West Highland Doxie

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult West Highland Doxie
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The West Highland Doxie is a small yet sturdy dog with a medium-length straight coat that can look a little scruffy. It is a cross between two popular breeds – the West Highland White Terrier and the Dachshund. Their large, triangular ears flop forwards endearingly and they generally have a quiet, thoughtful expression. Their body is long and their legs rather stumpy; though never to the same extent as their Dachshund parent.

While sweet and affectionate, most West Highland Doxies have a willful streak and can be hard work when it comes to their training. Ensuring they are well socialised when young will set them up well for their adult life. Though lively, they do not have excessive exercise needs and can live comfortably in a small home.

About & History

Both the West Highland White Terrier (Westie) and the Dachshund (Doxie) have rather unique looks and personalities. They have made a name for themselves in the pedigree dog world where they often top the lists of most popular pet dogs. So, it was only a matter of time before they joined forces to create a designer dog.

The West Highland Doxie is thought to have first been bred during the 1980s, though there is no definitive proof of this. Since its inception, it has been growing slowly in popularity. However, it remains a relatively rare cross-breed internationally.

The West Highland White Terrier

Westies are a Scottish breed that are best-known for their snow-white coats and independent natures. They are unquestionably terriers, with their high prey drive, confidence and somewhat stubborn personalities. Westies and their ancestor breeds (such as the Cairn Terrier) were originally used to hunt all manner of small animals in the Scottish highlands, from foxes to badgers and rabbits to rats.

Not only did they do well because of their stamina and tenacity but also because their small size and short legs allowed them to fit into burrows and flush out their prey. Interestingly, some experts believe that the reason the Westie was bred to be white was to avoid any confusion when on the hunt and to prevent hunters from shooting them instead of the darker-furred prey they were pursuing. Westies belong in the Terrier group of the Kennel Club and were previously known as the Poltalloch Terrier.

The Dachshund

Dachshunds are a versatile breed that come in several variants. They can be short or long-furred and exist in both a miniature and standard size. Developed in Germany, they were traditionally kept to hunt, much like the Westie.

They would typically pursue smaller quarry, such as rabbits, but were also trained to track the scent of larger animals, such as deer, that were wounded. While some breed members will still hunt today, most are kept as pets. They are recognised by the Kennel Club and are currently classified within their Hound Group.


As the Dachshund and the West Highland White Terrier have quite different looks, the West Highland Doxie can have quite a varied appearance. As a general rule, they are small and stocky with a rectangular-shaped body and arms that are somewhat crooked. Their eyes can be blue, brown or hazel and their nose may be black or brown. They have a medium-sized snout and a well-defined stop. Their tail is straight and not overly long.

An adult West Highland Doxie should be robustly built and will weigh from 6kg to 11kg. At the withers, they will measure between 22cm and 28cm. While the Westie will only ever have white fur, the Dachshund comes in a range of colours, meaning the West Highland Doxie can have white, brown, black or grey fur. Spots, speckles and patches of colour are often seen.

Character & Temperament

When raised in a calm and loving home and well-socialised, the West Highland Doxie will make a pleasant pet that enjoys spending time with its family and will happily show them a good deal of affection. However, they do have a tendency to be reserved and if poorly socialised some may act snappy and territorial at times.

While they can be taught to get along well with older children, it is generally accepted that they shouldn’t be allowed around very young children, as they can’t always be trusted. They are fairly playful and will enjoy being in the company of older children as long as they are treated with respect and given their own space.

Given their genes, it’s no surprise that the West Highland Doxie continues to have a developed prey drive. This can make their attention span short when outdoors as they are constantly sniffing around for the nearest animal. If raised with other pets from a young age they may well tolerate them, but we shouldn’t assume that they will.


Bright and curious, training sessions should be kept interesting and are best undertaken in short spurts. As the West Highland Doxie has a mind of its own and can be independent, they require lots of positive reinforcement to prevent them becoming resentful of the training. Once they have lost interest, they will usually begin to ignore cues and do their own thing.

With patience and perseverance it is possible to train the West Highland Doxie to a reasonably high standard and some individuals could potentially go on to compete in canine sports, such as Earthdog Trials.


Both parent breeds are known to be prone to a range of health conditions and the hope is that out-breeding them responsibly will serve to reduce the level of affected dogs. To achieve this goal, breeders need to perform the relevant breed tests and owners should purchase hybrid dogs responsibly (never from a puppy farm).

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

Those with longer backs will be more prone to this orthopaedic disease that can affect a dog at practically any age. The disc between the vertebrae can bulge or burst, impinging on the spinal cord and potentially causing paralysis. Depending on how severe the injury is, dogs may be managed conservatively (with rest and medicine) or surgically.

Addison’s Disease

Often described by vets as ‘the great pretender’, Addison’s can be tricky to diagnose as the symptoms are vague and they come and go. Animals may suffer with bouts of vomiting and diarrhoea and may sometimes be lethargic and off their food. Blood tests can confirm the condition and those affected will be managed with medicine for life.

Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s disease is also known as Hyperadrenocorticism and is a condition whereby the dog’s body creates too much cortisol, the stress hormone. Signs include excessive panting, a pot belly and an increased level of thirst. Blood test such as the ACTH stimulation or the LDDS test are carried out to confirm the diagnosis.


Epilepsy is a potential cause of seizures which result from increased electrical activity in the brain. It is important to always rule out other causes of fitting such as a liver shunt, low blood sugar or brain tumour. If the seizures are frequent or intense, dogs will typically be given anti-seizure drugs each day and monitored closely with blood tests.

Mitral Valve Disease (MVD)

A heart disease that is frequently seen in small dogs, MVD will cause a heart murmur that progressively worsens over time. Initially, a dog may be asymptomatic but over time will struggle to exercise and will develop a cough. Various medicines can be used to control the symptoms and delay the progression of this irreversible heart disease.

Atopic Dermatitis

While itchy skin can have a number of causes including parasitic and bacterial infections, one of the top causes is atopy. This is an allergy to one or more things in the environment, such as grass or pollens.

When dogs scratch their skin, they will often cause secondary infections which require antibiotic therapy. The atopy can be tricky to manage and dogs will likely be prescribed several courses of medicine over their lifetime with varying degrees of success.

Exercise and Activity Levels

While the West Highland Doxie enjoys a couple of short outings a day, they don’t need too much exercise and burn off most of their calories pottering around indoors. These dogs do appreciate some off-lead time for exploring when out and about.


Owners will need to brush the fur of the West Highland Doxie a couple of times a week to prevent tangles. Those with floppy ears may need to have them cleaned out once or twice a month to reduce the risk of infection.

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