How to Groom a West Highland White Terrier

Keep your Westie looking his best with regular grooming before a show.
west hilend wite terrier 4 image by Olga Barbakadze from

Affectionately referred to as a "Westie," the West Highland white terrier was first bred in Poltalloch, Scotland. Westies were initially shown in the U.S. in 1906 under the name "Roseneath terrier," later officially changing the name to West Highland white terrier in 1909 with the American Kennel Club. Westies have a hard overcoat and soft undercoat that requires special grooming, especially if you plan to show your dog professionally. Whether you wish to show your dog or not, Westies require regular grooming to keep their coats looking fresh and white and avoid any skin issues from developing.

Step 1

Brush your Westie's coat daily for 5 to 10 minutes with a slicker brush to remove the dead hair from his coat and keep mats from forming. This gets your dog used to grooming and removes debris; it also makes larger grooming sessions easier because it removes much of the loose hair on the coat.

Step 2

Wash your Westie's face daily, using a wet washcloth to wipe his beard and cheeks; this prevents stains from forming. For existing staining on the face, dip the damp washcloth in 3 percent hydrogen peroxide to help bleach away the spots.

Step 3

Strip your Westie's coat every four to six weeks by hand or using a 10- or 12-blade stripping comb. If stripping by hand, put grooming chalk on your fingers to get a firm grip on the hair. Carefully lift a tuft of the hair up with your hand, then pull downward to remove the loose hair from the soft undercoat. If using a stripping comb, comb downward in the direction of the hair growth. Move your hand around the dog's face and body so that you do not pluck out too much hair and make any uneven or bald spots.

Step 4

Trim the hair from the tips and insides of the ears with an electric clipper. Use a blunt-tipped scissors to carefully trim the hair at the bottom of the ears. Pluck the hairs from inside the dog's ear canals using a hemostat; this will not hurt the dog and helps to prevent ear infections.

Step 5

Wet a cotton pad with mineral oil or a dog ear-cleaning solution, which you can purchase in pet supply stores, and use it to wipe out the inside of the Westie's ears. This cleans the ears and helps to prevent any infections from forming.

Step 6

Form the hair around the face into a round shape, similar to a fluffy chrysanthemum. Use thinning shears to trim and shape the hairs around the beard. Trim the hair between the eyes and on the nose with a blunt-tipped scissors.

Step 7

Trim and shape the hair on the Westie's legs with thinning shears to present a neat appearance; do not reshape the natural hairlines of the dog, simply neaten the hair. Use a blunt-tipped scissors to trim the hair on the paw pads and to clip any stray hairs on the legs.

Step 8

Bathe the Westie every six weeks or so. This breed has sensitive skin and frequent bathing can dry the skin. Use a soap-free dog shampoo to clean the fur and completely rinse it from the skin and coat using warm water from a shower attachment in your tub or sink. Blow-dry the coat with a hairdryer on a low-heat or no-heat setting to make it fluffy and full.

Step 9

Remove set-in stains from the white fur with a paste made of equal parts 3 percent hydrogen peroxide and magnesium hydroxide mixed with enough cornstarch to thicken it. Let the mixture dry on the stain and rinse it off. Keep your dog from licking this mixture during the drying process.


  • If you notice that your Westie's skin appears irritated, take him to a veterinarian. This breed is prone to skin infections and allergies due to its thick double coat.

  • Never shout at or painfully restrain your Westie during grooming; this is animal cruelty and encourages the dog to become aggressive.

  • If your dog has an oily coat, his diet may be too rich in oils and fats. Oily coats can encourage skin infections, so speak to your veterinarian about his diet.


  • Avoid feeding your Westie food with dyes or coloring, which can stain the hair on his face.

  • Brush a sprinkle or two of grooming chalk or cornstarch in your Westie's fur before a photo shoot to brighten it.

  • Ask your veterinarian about clipping your dog's nails to keep them from becoming too long. She can demonstrate how to do this delicate procedure without causing the dog pain or causing the nails to bleed.

  • Brush your Westie's teeth as part of his grooming using a dog toothpaste and brush, sold in pet supply stores.

  • If you're not showing your Westie, use an electric clipper to trim his hair into a puppy cut. This will soften the outer coat, making it soft and wavy, which is unacceptable in the show circuit. It will also make the fur less resistant to dirt and grime, so more frequent bathing may be required.

  • Make grooming fun for your dog with a treat reward and verbal praise while brushing, bathing or stripping his coat.

  • Don't bathe your Westie before stripping his coat because this makes the hair difficult to grasp and pull. Bathe him before clipping the coat.

  • Place cotton balls in your Westie's ears before bathing to help prevent water from getting into the ears, a primary cause of infection.

Items You Will Need

  • Slicker brush
  • Washcloth
  • 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
  • Stripping comb
  • Grooming chalk
  • Electric clipper
  • Blunt-tipped scissors
  • Hemostat
  • Cotton pads
  • Mineral oil or dog ear cleaning solution
  • Thinning shears
  • Soap-free dog shampoo
  • Hairdryer
  • Magnesium hydroxide
  • Cornstarch


About the Author

Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.

Photo Credits

  • west hilend wite terrier 4 image by Olga Barbakadze from