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

Comparing the Yorkie and the Westie as your next pint-sized canine companion? These two terriers share some similarities but are also quite different. Find out what makes these pups great family dogs, and which may better suit your lifestyle.

Kelly Wilson

Last Updated: July 19, 2021 | 9 min read

Westie vs Yorkshire Terrier

Comparing the West Highland Terrier vs.Yorkshire Terrier for your next pint-sized canine companion? Both of these small breed dogs originate from a mishmash of older Scottish breeds. Because they are similar in many ways, these two breeds are often mistaken for one another.

Because of their similar size and appearance, it’s easy to understand why the “Yorkie” and the “Westie” are so often mistaken for one another. They can both have white coats and are often times styled similarly to one another. But their temperaments can be quite different!

To tell these two breeds apart and discover which is the right companion for you, we must look at their specific traits and origins. In this breed battle between the Westie vs. Yorkie, we uncover these two Terriers’ similarities and differences.

Breed Comparison

West Highland Terrier

  • Height 10-15 Inches
  • Weight 15-20 Pounds
  • Temperament Social, Stubborn
  • Energy Moderate
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 11-15 Years
  • Price $900-$1,700

Yorkshire Terrier

  • Height 7-8 Inches
  • Weight 4-7 Pounds
  • Temperament Stubborn, Playful, Curious
  • Energy High
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 11-15 Years
  • Price $1,000-$3,500

Breed History

Both breeds were bred as rat-catcher dogs and still retain many of those traits today. The origin of both breeds also comes from Scotland or Northern England, where they were bred to act as exterminators. Let’s learn a little bit more about the history of each breed.

West Highland Terrier

Two White Terriers Sitting
The Westie was bred to catch vermin and rodents in Scotland hundreds of years ago.

Westies come from the general breeding of rat-catcher dogs and exterminator dog Terriers (known as earth-dogs) in Britain. The first acknowledgment of a Scottish White Terrier recorded was between 1567 and 1625, during the reign of James VI of Scotland. It is unclear precisely when Westies became an official breed.

In the 1700s, the Scottish clan Malcolm began breeding little white dogs to exterminate rats. Other areas in Scotland also began breeding White Terriers until eventually, a single breed emerged. These dogs were occasionally called Poltalloch Terriers or Roseneath Terriers, after their homes on Scottish estates.

By 1896, the breed was called the West Highland White Terrier after the region in which they were commonly found. Nowadays, they are popular show dogs who excel in agility courses. Cesar Dog Food and Black and White Scotch Whiskey are examples of products today that use the Westie as their brand symbols.

Yorkshire Terrier

Two Dogs With Red Bows Outdoors
The Yorkie’s tiny frame and speediness made it optimal for hunting small rodents and vermin.

Yorkies were originally bred to be exterminators and rat-catchers during the mid-1800s. They come from various breeds of Britain, some of which are now extinct. These breeds were mostly Scotch Terriers brought to England’s northern Yorkshire and Lancashire counties by their owners. These Scotch Terriers refer to Terriers from Scotland and are not the same as the Scottish Terriers found today.

As a working-class dog, Yorkies were owned primarily by weavers. Because of the Yorkies’ silky hair, they were very fitting pets for the weavers. Their coats were often referred to as the ‘ultimate product of the looms’ of their owners.

Their small size and quick movements were ideal for squeezing into narrow crevices and catching rats and other vermin. The English Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1886. This decision made Yorkies suddenly very fashionable. They became popular as lapdogs for Victorian ladies and subsequently diminished in size. Now they are well known as lapdogs and show dogs.

Appearance

Happy Dogs Looking at Camera
Though both breeds are small, the Yorkie is smaller, only weighing up to seven pounds.

Westies are the larger dog, standing at the height of 10-11 inches and weighing 15-20 pounds. They have pure white coats without spots, mottles, or blemishes, usually trimmed to a medium length and kept very fluffy around the face for a round, friendly look. They look a bit more like other terriers than they do the Yorkie.

They have relatively short tails often carried upright. Ears are pointed and far apart but usually unseen due to the popular hairstyle they receive. They have a double coat, a harder and tough topcoat, and a soft undercoat beneath.

A Westie generally has a robust demeanor with a proud stance and upright stature. A deep chest and turned-out feet add to the Westie’s stable form and solid footing. The breed is part of the terrier group of dogs, whereas the Yorkie is technically part of the toy group.

Yorkies are smaller than Westies by quite a bit, growing to a height of about 7-8 inches and weighing around only seven pounds. They can be even smaller if they are of the Teacup variety. They are long-haired toy Terriers with tan, grey, and black coloring. Unlike the Westies, Yorkies have very silky, straight coats that are more like human hair than fur.

Yorkie haircuts vary with their owners’ tastes, with one popular haircut trimmed at floor length to give the appearance that the dog has no feet. With a short haircut, Yorkies have a very similar appearance to a teddy bear.

Usually, especially if the owners desire pedigree in their dog, a Yorkie will have a docked tail. Their ears are small, V-shaped, and erect. Yorkies stand with a straight line from rump to shoulder.

Temperament

Smaller Puppy Barking at White Dog
Yorkies have higher energy levels than Westies, but they both love to run around and play.

Westies are typically agreeable and friendly dogs. However, due to their independent nature and intelligence, they will not usually submit to rough treatment (such as a child’s pestering) and can be very possessive of toys and food.

Because they retain many of their past rat-catching traits, Westies are inquisitive dogs and highly investigative. These traits and their loyal behavior help make Westies good watchdogs. They are also very social and prone to stubbornness.

Similarly, Yorkies are also often stubborn dogs. Like the Westie, Yorkies retain much of their exterminator behaviors. They are energetic and playful, protective of their owners, and rather curious.

Generally, Yorkies are friendly and are quite fond of attention. Because of this, they often get separation anxiety. Many owners have more than one Yorkie to prevent them from getting lonely or fearful.

As Yorkies are not typically submissive dogs, they are not the best dog for small children. They are notorious for being a yappy, loud little dog, but in truth, a contented Yorkie is a quiet Yorkie.

Exercise

Dogs Running Outside in Grass
Both dog breeds need regular exercise to keep fit and happy.

Daily walks and short bursts of more challenging activity such as chasing tennis balls are the perfect routines for both of these small dog breeds. Westies, in particular, love playing with toys and fetching due to their exterminator breeding. Westies also do well in fenced backyards with room to romp or play.

Yorkies prefer multiple short walks every day but also enjoy time for play. Because of both Terriers’ rat-catching nature, they are suited to short bursts of activity instead of long, arduous treks or runs. We recommend walking your Yorkie while wearing a harness so that you don’t damage their neck if they decided to pull. Westies should also be properly fitted for a harness, and should stick to a size small in most cases.

As Yorkies are the more nervous dog, they especially need daily exercise to help their confidence and contentment. Yorkies used as lapdogs who rarely go outside tend to develop a more anxious temperament and are more prone to anxiety and fear.

Training

Two Dogs Wearing Vests on an Autumn Day
Both breeds respond well to encouraging training sessions as well as treats and recognition.

Westies are smart enough to learn quickly without pampering. They are very independent workers, and they learn best from patience and consistency. They prefer upbeat and engaging lessons rather than severe or casual encounters.

Due to the level of a Westie’s intellect and independence, they might need refresher training courses over their lifespans, so they do not test boundaries and develop bad habits.

Yorkies are smart and eager to please their owners. They respond well to praise and treats, but not so much to reprimands.

Introducing a Yorkie to strange situations from an early age is essential for a more confident dog. New experiences with calm and happy atmospheres will relax them and make them more accustomed to unfamiliar situations, which will help a Yorkie be more confident and comfortable as they grow older. This confidence leaves a Yorkie more content and less likely to bark or feel anxiety.

Health

Young Dogs at the Vet
These breeds are capable of living long lives, up to about 15 years.

Both dog breeds have similar lifespans, generally reaching ages between 11-15 years old. Though generally speaking, both are relatively healthy dogs, but both breeds are predisposed towards particular abnormalities.

The Westie, for instance, is prone to skin disorders and a condition known as “lion jaw” or “Westie jaw,” in which the bones around the jaw thicken while they are under a year old and still growing. “Westie jaw” is a condition that can only occur if both parents are carriers of the gene and makes eating and chewing a painful ordeal.

Both a Westie’s and a Yorkie’s teeth should be brushed often with dog toothpaste. Regular vet trips help both breeds remain healthy and free of parasites.

Like many small dogs, tooth decay is a concern for a Yorkie. Occasionally a Yorkie’s puppy teeth do not fall out naturally and can cause problems as their adult teeth attempt to come in. When the puppy teeth remain, this causes a bad bite for the Yorkie and can also contribute to tooth decay as food and other debris can become stuck between the puppy and adult teeth.

Yorkies are more prone to delicate digestion systems and have vomiting or diarrhea caused by food consumption outside a regular diet. The best course of action is never to feed a Yorkie food that has not been vet-recommended for small dogs.

Because the Yorkie is so small, it is much more vulnerable and delicate than more robust dogs such as the Westie. Many Yorkie injuries come from the owner accidentally stepping on or tripping over their dog.

Nutrition

Dogs Licking Their Lips Next to Dog Bowls
A kibble formulated for small dogs is the best option for both breeds.

The Westies and Yorkies both thrive on high-quality dog food approved by a vet. Food appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior) will provide the best nutrients for consumption.

High-quality dog foods have easy-to-digest ingredients better for both Westies and Yorkies, especially since these breeds are known for having sensitive stomachs. Both dogs can have either store-bought or home-made dog food so long as it has vet approval.

Food amounts can depend on how active the dog is. For an adult Westie, two to three meals a day made up of 1.5 cups of dry dog food is enough. For an adult Yorkie, three daily meals consisting of 150-200 calories are necessary. Expect to feed your Yorkie around .5 to 1 cup of dry dog food each day.

Yorkies are sometimes a more finicky eater than a Westie, but dry foods for small dogs are typically the better choice due to the dental health benefits and prevent food from getting stuck in a Yorkie’s long hair.

Yorkies are sometimes prone to obesity, so it’s important to provide vet-approved amounts and watch the number of treats given.

Grooming

Dogs Receiving a Haircut
Each of these breeds requires frequent haircuts by a professional groomer to keep neat and clean.

Due to the hard topcoat typical of Westies, daily brushing for this breed is a must. Westies are seasonal shedders, so they do not require much grooming, but brushing will help prevent a tangled coat and keep them clean. Both breeds are considered Hypoallergenic, due to their lack of shedding (no dog is truly hypoallergenic).

For a Westie, visiting a groomer every 4-6 weeks is enough to keep their hair trimmed and clean. Bathing should not be undertaken very often because too frequent baths can damage a Westie’s hard coat.

Similar to the Westie, the Yorkie is not a frequent shedder. Due to the nature of its silky coat, a Yorkie is more likely to lose hair when brushed or bathed as opposed to it falling out on its own.

The Yorkie breed requires more frequent or professional grooming, especially if their coats are longer. For long coats, brushing should be daily, and trimming the hair on the top of a Yorkie’s head will keep it out of their face and eyes. A bath every week or so will ensure the Yorkie’s coat remains clean and soft.

Price

Adorable Puppies Looking at the Camera
Yorkies tend to be more expensive between the two breeds, depending on the lineage of the dog.

A Westie puppy ranges from $900-$1700, averaging around $1,000. A purebred puppy can cost as much as $3,500. Adoption prices from a breed specific rescue are much lower and range around $500.

A Yorkshire puppy range is very similar, with prices going from $1,000 upward to $3,500. However, some purebred Yorkies can cost up to $10,000 if the lineage is pure for multiple generations. If you adopt a pup from a breed specific Yorkshire Terrier rescue, you can expect to pay a little bit less for a rescue dog, also around $500 which is similar to the Westie.

Final Thoughts

Westie vs. Yorkie are fun-loving, intelligent creatures who share a similar history. The Yorkshire terrier has recently been known as a lapdog and a pampered pet, while the Westie largely remained an investigative and working dog.

As the more nervous of the two breeds, the Yorkie does best in quieter households. However, just because it has a history of being a lapdog doesn’t mean a Yorkie isn’t playful or energetic. Both these dogs enjoy their exercise and like to have fun with toys.

Whether you prefer a Westie or a Yorkie, both are highly intelligent, sought-after dogs who would make lovely companions for just about anyone.

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