Scottish Terrier

Breed At A Glance


Fiesty, alert and charming

Life Expectancy
13-15 years

Average Height
10-11 inches

Average Weight
18-23 lbs

Coat Color
Solid black, steel or iron gray, red or black brindle, sandy or wheaten

Coat Length/Texture
Compact, coarse and hard long coat, with a soft undercoat

Shedding Propensity
Little or not at all

Also known as Scottie, Aberdeen Terrier

General Temperament

The alert and courageous Scottish Terrier makes an excellent watchdog as they seldom bark without a reason. Playful and rambunctious as puppies, they grown into calm and dignified adults. They do not give their devotion to just anyone, but once bonded, they are quite protective of their owner(s). Most Scotties are up for just about anything and will go anywhere.

Scottish Terriers are not usually tolerant of unruly or unbehaved children. Additionally, they can be temperamental as adults, sometimes to the point of being snappish. They will function best in a household with no children, or with older well-behaved children who will not tease or roughhouse the dog. Be sure to socialize this breed from an early age with other dogs, cats and people to minimize any aggression during adulthood.

Despite their intelligence, Scottish Terriers are known to be difficult to train, given their independent spirit and stubbornness. Consistency and motivational techniques are the best training methods with this breed. This determined and self-confident breed will challenge anyone in the house who has not established dominance over him. But with proper training, Scotties can excel in obedience and agility trials.

Although they enjoy the outdoors, Scotties can be happy living in an apartment as long as they are given sufficient activity. They prefer cooler climates. Be sure to note that digging is in this breed’s nature, and they will do so if left alone in the yard to entertain themselves for too long.

Breed History

Although it has been described in books and images as far back as the 15th century, the origins of the Scottish Terrier cannot be specifically determined. It was originally grouped together with the other terriers developed in Scotland under the generic name “Skye Terriers.” Eventually the terriers of that country were bred along separate lines, and the standard for what we now know as the Scottish Terrier was developed. This breed served as a fervent hunter of den animals such as rabbits, badgers and foxes.

Throughout it’s history, the Scottish Terrier has been referred to by a number of names, including the Highland, Diehard, and most commonly the Aberdeen Terrier, referring to the breed’s abundance in that area. The first club dedicated to the Scottish Terrier as we know it today was formed in England in 1881.

The first Scottish Terrier was registered in the United States in 1884.

Body Structure and Composition

The confident and spunky Scottish Terrier is a strong, stout dog, slightly longer than it is tall. The head is elongated in proportion to it’s body, the skull and muzzle being approximately equal in length. The eyes are set wide apart and well in under the thick brows, and the prick ears are set high on the head. A Scottie’s short neck leads down to a level topline and a seven-inch tail that is always carried erect. This breed’s chest is broad and deep, reaching rather close to the ground. The short legs are heavily boned and strong, and the fore feet are usually larger than the hind feet. This breed has a very distinctive gait, with the forelegs inclining inward as it trots due to it’s large chest. Nevertheless, the Scottish Terrier’s gait is free and agile with powerful propulsion from the back legs.

Medical Information

The most common affliction in Scottish Terriers is a condition called Scottie Cramp, characterized by a change in motion when the dog is under stressful situations such as exercise, hunting or fighting. When this occurs, the forelegs move out to the side, the spine may arch and the rear legs may over flex. As the physical exertion continues, the dog can even somersault over itself as it runs. Once the stimulus ends, the symptoms almost immediately disappear. It is believed that this condition is caused by the depletion of seratonin in the dog’s central nervous system, and does not cause any pain. Most dogs with this condition become accustomed to it and known when to discontinue their activity: in short, they learn their limits. Treatment is seldom even necessary.

Another somewhat unique medical issue affecting the Scottish Terrier is Craniomandibular Osteopathy (CMO). CMO affects puppies between the ages of four and seven months. This inherited disease causes abnormal growth of the lower jaw bone and can be extremely painful to the dog. Individuals with this disease will often pull away or yelp in pain when an owner or vet attempts to examine them. Luckily, this condition is controllable with most basic pain killers and subsides as the dog matures.

Recent studies have shown a link between pesticides, particularly those used on lawns, and a rise in the risk of certain cancers in the Scottish Terrier breed, particularly bladder cancer. It is important to be very careful when letting this breed roam in unknown places, and to minimize (or eliminate) the use of pesticides on it’s home yard.

Scotties sometimes experience a bleeding disorder called Von Willebrand’s Disease that is similar to, but less severe than, Hemophilia. DNA testing is available to determine the presence of this gene both in carriers and affected individuals, and dogs who test positive should not be bred.

Hypothyroidism, a disease which causes an underactivity of the thyroid gland, has been shown to present in some Scottish Terrier lines. Symptoms include decreased appetite or weight gain, hair loss, recurring skin infections, and lethargy. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) provides certification of breeding stock to help prevent the spread of this disease, among several others.

This breed requires a significant amount of grooming, including regular brushing and professional trimming. Regular bathing is not recommended, as the Scottie’s skin tends to dry out easily. Some can be particularly sensitive to flea allergies.

Anecdotal Information

The Scottish Terrier enjoyed tremendous popularity in the United States during the 1930’s, when they were the third most popular breed.

Several classic Hollywood actors have owned specimens, including Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Shirley Temple, Liza Minelli, Julie Andrews, and Dorothy Lamour.

The Scottie has also been a popular breed for U.S. Presidents, including Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Theodore Roosevelt and his cousin, Franklin Roosevelt.

Scottish Terriers are popular mascots for everything from universities to corporations.

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