The Ultimate Guide to the Spunky Scottish Terrier aka Scotty Dog

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black and white scottish terrier puppies looking afarThe Scottish terrier started out as a working breed in the Scottish Highlands. With a rugged character that matches the landscape, the Scotty dog can be summed up in one word “Stubborn.”

However, this dog with unmistakable looks makes a fine companion for those who love long walks and need a small dog with a big bark. Read on t0 learn more about this spunky pooch!

Who is the Scottish Terrier?

Sturdy and stubborn, the Scottish terrier is not a dog to be hurried. Scotties like to be boss and are prepared to snap to prove a point. Although a great character and delightful dog for the right owner, Scotties aren’t ideal around young children.

History of the Spunky Scottish Dogs

Dogs of the Scottie type have been around since the ancient Romans, but have changed over the centuries. By the 19th century there was a multitude of distinctive terrier dogs from a similar heritage, but now with different appearances.

These formed the foundation stock for many of the terrier breeds we recognize today, including the Skye terrier and Cairn. Indeed, despite their ancient ancestors the Scottie as we know it today was first officially described in 1880.

Appearance and Personality of the Scotty Dog

Small but sturdy, the average Scottie weighs in around 20-lb body weight and stands around 10-inches tall to the shoulder.

Their coat is medium length and coarse, perfect for protecting the dog against gorse and briars. The coat color is always black, with the breed standard favoring dogs with a beard and bushy eyebrows.

scottie dogs panting


The Scottish terrier’s stubbornness arises from the need to make their own decisions when hunting badgers or rats. They aren’t a breed that tolerates fools and are apt to snap if they feel pressured or anxious.

Although a loving dog with their owner, a short-temper stops them being an ideal family dog.

The breed also loves to dig. So if you’re precious about the backyard, then a Scottie dog isn’t for you. They also have a big bark, which makes them good as a house dog to scare away unwanted callers. But happily, they’re not a yappy breed and save the barks for when they mean business.

 7 Fun Facts About the Scottish Dog Breeds

  1. Presidential Owners: The Scottish terrier breed is a big hit with the White House. No less than three US presidents owned Scotties: Eisenhower, Roosevelt, and George W Bush
  2. Description Dispute: In the 1870s there was a lot of disagreement over what a true Scottie dog looked like. In the equivalent of a social media spat, lots of letters were sent to the local press giving differing opinions. The Live Stock Journal became so overwhelmed they refused to print any more letters on the subject.
  3. Breed Brief: The official Scottish terrier breed standard was settled on in 1880, as described by WB Morrison.
  4. Terra and Terrier:   The ‘terrier’ part of Scottish terrier, is derived from the word ‘terra’ meaning earth. This reflects how Scottie dogs were originally used for hunting and driving prey ‘to the ground’. Those short legs meant Scotties were able to pursue badgers or rats down into their holes.
  5. Royal Heritage: King James VI of Scotland (son of Mary, Queen of Scots) was a big fan of Scottie dogs and owned several. The king was also partial to sending Scottish terrier pups as gifts to fellow monarchs abroad.
  6. Monopoly on Cute:  Since the introduction of the game of Monopoly by Hasbro in the 1950s. the game has always featured a Scottish terrier player marker.
  7. Mother of All Scotties: A single female dog, Splinter II, is considered the mother of the modern Scottish terrier dog breed.

Fit as a Fiddle: Is this a Healthy Dog?

Although a tough dog, the Scottish terrier breed has more than it’s fair share of health problems. Some of the conditions most likely to affect Scotties are listed below.

Craniomandibular Osteopathy

This condition also goes by the name of “Westie Jaw”, because it is common in the West Highland White Terrier. Craniomandibular osteopathy affects young, growing Scottish terrier puppies. It causes an extra bone to develop around the jaw bone, preventing the mouth from opening.

This is a painful condition and also makes it physically difficult to eat. There’s no cure, with an affected Scottie puppy needing pain relief and syringe feeding if they are to survive.

Von Willebrand’s Disease

This is a clotting disorder where the dog’s blood does form stable clots. This means a minor injury or cut can lead to serious blood loss. Again there is no cure. Affected Scotties should avoid rough and tumble games, and see a vet immediately if they injure themselves.

In this case, prevention is better than cure and affected dogs should not be bred from.


In middle age, the Scottish terrier breed is prone to hypothyroidism. Also known as underactive thyroid glands, the dog fails to produce enough thyroid hormone.

Happily, the condition is easy to diagnose with a simple blood test. Also, treatment is available, in the form of a single daily tablet to supplement those flagging hormone levels.

Juvenile Cataracts

This hereditary condition leads to the premature development of cataracts in Scottie pups and young adults. Much like wearing a dirty contact lens, the cloudy lens in the eye stops the dog seeing. Corrective surgery is available, but it’s expensive!

Skin Problems

Sadly, the Scottish terrier breed is a bit of a martyr to skin problems. This takes various forms including greasy or scaly skin that can spoil that coal black coat.

Treatment involves medicated shampoos, food supplements, and medication; which requires considerable dedication, not to mention the expense.

Scottie Cramp

This condition is shared by other terriers such as the Staffordshire bull terrier, Skye terrier, and Cairn terrier. As the name suggests, its a sudden muscular cramping.

It occurs during exercise, the dog is fully conscious but the muscles seize up and the dog can’t move. Such episodes usually pass in a matter of seconds and treatment is rarely needed.

Look at those Pups Go!! They’re Smarty Pants!

Chose any breed with ‘terrier’ in the title and they’re going to be smart! Scotties are clever, self-reliant dogs that can be tricky to train. Prone to making their own decisions, it’s up to the owner to convince a Scottie puppy that they need to listen.

black scotty dog looking at camera

This is best done with reward-based training methods, which encourage the dog to behave well in return for treats. This doesn’t mean bribing the dog but helping them understand that good behavior gets a treat.

Scotties need to be obedience trained daily, so they remember the message. But make sure those training sessions are fun,  they don’t get bored and so you build a good bond with the dog.

Scottish Terrier Puppies for Sale!

If the sass of the Scottie dog has won your heart, then choose your puppy with care. Be sure to use a reputable breeder or a rescue, and run a mile from puppy mills.

Selecting a Reputable Breeder!

A good breeder cares about the pups and wants them only to go to good homes. If the breeder grills you on your experience with dogs, this is a good sign they care.

Make sure to visit the litter and see the puppies with the mother dog. Ask the breeder about how the puppies are socialized. It’s important the youngsters are exposed to a wide variety of sights, sounds, and smells from an early age. This helps them grow up into a well-adjusted adult Scottie dog.

You can find a list of registered breeders via the American Kennel Club website or the Scottish Terrier Club.

Adopting from a Rescue!

Many Scottie dogs rescues end up in a shelter, through no fault of their own. It may be the owner had to move or fell on hard times, and a lovely dog now needs a new home.

If your local shelter doesn’t have a Scottie dog rescue for rehoming, try contacting the Scottish Terrier Club direct. They have their finger on the pulse and will be aware of any dogs looking for homes, so may well be able to help.

5 Tips for Pet Owners Raising a Scottish Terrier Puppy

  1. Socialize, socialize, socialize! If the Scottie has a fault, it’s being short tempered. Have your puppy mix with lots of other people and dogs from a young age. This helps make them well-adjusted and a tad more tolerant.
  2. Be Firm but Fair: The Scottie is an opinionated dog who likes to take control. Be a firm but fair owner from the start, by setting rules and sticking to them.
  3. Watch the Waistline: Scotties can be greedy dogs. Go easy with the treats and snacks between meals. If using treats for training, then cut back on the portion size at mealtimes.
  4. Supervise with Children: A Scottish terrier pup may look like a plush toy, but they’re living beings. A Scottie may snap is kids get out of control, so don’t put the dog in that situation.
  5. Tackle Training: Train your Scottie dog for short periods every day. Not only does this make for better behavior but a solid recall could save the dog’s life if they wander off towards a road.

A Scotsmen Best Friend!

The Scottie dog is small in stature but big on character. If you want a dog with distinctive looks who knows their own mind, then a Scottish terrier dog could definitely become your best friend.

Common Questions on the Scottish Terrier

Where Does the Scottish Terrier Come From?

Does this Breed Make A Good Family Pet?

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