Have you ever wondered if Westies can be more than a companion? Or perhaps you need some help with a loved one and wondering if your adorable Westie can be trained to be a therapy or service dog?
Well, we answer all these questions and more in this comprehensive post. We will dig deep about whether these fluffy and strong-willed dogs can also work as therapy and service dogs. Or are the cute Westies better suited at something else?
Are Westies Good as Therapy or Service Dogs?
A straightforward answer to this question is no. It is because Westies have an inherent high-strung, independent and strong-willed nature.
Originally, bred to hunt foxes and run as a pack, this small canine is a powerhouse of energy, strength and agility. They are quite playful and can get fidgety if they are idle or alone for extended periods.
Westies are also not the quietest among the dog breeds. They usually don’t like being quiet or being continuously cuddled, which is why they are not the first choice for serving as a service or a therapy dog.
However, these cute babies are inquisitive, smart and intelligent. Therefore, it is not impossible to train them to be therapy dogs. In fact, there are some excellent examples of Westies that have made excellent therapy and service dogs all over the world.
Can You Train Westies to be Service Dogs?
Irrespective of the breed, dogs qualify as therapy and/or service dogs only after extensive training. Since Westies are very intelligent, they can be trained to be therapy dogs.
In fact, the American Kennel Club proudly proclaims the achievement of Max, the Westie. He is great around people, loves to visit the residents at a cerebral center and is a certified therapy dog from the Therapy Dogs International.
So, why do some Westies respond well to training while others do not? It is a combination of many factors.
It is essential to note that Westies are introduced to children and/or pets while they are still young. This is important because Westies can exhibit dominance as well as territorial behavior.
When the introduction has been done at an early age and at the right time, the dog, the children as well as the other pets, will learn to respect each other. This, in turn, can have a huge positive impact on the Westies’ overall personality and development.
The temperament of the particular Westie is paramount when it comes to training them to be therapy dogs. Just like any other breed of dogs, Westies are no different in that each dog possesses a different and unique personality and temperament.
Factors that determine the temperament of the Westie includes:
- Early exposure to pets and humans. The earlier a Westie gets accustomed to being around other dogs, pets and humans, the more tolerant, sociable and calmer it will be as an adult.
- Consistent and firm training. All dogs require extensive training to qualify as service and therapy dogs. However, if a Westie is to qualify as one, the training needs to be more intensive and comprehensive as well.
- The gender of the dogs. Female Westies tend to be more stubborn than their male counterparts. They can exhibit alpha mentality and behavior and may well try to exert their dominance on the children as well as the owners.
It is also important to note that Westies are among the most friendly and sociable among all types of terriers. The following characteristics of the West Highland terrier make them very responsive to training:
Westies are among the most intelligent terriers. They are curious and quick learners, which makes training effortless.
Max, the therapy dog, was so smart he used to maneuver around the wheelchairs and sit in such a way so that the patients could pet him easily. Until his recent retirement, Max used to bring a lot of smiles to the patients at the Newham House of United Cerebral Palsy at Brentwood, in New York.
They are the most friendly dogs among all the terrier breeds. They get along well with seniors, children, are relatively tolerant of pets and strangers, which complement their training as a therapy dog.
Abbie Rose, the famed Westie service dog from Monmouth Medical Center, was so good with children suffering from cancer. She was one of the first service dogs who brought much joy to the patients as well as the staff at the medical center.
One of the key positive features of a Westie is how alert he or she is at all times. While in some situations this can be a deterrent, it is also a significant characteristic of an excellent service dog.
If there is one thing the Westie has more than energy, it is confidence. He is abounding in confidence and makes no secret to hide it, which makes it an ideal characteristic for a service dog.
A Westie is a perfect size for a therapy or a service dog. With a total weight from 15 lbs to 20 lbs, combined with his agility and energy, Westies are the ideal size for a companion dog.
The West Highland terrier is highly adaptable to all kinds of weather and temperature. It also moves and adapts seamlessly to any type of terrain, which is an essential quality in a service dog.
Although Westies are not the principal choice for a therapy or a service dog, with the right training and atmosphere, he can be an excellent candidate for a service or a therapy dog.
Their intelligence, loyalty and courage make them an ideal candidate for companionship for a senior citizen or a person with special needs. Of course, they need firm and more extended training but don’t dismiss their proud personality for ignorance.