The Scottish Terrier is an independent and confident hunting dog best known for their persistent and human-like spirit. Originating in the Scottish Highlands, the Scottie is the oldest of the Highland terriers and one of the oldest British dog breeds. They were bred to hunt rats, foxes and badgers.
Scotties were one of the most popular breeds in America during the Depression of the 1930’s and ‘40s and their silhouette was commonly used in fashion and design. Today, they are still a highly recognizable breed and rank 57 out of 193 in the AKC’s Breed Popularity Ranking.
Characteristics of the Scottish Terrier
Here we will go into more detail about the appearance and temperament of the Scottish Terrier.
The Scottish Terrier is classified as an AKC small dog breed. The Scottie’s height is 10 inches and their weight is 19-22 pounds (male) and 18-21 pounds (female). Their legs are short in proportion to their body length. The Scottish Terrier is a long-lived breed with a life span of about 12 years.
Scottish Terriers are strong and sturdy, moving low to the ground with a determined stride. They possess a distinctive beard and furnishings on their legs and lower body. Their coat is wiry and thick, composed of a weather-resistant topcoat and soft undercoat. In addition to the classic black, their coat can be yellow or brindle-striped. To maintain their coat’s shine and neatness, their coat must be brushed weekly and clipped or hand-stripped periodically. Check out our recommendations for dog brushes and dog shampoo to help keep your Scottie’s coat in top shape.
Scottish Terriers are loyal and jaunty companion dogs with a lot of personality. While generally friendly, they are more independent than most terriers and are often described as businesslike and resolute. Their loud, deep bark is suggestive of a much larger dog, and they are alert and protective of their homes and families.
Scotties have strong chasing instincts and can act aggressively towards animals they perceive as prey, which includes cats and pet rodents. They can also be dominant and aggressive towards other dogs of the same sex, and quick to start a fight. They may be able to live with another dog in the household if they are socialized from an early age.
Scotties are aloof and not recommended for households with small children, as they are not tolerant of nonsense or clumsy behavior and can react defensively and even bite. They are also highly possessive of their toys and food and will not behave well if they perceive any sort of competition. However, they will do well as a part of families with older children. Scotties also make suitable travel companions and are tolerant of car rides and even plane trips.
Scottish Terriers will do fine if left alone for a few hours at a time but eventually will become bored and destructive to furniture and anything else they can get their paws on. Separation anxiety can often be combatted with training and lots of patience. Check out our recommendations for dog crates for a comfortable dog den for travel or crate-training.
Caring for a Scottish Terrier
To ensure you are providing your Scottish Terrier with everything it needs to live a long and happy life, it is essential to understand the quirks of the breed and what works best for them. Following are preliminary tips on health and training your Scottish Terrier so you know what to expect. However, remember that each dog is unique, even within a specific breed.
A high-quality dog food specific to the Scottish Terrier and the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior) will fulfil all of the dog’s nutritional needs. However, even small increases in caloric intake can lead to weight gain over time, so consistency is key. Avoid feeding your Scottie table scraps or an excessive amount of treats, which can lead to weight gain and related health problems. As a smaller dog, the Scottie will require relatively few calories, but its good health and longevity still demands a balanced diet filled with vitamins and nutrients.
Scottish terriers have moderate exercise needs. They have lots of energy that is best expended in short bursts. Playing fetch and tug-of-war is a great way to do this. They are nicknamed “the diehard” for their persistence in winning games like tug-of-war over their owners, so be prepared for a battle! They also enjoy going on walks with their owners, but can become easily exhausted. Regular exercise will help your Scottie stay physically fit, happy and well behaved.
Scottish Terriers are moderately difficult to train. Their independent personality necessitates a firm and dominant owner. However, Scotties react negatively to harsh comments so positive reinforcement-training methods should be utilized. Frequent, short training sessions are best, especially when creative techniques are used to keep sessions interesting. Scotties are naturally standoffish and should be socialized from an early age to minimize aggressive behavior towards strangers later on in life.
Scottish Terriers are prone to a variety of serious genetic diseases and ailments. Bleeding disorders, autoimmune diseases, joint disorders, skin conditions and allergies are some of the most common afflictions seen in the breed. The National Breed Club recommends certain tests for the breed, including a Von Willebrand’s disease DNA test and a patella evaluation.
The Scottie’s nails should be clipped monthly if not worn down naturally. Their ears should be checked weekly and any excess dirt or wax should be removed. Teeth should be brushed often with a dog-specific toothpaste.
Be sure to choose a dog from a responsible, certified breeder, preferably one who is a member of the Scottish Terrier Club of America. This club has a detailed code of ethics in breeding and will be able to provide owners with helpful information on heath and care for the breed. Careful selection of a puppy or adult dog will give you the highest chance of having a long-lived and healthy Scottish Terrier.