About Westies, Young Children, or Cats/other Small Animals
Generally, Westies are not recommended for families with children under 8-10 years old in residence or for households where small children under such an age will be visiting frequently. It is for this reason that the WHWTCSET Rescue generally will not adopt to individuals who will have frequent contact with children under the age of 8.
Of course, there are exceptions, and such exceptions are dependent on three factors: the individual dog, the child or children particular to the situation, and the level of supervision provided by the adults in the scenario. This applies to all dogs, but it is even more crucial with certain breeds, such as any terrier breed.
Many Westies are surrendered by their original owners due to issues involving small children. Many are also relinquished because of reactions to cats or other small family pets. The noises and movements of small animals, infants, toddlers, and young children (e.g. crying, squealing, high pitched sounds, or running indoors) will most likely trigger a Westie’s intense prey drive. These types of activities may also cause a Westie to chase, bark, growl, snap, or nip at the source of the activity. The Westie may only intend to play, but his play behaviors and sounds may scare a small child, injure a small animal, or startle adult witnesses.
Westies have also been known to perceive children as a lower-level pack members and attempt to dominate or correct a child for what the Westie perceives as inappropriate pack behavior. Westies in general have a low threshold for having their hair, ears, and tail pulled; being stumbled or stepped over; being hugged tightly or accidentally hit; and what is most likely, being kissed on the face. These types of normal child behaviors will often elicit a warning snap from the Westie, which might appear like an attempt to bite, but is not intended to make contact. The dog does not intend to inflict harm, he is trying to communicate that he wants the offending behavior to cease. However, if a child has his or her face in the dog’s face, unintentional contact can occur. Even if there is minimal or no actual contact, when parents see a dog snap at their young child, it is frightening and unacceptable. No one blames a parent for such a reaction, but the Westie is also not at fault for exhibiting his natural and instinctive behavior.
Additionally, when any dog seeks refuge under or behind furniture, or retreats to his bed or crate, it is not uncommon for a child to chase after him to continue to play. Most dogs perceive this innocent act as a threat or being cornered, which is always dangerous with any dog. The initial reaction by the dog will be to bare his teeth and growl, which is his way of saying, "please do not come any closer." This is a completely normal reaction by any dog who feels cornered or threatened. If the child continues to encroach, the dog may give a warning snap , but when the encroachment continues, the dog will bite.
Another potential source of trouble involves food. A child eating or reaching for food on the floor is often too much temptation for a Westie. The dog may have no intention of biting the child, but in an attempt to obtain the food, accidents can occur.
Extreme vigilance and complete supervision is absolutely essential with any dog and child, especially a Westie or any terrier. And because our rescue Westies will inevitably require an adjustment period in their new home, we seek to avoid any additional potential conflict.