucis Surprised By Joy, she hated the show ring but was a fabulous producer, as well as teaching me so much about Westies and how to trim!

The secret to a successful breeding program? Health and temperament always have to be number one in my opinion. All of the dogs we breed will go on to pet homes (our house is a pet home!) and we want to produce animals that are beautiful and typey of course, but never at the cost of health or temperament.

What I feel is the condition of the Westie breed today? I think the breed is generally sound for the average pet owner, but I think that for the true steward of the breed, we have some important issues to consider going forward. First, in the words of several old-time breeders and judges who I respect, “they’re getting too big”! The standard calls for bone and substance in a 10-11 inch package. Too much of the time now we see a 10 inch bitch or an 11 inch dog in the ring and they look like a peanut! I would hate to see us go to the wicket, but that’s what it might take, because the opinion is that those larger dogs have more presence in the group, and it’s hurting the breed. Also, the body jacket should have length and layers (the standard calls for two inches). On a dog with a correct coat, a two inch jacket is glorious, but we rarely see it these days. Now, to follow the trends, people take the jacket to a very short (1/4 in!) to create a “sculpted” look which is easier to make look perfect, but in my opinion is not correct at all. It’s pretty but it’s not a Westie. Finally, I believe that fronts are tending to be very much straighter than I would like. It’s hard to find a dog that truly moves with reach and drive, and the front assembly is often the reason.

What I feel breeders need to concentrate on to improve the quality of Westie? The above mentioned points of the standard, and also, to preserve health and temperament, we need to intelligently and thoughtfully and bravely use the information we are now being provided though advancements in DNA testing, to preserve the genetic diversity of the breed. When the studbook closed 100 years ago, we had all the genetic material we are ever going to have in those dogs. Through bottlenecks due to fads, wars, popular-sires, people leaving the breed, etc. we find that we have a lot less genetic diversity than we would like to have to maintain health. As stewards of the breed, we should come together and really work on this, perhaps by means that are not completely comfortable to us, but to do what we can to preserve the diversity our gene pool for the future. Lori and I have just started down this journey in the past few years with really promising results.

I think that judges are for the most part good dog people who can interpret our reasonably specific standard for themselves. They just must have the courage to do so, which includes not rewarding that which is not correct. Sometimes that one dog who is different in the lineup is the correct one!

Westies are universally loved, (as they should be!). It’s up to us to continue to show them dogs who truly meet the standard in every way.

Westies are currently ranked #42 out of all AKC breeds in popularity. Am I happy with this position? Yes, we are finding more and more that people are being quite discerning about both the appearance and health of their Westie, they see the incorrect dogs who are not thoughtfully bred and want one that looks and acts more like the standard. This is education that we must continue to encourage, along with education on the high value that a responsible breeder offers to pet buyers.

My favorite dog show memory: number one would be the thrill of handling to Best In Show with my fabulous import, CH Kingsview Pie In The Sky, bred by Julie Coley in England. Closely followed by a more recent thrill of Lori finishing the FCI championship in Europe, on GCHS MG1 CIB CH IT/FIN/DK Nsase In The Zone. We think Enzo is the first American bred/owned/dominiciled/handled Westie to get his FCI with all wins in Europe. We have had so much fun in recent years going over to World Shows in Helsinki, Milan, Leipzig, and Amsterdam, and have done some winning in the process! Both of these dogs had a fabulous head, the exquisite movement, the correct size, the never-let-down attitude, they only come along once in awhile at this caliber and we have enjoyed them immensely.


Sylvia & Gerry Meisels

Shortly after we married in 1988 we decided to get a dog, we went to a number of dog shows in Pittsburgh (where we then lived) and later in the New York City area. We finally, in 1959, got a bitch from Barbara Keenan of Wishing Well fame. She was a daughter of Westminster Best in Show winner Ch. Elfinbrook Simon. We started showing her after she had a litter, and finished her after we moved to Houston in 1965. Her son, Ch. White Oaks Sapient Sasser, finished before her. In 1972 I became Chair of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Houston. We continued to breed and show, with our daughter Laura (then eight years old) taking our Ch. White Oaks Loverboy to Best in Show at an all-breed show. In 1975, we moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, and the following summer spent a lovely two months in England; we bought several Westies from Mrs. Beer of Whitebriar fame, and also five Norwich Terriers. One of them (Ch. Ragus Lothario) went Best in All-Breed Show in 1977, handled by Gerry. In 1991 Gerry was named Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln. In 1988, we moved to Tampa where he was Provost at the University of South Florida, resuming a faculty position in 1996. We lived on the water in St. Pete Beach until 2001 when we moved onto six wooded acres in suburban Tampa. Gerry served two terms on the Board of the WHWTCA, as President of the Lakeland-Winter Haven Kennel Club and later of the St. Petersburg Dog Fanciers Association. We continued to breed and show our Westies, capping our show career with campaigning our GChG White Oaks Invincible Snowplow to No. 1 Westie in the country. Currently Laura (now married to Bill Brown) shows our bitch special GChS White Oaks Baby Beautiful (a Snowplow daughter) who was a top tenner in 2018. The number of dogs in our home has declined from 22 to 10. We miss puppies and plan to have a couple of litters later this year.

We live in Tampa, Florida. I’m a Professor of Chemistry at the University of South Florida.

I have 60 years of showing, 58 years of breeding, 48 years of judging Westies, 32 years of judging all terriers; We have had numerous dogs who placed in the top 10 Westies, beginning in 1978 and culminating in 2017 with GChG White Oaks Invincible Snowplow who was No. 1 Westie in All-breed competition.

The secret to a successful breeding program is understanding the breed and knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your bitches. Selecting the studs that best complement them (rather than whatever is currently being promoted and winning).

Overall Westies are better balanced than they were 60 years ago; they are also better presented and more of them are handled professionally

Breeders need to concentrate on heads and movement to improve the quality of Westies.

Do new judges know what compromises a good Westie? It depends on the individual. Most new judges have idiosyncrasies but can’t see the whole dog and Feature-Judge (place dogs on the basis of a single characteristic that may not be high on the breed’s priority list).

The Westie is recognizable by people around the world who may not be familiar with most breeds. Is this an advantage? Probably, at least we can refer them to pictures in ads as a point of departure and immediately go to addressing their wonderful personality.

Westies are currently ranked #42 out of all AKC breeds in popularity. Am I happy with this position? Yes. any higher would lead to commercial breeding (numbers) at the expense of quality.

My favorite dog show memory: our daughter Laura’s setting the record as the youngest handler (age eight) to take a Westie (or any dog) to BIS at an all-breed show.

In general, the superficial characteristics of presentation, which include but are not limited to grooming and showmanship, have become a good deal more important. Professional handlers devote much time and attention to these characteristics because they can be manipulated more easily and impress judges. They have more time to keep their Westies in show shape than amateurs. Westie exhibition has become professionalized, and rankings have become a priority but require dogs to be handled professionally because handlers can make many more shows than amateurs, and can select to show under judges favorable to them. 

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