I’m going to take you back to 2009, a few months before I had lost my cherished (but pretty useless) Labrador Bessie, and all I wanted for my 18th birthday was a puppy. So imagine my delight when on the day I was told we’d be off to choose two puppies, a girl for me and a boy for my mother.
On arrival I was greeted by 4 beautiful tiny white balls of fur which I was told were West Highland Terriers. Ignoring my Dads advice I chose the puppy that showed personality traits similar to my last beloved dog. My mum chose the last dog pup left and three days later we collected them.
They had a normal upbringing for a puppy; not particularly countrified and I generally kept them away from the farm and the horses. They were socialised well with my friends’ dogs and at puppy classes too.
Ted (my Mum’s dog) showed typical delinquent signs and took great joy in disappearing for hours on end whilst being walked and ignored all training. We hoped this was just a rebellious teenage faze and continued to keep him on the lead wherever he went. Hattie on the other hand was an absolute angel in every way despite her love for occasionally scrapping with other dogs.
To cut a long story short after Ted (above) massacres some of my Mum’s hand reared ducklings she disowned him and the responsibility was passed on to me. There have been times I’ve wanted to rehome him after spending hours waiting for him to resurface from a field of rape/thicket of brambles/abandoned badger sett but after years of suffering we have come to an agreement. I recently read a very interesting article in The Countryman’s Weekly about how to stop your dog running off and it was so true. A dog looks to his master for everything and if your hunting techniques are poor he will take matters into his own hands.. or paws. It explained the importance of showing your dog you CAN hunt and allowing him to help you. By working with Ted rather than against him I have taught him I know all the best places to find rats, rabbits and anything else of interest and I believe he now truly sees me as the alpha.
Of course there are times he’ll disobey. If he’s sniffing round the hay and a fox bolts I have no chance and when I see that cheeky twinkle in his eye I know I’ll have a job to get him back.
Hattie on the other hand has never been a problem; she’s always done exactly as I please. We started terrier racing when she was about one and I can proudly say she has never come lower than second in a race. When she sees that bit of fur flying across the ground she lets out a blood curdling howl there’s no stopping her.
Now you may be thinking I’m just an amateur who has no idea about training a dog but I have spent hours of my time researching, reading and recording any information I can find. There’s nothing more I love than dogs and I tried everything.
Hats is a credit to me and anyone that knows him, will say Ted is too.
Without sounding big headed people come to me for training advice and help with their dogs. I just seemed to end up with the worlds most strong willed terrier, but hey, challenge accepted.
My dogs spend almost every minute with me and come with me pretty much everywhere I go, including away to university.
Now, when someone thinks about a westie they probably imagine a little old lady pottering along the seafront with her pooch waddling along by her side. After reading a number of threads and blogs about working westies it seems most people’s opinions are similar. They are nothing but little yappy dogs allergic to grass seed, dust, sunlight, breathing etc. One gamekeeper spoke of a westie he used to work, who he said was great but believed its drive was learned by growing up with other working dogs.
This was not the case with my two, if anything I’ve discouraged them and scolded them in the past for anything they killed. Now I’ve learnt to embrace it and enjoy nothing more than a day out ratting with them and my boyfriends JRT cross. .
I am often given funny looks when I arrive at a terrier race or ratting permission (I’m used to this for generally being a girly gamekeeper/farmer) but people are always impressed and astounded by their ability and their drive for quarry. They are not the fittest dogs and will sleep for hours after a day working but this is more down to me and their regime rather than their capabilities.
So if you think that these terriers are merely family pets, think again. If I ever have a terrier like either of these two again, I will feel more than blessed.
And if you’re worried your westie might be about to turn into a killing machine, don’t, they make a pretty good lap dog too.