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West highland terrier puppy - questions!


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My partner and I are wanting to get a Westie puppy next year and I want to make sure that I am fully prepared! Whilst owning a variety of pets in the past (rabbits, hamsters, cats, horses! ) We have not owned a dog before and I had a few questions I was hoping someone could help me with:

1. I've read that skin allergies are quite common with Westies - does this result in discomfort/loss of hair/dry skin etc.? And how common is this across the breed? Would anyone suggest a particular dog feed brand that prevents allergies? It it better to use a normal dog food e.g. Pedigree's and use supplements, or to use a breed specific dog food just for Westies?

2. My partner works 8am - 4pm and I work 9am - 5pm. I only work 10 mins from our home so I am planning on going back home two weekday lunchtimes myself to walk the Westie and using a dog walker for the other three weekday lunchtimes. I like the social aspect of the dog walker too as the Westie would be taken on a "group walk" with other dogs. Is this acceptable for a Westie? I've read that they are ok by themselves for 3 - 4 hours at a time and am reading up on how to avoid separation anxiety.

3. Crate vs Dog Gates - When we are at work we don't want the Westie to be "free-range" around the apartment. Would anyone be able to advise on if its better to have a large dog crate with room to move around in, or to buy dog gates and fence off a portion of our living room for the weekday hours when its by itself? I've heard that dogs like to have their own "safe space" in a crate? This would also be for night-time too.

4. How much exercise will a Westie need - I am aiming to walk the Westie for 20 - 30 mins before work, 15 mins if I'm home/1 hour if with the dogwalker at lunchtime, and then a 45 min - 1hr walk in the evening? At weekends this would change to several 45 min - 1hr walks a day. Is this enough exercise for a Westie?

5. I've read that its unwise to let Westies off the lead during walks as they are terriers and might bolt for rodents/birds. If off the lead training is started right from a puppy are they ok to be let off the lead in later life too?

6. I've read that Westies need to be brushed every day and taken to a professional groomer every 2 - 3 months for a trim. I want to avoid skin problems and not over-wash the Westie - how often do people wash Westies (even if its just the legs and feet). On the question on grooming, what is healthier for the dog - to be lightly trimmed but still quite (cutely!) scruffy/long-haired, or to be trimmed down near to the softer undercoat? Is there also a specific shampoo that Westie owners would recommend to avoid skin problems?

Lots of questions! I would be so appreciative and happy if I could have some responses! Thank you!
Well done for preparing early!

Yes Westies do get skin allergies. Most pedigree breeds get some sort of hereditary problem. The skin allergies can be quite bad, when they arise, and cause the dog quite a bit of discomfort. It is very difficult to sort through the minefield and find a breeder that is producing healthy puppies. You need independent recommendations. Every breeder will tell you that their line is a healthy one. They are, after all, trying to sell you a puppy. I take it that you know how to avoid puppy farmers? They can be very devious. Westies are a favourite for them to farm.

Whilst an adult dog will cope with, gradually, being left for several hours at a time, a very young puppy needs lots of attention. Their bladder and bowels are not mature enough to go long periods. Emotionally all dogs need companionship, they are very social creatures. A puppy will find life alone in a house quite distressing.

I am a big fan of crates but you cannot use one for the number of hours you are planning. The puppy will need to toilet and it is totally counter productive for them to toilet in a crate. They need to leave the "nest" to toilet and this should, preferably, be outside with company from someone to give them confidence and reward them for the right behaviour.

Westies will take as much exercise as you care to give. Most dogs need about two hours of exercise per day, split into two walks. At first a puppy will only need little expeditions to socialise and habituate.

All dogs, in my opinion, need off lead exercise. It is up to their owner to train a good recall at an early age. You can start this from day one. Puppies are too nervous to go off hunting on their own. We should use this to our advantage and train a recall before the confidence builds.

Most vets will tell you that dogs do not need to be bathed for their health. If they roll in something disgusting then that is different. Groomers like to bath a dog before trimming their coat as it makes the job easier. It is not essential to have a terrier trimmed but lots of people do.

If you read through some of the posts on here you will see that lots of people seek advice for the sleepless nights that puppies can bring. Have you factored this into your thinking?

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