Is a West Highland White Terrier a smart dog?

Just as Geordie, the West Highland White Terrier made a big splash in the American sitcom “Hamish Macbeth”, so too, these tough little dogs make a big impact in the lives of their owners. A little known fact is that this particular breed of dog, known globally as Westies, are not only remarkable for their intense personality or endearing, impish looks, but they’re also impressively intelligent.

West Highland White Terriers, or Westies, as they’re endearingly called, showcase a great deal of smartness, demonstrated through their alertness, quick learning abilities, curiosity, and an uncanny ability to make quick decisions. Now, pick up a cup of coffee, wrap up in your favorite cozy blanket, and brace yourself for a captivating deep dive into the intelligence of Westies.

According to Stanley Coren, author of “The Intelligence of Dogs,” intelligence in dogs is measured in three ways – instinctive intelligence, adaptive intelligence, and working and obedience intelligence. Instinctive intelligence talks about the skills a dog was originally bred for. While herding dogs have an instinct to herd, terriers have a natural instinct to hunt and dig. This level of intelligence is hardwired into the Westie and comprises their inborn skills and abilities, aimed mainly at vermin control, and being a solid companion to humans.

Adaptive intelligence refers to a dog’s problem-solving skills. Westies are known for their high adaptive intelligence. These Terriers are quick on their feet, agile in their thinking, and able to navigate through new environments swiftly and skillfully. They can remember pathways, routes and quickly learn to adapt to new home rules. The level of independence Westies showcase is a testament to this intelligence form. They can effectively housebreak themselves, making them an excellent choice for first-time dog owners.

Working and obedience intelligence is where a breed responds to training. This is the kind of smartness gauged by how rapidly a dog can understand and follow new commands. Westies are quick learners. They consistently rank around 47 out of 138 breeds concerning trainability, according to Stanley Coren’s rankings.

The Westie’s intellect is a product of its origin story. Originating from the highlands of Scotland, they were bred for hunting and pest control. Their ancestors had to be quick, independent thinkers to survive the harsh environment and efficiently fulfill their hunting roles. A weak or slow specimen didn’t last, so only the best genes passed down.

A word of caution though, while Westies are smart, their intelligence usually comes well wrapped in a layer of stubbornness. They’re known to be farsighted, making up their own minds about what should be done and when. However, this headstrong nature is part of their charm. It calls for a patient and consistent training technique to harness their intellect and guide it productively.

To a potential Westie owner, here are a few tips:

1. early and continuous socialization is key as Westies can be somewhat aloof with strangers.
2. they respond well to reward-based training; hence, having a bunch of treats handy during training exercises works wonders.
3. their high energy levels mean they need an ample amount of exercise and mental stimulation to keep them from getting bored and destructive.

In closing, yes, a West Highland White Terrier is indeed a smart dog. Their intelligence is not the typical ‘obedience’ kind that is associated with dogs like Labradors or German Shepherds, but rather a more independent, problem-solving, survival-kind of intelligence.

These wee dogs are feisty, loveable, and full of character. They’ll keep you on your toes, make you laugh with their antics, comfort you in their unique way and become a cherished part of your family. Westies might not be the easiest dog to train, but they certainly are one of the most rewarding with their rich personalities, affection, and unique intelligence.

So the next time someone questions the intelligence of a small dog breed like the Westie, you can confidently throw some light on their instinctive, adaptive, and working intelligence. In the world of dog enthusiasts, size doesn’t determine cognition — and as any Westie owner can tell you — even the smallest package can hold the most delight.