Scottish Terrier puppy lying on driveway
Scottish Terrier Dog Breed
Scottish Terrier Dog Breed
Scottish Terrier Dog Breed
Scottish Terrier Dog Breed
Scottish Terrier Dog Breed

Occasionally serious to the point of being dour, the lively, intelligent Scottie is the definition of terrier attitude. Scotties can be scrappy with other dogs and will hunt little critters. While devoted to his family, he can take a while to warm up to strangers, but he’s quite affectionate to those he likes.
The image of the Scottish Terrier long ago reached the status of icon, with legions of collectors combing eBay for decades-old collectibles with his distinctive silhouette. With his bearded face, harsh black coat and upright tail, The Scottish Terrier is one of the most recognizable of all dog breeds.

But like a Hollywoodstar hassled by paparazzi, Scottie temperament is not to be taken lightly. Terrier fans see the bristling, on-his-toes way the Scottie meets the world and sigh, “Ah, yes, true terrier attitude!” The rest of us will probably make sure our ankles aren’t anywhere nearby.

A Scottish Terrier will do best with a single adult or couple, but he isn’t the best choice for families with children. The Scottie has strong feelings about how things should be, and loud, unpredictable children don’t fit into his master plan. Neither do cats or other small, furry creatures, and it’s not unusual for him to feel less than accepting of other dogs, too. The trade-off, of course, is that you’ll get all his attention.

The Scottish Terrier is not an easy dog to train, but he does like a challenge, so a canine sport like agility might be a great chance for you to develop your relationship, engage his mind and tire him out, all at the same time. A Scottie is also eligible to compete in AKC Earthdog trials, which might channel his insatiable need to dig and tunnel into an acceptable outlet — and save your flowerbeds.

He’s a fairly high maintenance pet, despite weighing less than 20 pounds. The Scottie’s coat needs regular brushing and combing to work out dead hair, and should be clipped or professionally groomed every month or so. (The look of a show Scottie is even harder to get, accomplished through the difficult skill of “hand-stripping” — pulling out the dead hairs a little at a time.)

All the seeming negatives aside, Scottish Terriers are very devoted to their human families, so don’t even think of trying to make him live in the backyard. He’ll bark, dig and suffer — and that won’t be good for either one of you.

Other Quick Facts

  • The compact Scottie has an unmistakable look: a rectangular body set on short legs, a long head with a shaggy beard and eyebrows, small, bright, dark-brown to almost black eyes, prick ears covered in short, velvety hair, and a tail that tapers to a point and is carried up. Most often seen in Presbyterian black, his hard, wiry coat can also be wheaten or brindle.

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The History of the Scottish Terrier

The Scottie is one of the many terrier breeds that originated in Scotland and England for the purpose of digging out and killing vermin on farms. For a long time, all of the Scottish terrier breeds were lumped together, but in 1877 a heated discussion in the pages of the Live Stock Journal about what made a true Scottish Terrier ended in a challenge by the editors to come up with a description of what a Scottie was. Gordon Murray published a detailed description of the proper Scottie in a letter to the Stock Keeper. Three years later J. B. Morrison drew up a standard for the breed, and the essentials of it remain today.

Scottish Terriers Tam Glen and Bonnie Belle were brought to the United Statesby John Naylor in 1883. He began showing the dogs and imported more. A brindle Scottie named Dake was the first of his breed to be registered with the American Kennel Club, in 1884. Today the Scottish Terrier ranks 52nd among the breeds registered by the AKC.

Scottish Terrier Temperament and Personality

At first glance, the Scottie nails you with his keen, piercing expression. He’s a no-nonsense dog on the surface, but secretly he’s a softie who loves his people. As long as he is with them, all’s right with his world.

The nickname Diehard should tell you all you need to know about living with a Scottie. He was built to be a rugged little dog who never gave up, and he retains those characteristics today. Bold but dignified, he is the very picture of Scottish rectitude and sticktoitiveness. His alert nature makes him an excellent watchdog, but he’s not a barker unless you give him nothing else to do.

While the Scottie is close to his family, he takes his time getting to know other people. He’ll just watch for a while before deciding that someone is acceptable — or not.

Like all terriers, the Scottie has a mind of his own, but with the right motivation he learns well. Train him with loving firmness and positive reinforcement in the form of praise and treats and you will earn his confidence and respect. Harsh punishments will definitely backfire with this strongminded dog. For instance, never call him to you and then scold him. The next time you call him, even if it’s for something good, he’ll remember that you scolded him and refuse to come.

Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at 8 weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Never wait until he is six months old to begin training, or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. 

If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, so you can start building a strong working relationship, and socialize, socialize, socialize. Socialization is important with this breed to counter his somewhat suspicious nature. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed. Invite people to your home as well so he becomes accustomed to visitors. These experiences as a young dog will help him grow into a sensible, calm adult dog.

Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from a Scottie Terrier, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.

What You Need To Know About Scottish Terrier Health

All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

The Scottish Terrier can suffer from a number of genetic health problems. They include cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, neurological problems, brain cancer, bladder cancer, bladder stones, Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, vonWillebrand’s disease (a blood cloting disorder), hemophilia, and deafness.

One condition that affects the Scottish Terrier is called craniomandibular osteopathy. It’s an abnormal growth of the jaw that occurs in puppyhood. The condition is painful, but it usually resolves by the time the dog is an adult. There are no screening tests for CMO.

A breed-specific problem occurring in the Scottish Terrier is a strange condition known as Scottie cramp. Dogs with this condition react to stress — even common stress, such as exercise — with changes in how they move and run. Their legs fly out to the side, the back sometimes arches, facial and neck muscle spasms may occur, and the most severely affected dogs may fall. Scottie cramp is considered a neurological disorder. It’s not painful, nor is the dog actually experiencing cramps. Some dogs adapt to the condition and start to avoid the stresses that trigger it, and their lives are almost normal. Severely affected dogs may require medication, but this is rare.

Another neurological problem that strikes the Scottie is cerebellar abiotrophy, which has symptoms often confused for those of Scottie cramp. However, it’s a more serious progressive disease and the dogs are affected all the time, not just when under stress and in motion. This is definitely a genetic problem, but while efforts are under way to develop a screening test for the condition, at present no such test is available.

Most troubling are statistics suggesting that some genetic temperament problems, including unexplained aggression, occur in Scottish Terriers.

Even though there are no specific genetic tests for these and other conditions that may be all or partly inherited in the Scottish Terrier, your puppy’s breeder should be willing — eager, in fact — to go over the health and behavior histories of his parents and their close relatives, and discuss how prevalent those particular concerns are in his lines.

In the hope of controlling the genetic diseases that already affect the breed and prevent any new ones from emerging, the Scottish Terrier Club of America participates in a program operated by the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC).

The CHIC requires that breeders test all their breeding dogs for eye, hip and knee diseases that are prevalent in the breed. All breeders should be able to show you written documentation from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) that the knees of your puppy’s parents are normal and that they are clear of a bleeding disorder known as von Willebrand’s disease.

Optional but a plus are OFA thyroid evaluations and Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) records clearing your puppy’s parents of eye problems that sometimes affect the Scottish Terrier, including cataracts.

If the breeder tells you she doesn’t need to do those tests because she’s never had problems in her lines, her dogs have been vet checked, or any of the other excuses irresponsible breeders have for skimping on the genetic testing of their dogs, walk away immediately.

Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.

Help provide your Scottish Terrier with immune and gut health support with a probiotic such as Great Poop. The chicken-flavored taste is one that dogs love while pet parents enjoy the all-in-one formula of enzymes, fiber, prebiotics, and probiotics.

Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Scottie at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.

The Basics of Scottish Terrier Grooming

The Scottie’s sculptured appearance requires some work in the form of regular brushing and clipping, so much so that the Scottish Terrier Club of America publishes an illustrated grooming guide. The heavy-duty manual has laminated pages in a three-ring binder and contains grooming instructions for puppies, pets, and show dogs.

At a minimum, you will need to brush the coat one to three times a week. Don’t miss the belly or the areas where the legs meet the body or they will become tangled. Be sure you brush all the way down to the skin. If you just go over the top of the coat, you’ll miss a lot of tangles. After you brush the coat, go through it again with a comb to remove any remaining loose hairs. Comb out the beard and other facial hair, too, especially after meals or after your Scottie drinks. You should also learn how to strip the coat, the process of removing dead hair by hand, which is necessary twice a year. Learn to clip him yourself or take him to a professional groomer if you want him to have the distinctive Scottie silhouette.

The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.

Finding a Scottish Terrier

Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.

Choosing a Scottish Terrier Breeder

Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy and will, without question, have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. She is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.

Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with, and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems.

Look for more information about the Scottish Terrier and start your search for a good breeder on the website of the Scottish Terrier Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the STCA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to make use of available DNAtesting before breeding dogs.

Avoid breeders who seem interested only in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from a website that offers to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.

Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Quickie online purchases are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.

Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies. 

The cost of a Scottish Terrier puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life. 

And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Scottish Terrier might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult Scottish Terrier may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy. 

With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.

Adopting a Dog From a Scottish Terrier Rescue or Shelter

There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.

1. Use the Web

Sites like and can have you searching for a Scottish Terrier in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Scottish Terrier s available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.

Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.

2. Reach Out to Local Experts

Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Scottish Terrier. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.

3. Talk to Breed Rescue

Most people who love Scottish Terriers love all Scottish Terriers. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Scottish Terrier Club of America can help you find a rescue dog. You can also search online for Scottish Terrier rescues in your area.

The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Scottish Terrier home for a trial to see what the experience is like.

4. Key Questions to Ask

You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:

What is his energy level?

How is he around other animals?

How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children?

What is his personality like?

What is his age?

Is he housetrained?

Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?

Are there any known health issues?

Wherever you acquire your Scottish Terrier, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Puppy or adult, a breeder purchase or a rescue, take your Scottish Terrier to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.