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West Highland Terrier vs. Poodle: Breed Differences & Similarities

Thinking of adopting a small fluffy pup, but can't decide between the Poodle vs. the West Highland Terrier? The Westie and Poodle can both make great family companions. Find out which breed is better for your lifestyle.

Kelly Wilson

Last Updated: April 2, 2021 | 9 min read

West Highland Terrier vs. Poodle

Are you torn between a west highland terrier vs. a poodle for your new pint-sized canine companion? Both the Poodle and the Westie are popular pups with potential dog owners that are looking for a small dog to call their own. In fact, these two breeds have some striking similarities.

Despite their commonalities, these two small dogs have quite a few differences. While they both can make excellent family companions, neither are a perfect fit for every family or lifestyle. But is one of them the perfect fit for yours?

In this article, we compare the Poodle vs. the Westie to help you understand how they are similar but also strikingly different. You’ll learn a bit about each breed’s history, as well as their nutritional needs, puppy costs, and more. Let’s jump in!

Breed Comparison

West Highland Terrier

  • Height 10-11 Inches
  • Weight 13-22 Pounds
  • Temperament Friendly, Social, Fun-Loving
  • Energy Energetic
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 12-16 Years
  • Price $900-$1,700

Poodle

  • Height 10-15 Inches
  • Weight 45-60 Pounds
  • Temperament Affectionate, Intelligent, Attention-Seeking
  • Energy High
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 12-15 Years
  • Price $1,000 and Up

Breed History

Although both breeds look different, there’s more in common between Scotland’s iconic white dog and the Poodle than you might think. It all starts with their breed history. For instance, both dogs have French connections. Let’s learn a bit more about each pup.

West Highland Terrier

Small White Dog Standing Outdoors
The Westie originated in Scotland along with other terrier breeds.

Small but mighty, the West Highland Terrier, colloquially called a Westie, is one of nature’s ratters, bred to kill foxes, badgers, otters, and rats.

Native to Scotland, the Westie shares its history with the Dandie Dinmont, Skye, Scottish, and Cairn terriers. That said, the Westie’s history is largely obscured by time. It is, however, popularly believed that the breed hailed from the 17th century when James I gifted the wee, white dog to the King of France.

Tradition also has it that the breed’s distinctive coat results from a 19th-century hunting accident. History records that Colonel Malcolm of Poltalloch mistakenly shot and killed a beloved Cairn Terrier mid-hut. Horrified by the mistake, he resolved only to breed light-colored dogs to avoid further confusing them with their prey.

Poodle

Fluffy White Dog Standing Outdoors
This fluffy pooch was originally bred to hunt ducks and are excellent water dogs.

The Poodle might be France’s national dog, but in fact, it originates from Germany, where the name ‘pudelin’ referenced the dog’s tendency to splash in the water.

The American Kennel Club reports that the breed’s history began 400 years ago when it was bred to retrieve ducks. This is why in France, poodles are known as ‘Caniche,’ or ‘duck dogs.’

Their history as nature’s great duck hunters also serves as the origin of the famous poodle show cut. Hunters wanted to facilitate their poodles’ swimming ability and protect critical parts of their anatomy from the cold. The resultant cut the dog’s legs, neck, and tail but preserved the fur around the hips, chest, and leg joints.

Appearance

Elegant Dogs Standing Outside
The biggest distinction between the Westie and the Poodle is the fur texture.

There are three sizes of Poodles; standard, miniature, and toy. A Standard Poodle is upwards of 15 inches tall at the shoulder. Miniature Poodles are up to 15 inches tall, and Toy Poodles are no more than 10 inches tall. The standard male Poodle weighs between 55-60 lbs on average, while the females are slightly lighter, averaging a weight of 45-50 lbs.

In comparison, the Miniature Poodle weighs closer to that of your standard Westie, at 12-20 lbs, and the Toy Poodle is still lighter, averaging between 5-7 lbs. Both dogs can easily be mistaken for small stuffed toys due to their delicate appearance.

All three Poodle varieties feature long, curly, woolly fur when not given the Continental Clip to help their coats absorb water when swimming. They are also soft-jawed by design, another symptom of their hunting origins, making them excellent retrievers.

Proportions are consistent across all three Poodle sizes. They have long legs and necks, with proportionately long muzzles and floppy ears. Coat colors can vary across various solids which include black, white, silver, apricot, grey, brown, and blue.

While the Poodle’s coat color might vary, the Westie is notoriously wee and white. Their black cousins are Scottish Terriers, and any other color is considered a fault in the breed.

Moreover, the Westie’s white coat is a double coat. It consists of two layers; a short undercoat and an overcoat with hair up to two inches long. The design of the double-coat offers both great waterproofing against Scottish weather and protection from enemy claws.

The Westie stands 10-11 inches tall and weighs between 13-22 lbs.

Temperament

Happy Dogs Standing Among Purple Flowers
The spunky Westie is warm and friendly and the Poodle loves the attention of people.

The Westie is a cheerful, fun-loving dog, always up for a ramble, a belly rub, or a game of fetch as occasion warrants. It has a vociferous bark and loses no opportunity to broadcast it when confronted with strangers. That said, the breed is far from a one-person dog and soon warms up to everyone from friends, to family, to strangers. Rats and rodents are the exceptions.

In typical Terrier, or perhaps just plain Scottish fashion, the Westie has opinions in excess of his small stature and a healthy amount of spunk to back them up. Less stubborn than other dogs, though, they can usually be converted to your cause, provided you know how to bargain with it.

The Westie is also a great digger, and when not slaughtering its favorite squeaky toy, can be highly possessive of those same toys and is as liable to bury it as not.

In contrast to the stubborn terrier bent of the Westie, Poodles are much more willing to take orders. Poodles are fiercely intelligent, fun-loving dogs with playfulness and a sense of the absurd proportionate to their stature.

Poodles love attention and are themselves extremely affectionate to their people. Conversely, over-indulged poodles can develop attention-seeking habits such as nuisance barking, and their smaller breed models can be aggressive to strangers.

Early socialization both with people and other animals is essential for the Poodle. They are a loyal and protective breed that needs a firm hand in training to establish the human-dog hierarchy.

Exercise

Dogs Running Through Agility Course
Both breeds need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, which makes a backyard agility course an ideal form of exercise.

The Poodle is, at its core, a hunting dog and accordingly needs lots of exercise. They are high-energy dogs with an instinct to retrieve, so long games of fetch never lose their appeal. Poodles are also water dogs by nature, making swimming another excellent way to burn off excess canine energy.

Despite its size, the Westie is often described as tireless. An hour-long walk is likely to be sufficient to exercise his wee legs, but there was never a Westie bred to say no to another walk, either. They are lively and rambunctious and they thoroughly enjoy an excuse to adventure. It’s not by chance that Tintin’s beloved dog was a Westie.

Unlike the Poodle, though, the Westie’s innate stubbornness can make games like fetch a challenge. They are much more likely to see the ball as prey than an object to be returned. Agility courses and tug-of-war games are much better suited to keeping them engaged and active.

Training

Happy Dogs Sitting In Grass
Both the Westie and the Poodle are highly intelligent and train best with positive reinforcement.

Despite their stubbornness, the Westie is an intelligent and quick learner. In addition to positive stimulus, consistency in training is key. Any discrepancy and that sharp little brain will detect a loophole.

Westies also benefit from crate and clicker training. Both of these have the benefit of consistency and a rewards-based feedback system.

The Poodle is similarly intelligent and easy to train. Their friendly temperament and eagerness to please results in a dog breed that trains quickly and responds to encouragement. Poodles also respond very well with crate training, provided they have a dog crate that fits the appropriate Poodle size.

Poodles are sensitive dogs and can be stung by negative feedback. So, much like the Westie, Poodles train faster and better when trained through positive reinforcement. Whatever technique you use, the Poodle’s cooperation and athleticism make them naturally quick learners. A well-trained Poodle makes a highly compatible partner for its owner.

Health

Dogs at the Vet
Both breeds have average health ratings and come with breed-specific health concerns.

Standard Poodles, and indeed any size of Poodle, make for a high-maintenance dog. In addition to considerable grooming, as a pedigree dog, the Poodle is at risk for various genetic and health disorders.

Poodle Health Concerns

As with many large and pedigree dogs, the Poodle is at risk for hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia results from a malformed hip joint and results in arthritis, pain, and loss of movement. The best way to avoid hip dysplasia in a poodle is to consult with a breeder about the condition’s heredity.

Poodles are also liable to inherit Progressive Retinal Atrophy, resulting in blindness; Von Willebrand’s disease, which affects blood clotting; and Idiopathic Epilepsy. Most of these are testable through DNA or by consulting the puppy’s pedigree.

Other Poodle-related illnesses, like cataracts, are easily diagnosed by the vet. Bloating, common in many large dogs, and a problem in many Poodles can be managed easily. To alleviate bloat in Poodles, feed your Poodle several small meals a day at ground level. The use of a slow-feeder to help regulate food consumption can also be useful.

Westie Health Concerns

The Westie is similarly prone to health problems, albeit different ones. As a small dog, it is predisposed to luxating patella, a condition that causes the patella joint to move in and out of its socket. It can lead to arthritis but can also be readily corrected by your local vet. Keep an eye out for ‘bunny hopping’ or running on three legs, as it’s a classic symptom of a luxating patella.

Westies are also prone to Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS), or dry eyes, and copper toxicosis. This last leads to a buildup of copper in the dog’s liver and can lead to liver failure without treatment.

More severe conditions affecting the breed include Legg-Perthes Disease, Deafness, Craniomandibular Osteopathy (CMO), globoid cell leukodystrophy, and skin conditions. They share some of these health concerns with other breeds.

Nutrition

Cute Dogs With Dog Bowls
Small breed kibble formulated for healthy skin, teeth, and gums is ideal for both breeds.

Because of the West Highland Terrier’s predisposition to skin conditions, certain manufactured brands are designed to combat both skin conditions and food allergies.

A small dog, the Westie, requires 4-6 ounces of dry food daily and a similarly small portion of wet food. For best nutritional results, owners are encouraged to offer their Westies 2-3 small meals throughout the day, rather than one large one.

When feeding Poodles, dry food is best. While Poodles unreservedly enjoy wet food, dry food is both gentler on their stomachs and better for gum and dental health.

There is lots of variety when choosing food for your Poodle; ideally, you want a diet that provides glucosamine and chondroitin to look after its joints, omega fatty acids, and probiotics.

Exact portions will vary depending on the Poodle’s size, but as with the Westies, multiple meals tend to ensure the best health outcome for your dog.

Grooming

Dogs Getting a Haircut by Groomer
Both breeds are high maintenance and require lots of baths, haircuts, and overall grooming.

While there’s no truly hypoallergenic dog, Poodles are considered to have a hypoallergenic coat because their fur tends to be easier for allergy sufferers. They also shed less than your average dog, which has made them a popular parent breed for many different designer doodle dogs.

But that beautiful, curly coat also comes with a lot of care. A healthy Poodle coat should be tightly curled unless brushed thoroughly. It’s also prone to mats, meaning thorough and regular brushing is a must.

Many owners elect to forgo the elaborate Poodle show cut in favor of a shorter, more manageable clip.

The West Highland Terrier also has deceptively demanding grooming needs. These vary depending on whether the Westie’s coat has been clipped or striped; typically, striped coats are for showing the dog, and a clipped one is more convenient for every day. That said, even a dog that’s been clipped with grooming clippers requires 20-30 minutes of routine brushing.

Inevitably with Westies, they show dirt faster than the Poodle, if only because of their white coat – and they’re proud of it! Consequently, regular baths are important to eliminate dirt and other detritus that has stuck to the Westie’s coat. Towel drying after a walk or rinsing off the paws before coming indoors can be a great way to cut down on bath time.

Puppy Prices

Cute Puppy Dogs Playing Outside
Expect to pay at least $900 for a Westie puppy and upwards of $1,000 for a Poodle puppy.

When looking to purchase a poodle, potential owners should know that there are different sizes and breeding standards. Poodles are bred to ‘show’ standard, but also ‘pet’ standard, depending on whether or not you’re thinking of entering your Poodle regularly in dog shows.

Once the cost of breeding, screening, feeding, and usual puppy care has been accounted for, the average poodle puppy costs anywhere between $1,000-$1,300.

A West Highland Terrier, on the other hand, ranges in cost from $900-$1,700, though the average price is usually around the $1,000 mark.

Whichever dog you opt for, though, it’s worth remembering that the cost doesn’t stop at the puppy. There are also the first year’s supplies and vet bills to consider.

Final Thoughts

Both breeds are bright, clever dogs with a willingness to please their owners. They train comparably quickly and benefit from regular exercise.

The westie’s small stature makes him well-suited to smaller living areas, though he’ll adapt to just about anywhere. Similarly, because of the range of sizes when considering poodles, it’s possible to find a poodle that will fit comfortably into your home, whatever the size.

A Westie might come with his own opinions, but you’ll never need a doorbell again, while the springy-stepped poodle’s relaxed disposition and athleticism make him well suited to hours of outdoor play.

It’s a hard choice, and there’s no right answer. Whatever you choose, provide your new pet with love, exercise, and care, and they’ll be yours for life.

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