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The Scottish Terrier (Could this paw-some pup be the perfect pet for you?)

Written by: Caitlin
Published: 26th October 2021, last updated: 13th February 2023

What is it about a Scottish terrier that is just so endearing? They are one of the oldest recognised dog breeds and have become one of the most popular pets around the world, and they’ve managed to do it all whilst permanently exuding grumpiness- it the cutest of ways of course! Maybe its their resemblance to our Grandpa with their whiskery beards that we just can’t get enough of..

Whether you are considering whether one of these majestic looking hounds could be the perfect fit for your home, or whether you just want to read more about the canine pride of Scotland, you’ve come to the right place…

What is a Scottish Terrier

The Scottish Terrier, is also affectionately nicknamed the Scottie Dog, and was previously known as the Aberdeen Terrier, and also as a Skye Terrier. In Gaelic they are known as Abhag Albannach.

These small but sturdy terriers may be short in the leg but they are not lacking in big personalities!

As their name would suggest, the Scottish terrier originated in Scotland, originally bred for the purpose of hunting and vermin control. They proved themselves to be unrivalled in their skills of digging up and killing rodents on farms in the Highlands.

The first club solely dedicated to this breed, was the “Scottish Terrier Club of England” which was founded in 1881. The breed was established overseas, firstly when the first Scottish terriers arrived in America in 1883, but the rest of the world soon adopted these cute but tenacious little dogs into their homes and hearts too.

These days, Scottish Terrier is known for being a loyal companion, with a high level of intelligence. They enjoy being around people and can make great family pets, but are also fantastic watchdogs and even good hunting companions too.

The average lifespan on a Scottish terrier is between 11 and 13 years.

What does a Scottish Terrier look like

A Scottish terrier will usually reach an average height (at their withers) of roughly 25 cm, this is for both male and female dogs.

The length of the average Scottish terrier (along their back from withers to tail) is roughly 28 cm.

A healthy, good condition male Scottish terrier should weigh in the region of 8.5 to 10 kg and a female would usually be slightly lighter at between 8 and 9.5 kg.

The Scottish terrier may be short, but he is not slight in stature. They have thick-set, somewhat chunky bodies and short but heavy legs. Plus, with their pointy ears and tail which sticks straight up they can give the impression of being slightly taller than they measure!

These small pricked up ears are covered with the softest velvety hair, whilst the rest of the Scottish terriers body is covered with a a long and much harder, wiry coat which means they are resistant to the cold and hardy in all weathers. This coat can be black, most traditionally, but also could be shades of grey or white. The adorable looking long hair on their muzzles is often referred to as a beard or moustache, and is a distinctive part of the Scottie dogs charm.

A Scottish terriers eyes are small, bright and piercing, and seem to have a way of drawing you in, meaning once you meet one of these special little dogs you are sure to find a special place in your heart for them for life! 

Scottish Terrier temperament

The Scottish terrier was nicknamed “Diehard” in the 19th century by George, the fourth Earl of Dumbarton. The Earl famously had a pack of Scottish Terriers, that were so brave and determined they earned this moniker, and were even supposed to have inspired the name of his Regiment, The Royal Scots , “Dumbarton’s Diehards”.

Like many other terrier breeds, the Scottish terrier is known for being alert and quick moving, and very territorial. They make loyal companions whilst retaining their independence, they can be playful but also have a confidence about them.

The Scottish terrier is often described as being fearless, and should be introduced to other dogs from an early age, or else they will grow up to be defensive around new dogs. Whilst they will attach themselves fiercely to their family, they may be aloof around strangers- one of the reasons why they have often been called good watchdogs!

Due to their origins of being bred for hunting, the Scottish terrier retains a lot of its instincts for chasing, meaning they might not be the ideal breed to live in a home with other small pets. They are also fantastic diggers, so it is advisable to exercise them in spaces where they can fulfil this desire- or else your flower beds could be in trouble!

Scottish Terrier puppies

If you are thinking of acquiring a Scottish terrier puppy the main thing to consider is whether you have the time to meet the needs of these dogs. They can be slow to train due to their tendency towards stubbornness, so you will need to be patient. Plus, their coats need regular grooming to maintain. This can be time consuming.

As with all dog breeds, they will need regular exercise and a lot of love- but just look how gorgeous they are and it shouldn’t seem hard to do!

How much does a Scottish Terrier cost?

To purchase a pure bred Scottish terrier puppy from a reputable breeder you are looking at a price in the region of £1500 to £2500.

Scottish Terrier rescue

Of course, purchasing a puppy isn’t the only way to bring one of these dogs into your home. You could also consider rescuing a dog who maybe hasn’t had the luckiest start in life. There are a number of rescue shelters around the UK dedicated specifically to finding good homes for Scottish terriers, here are just a couple that you could look into:

How to train a Scottish Terrier

These little dogs are highly intelligent so effective training is possible, but they do also have a short attention span and a tendency to become bored if not stimulated enough. Training should be varied and carried out in short regular intervals to get the most out of these stubborn dogs and keep their focus on the task in hand.

Top tips:

  • Socialise your Scottish terrier from a young age.
  • Also start your training as early as possible.
  • Be patient! It will be worth it in the end.
  • Carrying out your training in a space with no other distractions around.
  • Use positive reinforcements. Your Scottish terrier will rebel against negativity, but will thrive with praise for good behaviour, in the form of encouraging words and affection.
  • It’s ok to use treats. These wee dogs are highly food motivated.

How to groom a Scottish Terrier

If you are welcoming a Scottish terrier into your home you’ll be pleased to know that they aren’t big shedders so your furniture and carpets are pretty safe. But the length and texture of their coats does mean that they need a specific kind of grooming.

These dogs will need regular brushing to stop their long hair from becoming tangled and matted, and this is a habit you should start with them from a young age, and can be a great bonding experience with your pup.

The shape of a Scottish terrier’s coat is famous and part of what makes the breed distinctive. There is a small amount of trimming involved in maintaining this appearance, particularly around their paws and cute little beards. But for the most part their coats should be groomed via a method known as hand stripping.

HAND STRIPPING involves the dog’s hair being gently pulled out in the direction that it is grown, and is not painful at all when done correctly. A regular session with a dog groomer who could do this for you would be sufficient, but there is no reason why you cannot learn to groom your Scottish terrier yourself, especially if you start employing the technique from a young age so that your pet is familiar with the process.

Scottish Terrier Health

There is no reason why your Scottish terrier shouldn’t live a long life without any serious health concerns. But there are a few conditions to look out for that are particularly prevalent in this breed of dog. These are:

Craniomandibular osteopathy

Craniomandibular osteopathy is the term used to describe a condition where there is an abnormal growth in the jaw in a puppy. Unfortunately there are currently no screening tests to check for this condition, but the good news is that it does normally resolve itself by the time the dog reaches adulthood. Although it can be painful, so always get your pet checked out by your vert if you suspect CMO.

Scottie Cramp

This condition got it’s name because it is a breed specific issue, one which is in fact regarded to be a neurological issue, and doesn’t actually mean that the dog is experiencing painful cramps.

What actually happens is that when the dog is reactive to stress- even everyday stresses exercise- it cause changes to the way they move and run. Their legs can fly out to the side, the back might arches and they can even suffer from facial and neck muscle spasms. Unfortunately the most severely affected dogs may fall down when this occurs.

So whilst the condition is not painful, it is inconvenient and can lead to accidents for the Scottish terrier. Some dogs who develop this condition are able to it and will naturally start to avoid the stresses that trigger it, and thus can live a fairly normal life. Occasionally there are severely affected dogs who may require medicating, which is rare, but you should always seek veterinary advice if you spot these symptoms in your pet.

Cerebellar abiotrophy

Cerebellar abiotrophy is another neurological condition which is know to affect Scottie dogs. In fact the symptoms are so similar to Scottie Cramp, it is often mistaken to be the same thing. However cerebellar abiotrophy is much more serious, as the condition will get progressively worse and the effects are seen all the time, not just during exercise.

Unfortunately, whilst this is clearly a genetic issue, there are currently no tests available to check for it. But if you should have any concerns or think your dog may be suffering you should alway seek medical advice from your vet as soon as possible.

Famous Scottish Terriers

The beloved Scottish terrier has made in name for itself it popular culture for several reasons. I mean, who hasn’t fought with a sibling over who gets to be the Scottie Dog piece when playing the board game Monopoly?! And we all took Jock, who lived next door to Lady in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp, firmly into our hearts!

And did you know that these adorable dogs have lived the life of luxury in the White House with three American presidents: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and George W. Bush?

Other famous people who have been known to own a Scottish terrier include Queen Victoria, Rudyard Kipling, Shirley Temple and Julie Andrews.

A young Shirley Temple on the left, pictured next to Julie Andrews on the right, both with their beloved pet Scottish Terriers
A young Shirley Temple on the left, pictured next to Julie Andrews on the right, both with their beloved pet Scottish Terriers

About the author

Written by: Caitlin

Comments on this post

  • Deb snow
    05/03/22 - 02:53

    I love scotties! Ive had & trained 3 of them!

  • Elizabeth Anne Smart
    15/03/22 - 16:01

    What a wonderful post. They are Bonnie wee dogs although I always had West Highland, and Cairn terriers. I would love a wee dog but alas with all the health problems causing lack of mobility it’s out of the question. The love and devotion dogs give to there owners is second to none!

  • Duncan Lang
    17/03/22 - 18:46

    My wife and I have had three Scotties and two Westies over the years. Both breeds are wonderful dogs that are full of life and very inquisitive. We currently have an 18-month old Westie, Malcolm, and a one-year old Scottie, Maisie. Thank you for the great article.

  • B.J.
    22/09/22 - 19:59

    Hello from Williamsburg, Va. USA.
    I have been the VERY happy owner of 3 FABULOUS Scotties that I adored.
    MacTavish, MacDougal and Seamus. What fun they were. I LOVED them all so much. Seamus did have scottie cramp and it was actually cute. He would every now and again buck like a bronco! They each had their own kilts and tams and would yearly walk so proudly in the Scottish Parade in Alexandria,Va. I am retiring now and am seriously thinking of getting 2 more to carry me into my golden years.

  • Sheila K Swinehamer
    02/10/22 - 20:44

    I can not say enough wonderful things about this breed. Adopted my first scotty when she was 12 weeks old. I have to say she is very unique because she basically trained herself due to the fact that she doesn’t like to be scolded.

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