Pippa Elliott
Dr Pippa Elliott (BVMS MRCVS, University of Glasgow)
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The Chestie is a hybrid dog breed, which is a cross between a West Highland White Terrier (mother) and a Chihuahua (father). This small but opinionated dog is also known as the Chi-Westie or Chiwestie. Their looks tend towards the scruffy, with a coat that can be coarse or silky depending on which parent they take after. The white coat of the Westie tends to dominate, with most Chesties being this colour.

It is a mistake to think that with small size comes a docile temperament. The Chestie may be diminutive in stature, but to them size is irrelevant when it comes to their outsized personality. They are often bossy and stubborn dogs that know what they want and intolerant of being denied it, which can result is aggressive behaviour. So, whilst a well-socialised and trained Chestie is a playful character and a devoted companion, any prospective owner needs to be prepared to put time and effort into raising their Chestie pup right.

About & History

The late 20th century saw the rise of the designer dog, but breeds such as the Chestie are relative latecomers on this scene. Therefore, their history is in its infancy and their story belongs to that of the parent dogs.

The West Highland White Terrier

The West Highland White Terrier, as the name suggests, is a terrier with Scottish origins. However, it is intriguing to discover the breed only acquired their name as recently as 1904- 1909.

Previous to this, they were known as Poltalloch Terriers, after the region from which they were bred. Indeed, it was the Laird of Poltalloch who is said to be responsible for developing the breed’s distinctive white coat. The story goes that whilst hunting, he mistook a darker coloured terrier for a hare and shot it. After that, he bred dogs for a white coat so this tragic mistake wouldn’t happen again.

The Chihuahua

The Chihuahua may be the smallest dog breed in the world, but this doesn’t detract from its long history. Originating from Mexico, they were said to be descended from wild dogs tamed by the ancient Toltec civilisation, and indeed there are pottery records dating back to 300BC reputedly showing these little dogs. The dog we recognise today has their roots back in the early 1800s, in the area of Mexico for which they are named.


The Chestie is a small dog with a slightly finer bone structure than a pure Westie. Because of the dominance of the white coat colouration in the Westie, their hybrid also has a predominantly white coat. However, other colours can creep in either as a solid or parti-coat colour, such as fawn, tan, cream, or brown.

Both parent breeds have prick-ears, so it’s no surprise the Chestie follows this trend. Their skull is often slightly domed and has a medium-length snout, which may be finer and more chiselled than a purebred Westie. The rest of their body is well-proportioned, whilst being shorter than they are long.

Character & Temperament

Much of the Chestie’s temperament depends on their early life experiences followed by confident handling from their owner. However, both parent dogs are ‘opinionated’ and strong-willed at times. Without a firm set of ground rules from the owner, this could lead to a certain bossiness, which may tip into protective aggression if they don’t get their own way.

For this reason, they are not a good choice for a family with young children, since the erratic behaviour of babies and toddlers may challenge the Chestie’s patience. That said, in the right hands, the Chestie makes for an engaging, playful, and loving companion that is a joy to be around.


The independent thinking of the Chestie can make them a challenge to train. However, the use of reward-based training methods, along with consistency and a regular training schedule, will win in the end. Remember, it is equally as important to train a small dog as a large one, or the owner risks their pet developing “small dog syndrome” and being less of a pleasure to live with.


As a new breed, there is little date about the Chestie’s health problems, however, it is fair to look at the parent breeds and assume that some of their issues may show up in their offspring.

Collapsing Trachea

Chihuahuas are prone to a condition where the trachea (windpipe) isn’t rigid enough and as the dog breathes in, the walls of the trachea are sucked towards each other, causing it to collapse. Typically, these dogs cough and have difficulty drawing breath, a problem made worse by exercise.

It is important a dog with a collapsing trachea is exercised on a harness, rather than wearing a collar. In the worst cases to have a reasonable quality of life requires surgery to place a stent in the trachea.

Allergic Skin Disease (Atopy)

The Westie parent has a predisposition to allergic skin disease. This complex condition results in extreme itchiness and excessive paw licking. In many cases, the self-trauma from licking leads to complications such as skin infections, hair loss, and a greasy coat. There are a number of highly effective medications that can control (but not cure) allergic skin disease, but these are often required life-long and can be expensive.

Dental Disease

Unless their teeth are brushed regularly, all dogs will develop dental disease at some point. The opinionated character of the Chestie can make them less tolerant of tooth brushing, making them more likely to suffer from sore gums, heavy tartar, dental abscesses, and tooth loss. In an ideal world, the owner teaches their pup from a young age to accept having their mouth handled without snapping and therefore enable brushing.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Chestie needs regular walks in order to satisfy their natural curiosity and requirement to check out their territory. They enjoy two to three daily walks, but these don’t need to be overly long. They have a moderate requirement for exercise but a big need for mental stimulation, which play and regular short to medium-length walks help to satisfy.


The Chestie may inherit the slightly coarser Westie coat or the soft, silkier coat of the Chihuahua. Thus, their grooming requirement is dictated by which parent they most resemble. This means that some Chestie’s require stripping (from the Westie side of the family), to keep their coat in good shape, whilst other just need a quick slick over with a deshedding tool (if they take after the Chi parent).

But don’t overlook dental care. That small mouth has a lot of teeth crammed in, providing plenty of nooks and crannies for plaque and tartar to form. Daily tooth brushing is advisable to slow up the development of dental disease.

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