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Is the Scottish Terrier the Right Dog for You?

Is the Scottish Terrier the Right Dog for You?

To see a Scottish Terrier is to love them. This adorable breed with their full beards and bright eyes is frequently depicted on plaid fabric, clothes, home décor and artwork. Disney created a loveable character out of Jock, the Scottish Terrier in “The Lady and The Tramp.” Could this be the partner you were looking for? Learn more about this spunky dog to decide if the Scottish Terrier is the right dog for you.

Breed History

A true terrier, the breed was developed as a “farm dog” in Britain to hunt rats, foxes, badger and other vermin.

Like many terrier breeds from the British Isles, the history of the Scottish Terrier is a bit of a mystery. They were many breeds that came from that area, and most likely they were interbred quite a bit before breed standards came to be. This includes the Cairn and the West Highland White Terrier. In fact, when the breeds were all being developed, around the late 1800s-early 1900s. there was quite a debate on which breed should be named THE Scottish Terrier. The American Kennel Club had registered it’s first Scottie in 1885. And in 1937 The Scottish Terrier Club of New South Wales was created. Today, they have members from across Australia and even around the world.

Today’s adult Scottish Terrier is about 25 cm tall and 8.6-9.5 kg in weight. They can be black, wheaten, or brindle. They cannot be white except for a small amount on their chest and chin.


Like most terriers, the Scottish Terrier is an independent thinker, aloof to strangers with a strong hunting (prey drive) instinct. With a confident attitude that does not scare easily, they have no problem guarding your home from strangers. They definitely will chase a cat or other small animals and are known for not getting along well with other dogs. Any puppy you choose should come from dogs with good, even temperaments. Respectably breeders should temperament test their puppies and their breeding stock as aggression is seen in this breed.

Energy Level

Scottish Terriers were bred for farm life. This means up early, running the farm all day, and out hunting for vermin at night. While your terrier may come from generations of house dogs, they have not left behind that need for exercise. There instinct is to hunt, and they need an outlet for that, or they can become destructive. A game of fetch, tug of war (a favourite of most Scotties!), or a brisk walk/run around the block will make them a contented housemate, provided you also do something to wear out their brain. Due to their agility and intelligence, Scottish Terriers would love to do sports like scent work or earth dog, which tap into their hunting instinct and expend mental and physical energy.

Space Needed

While they can be at home on a farm, one is not needed. As long as you can provide proper mental and physical exercise, Scottish Terriers can be just as happy in a house with a yard or even a flat.

Common Health Problems

The Scottish Terrier is a relatively healthy breed that can live up to 14 years. Like many small dogs, luxating patella is something you should watch for, and avoid letting them jump off high furniture like beds or couches.

They do have a few genetic disorders that are definitely things to know about before adding a Scottish Terrier to your home. They can have progressive retinal atrophy, so your puppy’s parents should have been tested for this before being bred. VonWillebrand’s disease is another genetic disorder that you need to ask about when choosing a puppy. It is a blood clotting disorder. Due to careful breeding, it is not seen nearly as much as it used to be, but you should still ask if the puppy’s parents are vWD clear before buying. Cerebellar abiotrophy is another genetic disease breeders can (and should) test for before breeding. Dogs affected by CA will gradually loose coordination as the mutation causes the death of the Purkinje cells in the cerebellum. They will have trouble with stairs, their gait will become uneven and will be uncoordinated.

All Scottish Terrier owners should be aware of “Scottie Cramp.” So named because of its prevalence in the breed, no genetic marker has been found yet so this is not something that can be tested. However, they do believe it’s a genetic disorder, so you can ask if the breeders have seen any evidence of it in their breeding stock. Dogs affected by Scottie Cramp will stiffen and become immobilized, to the point of falling over, after strenuous exercise or becoming excited. They may also arch their back and have a stiff gait. The episodes go away on their own, and do not seem to cause pain. Most dogs that exhibit Scottie Cramp live fairly normal lives.

Their coat also comes with some maintenance required. They will either need to be stripped or kept in a clip.


Like most terriers, you will need patience and intelligence to train a Scottie dog. Often labelled as “stubborn” because they will need a “why” to do what you ask, positive reinforcement is the best method to use. They are intelligent, so do not expect to do a lot of repetitions. Keep sessions short and mix things up in order to keep your Scottish Terrier from becoming bored and literally walking away from your training session. However, since they are intelligent, if you are patient and creative, you can teach them a lot. (Just make them think it was their idea and you will be successful!)

Feeding Recommendation

We recommend you feed your Scottish Terrier puppy either the Stay Loyal Chicken, Lamb, & Fish, or the Salmon, Turkey and Pork, switching to the adult portions at around 9 months of age.

The Scottish Terrier is an intelligent, independent dog that likes to be king or queen of his castle. While he may not fit in a pack environment, he is a great match for someone looking for a walking buddy or a dog to play a rousing game of daily fetch or tug. Be sure to ask any breeder you are considering if they have done genetic testing to ensure you are getting a health puppy that will be with you for years to come.



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