Can a West Highland White Terrier live outside

Can Westies live outside

Can a Westie be an outside dog

The West Highland Terrier was bred to be a rugged rodent hunter in the cold and often windy climate of Scotland. Westies are sturdy and tough. They were bred for the outdoors. Does this mean they should live outside?

Not necessarily. Westies love attention and companionship. They enjoy spending time with their family and often play the role of a lapdog even though they are not. Even if your Westie is an outside dog it is crucial that they still get to spend time with you.

Many Westie owners would be horrified by the thought of their Westie living outside. However, there are many genuine reasons why a Westie owner may want or need to keep their dog outside including

  • your dog is misbehaving inside such as chewing up stuff or toileting inside.
  • you may have a baby on the way.
  • the landlord or owner of the property doesn’t want a dog inside.
  • numerous other reasons

Whether a Westie can live outside depends upon many factors. Obviously, the climate where you live is a crucial consideration. In addition, the personality of the individual dog will determine how happy they are to live outside.

It is also crucial to ensure that they have all their needs met. This not only includes shelter but their psychological needs as well.

Westie temperature tolerance

The climate you live in will be a major consideration for whether your Westie can live outside. They are rated to have medium tolerance to both cold and hot temperatures.

Westies are a tough little dog and can tolerate cooler climates if the need arises. They have a double coat consisting of a wiry guard coat and a softer undercoat. West Highland White Terriers do handle the cold better they the majority of small bred dogs.

However, if where you live it gets bitterly cold with sub-zero temperatures, it would just not be fair to force a Westie to live outside.

Even in more mild conditions, it is essential to ensure that they have shelter to keep them warm and dry.

Westies are less tolerant of hot temperatures they they are of cooler temperatures. They are also prone to sunburn due to their white color. It would not be safe to keep a Westie outside in extreme hot conditions.

As long as they have shade and plenty of water, a Westie would be fine in warm, but not really hot conditions. For tips on keeping a dog cool in hot weather see here.

Is it cruel to keep a dog outside

It is not cruel to keep a dog outside as long as their needs are meet. This not only include shelter, food, and water. They also need mental stimulation and enrichment which includes social contact.

Failure to cater to their needs will often result in behavior issues. This can include nuisance barking, digging, and even escaping.

Sadly, often dogs are left outside by owners that can’t be bothered by putting effort into their pets. Some people find it easier to just keep their dogs outside.

You may have a genuine reason to want your Westie to be an outside or mainly outside dog. However, it is still crucial that you put in the effort to ensure that they are kept happy and healthy.

Transitioning a Westie from inside to outside living

If your Westie is currently an inside or mostly inside dog and you are wanting to transition them to outside living, it is a process.

Depending upon how much time your Westie currently spends outside you are likely to meet some resistance. Dogs get used to a routine and they may not understand why there is a sudden change.

This may result in some acting up and behavior problems such as barking, howling and scratching at the door. It may also cause some psychological stress to your dog such as feeling sad and depressed.

How long the transition will take will depend upon the particular dog. Be patient and understanding with them as they get used to the change in routine.

For tips on transitioning an inside dog to outside see here.

What an outside Westie will need

If you are considering keeping your Westie outside, even if it is just some of the time, it is important to ensure they have everything they need. This not only includes shelter, water, and food.

It is important to provide to their psychological needs by providing enrichment and ways to occupy them, and ensuring that they still do get the social contact they need.

Physical needs for a Westie living outside


You need to provide for your dog shelter where they can go to sleep and get protection from the weather. This may be access to a garage or a kennel. The ideal size for a dog kennel is high enough for them to be able to stand and wide enough for them to be able to turn around comfortably. If a kennel is too big a dog is less likely to use it as it doesn’t give them a feeling of being snug and secure.

If allowing your Westie to the garage make sure they don’t have access to areas in your garage where there may be toxic chemicals for your car such as antifreeze, gasoline, or sharp tools that could seriously injure or kill your dog. Also be aware of the temperature in your garage if it gets high on hot days.


Dogs like routine and structure to make them feel secure. It is best not to just leave their food in a bowl for them to eat whenever they want. Most dogs will just eat it all up at the beginning of the day even if they are full. Many dogs simply don’t know when to stop until all the food is gone.

Free feeding is generally not a good practice to get your dog into for a number of reasons

  • it puts your dog at risk of becoming overweight
  • free feeding can make it difficult to monitor your dog’s appetite and eating habits.
  • having access to food whenever they want can lead to resource guarding and food aggressive behavior
  • if they are eating just as much as they want they are likely to produce more pooh.

It is best to use an automatic dog feeder with a timer so their meals can be available at the right time.

View automatic dog feeders on Amazon


It is important to ensure that your Westie has access to fresh drinking water at all times. A standard bowl can accidentally be spilled or run dry.
This is a problem as you don’t want your dog not to have access to water all day leaving them dehydrated, especially in hot weather. It is important to use a non-spill water bowl for your dog. My personal recommendation and the bowl I use for my own dog is the Torus water bowl.

See Torus water bowls on Amazon

The Torus bowl stores up to 2L of water in its reservoir walls and filters it to remove any contaminants. Each time your puppy takes a drink, replacement water automatically flows from the storage area into the drinking well. The enclosed water storage area also aids to keep the water cool. There is no power or batteries required.

Another great option for water for a dog being left outside when you are not there is a self-filling water bowl that attaches to your hose. Alternatively, use a gravity feed water bowl.

Health and psychological needs

It is important to ensure both physical and the mental health of your Westie is provided for.

Provide ways to occupy them

It is important to provide your dog with toys and activities that will occupy them to prevent boredom and give them mental enrichment. Mental stimulation can use as much energy as physical activity. To learn about the 6 types of mental enrichment for your dog see here.

Social contact

Dogs are by nature a very social animal. If they are used to spending a lot of time with you inside it may feel like rejection if they are suddenly outside and spending little time with you or the company of people. Make the effort to spend time with them outside so they know you still care about them.

Provide adequate exercise

Running around and playing in the yard is not sufficient exercise for a Westie. They do need to leave the property for their mental wellbeing.

It is important to provide the right amount of exercise for your Westie so that they are tired. This will help to prevent any behavior problems from developing due to boredom and loneliness.

This should include a daily walk. Going for walks with your dog not only provides physical exercise. It provides mental enrichment and a social opportunity for them. This is by way of the sights and smells they come across, meeting other dogs and spending quality bonding time with you.

For a guide to how much exercise your Westie needs see here. If you are unable to take your dog for daily walks, consider hiring a dog walking service.

Consider safety factors

Ensure your property is well fenced to prevent your Westie from trying to escape. Westies can be very resourceful if they are truly wanting to get out. This may include digging under the fence or even breaking the fence. If they do manage to make an escape it is important that your dog is microchipped and registered with the local governing body that oversees animal management. It is also a good idea to use a GPS collar so locating your dog is much easier.

DO NOT leave your dog chained up outside. This is extremely unfair and is no life for a dog.

Take the weather conditions into consideration. If you live in an extremely cold make sure that it is suitable for your Westie to be outside. If the weather is hot take precautions to prevent the risk of heatstroke and dehydration. See how to keep a dog cool in hot weather for ideas.

Also be aware of the possibility of someone stealing your dog. This is more of a concern than many people realize. Unfortunately, there are some horrible people out there and dogs are often stolen as a bait dog for dog fighting. Some dogs are stolen simply because someone likes your particular breed of dog to keep themselves or to sell for money. Take precautions to ensure your property is secure such as putting a padlock on your gates to stop access to the property.

Ensure that there are no potential safety hazards in the yard. This may include any sharp or dangerous items such as tools or small items that they could swallow and coke on. Also, be aware of any poisons such as toxic plants or rodent or slug poisons.

Summary – Westie living outside

Many Westie owners would be horrified at the thought of their Westie living outside. However, there may be a geniune reason why this is necessary.

Out of sight does not mean out of mind. If you are wanting or need to keep your Westie outside it is crucial you provide for all their physical, psychological, and safety needs.

Westie related posts

Guide to Westie exercise

Best type of toys for Westies

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