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You and your family have decided to get a dog, and in this case, a West Highland White Terrier, or a “Westie”. I’m going to assume (hopefully) you’ve done your homework and know that a Westie is the right dog for you and your family. So how do you find your Westie? It can be daunting. The best advice I can give you is, PATIENCE, PATIENCE, and more PATIENCE! I’ve been there myself, the decision is made; you, your spouse and the kids are excited.  You want a dog, and you want it, NOW! Getting a dog is like purchasing a home; you’ll probably have your dog longer than you will stay in your new home. Would you buy the first home you see when the realtor tells you it fits your needs? No. But once you see that Westie puppy, it’s done, it’s the one, you can’t resist, LOVE it!



My first recommendation for finding a Westie or any other breed would be to consider rescue. The best way to find a rescue groupnetwork is to search the Internet for the breed and the word “rescue”.  Most breeds have a regional rescue organizations associated with the national breed club. Beware of any rescue that's not sanctioned by/with a national breed organization as they could be a “scam” rescue that obtains dogs from outside the US thus promoting puppy mills in foreign countries. In the case of Westies, National Westie Rescue is part of the national breed club West Highland White Terrier Club of America (“WHWTCA”). Our organization, Westie Rescue Network Inc., (“WRN”), is found under the caption of “List of State Coordinators by State” for Colorado on the WHWTCA website. Of course, there are limitations to choosing a rescue dog. In general, WRN doesn’t have puppies and seldom do we even have young dogs (2-5 years old).  In fact lately we don’t have very many dogs period!  Most of the dogs in our program are 7 to 9 years of age or greater and may have continuing health problems, need extra care, or may not be the “perfect” Westie. However, we have received many beautiful, well-balanced, happy Westies and have placed right at 1,000 dogs during our 3 decades of operating tenure. All rescue dogs will reward you with eternal love, gratitude and satisfaction for giving them a forever home. If you decide to go with rescue, patience will be needed to find the perfect match because we try diligently to make sure YOU match our rescue dog’s lifestyle, physical requirements and health needs.


If rescue isn't an option for whatever the reason because you have other conditions, you will want to find a “reputable” breeder. This "How to Find a Reputable Breeder" can be challenging because puppy mills and back-yard breeders never stop looking for new ways to be “look-a-like” reputable breeders. A good place to start is again an Internet search for a local breed club. Usually the breed club will have a listing of members who are breeders or a breeder “referral” designee. If not, feel free to contact any club officer listed as they will know who in their club are also breeders. If there isn't a local breed club, then try for a national breed club which may list breeders, but I would suggest contacting someone within a regional breed club first. Our local breed club is West Highland White Terrier of Greater Denver, or WHWTCGD (www.whwtcgd.com). Anyone listed on this website will talk endlessly about Westies!

Unfortunately, the American Kennel Club (AKC) website is not the place to find a “reputable” breeder, because anyone can list their information on their website, and most reputable breeders just don’t list there!

An excellent way to find a reputable breeder is to go to a dog show. Be sure to purchase the show catalogue because it has the contact information for the people who are showing their dogs each day. If possible, arrive early and go to the grooming area where you will find the “show” Westies getting ready. This is a more relaxed time for the breeders and they should be more willing to talk with you than right before they go into the show ring. If you're at the show ring only, please wait until everyone is finished with their showing. There are several local dog shows in our area each year.  For Westies, WHWTCGD usually has their Specialty Show on the first Friday in September at the Greely Island Grove fairgrounds. Check their website www.whwtcgd.com for information.

A reputable breeder will almost always invite you to their kennel, which is usually their home. Here, you'll see all of the entire Westie clan in their possession. They'll ask you numerous questions about your previous dog ownership, your knowledge about the breed, the set-up of your house and yard, any children and grand kids, etc..  The'll go to great lengths, possibly including a home visit, to ensure that their puppy is going to be in the best of homes and will be a recognized member of the family. All purchases will require a written contract with specific performance requirements, certainly spay/neuter prerequisite, and a request for continued communication, pictures, and health information, ( or if you should consider a “show” dog, future breeding obligations). Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the breeder. “Why do you do this?” is the most obvious, and if the answer is financial in any way, don’t walk, RUN! However, you will find that a reputable breeder will probably ask for a higher price than the a puppy mill/back-yard breeder and here’s why…

Most reputable breeders will only breed dogs that have achieved their championship in an AKC sanctioned show ring, or at least have points from showing and are well on their way to a championship. The breeder has travelled across the county, paid show fees, and have invested time in their dogs. Most participate in regular testing and screenings for genetic disease to insure they have healthy breeding stock. All evaluate their soon-to-be-mothers and pick males that will complement or enhance the litter. Some breeders  travel across the US, to Canada, or overseas to breed their dogs and and the stud fee is usually very expensive. Most Westie breedings are done through artificial insemination which requires a veterinarian. Whelpings are often C-sections done at the vet's office. Both are expensive.  No expense is  spared to save a litter or the mother. In the case of Westies, most breeders are elated when they have a litter of 3 or more. For a reputable breeder, this is not a livelihood, but a labor of love to ensure the preservation and conformation of the breed!  Health and temperament are of greatest importance to the Westie breed, and breeding will be very selective among a chosen few that remain with a reputable breeder.


How can you tell a reputable breeder from a puppy mill or back-yard breeder? Here are some signs…

  • Names: Puppy mills/backyard breeders seem to have cutesy names like “Nancy’s Babies”or “Missy’s Pups”, etc. whereas reputable breeders go with strong names like “Camelot Westies” or“Plum Creek Westies”.
  • Location: When there is no physical address, just a P.O. box or city; almost a guarantee it’s a puppy mill. All reputable breeders give their physical location because they welcome your visit to their operation.
  • Numerous breeds: Puppy mill/back-yard breeders have many different breeds. Most reputable breeders stick to one breed.
  • Advertising: Some reputable breeders have a website, but most don’t have the time or the money to spend on an elaborate website. Likewise they do not advertise in magazines or newspapers or on the AKC website.
  • Deposit: Price comes up early in the conversation with a puppy mill/back-yard breeder, and a deposit on “your” puppy is necessary to secure your position. Reputable breeders rarely ask for a deposit as they are unsure whether or not a puppy will be available from the next litter; all may be show quality and not available for sale. In addition, most reputable breeders have 1 or 2 breeding females, and will not breed the same female twice in the same year.
  • Ask questions: Puppy mill/back-yard breeders will sell to anyone who can make the deposit, sign the contract, and pay the fee. Reputable breeders will grill you on why you want their breed, your home situation, other dogs you’ve had, etc. and may even require a home visit to your house and references from your friends and veterinarian. And there’s no contract until you take a puppy home.
  • No return, no refund policy: Puppy mill/back-yard breeders have become clever and now offer a “health guarantee”. This usually means they will offer a “replacement” dog only for a health issue, which is unlikely to occur immediately and difficult for an owner who is bonded with the dog. Reputable breeders ask for the return of a dog to them for any reason at any time, and often offer a refund within the first two weeks of ownership.
  • One dog: Puppy mill/back-yard breeders often show you one dog for your purchase, depending on your choice of sex. Most of the time, arrangements are made for you to meet the dog in a parking lot, or for more sophisticated operations, at the home of a broker. Reputable breeders will allow you to see the mother, the father (if available), and all of the puppies, shortly after they're eight(8) weeks old. You probably won’t have the pick of the litter, but at least you’ll see them in an appropriate environment.
  • Age of puppy: Puppy mill/back-yard breeders will release a puppy at age eight(8) weeks which typically corresponds to the end of all necessary vaccinations. Reputable breeders rarely release a puppy before it's 12 to 15 weeks old as they're still evaluating the conformation potential, (i.e. show quality) of the dog.

There are exceptions to every rule.  I’ve known of reputable breeders who violated one or more of these common practices and puppy mill/back-yard breeders who showed no red flags. Please talk with many knowledgeable individuals, breed club members if possible, and have some restraint!  Patience is the best policy and although working with ONE reputable breeder, it may take longer than you want, it will pay off in the end. As one reputable breeder said to me, “You can pay it to the breeder, or you can pay it to the veterinarian.” Ugh!


Most of my friends are reputable breeders and give me constant grief over this statement: ”It’s not the end of the world if you bought your dog from a puppy mill!” The breeder gods will not descend on you, nor will your Westie turn black in color, nor will you be prohibited from purchasing from a reputable breeder in the future. However, the biggest “sin” you have committed is to further promote the inhumane situation of a puppy mill. Take my word for it their practices and the way they treat dogs is unacceptable to all of us who love and care about dogs. Plus, know that your dog has not been socialized, may have behavior issues, has not been screened for problematic health issues, and although white in color, looks more like a Bichon than a Westie. You will need to go above and beyond with training, socialization, obedience, and monitoring of health. Raising a puppy requires lots of time, tolerance, persistence, and discipline; a puppy from a mill/back-yard breeder adds to this requirement threefold! In the end, you might end up with the most beautiful, well-behaved, adorable, sweet and much loved Westie of your life from a puppy mill/back-yard breeder, so it’s not the end of the world!  Just don’t do it again: be educated, do the research, and have PATIENCE.


I’ve been a Westie owner for more than 30 years. I’ve had more than one puppy mill Westie, rescue Westie and show Westie (more than one of each) and Love’m all! And like most of my Westie friends, I could talk endlessly about them. This article reflects my opinion about how to purchase a Westie and is not necessarily authorized or sanctioned by any organization including WRN, WHWTCGD or WHWTCA. Give me a shout if you have questions or concerns, or want more information. My name is Hollie Hunter, and you can contact me via the website.