Even if you don’t know a lot about Scottish Terriers, chances are you already have a pretty good mental image of this feisty little terrier. The Scottish Terrier, or Scottie for short, is a popular and iconic breed.
I’m sure you’ve seen his silhouette on clothing, purses, and home decoration items. At the very least, I’m sure you’ll remember little Jock if you’ve ever seen Disney’s Lady and Tramp.
This dignified dog sure pops up in a lot of places.
And it’s no wonder!
With his long beard, short legs, and scruffy appearance, how could you not fall in love with him?
The origins of the Scottish Terrier are a bit fuzzy, but the breed is thought to have originated as early as the 1400’s.
As the name suggests, this terrier breed is from Scotland and is likely the oldest of the Highland terriers. While we don’t know his exact origin, we do know for a fact that the Scottie was used a ratter and fox hunter.
Despite the breed’s long history, the designated name “Scottish Terrier” did not come until much later. In fact, dog lovers spent much of the 1800’s arguing about what set a Scottie apart from the several other kinds of terriers originating in Scotland.
However, these questions of identity were resolved in the 1870’s. And shortly thereafter, in 1883, the Scottie dog first arrived in the United States. He quickly became rather well-known and hit prime popularity in the 1930’s and early ‘40’s.
Are Scottish Terriers Good Family Dogs?
The Scottish Terrier is generally a very good choice for a family pet. He has even been called a nanny dog because he does so well with kids.
Be sure to teach your children how to interact with a dog. This is important with all breeds, but is especially true when it comes to terriers.
The Scottie is fantastic with respectful and well-behaved children. But this is not a breed that will tolerate getting his tail or hair pulled on. So make sure your children are old enough to treat the dog well.
As for living situations, the Scottish Terrier is quite adaptable. He will do fine with apartment living if given the proper amount of exercise.
While owning this breed can be very rewarding, it’s important for you to understand how to care for a Scottish Terrier.
As with any dog, your Scottie has a few basic needs that you’ll have to provide for. These include nutrition, grooming, exercise, training, and health.
And lots of love and attention!
Scotties require a balanced diet.
They also need measured meal portions to avoid weight gain. This is a breed that gains weight easily, so make sure you are careful to not let him overeat.
When feeding, give your Scottish Terrier only high-quality dog food. The amount you should feed depends a lot on size, age, and activity level. But as a general rule of thumb, your Scottie should eat 1 to 1 ½ cups of food daily.
And remember that bit about weight gain.
If you give your pooch a few more treats than usual on any given day, be sure to adjust his meal portion accordingly. You don’t want him to be too pudgy!
For further reference on feeding, check out the guide listed on your dog’s food bag. You may also want to talk to your veterinarian about exactly how much your individual dog should be eating.
The Scottish Terrier requires more intensive grooming due to his non-shedding fur.
The breed’s double coat is made up of a wiry top coat and a soft, dense undercoat. If you want to maintain the proper texture of your Scottie’s fur or if you plan on showing him, you’ll need to get him hand stripped.
But if your Scottie is going to be a pet, it’s much more common (and simpler!) to clip the coat. Just be aware that regular clipping of the coat can change the texture and coloring of the dog’s hair.
If you go the clipping route, you can either bring your pup to the groomer or learn to cut his fur yourself! If you like his coat long, plan on a haircut several times a year. If you like it short, he’ll need a trim about every two months.
A regular haircut isn’t all your Scottie needs.
You’ll also need to brush him at least once a week. And be sure to keep that beard tidy! It’s a good idea to wipe it down after meals. Otherwise, your Scottie will have a very yucky-looking mouth!
Your Scottie will also need the basic grooming care that all other breeds require.
Brush his teeth at least once a week to keep him healthy. Check the ears regularly for signs of irritation or infection. And trim his nails when needed.
The Scottish Terrier is an active and energetic breed (he’s a terrier, after all).
So you’ll need to make sure he gets a proper amount of exercise. Otherwise you’ll have a rather destructive little dog!
Since he’s a small breed, he’ll only need a moderate amount of exercise. About 20-40 minutes a day should do the trick.
Nothing beats a good walk as a way to expend some of your Scottie’s energy. So don’t forego a daily romp!
But don’t expect him to be your jogging partner.
He may chase squirrels at top speed, but those short legs can’t do long distances.
A walk isn’t all your Scottie needs.
This is a breed that loves games, so be sure to give him lots of playtime. He may not be great at fetch, but the Scottie still loves chasing thrown toys. And he can play tug of war for hours!
Scottish Terriers are highly intelligent, but lots of smarts doesn’t always mean easy-to-train.
This dog is smart (probably too smart). And with the Scottie, smart is just another word for stubborn.
A Scottish Terrier can be trained, of course. But it’s going to take a lot of work, and you need to be relentlessly consistent. If you give him a command, be sure to follow through. Don’t give in and let him have his own way. Scotties love testing the boundaries and will try to rule your household if you let them.
When training, be sure to keep sessions short (no more than 15 minutes). The Scottie gets bored easily and doesn’t always have the greatest focus.
Also, be sure to have lots of variety in your training. If you always repeat commands in the same order, your Scottie will become uninterested and will stop responding. So mix it up, and get creative!
When correcting misbehaviors, avoid harsh punishments.
The Scottie is a particularly alert and aware breed, and he will know you are displeased from the tone of your voice. Positive reinforcement training is best, as this breed typically needs a reason to obey beyond just pleasing you.
If you have the stamina to train a Scottish Terrier, then good for you! Owning a Scottie will be very rewarding.
But first-time dog owners beware:
A stubbornly independent breed is probably not the best canine to introduce you to the world of dogs. This breed is much more suited to an experienced owner.
Scottish Terrier Health Issues
Scottish Terriers are generally a healthy, hardy breed. They usually live to be between 12 and 15 years of age.
Like all breeds of dogs, Scotties are prone to certain conditions and diseases. These include the following:
- Weight gain
- Scottie cramp (a movement issue)
- Luxating patella
- Intervertebral disk disease
- Von Willebrand’s Disease
- Chronic allergies
- Craniomandibular osteopathy (excessive bone growth in lower jaw)
- Various types of cancer (particularly bladder cancer)
- Cushing’s disease
Things to Know About the Scottish Terrier
1. A Small Dog With a Huge Ego
The Scottish Terrier is a dignified dog, both inside and out. Under that dashing beard is a proud, strong-willed canine whose ego is very easily insulted.
That is why positive reinforcement training is so important with this breed.
He’s smart enough to retaliate with an extra dose of stubbornness if you treat him too roughly. Then you’ll have a dog that knows exactly what you want, but straight up refuses to do it!
Instead of being rough and mean with the dog, be firm and consistent.
Treat him like the living, sensitive thing that he is. And this is important in all aspects of Scottie ownership, not just training.
For example, this isn’t a breed that will take teasing lightly. So do yourself and your Scottie a favor, and don’t try to push his buttons.
2. Mr. Independent
All terriers have an independence streak in them, but this trait is particularly strong in the Scottie.
The breed was a farm dog that hunted vermin. He was designed to work on his own without needing to receive commands day in and day out. And decades later, he’s still inclined to do things his own way.
I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll say it again:
The Scottie needs a firm leader.
But firm does not mean rough so much as it means consistent. It’s best if you have some experience working with this type of dog if you want to own a Scottie. He makes a wonderful pet with the right handling, but an independent dog is not for the faint of heart.
3. The People Dog
The Scottie may be independent by nature, but that does not mean he would do well fending for himself. In fact, Scottish Terriers are dependent upon being with their people.
The breed is very much an indoor dog that demands to be part of everything you do. They are not a dog to be left outside all day on their own.
So if you get a Scottie, be prepared to treat him like a real member of the family and not just as the family pet.
Also, this is not a dog that can be left home alone all day on a regular basis. Make sure someone is home most of the time. Or at least arrange for somebody to come give him attention during the day while you’re gone.
4. The Dog Who Needs His “Me” Time
While Scottish Terriers thrive and depend on being with their people, they still need their “me” time.
They may be small, but the Scottie is not a lap dog! Don’t expect him to sit around right next to you all day and cater to your every desire. Because he won’t!
The breed loves you and will be your companion, but he also needs his own space.
Make sure he has his own bed, food bowl, and toys. And don’t be too offended if he chooses to lie in his bed rather than sitting by you. He just likes his space!
5. The Loyal, One-Person Canine
Scotties may be stubborn and strong-willed, but they are also fiercely loyal and loving. Once you have bonded with your Scottie, he’ll be your companion for life.
The breed is a one-person type dog, so he’s likely to pick a favorite, though he’ll still love everybody in the family.
However, outside of the family is a different story.
The Scottie tends to be very wary of strangers.
He can warm up to new people with time, but the process is going to take a while. It’s extremely important to socialize this breed from a young age. He’ll always have a protective instinct. But with proper socialization, you can at least avoid a dog that’s overly suspicious of every new person he sees.
6. Not Usually Dog-Friendly
The Scottish Terrier does not usually mix well with other canines.
If he’s grown up with other dogs, he’s able to get along peacefully with them. But new dogs are a different story.
The breed can be aggressive with strange dogs, especially those of the same sex.
And he’s fearless, so big dogs won’t intimidate him in the slightest. Because of this, you’ll need to be careful. He can get himself into a lot of trouble if he goes picking fights with bigger, stronger dogs.
(Hint: the dog park is probably not the best place to bring your Scottie.)
7. A Quick-to-Alert Watchdog
Though he’s small, the Scottie makes an excellent watchdog.
He tends to be protective of his people, and he will not hesitate to warn off any and all threats (whether or not the “threat” is actually real).
While he isn’t a yappy breed, the Scottie will use his bark if he feels like his territory is under attack.
And he’s good at keeping tabs on his property, too.
That is, Scottish Terriers love to patrol. Your Scottie will probably feel the need to make his rounds at least once a day. So don’t be surprised when you see him marching purposefully around your house and yard. He’s just making sure all is as it should be.
8. Mr. Short Legs
It’s no secret: Scotties have short legs.
But don’t judge them for it – you don’t want to offend this proud breed. :-P
But while you shouldn’t tease this little shorty, you will need to take some precautions to keep your Scottie safe.
Firstly, the Scottish Terrier does not make a good jogging partner.
He can handle long walks no problem, but he was not built to go the distance at high speed. So if you’re looking for a running partner, I’d recommend finding a breed more suited to the activity.
Second and most important: swimming.
The Scottie dog was not built for swimming.
The breed may love water, but don’t ever let him get in if his feet won’t be able to touch the ground. His heavy-built body and short legs will turn him into a sinking stone in a matter of seconds.
So keep a close watch if there’s a body of water around. And if you have a pool, make sure it’s fenced off from the rest of the yard or at least get a sturdy pool cover. Your Scottie will thank you for it.
9. The Digger
I should warn you…if you have a garden, make sure it’s fenced off or you won’t have a garden for long.
The Scottie loves to dig.
In fact, he was built for it, so keep that in mind as you’re terrier-proofing your yard.
The Scottie’s love of digging is a major reason why he shouldn’t be left outside alone for long periods of time.
He can be quite the escape artist!
So either make sure your fence is staked well into the ground or just keep an eye on him while he’s outside.
10. The Hunter
Another thing the Scottie was made for is hunting.
If you have small pets around the house, either consider another breed or keep them well out of your Scottie’s reach. His instinct to hunt vermin is just as strong as it ever was.
Also be sure to keep your Scottie leashed in unfenced areas.
Like all terriers, he’s likely to go running after any small furry creature he sees. So keep a good hold on him at all times.
11. All Scotties Share a Common Ancestor
Here’s a Scottie fun fact!
Did you know that all Scottish Terriers share a common ancestor?
Well, they do! Modern pedigreed Scotties can all be traced back to four dogs from the 1870’s.
The female of that mix was named Splinter II, and she is now known as the foundation matron of the modern breed.
12. What Are My Color Options?
When you think of a Scottie, you think of a little black dog, right?
Well, that may be what you think of, but that isn’t all that exists!
The Scottish Terrier comes in three different colors:
- There’s black (which can be solid black or black with white markings on the chest or chin).
- There’s wheaten, which is a yellowish, tan-type color.
- And there’s also brindle.
So you have some color choices to make!
Is the Scottish Terrier Right For You?
Truth be told, only you can answer that. But you should now have all the information you need to make that decision.
Just remember, Scottish Terriers are head-strong and need a firm, experienced owner.
They are loyal and protective, but they like their own space.
And children are iffy.
If you have kids that are a bit older and know how to respect a dog, then you should be fine. But the Scottie won’t tolerate rough handling or teasing from small children.
Despite their setbacks, the Scottie is a loyal, loving, and protective dog that will not fail to be the perfect companion. You just need to make sure that you’d make the perfect companion for them!