No two Westies are alike in temperament, so, the answer to the question, ‘Can Westies be aggressive?’ is a very subjective one. While some Westies can be calmer and people-friendly, others can exhibit characters that merit to be classified as aggressive.
In this post, we elaborate on whether this particular breed can be aggressive or not. If so, what causes the aggression and what remedial measures can you undertake to solve it.
Can Westies Be Aggressive?
The answer is yes. It is supported by a study conducted by Benjamin Hart, a professor in veterinary medicine at the University of California, and his coworkers. The study involved creating behavioral profiles of 56 different breeds of dogs.
The study was based on data such as socialization, snapping at children, excitability, demand for affection and watchdog barking. The study concluded that Westies are in the category of breeds that are characterized as ‘very high aggression, very high trainability and very low reactivity’.
This is not to say that all Westies exhibit aggressive behavior. As we will later discover, the temperament, as well as the situation and the environment, play a vital role in Westies showing aggressive behavior.
However, irrespective of the environmental stressors and internal condition, an intact male dog shows more aggressive behavior than that of an intact female Westie. Hart and his coworkers believe that when a male dog is neutered, it alters hormones. The change in hormones in turn cause changes in behaviors such as territorial marking through urinating, mounting as well as aggression.
What Does Aggression Look Like in Westies?
Aggression in Westies or any dog, for that matter, is characterized by such behaviors including:
As briefly highlighted above, some Westies can be aggressive while others are not. A widespread aggressive display in Westies, especially males, is biting.
These hardy, rather stubborn and strong-willed dogs also love to bark. But unless it is accompanied by snarling and growling, barking does not necessarily warrant the dog as aggressive.
What Causes Aggression in Westies?
Contrary to what people perceive, dogs are not born aggressive. Many experts, including veterinarians, dog breeders and owners agree that one of the main reasons why Westies resort to biting is to exert their dominance.
Westies are proud and smart, and they make no apologies about these traits. Biting is a way to challenge the leadership of the owners.
Another reason behind aggressive behavior is fear. It can be due to the owner’s actions such as invading his territory, taking his food and others that include pulling ears and tails.
According to research conducted by Luescher and Reisner in 2008, canine aggression can be induced to the following factors:
- Dominance or conflict
- Territorial protection around unfamiliar pets or humans
- Predatory instincts
- Disease such as tumors
- Maternal instincts
- Guarding resources
Here is a link where you can read the details about this topic.
How to Stop Aggression and Biting in Westies
It is essential to differentiate between mouthing in puppies and aggressive biting in adults. Every puppy will undergo mouthing as part of the learning and developmental process.
But even if the Westie is a puppy, when the mouthing is accompanied by raised lips, snarling and glaring eyes, then it is considered as an intended and aggressive mouthing and needs to be corrected immediately.
Do not fall into the category of dog owners who believe that puppy aggression will be weaned off as it grows older. An aggressive puppy rarely grows out of aggressive behavior if it is not corrected.
Steps to Follow to Stop Aggression and Biting in Westies
- Perhaps the most important step is to prevent full-blown aggression. This can be achieved by:
- Creating a comfortable environment where your puppy feels safe.
- Reduce sudden and loud stimuli as it can trigger aggression and fear.
- Meals and exercise must be consistent and regular.
- Frequent interactions with humans and pets to boost his social skills.
- Weaning off should be done at the right time. Puppies that are weaned off too early are fearful and lack trust.
- Monitor the health of the Westies, especially if a usually calm one is suddenly showing aggressive behavior.
- Early training is crucial. It is especially true if the puppy shows aggressive behavior.
- Avoid physical punishment at all cost. It can aggravate the aggression due to fear.
- Verbal rebuking works best when he bites. Westies are people pleasers, so if you rebuke him and move away from him, he will understand that he did something wrong and will not repeat it.
- Reward him with praise and treats when he shows good behavior.
- Refrain from excessive petting and cuddling. It is a terrier after all, so it can bite and injure you if it gets too excited.
- Do not allow a Westie to play with children younger than seven years old. If you must do so, it must be done under vigilant supervision.
- Build trust with your Westie. Help him understand that you are there to protect him and not to harm him.
Where and When to Seek Professional Assistance?
When a typically calm and friendly Westie suddenly shows aggressive traits, it is important to consider its health conditions. In Westies, problems in the bowels, thyroid problems and tumors can trigger aggression. In such cases, an immediate medical examination is the best solution.
If after the medical examination, there is nothing wrong with the physical condition of the dog, consider visiting a veterinary behaviorist. They are certified trainers and qualified to train the erring and frustrated fur-babies.
Despite the rather grim analysis, Westies are highly intelligent. So they can be trained to let go of the aggression, although it takes a little longer than you might expect.
Aggression in a Westie must not be ignored and corrected at the earliest. There is an old saying that goes, ‘there are no bad dogs but only bad owners.’ As the human guardians and parents, it is our responsibility to take care of these fluffy babies, both physically and emotionally.