Breed Comparisons

West Highland Terrier vs. Scottish Terrier: Breed Differences & Similarities

If you are considering a small dog to add to your family, there are few breeds that will be better canine companions than the West Highland White Terrier and the Scottish Terrier. Find out how the Westie and the Scottie are different, but also quite similar in many ways.

Emma Braby Picture

Last Updated: August 31, 2022 | 11 min read

West Highland Terrier next to Scottish Terrier

Trying to decide between the Westie and the Scottie as your next canine companion? Both of these dogs are small and Scottish, and they are both from the terrier family. So what does this mean? Oodles of personality and feisty fun! But is one pup more fun than the other? Or maybe one of them makes a better watchdog?

Before welcoming any dog into your home, it’s important to understand everything you can about the breed. While these two pups may share a similar appearance, they have some personality differences that may make one of them a better fit for your lifestyle compared to the other.

In this breed comparison, we will compare these two pint-sized Scottish pups. The Westie is the sillier and more happy-go-lucky of the two compared to the more serious and independent Scottie. But there’s much more to it than that. They have an equal amount of similarities and differences, so let’s find out which pup fits in better with your family or lifestyle.

Breed Comparison


  • Height 10 – 11 inches
  • Weight 15 – 20 pounds
  • Temperament Happy, loyal, entertaining
  • Energy Energetic
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 13 – 15 years
  • Puppy Prices $1,000 and Up


  • Height 10 inches
  • Weight 18 – 22 pounds
  • Temperament Independent, confident, spirited
  • Energy Energetic
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 12 years
  • Puppy Prices $1,000 and Up

Breed History

It’s important to look at the history of a breed, especially if you are thinking about welcoming one into your home. Not only is the breed history interesting, but it can also tell you a lot about what to expect from them as a family pet. So, let’s see how these Scottish pups’ histories are connected.


Small White Dog on Beach
The West Highland Terrier was bred to solve the rodent problems on the farms.

Many centuries ago, nobles and farmers alike faced a huge problem – rodent infestation. To prevent their barns and grain stores from being destroyed, they created an array of small earth dogs. These terriers were obedient, spunky, and fantastic at exterminating rats. There are many Scottish terriers, such as the Cairn, Skye, Dandie Dinmont, and these two pups.

The exact history of the West Highland White Terrier is unknown, which is somewhat rare for a purebred pup. We know that the Malcolm clan of Scotland began documenting the breeding of small white terriers. The Malcolm estate was known as the Poltalloch estate, which is why they are sometimes called Poltalloch Terriers. The late 19th century saw the first Westies being shown in Scottish dog shows.

Westies were first shown in the American Kennel Club (AKC) ring in 1906. They were registered as West Highland White Terriers, named after the northwest part of Scotland, where they earned their fame. And the name has stuck ever since. Westies are relatively popular dogs in America, currently ranked as the AKC’s 42nd most popular breed.


Small Black Dog Running on Beach
Scottish Terriers were bred to hunt rats, fox and other pests on the farms in Scottland.

Similar to Westies, the Scottish Terrier was created to hunt rats, foxes, and badgers on the harsh terrain of Scotland. This breed is called the Scottish Terrier because it is thought that he is the original Scottish Terrier. And all other small Scottish earth dogs descended from him. Meaning that he is the older dog breed of the two.

Scotties first arrived in America in 1883. Despite coming from humble working-class origins, this guy and his feisty temperament won over people in high places. In 1885, the first Scottie, named Prince Charlie, was shown in AKC shows. Disney’s hit film, The Lady and the Tramp, featured a Scottie as one of their main characters.

The Scottie is currently ranked as the 57th most popular dog breed. This makes him slightly rarer. But in the 1930s and 40s, he was much more popular. Celebrities such as Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis were proud Scottie owners. The most famous Scottie was former President Franklin Roosevelt’s pup named Fala, who showed off their spicy character.


Two Dogs Looking Off into The Distance
Similar in size, these two dogs differ in their features and other small nuances.

The Westie and the Scottie are clearly from the same small earth dog family. But apart from their size similarities, they look very different. They are roughly the same size. The Westie is often one inch taller than the Scottie, but the Scottie is usually heavier by a few pounds. Their small size means they make easy travel buddies, and you’ll often see them being carried in bags across America.

The Westie has a softer and rounder appearance. His face is circular, and the hair around his face is usually cut to enhance the round appearance. His body is proportionate in build with powerful but compact legs. One noticeable difference is his smaller ears, which are triangular-shaped, and always erect. This gives off a subtle fox-like appearance. Westies have an alert and inquisitive appearance, and they should always have a carrot-shaped tail.

The Scottie is shorter, longer, heavier-boned, and more compact. His skull is longer too, which is usually enhanced by cutting the beard to shape. You’ll often notice a more inquisitive expression, that has a bit of a more serious demeanor. His ears are smaller and pricked compared to the Westies. His tail is similar in shape to the Westie.

Both breeds have double coats. Their outer coats are hard and wiry, which is what protects them in the harsh Scottish elements. Their undercoats are soft and dense to keep them warm and insulated. Westies are almost always white, hence their name. And Scotties are black, brindle, or wheaten in color.


Two Smaller Dogs Laying in Grass
These two breeds are both very loyal pets and both have a high prey drive.

The personalities of both breeds are more different than they are similar. It is their differences that often help families choose between the two breeds. But let’s start with their similarities. They are both loyal to their humans and love their families very much. Both dogs will settle down for a snooze and a cuddle in the evening and will follow your footsteps around the home.

They are both terriers which means they are both fun-filled dogs. Their high prey drive means they love to chase things, so games of fetch are likely to be a big hit. The Westie is always up for a silly game with his family. Their bright personalities are infectious. However, although the Scottie does like to play with his family, it’s got to be when he has time for it. He’s super competitive too.

The Scottie is the more serious-minded of the two breeds. He likes to think of himself as the boss and takes his hourly perimeter check duty seriously. The Westie will take direction from his humans and is happy to be part of the part rather than the leader. Because of their strong prey drive, neither of these guys should be trusted to behave well around rodents or other smaller creatures.

The Westie is a super sociable pooch who loves to be the center of attention. This is no shy pup! He will make friends with anyone and everyone, including other dogs. He loves the company of children because they are just as silly as he is! Although he does bark at most things, it’s because he is excited rather than warning people away.

The Scottie, on the other hand, is a very aloof canine who is suspicious of strangers and not the biggest fan of unknown dogs. The Scottie is one of the top barkers after the German Shepherd and the Rottweiler. Making him an awesome watchdog and deterrent to intruders. He also has no patience for overexcitable children and can get grumpy when pestered. So he is best paired with a family with older children.

Out of the two breeds, the Westie is the sweetest and more affectionate. Although Scotties are partial to a belly rub, they may also opt to sleep in their own beds rather than join you on the sofa. This means that the Westie is the more sensitive canine of the two. Westies don’t like being alone, whereas Scotties are a bit more independent.


Small White Dog Running and Small Black Dog Playing with Ball
Both dog breeds need around 45-60 minutes of exercise each day.

When it comes to their exercise needs, both dogs are very similar. They are both working farm dogs with lots of mental energy and the need to hunt little furry creatures. Despite their small size, they both need between 45 and 60 minutes of exercise a day. This means they both need active families that can guarantee them their daily exercise.

Their exercise doesn’t just stop there – they also need lots of playtime when back at the ranch. Invest in a basket full of doggy toys for both of them to keep them entertained. Toys that you can toss outdoors are great for interactive play. And chew toys for when they need to entertain themselves are ideal for burning up frustrated energy. They will both chew up your possessions and dig up your flower beds if they are bored – you have been warned!

As you know, these guys come from rugged Scotland. Meaning they will expect their outdoor adventures whatever the weather. Waterproofs and wellies will become a big part of your wardrobe. For their safety and your peace of mind, they shouldn’t be let off the leash when out in public. Otherwise, they are likely to disappear down a rabbit hole or chase squirrels into the middle of the road. Use a long, training leash so that they can run further and explore.


Two Small Well Groomed Dogs Sitting in Field
The Westie is known to be eager to please whereas Scotties are more stubborn.

The training needs of both dogs are also very different. The Westie is an eager-to-please pup who will do anything for a yummy treat, praise, or a ball to chase. This makes training relatively simple, which is why he makes a great option for first-time dog owners. Ensure that training is started as a puppy, and you’ll find an obedient pup on your hands.

Then there’s the Scottie, who is on the other end of the training scale. He is super stubborn and independent. This guy is born thinking he knows best, so he needs an experienced dog owner who will show him that he is not the top dog in the house. The Scottie will run rounds around a new owner, and it’ll make training very difficult. Make training sessions short and fun, and make sure you are clear and consistent with your commands.

Both of these guys will really benefit from crate training. The Westie because of his sensitive nature and the fact that he becomes anxious when left alone. And the Scottie because he likes to find somewhere to escape every now and then. Be sure to leave them alone when they are a pup to get used to their own space and not become reliant on your company.

All dogs need to be socialized from a young age. Otherwise, they’ll become rude and unruly. The key time to socialize them is 3 to 12 weeks. Mix them with as many dogs, unfamiliar humans, and new experiences as you possibly can. But maybe not rodents! Once the Westie is socialized, he’ll remember his manners. Whereas the Scottie will need to be reminded forever.

Remember that they’ll never be fully obedient when it comes to rodents and smells. They’ll both leg it at the sight or sniff of something quick and furry. Any recall training should be done in a secure area or with a training lead.


Smaller White Dog and Smaller Black Dog
These two breeds are expected to live around 12-15 years.

Both breeds are relatively healthy dogs that enjoy a long lifespan. The Scotties typically enjoy 12 years, and the Westie usually enjoys 13 to 15 years. Like all purebred dogs, they are prone to certain health conditions more so than others because of their genetic influence. Keep your pup healthy with regular vet visits.

Good quality Westie breeders should test for hip dysplasia and eye conditions as they are more common concerns than most. The most common eye concerns are glaucoma and keratoconjunctivitis sicca. There is also something called Westie armadillo syndrome. This painful skin condition causes yeast infections across your pup’s entire body, which is very itchy and sore.

Both the Scottie and the Westie should be screened for a knee condition known as patella luxation. This occurs when the knee cap does not sit properly, and it is described as floating. This can be a painful condition that restricts mobility.

The Scottie should also be tested for a bleeding disorder known as Von Willebrand’s disease. There is something known as Scottie cramp, which is unique to the breed. It occurs during high stress or exercise, and although it looks painful, it is usually harmless.


Small White Dog and Small Black Dog Up Close
Neither of these breeds eats very much, however, both require a high-quality kibble diet.

As small dogs, neither of these guys produce a hefty food bill. Both of these breeds will eat between 1 and 1.5 cups of kibble a day. Always feed your dog a high-quality kibble that will provide a well-balanced, highly nutritious diet that will improve their health. Try not to save money by picking a low-quality kibble because it will likely lead to health problems that need addressing. Kibble is the preferred diet for most dogs as it is complete and convenient.

Both of these guys will need a kibble designed for small breeds as they have small, compact mouths. Plus, small breed dogs need more energy per pound compared to large breeds. They also need a kibble that is age-appropriate, especially during puppyhood, as they will ensure proper development.


Small White Dog Posing and Small Black Dog Posing
These two breeds have very similar coats and will need to be brushed weekly.

Both dogs have a very similar grooming regime because their coats are very similar. They are both moderate shedders throughout the year and a little heavier during the shedding seasons. So expect a little bit of dog hair around the home. A pin brush will be the best brush for the job. Brush them weekly to prevent matting and keep their coat looking healthy.

If you want to keep the traditional coat of either breed, you might want to find an experienced groomer who can hand strip their coat. Keeping the hair short on the topline and longer around the belly and legs is a tricky cut to achieve when you don’t know what you’re doing. If you don’t need or want the traditional coat, a teddy bear cut for both breeds makes their coat easier to cut.

These dogs are curious and love to explore, meaning they are prone to muddy paws. Their long coats act as a mop for dirt and mud too. How often you bathe them depends on how dirty they get. But try to aim for no more than once every two months. Use a gentle doggy shampoo that will not irritate their skin. Their compact mouths also both need weekly teeth cleaning too.

Puppy Prices

Small White Puppy and Small Black Puppy
Expect to pay about $1,000 and up for a purebred puppy of either breed.

The price of a Westie puppy is usually about the same when compared to the rarer-to-find Scottie. Expect to pay around $1,000 and up for a purebred puppy of either breed. Buying a brand new puppy is not the only option that you have – so consider adopting too. You also need to remember the ongoing costs of doggy ownership. Both of these guys are similar in their lifetime costs considering their size and needs.

Working with a reputable breeder is really important to secure a healthy and happy puppy. Sadly, many irresponsible breeders produce as many pups as possible to maximize their profits. This means they spend as little as possible on health checks, and they will not spend any time socializing them. Please avoid poor-quality breeders at all costs because it will mean you’ll spend more on health and training bills for sure.

Final Thoughts

The Westie and Scottie are both Scottish earth dogs that are related to one another. Which means they share some similarities. They both have high prey drives, a love of their humans, and are lots of fun. However, they are more different than similar, which makes choosing between them relatively simple. Think about what you want from a pooch as well as what you can offer them in return. Just know that whoever you choose, you’re in for a Scottish treat!

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  1. I loved your assessment of the Westie and the Scottish terrier. I recently got a mix Scottish and Westhighland , she looks like the Westie except for a few features, But I have owned the Westie before, I kept saying Zoey never acted like that, now I know why . Willow has more of the Scottish behavior traits so I now know what to expect. She is very stubborn and wants things her way. It’s more like I am here to please her not the other way around. I am wheelchair bound and I needed her to make me keep busy and that she does. She is so sweet and loves to be played with. Thank You for helping me understand. I am so blessed to have her and I love her so much.

  2. Fred Stewart Merdian

    Both breeds are great in their own right, but fantastic TOGETHER!

    Having lived with several pairs over the decades, I have learned that there are differences.

    Generally speaking, Scotties, have a ravenous appetite for food, anybody’s food, while Westies are above such obvious displays of aggression. They are much more deliberate, with table manners to match. Scotties eat like there is no tomorrow, (proper movie titles would be “Jaws” or “Gone in 60 Seconds”). Westies, on the other hand, take their time. They actually chew their food, rather than swallowing it whole. Westies know there will be a tomorrow, and eat accordingly. Their movie could be “As Time Goes By”. Either way, “They’ll Never Walk Alone”.

    Another difference, is their disposition, their personality if you will.

    A Scottie will look you straight in the eye, and essentially tell you, “I know you love me. You know I love you. As far as I am concerned, the rest of the world can just take a hike! To paraphrase Bogey, “It’s you and me kid.” On the other hand, a Westie loves everybody! He knows he wins the popularity contest vs. a Scottie. He always has, and he always will. When my wife and I were in Ireland and Scotland on our golfing honeymoon, in 1997, I asked the breeder of our Scottie & Westie, how the breeds compared in registration. The breeder said it was 10 to 1, Westies over Scotties. He should know, he was a Judge for the Kennel Club in the United Kingdom.

    Goodnight Scotch & Soda, wherever you are.

  3. I am 73. It so happened that my Labrador died of left me heart broken. I started looking for a small(not young) dog to adopt. It so happened that the adoption agency introduced me to this very peculiar dog. She did not look like any dog I ever had …it was love at first sight. I took het so the doggy parlor and give instructions as to HOW they should cut her…at that stage I believed she was a Schnauzer. It was only recently that someone pointed it out..that my Skye is indeed a Scottish Terriër. She is 10. She is 5 monthes with me. It was not always fun..but I stood my ground..I do not give up easily. She is an introvert, does not like fisical contact. Everything in your article above rings true!!! It took her 5 months to except me. Now we are just fine.

    Thank you for this answered all my questions and I appreciate it VERY much.
    This is absolutely the best friend I have ever had.
    She is my pride and joy.
    She trusts me at last.
    Kind regards from South Africa

  4. This was good info, but how do these dogs react to cats? We have two cats and my wife would like a dog too – but we don’t want a dog that loves to chase cats. I get that the Westie is somewhat better with rodents, but cats have some ability to defend themselves, so how would they react to cats? We love our cats, but are curious about a SMALL dog that could be in a small RV (truck camper) with us and with our 2 cats.

    1. We have 2 westies and 1 scottie puppy… I would recommend the Westie with cats over the Scottie. Altho he is still a puppy, he plays alot rougher and wants to play with our cats all the time. Our westies co-exist so much better with the cats. They eat together, sleep together and just hang out nicely!! Oh, we have a american bobtail, a himalayan, and a long haired yellow rescue… hope this helps!!

  5. Both breeds are absolutely precious !! Such cuteness !! I was interested in seeing the similarities & differences in the Scottie & Westie and your post answered all my questions. We would have been happy with either. There were no Westies for sale nearby, but we luckily found a Scottie breeder nearby and were delighted to purchase a wheaton who we named Dougal; he’ll be 4 months on 12/4/22 and is the ❤️ of our lives !!
    Thanks so much for the informative article !!

  6. Douglas Campbell

    We love both breeds, however having recently interacted with two Westies on vacation, we decided that was the breed we were more interested in.

  7. Bonnie C. Robinson

    Thank you so much for this post! There was a lot I didn’t know about the differences between the Westie and Scottie!

  8. Great article! I have owned both breeds. Love them both dearly! My Westie is definitely more affectionate and needy. My Scottie would die for me and was my little gentleman. Both made me laugh with their antics! When it came to vermin, the rats had no chance! My dogs worked together to catch many on our properties. Love terriers!

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