Are Westies Good for Seniors or Retirees?

By John Martin - May 12, 2021

Westie sitting outside on leash

Who doesn’t love dogs! They some of the friendliest and most lovable pets. West Highland White Terriers are adorable. But, are these flurry pets good for all kinds of dog owners?

Before you let a dog into your life, you must also take various things into account. There are hundreds of dog breeds out there with varying traits and characteristics. You must ensure that you welcome a breed that suits your lifestyle well.

So, when the question is about senior citizens and retired people, what breeds would be the best? There are many, but we’ll be discussing one specific loveable pooch- the West Highland White Terrier or more popularly known as the Westie.

Suitability as Companions for Seniors

Westies are, without a doubt, one of the best companions for senior citizens. This can be attributed to their friendly nature, their small size, trainability, and many other factors. We’ll be diving into that as we move further.

Research shows that living with a furry friend has health benefits. Having a pet around can increase fitness levels, lower stress, provide emotional support, and help with stable blood pressure.

Caring for a dog also means maintaining a routine, which is necessary for a fulfilled lifestyle after retirement. Loneliness is an increasing concern amongst elderly people. It is a proven fact that keeping a dog around can curb loneliness.

Read on to find out about the breed, and why it is a good choice for seniors.

About the West Highland White Terrier

The West Highland White Terrier is commonly known as the Westie. It is a breed that hails from Scotland. (See our complete breed profile here.)

Fun Fact: Westies were used as rodent hunters in the past which means they’re nimble and sharp and make for good household dogs.

Westies live for about 12-14 years. Their coat is always white, as is evident in the name. This may lead some people to assume that they are albinos. But that’s not true, since they have dark pigmentation around their eyes, nose, and ears.

Don’t let their small size fool you as they may be stocky but are pretty fast and agile.


Their small size makes them easy to care for and handle

Typically, Westies weigh between 14 lbs. to 20 lbs. Their average height is between 10-11 inches. The females are usually shorter than the males.

They are lightweight and easy to carry. Walking them is a breeze. Moreover, they won’t tug on the leash too hard or demand too much effort, which is why they’re good for seniors.


They are sociable, intelligent, and trainable. Westies are generally good-natured. They adjust well in varying environments, though they do not take well to rough handling.

They are calm, independent, and they mind their own business. However, they are still very affectionate. Highly social and interactive with both dogs and humans, they are wonderful family dogs as well.

They can be trained well. However, stubbornness is a common characteristic. Nothing a good toy and some snacks cannot solve!

Energy Levels

They need only moderate exercise. Dogs that need a considerable amount of exercise or are hyperactive can exhaust seniors. Westies, though highly cheerful, don’t require heavy exercise. But they are quite energetic and will adapt to whatever their humans ask for. This can range from lazy walks to activities such as hiking.


They don’t shed too much as Westies are double-coated. This contributes to their suitability for retirees since keeping up the tidiness will not be a taxing chore.

They have a thick, dense, soft undercoat and a rough outer coat, which can grow to about 2 inches long. Now that may sound very high-maintenance, but it’s actually very easy to groom.

Home Security

An issue of concern in senior homes is of security. Having a Westie around can tackle that. They are alert and make good watchdogs. A plus point is that they don’t come with the extra efforts that large security dogs require.

They are also good at sniffing out unsafe situations for older people, albeit after some training.

Hypoallergenic Breed

Westies are fairly mild towards allergic people. Westies are a hypoallergenic dog breed. This means that they are more compatible with allergic people as opposed to other breeds. However, this is not a solidified finding, and more detailed research is still underway.

Caring for a Westie

We have looked at why Westies are great for seniors and retirees. Now let us also check out their maintenance levels.

Westies are low-maintenance dogs. This makes up another factor that contributes to their compatibility with seniors. The Spruce Pets has ranked this breed as one of the most easily maintainable dog breeds.

  1. Westies can be kept healthy with just about two walks each day, or 20-40 minutes exercise, which means that it is not too tiring but just enough to remain active. This is a plus point for seniors. Regular walks are important for maintaining good health in old age.
  2. Their food requirements are not too excessive. They typically only need ½ to 1 ½ cups of good, whole, and balanced dry food each day.
  3. They are fairly easy to groom since they do not shed too much. However, for best coat health, one should brush their coat every day. They also need to have their coat clipped once or twice a year. Dog salons, Veterinarians, and local pet stores can help with that.
  4. We already know that Westies are social dogs, which is why it is important to interact and play with them.
  5. Westies are prone to certain diseases, so it is important to ensure good health.

Points of Concern

Westies are the definition of “Good things come in small packets.” And as all things wonderful, they too have their shortcomings. Here are some of the things you should be aware about when it comes to Westies.

Tendency to Bark

They are highly alert dogs and tend to bark a lot. But that can be controlled with training and firmness.

Tendency to Dig

Westies were originally bred to be outdoor dogs, which causes them to have a certain liking towards digging. Oh, these little rascals.

Terrier Temperament

Terriers are infamous for their stubbornness. The same can be said for Westies, though they fare better than others. They tend to be self-confident, which makes them have a mind of their own. This temperament may sometimes cause them to be disobedient.

Aggression Towards Other Animals

Though they are usually friendly, Westies can be aggressive towards other animals. This is more prominent amongst males when they come across other males.

They are hunting dogs meant for hunting rodents and small animals. They are especially unfriendly and potentially dangerous towards household critters. These include bunnies, hamsters, mice, guinea pigs, and the likes of them.

Refreshment of Training

Westies, being stubborn and independent, often need to be reminded of their training from time to time. This ensures that their behavior remains good, and they know who the boss is.

Final Thoughts

To conclude, we can say that dogs are indeed, man’s best friends. The West Highland White Terrier breed is an adorable one. There are plenty of things to love about these flurry friends and not only do they make great pets, they are ideal for seniors and retirees as well.

You won’t have to worry about a lot when you have a Westie as your pet. So, with all your doubts out of the way, get a stunning Westie and experience a wonderful addition to your lifestyle.