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WHWT - Part 4 - heads by Joan Graber

To balance the strong powerful jaws required to do its work the Westie
needs width of backskull. You want a good handful, between the zygomatic
arches, when you feel the backskull. To have this broad skull and powerful
jaws the dog must have sufficient bone, frequently referred to as 'having
bone'. The first place I check for correct bone is the backskull, and if
the head is not sufficiently broad the rest of the dog is probably lacking
enough bone. The standard asks for a skull that is broad and slightly
domed. (picture #18)
This does not mean apple-headed, rather the dome is between the ears. I
like a Westie's head to fill my slightly curved hand, when my fingers
stretch from one zygomatic arch to the other. You will find that the
flattish skulls usually have longer forefaces and are narrower. With a
wide, broad skull the ears will be placed properly and the width between
the eyes will be only slightly less than between the ears. More of this

With further examination of the skull, you should find that it is slightly
longer than the muzzle, as 3: 2 (pictures #18 & 19), with a well defined
stop. Your thumb should find a definite 'block', the defined/distinct stop
asked for, and should not just slide up between the eyes. As the result
of the well-defined stop and the heavy bony ridge over the eyes, for
protection of the eyes, the eyes will look 'slightly sunk in the head'.
Grooming can make the stop look more pronounced than it actually is, so be
sure to feel for the stop. The Westie muzzle should be strong and blunt
with jaws that are level and powerful.(picture #20) Powerful jaws are
needed to hold the strong teeth asked for. This strong, blunt foreface
should finish with a fairly large black nose. However, you do not want to
see the projecting nose of the Scottie, as usually when this occurs in a
Westie it is accompanied by a narrow jaw. To check muzzle width I wrap my
thumb and middle finger around the muzzle, on a Westie who has enough
muzzle my fingers do not meet, and I have a fairly large hand. The blunt
foreface needed to hold the large teeth also gives the muzzle a shorter
look. As mentioned earlier, the muzzle should be slightly shorter than the
skull and this balance of muzzle and skull is very important.(pictures #18
& 21) Always assess proportions of the head by feeling without regard to
furnishings and grooming. It is important to be aware that a younger dog,
whose head furnishing are not completely filled out, may look longish in
the muzzle.(picture #22) Be sure to measure if you suspect a longish
muzzle, and don't just go by what may be illusion. Westies with faded nose
pigment (snow nose) during winter months should not be penalized. Pictures
#19 - 22 can be found at:

The standard asks for teeth that are large for the size of the dog and for
six incisors between canines in both jaws. Not stated in the standard is
that these six incisors should have a flattish appearance rather than
appearing curved (actually the result of the blunt jaw). While most of us
prefer a scissors bite, the standard says level is acceptable.
Occasionally you might find a Westie whose lower incisors grow at an angle,
causing what appears to be an under or overshot condition, but the canines
mesh perfectly. When this occurs it is unlikely that there is an
abnormality in the jaw structure and thus this condition should not be
penalized to the same degree as is a jaw in which the canines do not mesh.
Large strong flattish incisors are an important breed characteristic, which
sad to say, we seem to be losing. Regarding the statement "occasional
missing premolar acceptable", this was added when the standard was revised
and reformatted, in 1988, as there wasn't a problem in the breed. A
missing premolar does not weaken the jaw as much as a missing incisor or
small incisors do. I would suspect today that a Westie with missing
premolars also does not have the large flattish incisors desired.

We all know that expression is a combination of skull, eye placement, color
and shape as well as ear size, shape and placement. In Westies the
piercing, pert expression desired is partially created by eye placement,
size, shape and color as well as the bony eyebrow ridges and correct stop.
In a correct head the eyes will be widely set apart and be medium in size
(pictures #23 & 24) and like so many standards asks for an almond shape.
What is wanted is more of an oval shape, rather than the triangular shape
desired with the Collie 'almond'. Close or poorly placed eyes can make
the head look long. Small or 'beady black' eyes are not desired as they
give a sharp look, but neither do we want a round eye. (picture #25)
Pictures # 23-25 can be found at:

To help with that desired expression the Westie's small, sharp pointed ears
should be set wide apart, as the standard says ". . . on the top outer edge
of the skull. . ." When I see ears that are close together I suspect that
I will find a skull narrower than desired, no matter how full it looks due
to teased head furnishings. Conversely, on the Westie whose ears are down
the side of the head, whether from poor placement or not using them, the
skull can look broader than it is, and give a mulish expression. The ears
on a Westie with long and full head furnishings will look small (pictures
#21 & 26) while those on a young dog, or one without full head furnishings,
will look relatively large. (pictures #22 & 27) Again, all pictures
referred to above can be found at:

The Westie is one of the few naturally dark-skinned breeds. The dark
pigmentation also contributes to the desired expression. Besides having
the black nose the Westie should have black eye rims, black lips and the
dark pigment should show through the hair on the inside of the ear. And
for those wondering about breaks in color, in all my nearly 40 years in the
breed I have never seen a break in eye or lip pigment. Any changes,
however slight, of any of these elements (eye, ear, skull, etc.) changes
expression.(pictures #28)

part 5