Scottish Terrier

Breed Group: Terrier

Temperament and Behavior

Bred to pull badgers larger than themselves out of holes, Scottish Terriers (or simply a 'Scottie' to their fanciers) exhibit the feisty, brave, excitable, independent nature typical of terriers. Even though they are usually quiet dogs, these characteristics combined with the fact that they are a very loyal and territorial breed make Scottish Terriers excellent watchdogs. However, they are below average guard dogs. Once visitors are inside, these dogs are usually indifferent towards them. Scottish Terriers are known for having somewhat of a split personality. Mood swings and snappish behaviors are not uncommon in the breed. They are very sweet and extremely loyal to those they love but can be a nightmare for those they dislike. Even within a family, they may favor one or two people over others. They can be aggressive towards dogs and other animals. With small children Scotties can be too lively and may bite; they do much better with older, considerate children. Scotties need daily exercise and enjoy going on walks. Outside playtime needs to be in a safe, fenced area. Fences should be checked carefully as these dogs will escape through the smallest gaps and they love to dig. Even when their exercise needs are met, Scotties are very busy dogs both inside and out.

Physical Characteristics

Scotties, although short (about 10 inches at the shoulder) and compact at about 20 pounds, are strong agile dogs. They have a wiry coat usually black or dark gray, but may also be brindle or wheaten, usually kept long on the sides giving the appearance of a skirt. Their eyebrows and beard are also long. To maintain this look, they need professional clipping every three or four months Their beards should be cleaned daily. In spite of their high needs for grooming, their shedding is minimal. They do reasonably well in cool, even cold temperatures but poorly in heat.

Trainer's Notes

To increase their ability to accept people, a Scottish Terrier needs a significant effort dedicated to socialization. Their stubborn, willful personality make them a challenge to train. Housebreaking can be particularly difficult. Although they display the independent nature of terriers, they are also quite sensitive. A successful trainer will be both firm and gentle. Being consistent in training and in providing rewards is essential for this intelligent breed who has a long memory for inconsistency. Scotties can also be quite comical and vary training on their own. A Scottish Terrier is not for an inpatient or first-time owner.

Photo © by M. MacKenzie available under the GNUFDL
Scottish Terrier

Scottish Terrier


The most common Scottish Terrier disorder is called Scottie Cramp. This causes an unusual gait when dogs are stressed and is normally a minor health problem. A more recently discovered disease called Cerebellar Abiotrophy has similar symptoms. Issues of greater impact include a noncancerous growth of bone on the lower jaw called Craniomandibular Osteopathy, Hip Dysplasia which affects roughly 15% of the breed von Willebrand’s Disease, and Patellar Luxation affects almost 8% of the breed. Thyroiditis, Skin Allergies, Intervertebral disk disease, and Cancer, of both bladder and the lymph glands, round out some of their less frequently seen health problems. The typical lifespan of a Scottie is 12 to 14 years.


The Scottish Terrier ranks 40th in popularity within the AKC with between 3,500 and 4,000 dogs registered per year.

Breed History

Its exact origin is unknown but many believe the Scottish Terrier is the earliest terrier from which all others descended. Early in their history, all terriers from Scotland were called Scottish or Scotch Terriers. To confuse things further, the breed was once grouped with the Skye Terrier. But by the late 1800s, a breed standard was established and the dogs once called the Aberdeen Terrier had its modern name of Scottish Terrier. These, like other small terriers, were bred to assist hunting small animals. They flushed fox, badgers, and rabbits from their dens. Scotties were introduced to America in 1883. The breed’s popularity soared during World War II as a result of Franklin Roosevelt’s Scottie, Fala.

Additional Information

U. S. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan owned Scotties as have Humphrey Bogart, Betty Davis, Phyllis Diller, Phil Donahue, and Dustin Hoffman. The National (US) Breed Club is the Scottish Terrier Club of America.

Is A Scottish Terrier THE BEST Dog For YOU?

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