Learning how to train a Westie gives you the ability to help your dog’s true personality flourish without them exhibiting any poor behaviors. As a pet that is notoriously stubborn and strong-willed, without the appropriate training, living with a Westie can be more difficult than you had thought.
However, the positive side is that training them should be a breeze. This breed is highly intelligent and eager to please their owners. With the help of this guide, you’ll know the ins and outs of training a Westie, what personality traits to target with your training, and all of the best tips to help you get started.
The Importance of Training a Westie
As mentioned, Westies are known for their strong personalities, which also means they are likely to try to get away with doing the things they want to do. As a pet parent, that also means you might be in a position where you are constantly picking up after the destructive path your dog has left in its wake.
Without obedience training, you’ll find it relatively impossible to manage the stubborn and sassy nature of your pet. Westies are also known for their high energy levels, especially when compared to other dogs that could likely be considered to be couch potatoes. They love having at least 45 minutes of exercise daily and will need to run over eight miles per week, at a minimum. Without the appropriate training, all of that pent up energy will be spent on destructive and unhealthy habits.
As with any other dog breed, the main importance of training is that it gives you the ability to manage and navigate through behaviors in a healthier and more constructive manner. It also establishes you as the pack leader, so your dog will listen and obey your commands.
Personality Traits to Target
It’s important to remember that your Westie’s personality is what makes them so endearing. While training, you’ll want to focus primarily on the displeasing traits that are going to cause issues around the house. For example, if your Westie is particularly vocal, you’ll want to figure out a way to manage their barking to keep the household quiet at night.
A few of the most important personality traits to target while training will include:
· Prey Drive
By far, the most important thing you’ll need to manage with your Westie is their prey drive, as it’s what will cause the most issues when training.
As a dog breed that is known for chasing after prey, such as squirrels, it’s very likely your dog will run away if it is ever off-leash. You will need to take the time to establish boundaries to help control their desire to chase after everything.
At times, having an independent dog is a blessing as you won’t have to worry about needing to pet and cuddle with them every second of the day. However, independence in a Westie is what makes them particularly difficult to train as they are clever and cunning.
Their independence, paired with their intelligence, can make them feel like they know better than you and will try to get away with things, such as using the bathroom inside of the house.
This slightly contradicts their need for independence, but as Westies are incredibly eager to please, they also love spending time with their family members.
When you leave the house to run errands, your dog will likely get lonely and exhibit destructive behaviors. Crate training and teaching your Westie how to be okay when alone for short periods is highly recommended from the get-go.
When to Start Westie Training
When a puppy is born, they are waiting for the right pet parents to help mold them into the dog they will be for the rest of their lives. Without the appropriate guidance, they will mold themselves, which can lead to dissatisfying behaviors that you won’t want to have around the house. Knowing when to start Westie training can help you to make the most out of your efforts.
With any dog, getting access to them during their imprinting phase is crucial, as this is when they are likely to learn the most. Although puppies have the tendency to sleep more, when you can set the foundation for their behaviors as early as four to six weeks, they’ll be much easier to train as they get older. If you have never trained a puppy before it’s highly recommended you seek professional assistance.
Puppy training should occur a couple of times per day for up to five minutes each. As your Westie gets older, you can gradually increase the duration and frequency of their training. Remember, as puppies have little to no idea of what they are doing, you should only be engaging in play training rather than corrective training.
During these early weeks of their life, you will need to make them enjoy learning and ensure they are having fun while doing so. Above all else, maintain consistency. Otherwise, you’re going to create confusion, which makes learning even more difficult.
How to Train a Westie
The vast majority of pet parents decide to train their Westies because they are tired of dealing with disobedience. Disobedience is typically a direct cause of your dog not understanding that you hold dominance over them, and this behavior needs to be corrected as soon as possible.
When you begin training your Westie, we highly recommend taking advantage of these tips.
1. Work on a single command
Once you begin your training sessions, the best thing to do is focus on a single command at a time. Otherwise, it can be a little too overwhelming for your Westie.
Your training sessions should be no longer than 10 minutes at a time, even when they are an adult dog. Once you have mastered the premise behind one command, you can then move onto the next.
2. Offer consistent praise
Westies are inherently eager to please, and they will want to do as much as they can to make their owners happy. This is what makes them one of the easiest dog breeds to train.
When an action or command is completed successfully, you will need to follow it up with praise, whether it’s in the form of a food reward or an emotional reward. Allowing your Westie to know that the behavior they are exhibiting is positive will encourage them to do it more often.
3. Train in a quiet area
Like a dog with a very strong prey drive, one of the worst things you can do is train your Westie in an area where they are going to get distracted by other dogs, children, or even wildlife.
To see the best results in as little time as possible, consider training them inside the house at first in a very quiet area with minimal distractions. Once they have learned your basic commands, you can then take them outdoors to see how they listen when immersed in nature.
4. Start with the three basic commands
When you begin training, it’s recommended you start with the three most basic commands any dog should learn: sit, down, and come.
“Sit” is a great way to prepare them for meals or to prevent your dog from jumping onto strangers when they come into your home. “Down” is also important, as it helps to prevent your Westie from climbing on top of furniture.
Above all else, you’ll surely want to focus on the “Come” command, as this gives you the ability to recall your Westie if they run off and get distracted while at the park.
5. Focus on crate training
As we had discussed earlier, Westies are known to be difficult to keep happy when they are alone. Although they are independent in nature, they love being close to their family, and as such, you may have to spend a little extra time with crate training, especially if you work during the day.
You will need to establish their crate as a safe and comfortable resting place for them to be when inside of the home. With proper crate training, your Westie will head into their “den” to sleep at night or to hang out during the day when they’re bored.
You’ll want to ensure that you reinforce the comfort of the crate by hiding treats inside for them to find. Also, you may want to add one of your old t-shirts in the crate so that they see it as a more positive thing.
6. Be consistent
Many pet parents have the tendency to look at small dogs differently than large dogs, mostly because they take up less space and are seen to be less harmless. Then again, if a large dog were exhibiting unhealthy behavior, you wouldn’t accept it, and you shouldn’t accept it from your Westie either.
Maintaining consistency with your training can help you to make the most of your efforts without being led astray by your highly intelligent dog.
Learning how to train a Westie is substantially easier than you might think, which is why they are such a great breed for first-time dog owners. Eager to please, cunning, and intelligent, once a Westie learns a command, it is unlikely to ever forget it.
By training during their puppy months and reinforcing positive behavior into their adult years, you’ll have a perfectly trained dog that is a loving member of your family.