Updated 07/13/2007


The neatly trimmed, well-groomed West Highland White Terriers that attract the prostpective owner don't always just "come that way," nor do they remain neat and stylish without some attention and a bit of effort.

Trimming and grooming a Westie, whether for show or everyday, neatness is important to the dog's well-being and a source of personal pride to the ownerr. Once you know what to do, and how to do it, you can keep a Westie neat and well-groomed looking with surprisingly little time and effort.

All Westies should carry a double coat composed of short, thick, cottony hair next to the skin, termed undercoat. Over this grows the top coat - long, coarse hair that can reach two or three inches in length. Most of our work will be with the top coat which grows and reaches full bloom and then dies and must be pulled out. When a dog has "blown its coat" it simply means the long hairs have lost that bright, alive look and should be pulled out, allowing room for new growth. With a judicious bit of trimming here and there it is easy to keep a Westie coat looking neat and trim. It is also possible, with proper working of the top coat, to "keep it rolling" which means holding the proper length while stripping out sufficient hair to permit new coat to grow whereby the overall coat includes three distinct growths, one old, one new and the other in-between.

The following suggestions are not intended for those with years of experience. They are offered as a guide to help the new Westie owner or groomer acquire some of the know-how.

Try to keep a clear picture in your mind of how a Westie should look from typical, well groomed animals you have either seen in the flesh or pictures, then try to keep it looking that way. Most experienced Westie peope will be glad to show and help you develop the skill.

Trim hair closely inside ears, about half way down from tips. Cut hair on tips of ears, about half way down from tips. Cut hair on tips of ears close and even, at angle to blend into the ruff. Trim hair on back of ears about one inch from tips leaving velvety hair. Leave hair long around the base of ears. The idea is to make ears look small and set wide apart.

Comb eyebrows forward and trim on slant. Separate eyebrows slightly with trimming knife and let eyes show. Comb ruff forward and out, then trim both sides even with thinning shears. Leave ruff full but don't over-balance the head with respect to the rest of the body.

Use thumb and forefinger, or the stripping knife here. Take it easy; the key word is BLEND. Trim lightly on top of neck, starting behind ears and blending into body hair on neck and shoulders. If hair is very thick on the sides of neck and shoulders, you may have to use thinning shears here. Taper into shoulders and body.

Clean hair on neck under head down to point of the breastbone, leaving a bib, or apron of long hair there. Clean on each side of bib to point of shoulder. When using thinning shears always cut with the lay of the hair - not across. Take a snip of two, comb out and check before each cut.

If hair on neck and back is loose enough to be pulled out easily with the thumb an dforefinger, pull it and wait for new growth to come in. Use your stirpping knife to even up the top coat to gie the back a straight, level look. If there is a dip in the topline, leave hair full or if there is a humpk, trim close to even up.

Shape the tail to look like an inverted carrot and to appear as short as possible. Trim hair on the back of the tail so that it is almost a flat triangle from the tip, blending into the hips. Remove long hair on rump from base of tail to about half-way to the hocks, leaving a skirt between the legs.

Comb hair on legs up then down and study to see where you need to trim to give them that straight, full look when viewed from any direction. Even up feather so that when dog is moving the hair at elbows does not fly out. Trim very lightly. Leg hair grows very slowly.

Now cut the hair around the feet close to the pads to give feet a round, full look. This is best done with the dog's weight on the foot. You can make him stand by raising the opposite foot during the trimming. Also trim the hair between the toes.


It shouldn't be necessary to bathe a Westie very often. In fact, it is better not to do so if you can avoid it. Regular brushing and grooming should keep him clean and neat. A stiff bristle brush or a hound glove used on a coat a couple of times a week will work wonders in keeping coat looking flat and white.

While AKC rules require that there be no physical evidence of chalk in a dog's coat in the show ring, it is premissible to use chalk as a cleaning agent. However, it is imperative that there be no loose chalk in or on the dog's coat that will rub off on the judge's hand or come out when the dog is patted.

Before applying chalk, mix a pan of very soapy water and, with a sponge, wash the face, legs and feet and belly furnishings thoroughly. Rub the soapy sponge with the lay of the coat to get it clean but keeping coat as flat as possible. Now take a bath towel and rub as much moisture out of coat as possible, rubbing one way from neck to tail. The legs and head may be dried as usual. While coat is still just slightly damp apply chalk liberally to the face and head furnishings, back, belly, tail and legs. Cake or block chalk is preferable although powdered chalk may be used.

Comb and brush coat down as flat as possible and then pin a towel on the dog to keep things in place. Use large safety pins to do this, one under the neck, one just back of the fron legs and one under the flanks. This will allow for movement but won't permit coat to "fly" or stand up.

Leave blanket on dog until coat is thoroughly dry... even overnight before day of show. Next morning remove towel and with dog on tack box or grooming table pat or slap with both hand every bit of the dog's body that might have chalk on it. This patting will loosen chalk that just won't be brushed out. This should be repeated several times until your patting won't raise the slightest chalk cloud.

The dog is now ready for the final brushing and combing. Sometimes a little non-greasy hair conditioner rubbed into the coat and furnishings will help to keep things in place.

From The Stone Guide to Dog Grooming for All Breeeds
by Ben and Pearl Stone. Copyright 1981, Howell Book House.

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