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with Lisa Peterson
Lisa Peterson with Jinx
Lisa Peterson with her Norwegian Elkhound Linx.

Dear Lisa: I have an 18-month-old West Highland White Terrier who lives mostly indoors. Our problem is we have sliding glass doors in three rooms overlooking a patio. She is constantly looking out the doors and racing back and forth between as if there was something out there. We do have a squirrel and a black cat that come around maybe once a day. We do not trust leaving her alone without being in her pen. She sleeps there at night. I know she needs obedience training. Any advice would be helpful. – Westie Woes

Dear Woes: Westies are true terriers always on the lookout for vermin or small game, in fact, according to the parent club they, “will run after anything that moves.” That is what they were originally bred for. So it makes perfect sense that she is trying to engage her instincts by alerting you to the squirrels and cat. Obviously if you know when the cat comes around you can always close the curtains or move Grace to another room. But a more practical and decorative idea might be to cover the lower third of the glass doors with an opaque design or light-colored contact paper that obstructs her view out the back. If she’s only running when she sees something by taking away that ability the behavior should stop. This behavior is not a problem solved with obedience training, since she’s just exhibiting her natural instincts. But training is always a good idea. Dogs that are engaged in mental and physical activity tend to be better socialized, more relaxed, and less prone to anxious behavior.

Natural Instincts Outlet
You may also want to investigate doing something that your dog was bred to do which would help fulfill the dog’s inherent desire to hunt. Earthdog activities are the best place to start after you’ve enrolled her in obedience school and brought her up to speed with the basics, such as sit, come, stay, heel and a good dose of attention training (meaning you can instantly get the dog’s attention and she will listen to what you are telling her). Getting started in Earthdog events is easy if you can find a club in your area. Look here to find one in your state and happy training!

Dear Lisa: My mother has always dreamed of owning a West Highland White Terrier, but my father was allergic, and they could not have a dog. He has passed on, and my mother is now living in a retirement village. Her building is dog friendly, but I do not know if a lively Westie is the right breed for her. She is slowing down, and still takes walks, but not long ones. She needs a dog that can sit for a while and not demand constant attention, as well as be small enough to go on errands with her. My sister and brother both own large retrievers, so we are not familiar with small breeds. Can you help us decide if a Westie is the right breed? Can you recommend other breeds? – Westie Dreams

Dear Dreams: There are a few questions you and your siblings should ask yourself before finding the right dog for your mom. First, consider the age of your mother and her health. Is she a young vibrant 70-year-old or a frail 90-year-old? The reason I ask will determine two things, what energy level of dog will be suitable and second, if your mother is getting on in age you’ll need an immediate caretaker in place for the dog, should the pet outlive your mother.
In either scenario, I would recommend that your mom look to getting an older dog in need of a new home through purebred rescue. You say you want a dog that will not demand constant attention. In that case, getting a puppy is definitely out since they are in constant need of care and training. Maybe a 3-5 year-old housebroken adult will be suitable and properly socialized to handle a routine of regular walks two to three times a day with down time spent indoors with your mom in between. By working with purebred rescue they can find a dog that fits your mother’s needs as well as that of the dog.

Breed to Fit Your Lifestyle

As for a Westie, see above question! I think the breed will be a bit too energetic for her and also a tad too big to carry around on errands. Plus, the daily brushing and professional grooming needed every six-to-eight weeks for the Westie’s coat may be more activity and financial commitment that she is willing to devote to. A friend of mine has a Toy Manchester Terrier which is a delightful breed, small and easy to carry around and doesn’t require much grooming and is happy to spend hours indoors with its owner. A number of toy breeds might be appropriate for her too.

Reader comments and suggestions:

Last month’s question
regarding inhaling intensely got some great feedback from our readers including an AKC judge!

Dear Lisa:
I'm a longtime breeder of Vizslas and have never had digestive problems. We purchased a Frenchie for our daughter as a wedding present. He finished his AKC Championship in five shows but as he matured started vomiting after meals; not every meal but most. Countless vet visits and suggestions from others did no good till someone suggested possible Gluten allergy. We took him off all wheat products and it was like turning off the faucet. I especially like Eukanuba Naturally Wild (there's a Vizsla picture on the food bag). – B.G.

Dear Lisa:
We found special bowls to slow down our dog from inhaling his food. They can be found at Maybe this will help the 4 year old American Eskimo from gagging after eating. – M.P.

Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Club Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions we cannot offer individual responses. Read previous columns here.