DogCast Radio
Home Episodes Articles Blog Breed profiles Book reviews Photos Contact

How To Prevent Biting In Westies

By Irena Whitfield

Definitely the most important issue about male westies is biting. And the most dangerous if it goes on not corrected.

Every day I receive tens of various questions and requests for help with various problems and biting is the most frequent.

First, you should realise that there are no dogs that do not bite. Every dog will bite under the 'right' circumstances. So, don't believe people who tell you that their dog does not bite.

But we should differentiate between a puppy and an adult dog.

All puppies will mouth which is a behavior that some people mistake for biting. Mouthing is a learning process for puppies while biting is usually a corrective measure that has more force than mouthing. Sometimes while playing a puppy will nip too hard and cause its playmate to bite back. This is part of how a puppy learns and is normal behavior.

Sometimes the puppy will nip its owner too hard while playing, the same way it nipped its litter mate. Again, this part of the learning process and should not be confused with intended, aggressive biting.

If a puppy shows real aggressive behavior, such as snarling, raised lips, glaring eyes and
the body language that is stiff and threatening, the owner should consult a canine
behaviorist immediately. Even if this behavior is somewhat accepted for the breed. If the
owner is in doubt, an animal behaviorist should be contacted.

Many puppy and dog owners think that unwanted behavior will go away on its own, or they feel that, given enough love, the puppy will change. Some feel that the right type of punishment will cure the problem.

Aggressive behavior will not go away on it own, nor will the dog get better with age. The biggest mistake that owners make is to excuse away aggressive behavior for their dog or
puppy, and hope for the better. However, the behavior only gets worse
with age if it is not corrected in a puppy. It will only get worse when the dog becomes adult and gains his full strength and power.

Do not try to correct a puppy that has true aggressive problems without help from a
professional. Many people feel that only enough love, or enough corrective behavior will fix the problem. Neither will take care of any aggressive behavior in a dog of any
age. Especially, when it shows in a puppy that is under six months of age. The
owner of such a puppy is foolish to try to fix this problem by themselves.
Westies look like a plush toy, cuddly, everyone wants to play with them but a westie is a terrier and can really be dangerous if not 'trained' well and in time.

Before you start applying strict measures and punishments you should learn to understand the reasons why your dog behaves the way he does including biting, barking or any other unacceptable forms.

Generally, one of the main reasons is dominancy: it depends on the breed and the dog position within his canine family, and of course, your experience in handling him when a puppy and later. Your westie will bite because he wants to be the authority in your family.

Another important reason in lack of security and protection, simply fear:
Some dogs feel insecure or threatened as a result of some of your, human actions like invading his territory, pulling his ears, blowing puffs of air in his face, taking or touching his food. They believe these human actions can cause them harm.

Physical pain is another serious reason why your westie will bite: your westie will bite you even if he loves you when in pain of any origin.

So, it is imperative that you fully understand your westie. If you want to be a successful dog owner and have a happy and healthy westie as a member of your family you must learn to identify the difference between mouthing, playing and true aggression. Mouthing is learning on the part of the puppy and all puppies will play. As a puppy grows up, some will express their affection toward humans, especially their owner with their mouths. The good owner will recognize this and develop a healthy relationship with the dog.

A responsible dog owner will not tolerate aggressive behavior from either a puppy, a
young adult or an adult dog. A well-socialized, bred and adjusted puppy or dog will feel
no need to act aggressively. A dog that chooses to act this way demonstrates that there is
a problem with the dog’s relationship with humans. Often it is a case where the dog has
been taught to act inappropriately in given situations. Or the dog decides that aggressive behavior is needed when it is not. This is a misjudgment on the part of the dog, indicating that the dog needs training.

Never forget that dogs do what they feel correct in every situation. The best way to avoid problems is to prevent them from forming by proper training. Now you may ask: "Who is the best trainer for your dog?"

You are. You know more than you think you know. You are the one that spends the most time with your westie. You are the one that knows him the best. Your dog has studied your every move and knows what you are going to do probably before you do it. Your dog in most situations tells you what he is going to do before he does it. Can you read those signs? How do you communicate with him so that he does what you want? If you don't know, then, here is the room for a good trainer or a psychologist.

A dog that chooses to act aggressively is a danger to itself and those around it. Aggression can also signal that the dog has a relationship problem with humans. Sometimes a puppy’s owner has unknowingly taught the puppy to act in an aggressive manner. That is why I strongly recommend to learn as much as you can about a westie character before you adopt one.

The following are the basic steps to take to prevent or avoid biting are:
1) Realise that your westie though plushy and cuddly is not a toy; it is a terrier, can be dangerous and hurt you severely. Of course, you must play with him, pat and cuddle him but also train him applying strict rules.

2) It is good to allot him an important role in your family. He loves it and will diligently fulfill all related duties.

3) Punish him immediately the second he shows signs of aggressive behavior or moods. But avoid hitting, beating, chaining him, shouting, yelling or otherwise acting in a harsh manner to try to teach your dog to stop biting. One of the methods that work successfully with puppies when it bites you is to yelp "OUCH!" and go away. It shows him that it hurts you, and you don't want to play with such a beast. Westies are very sociable and want to be on good terms with you, so this usually have good results.

4) Praize and reward his good manners, show him love, care and friendliness when he's good.

5) Generally, westies are not dogs for children. They are not patient, they must not be hurt or stressed because they will protect themselves and can bite. So, do not let children stay with your westie unsupervised.

6) Normal, healthy dogs mostly bite out of fear as a form of self-protection. So, it's imperative that you build credibility, your dog must know that he can trust you that you are here to help, protect him and will not hurt him.

7) Feed your dog quality dog food and create loving, happy and healthy home for all of you.

Irena Whitfield is the author of 'My Life With A Westie':
real life short stories, how-to practical manual helping
you keep your westie healthy and happy for long years living
with you as a member of your family, answers to crucial
questions received from people having a west highland white
terrer or planning to get one, and useful resources.


275 - Controversial advice from Chloe Cavoodle: stop interactions with unknown dogs

Chloe Cavoodle is an assistance dog who posts all about her life in Sydney - her human, Liana, suggests we stop interactions with all strange dogs. Hear why! Plus hear the first chapter of Julie's book Crufts or Bust about Julie and Buddy's attempts to qualify for Crufts.

189 - The Dog Healers and War Dogs Remembered

In this episode you can hear Mark Winik talk about his debut novel, The Dog Healers, and listen to Julia Robertson explain why she founded the charity War Dogs remembered. Plus there's the DogCast Radio News, and what Mischief the German Spitz puppy has been up to.

188 - Service Dogs UK and Roxie the Doxie Finds Her Forever Home

In this episode you can hear about Service Dogs UK, a fantastic charity which trains assistance dogs to support veterans of any service - military personnel, police, firefighters, paramedics and the coastguard - who develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to their job. Also, listen to Dr Jody A Dean, a clinical psychologist talk about how her book, Roxie the Doxie finds her Forever Home, is helping children understand and talk about adoption and other family issues. Plus the DogCast Radio News and some thoughts on the alpha dog myth.

187 - Muffins Halo and Chorley Fun Dog Show

In this episode you can hear about Muffin's Halo for Blind Dogs, and what motivates people to enter their dog in a fun dog show. In the DogCast Radio News, listen to stories about the latest dog related research. Plus there's a new member of the DogCast Radio team!

186 - Maxwell Muir on wolves

In this episode you can hear trainer, behaviourist, writer, broadcaster and wolf expert Maxwell Muir talk about what wolves mean to him personally, their plight in a modern world, and his hopes for their future. Plus we have the DogCast Radio News.