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Scottish Terrier Dog Breed Information: Facts, Traits, Pictures & More


Last Updated: March 13, 2023 | 14 min read | 19 Comments

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The Scottish Terrier is a short but seriously feisty little dog, thought to be the forefather of all terriers in Great Britain. This blueprint breed was created to hunt vermin, so if you’ve got a rat problem in your yard, look no further.

But if you are a multi-pet household with mice, guinea pigs, or rabbits, this pup will not be the best canine choice for you. This breed is also highly independent and very strong-willed. This means it’s likely not the best pick for first-time dog owners or owners that have little time to train.

Before committing to any dog breed, you must understand what to expect once you’ve welcomed them into your home. In this article, we will cover the Scottish Terrier’s charismatic personality to his grooming, training, and exercise needs. Read on to find out if the Scottish Terrier is the perfect dog breed for you and your lifestyle.

Breed Overview
    • weight iconWeight18-22 pounds
    • height iconHeight10-12 inches
    • lifespan iconLifespan12-14 years
    • color iconColorsBlack, Brindle, Wheaten
  • Child Friendliness
  • Canine Friendliness
  • Training Difficulty
  • Grooming Upkeep
  • Breed Health
  • Exercise Needs
  • Puppy Costs

Breed History

Scottie Near Tree
Scotties were bred to hunt rats and other small vermin.

The Scottish Terrier breed was created to hunt rats, badgers, and foxes, keeping his master’s yard, or entire farm, free from vermin. His short legs, squat but powerful frame, and tenacious terrier nature made him a great earth dog. He was also used as a watchdog and alerted his human pack to all incoming visitors. In the 19th century, a famous group of Scotties and their master soldiers were nicknamed the ‘Dumbarton Diehards.‘ This nickname reflected their incredible courage.

Although he is thought to be one of the oldest indigenous British canine breeds, he only made his way to America in 1883. Two years later, he was entered into the American Kennel studbook with a fine Scottie specimen called Prince Charlie. Although he is still used for flushing prey from the ground on ranches, he is more popular as a family dog. Commonly found living the life of Riley and soaking up all the adoration.

President Franklin Roosevelt fell in love with the breed too, and he had a Scottish sidekick called Fala. The breed was immortalized in one of Disney’s biggest hit films, Lady and the Tramp, in the Scottish character Jock. Jock captured the hearts of dog lovers across the world, and his popularity increased after the film. He is consistently ranked in the top 60 dog breeds in America, and he isn’t going anywhere soon.


Scottie With Wheaten Coat
The Scottie is a strong-willed and independent dog breed.

The Scottish Terrier is a terrier by name and a terrier by nature. This means you can expect a certain number of terrier traits, and the first is that he is full of character. This pup doesn’t hide in the corner. He is the soul of the party, and a dignified and proud member of the family. He is a serious dog with a serious presence.

Scotties are also protective dogs. When it comes to intruders, both humans and other animals, beware. Third after the German Shepherd and the Rottweiler, the Scottish Terrier is one of the top barkers. But surprisingly, he is not yappy. He has a deep booming bark that will warn the most formidable of creatures away. Fantastic if you are looking for a furry four-legged alarm system.

His suspiciousness of strangers makes him aloof, and he is not the most sociable of dogs. He is affectionate with his family, but not overly so. When he’s busy, he doesn’t like to be fussed over.  This makes him a brilliant option for those dog lovers who do not like overly needy or in-your-face dogs.

His independence makes him a headstrong dog that doesn’t take direction well. So do not expect an obedient dog with the Scottie. because of their independence, Scotties aren’t great first-time dogs. Ideally, he needs an experienced owner who knows how to handle independent pups. He might be small, but he is mighty in will.

His terrier tenacity, working energy, and love for his family mean that he is lots of fun too. Families seeking canine entertainment and a companion for some fun in the yard will find a great option in the Scottie. He will happily play in the yard for hours, especially with anything resembling a furry rodent. He will also appreciate a bucket full of toys to get his teeth stuck into rather than your sneakers.

Size & Appearance

Small Black Scottish Terrier
Scotties are small, muscular dogs with sturdy frames.

The Scottish Terrier breed standard describes him as “a small, compact, short-legged, sturdily-built dog of good bone and substance.” To put it into perspective, at only 10 inches tall, he is approximately the same height as the well-known Corgi. He only weighs between 18 and 22 pounds. He is proportionately built, but it is his long coat that often makes him look oddly shaped.

The Scottie’s head is long compared to the rest of his body, elongated by his long beard. His ears are small but erect and pricked in shape. Placed high on his skull, his ears contribute towards his forever alert appearance. His eyes are small and piercing in expression, set well into his head. He has a little mouth covered by his long beard, with a square fleshy nose poking through. The Scottish Terrier’s legs are short, and his tail is of medium length and stands to attention.

Coat & Colors

Two Different Colored Scotties
Black coats may be the most popular, but Scotties have three different colors considered breed standard.

The Scottish Terrier has a thick double coat that has two distinct layers. His undercoat is soft to the touch, and his outer coat is hard and wiry. It might look sleek and shiny, but that is due to a good grooming schedule rather than a soft coat. His coat will grow long, and if you want to achieve the traditional look, his coat should be blended. This means to keep the hair on his beard, underbelly, and legs long.

These pups don’t shed much. Some people would say they are Hypoallergenic. While there are no truly Hypoallergenic dogs, the Scottie doesn’t shed nearly as much as other breeds, making them a great option for potential dog owners with pet allergies.

Many people think that the only color the Scottish Terrier has is black. But this is not the case. Yes, the black coat color is the most popular, but he also has the option of brindle and wheaten. The brindle color has either red or silver undertones. And the wheaten color is a creamy color similar to the color of wheat. Regardless of his coat color, his noses and other features, such as lips and eye rims, should always be black.

Exercise Requirements

Black Scottie Puppy Playing Outside
Scottish Terriers love to play, and have plenty of energy.

The Scottish Terrier is an energetic dog with a ratting background. This means that he needs to be homed with a family that can offer him at least one hour of exercise every day. Despite his short legs, he is not a typical lapdog. He’ll only settle for cuddles once his mind and body have been sufficiently stimulated.

Many unsuspecting owners expect that he doesn’t need a lot because he is small, only to find an unruly and unhappy pup on their hands. His family must keep up with his energy levels and be willing to exercise him in all weather. This breed will destroy everything in his path if you do not meet his exercise needs – you have been warned.

His ratting background also means that he will be off like a shot should he see something small and furry. He has an extremely high prey drive, and no amount of training will rid him of this. No matter how much you call him back, he will try to climb trees and disappear down holes in the search for rodents. For his safety and your sanity, we suggest keeping this crazy canine on a leash at all times.

As an independent breed, he doesn’t require constant companionship. This is fantastic news for those dog owners out there who aren’t fans of super needy dogs. Let him get on with his day, and he’ll let you get on with yours. It is for this reason that he isn’t suited to homes with toddlers or young children. He can get grumpy when smothered, pulled, and poked, and young kids just don’t understand this. Older families only, please.

Living Conditions

Black Dog Laying on Rug
Scottish Terriers are adaptable and can thrive in a variety of different living conditions.

His small frame means that he is suited to apartment living, just as long as you meet his exercise needs. Equally, he is suited to large home living. But if he has access to a yard, it needs to be Scottie-proof. This means high fences, locked gates, and dig-proof perimeters. He is a strong-willed tenacious terrier that will find a way to escape if it means catching that squirrel.

The Scottish Terrier isn’t the most polite pup. He is happy in his own company and only wants to play when it suits him. If you are in a multi-dog household, he will probably do well if brought into your family as a puppy. But if you have a resident Scottie and try to bring in a new dog into the fold, he might not be best pleased. He will be much less welcoming when it comes to other pets, such as cats and rats.


Small Dog Training on Walk
Scotties can be stubborn and aren’t the easiest dogs to train.

The Scottish Terrier is an independent dog who isn’t the easiest to train, which is why we advise that only experienced dog owners take him on. First-time dog owners might be put off canines forever with his strong-willed (read extremely stubborn) demeanor. But for those that are ready for this will find a charming canine challenge. The Scottie is a unique breed for sure, but he has a strong fanbase who adore his breed.

For independent dogs, early training is a must. A good quality breeder will start the process early, but it is your job to carry it on. As soon as you can, enroll your Scottie pup in puppy obedience classes. Although he will never be totally obedient, he might just listen to you half the time if you instill the basic commands early.

Headstrong dogs will always try their chances and get away with naughty behaviors. So a top tip for the training the Scottie is never ever to let him. Because once you have done it once, he’ll remember that he can get away with it. Be persistent with your training, and be sure to follow up on commands. It’s also important that the whole family are on board with the rules. If mom doesn’t let him on the sofa, dad shouldn’t either.

All dogs require socialization, but this is another crucial training aspect for the Scottie. Without it, he will become overly grumpy and unfriendly. Mix him with as many other dogs as possible from a young age. This way, he will learn that most other dogs aren’t threats to ward off, and you’ll maximize your chances of having a friendly dog. Mix him with as many other humans, sights, sounds, and situations as you can to increase his confidence too.


Healthy Small Black Dog Outdoors
Under most circumstances, this breed is extremely healthy with very few genetic health conditions.

The Scottish Terrier, like most terriers, is a very healthy dog breed. But he still needs caring if you want him to live to his expected lifespan of 12 years. The best ways to look after him are feeding him top-quality nutrition, meeting his exercise needs, and keeping up to date with health checkups at the vet. Another way to increase the chances of having a healthy Scottie is to work with reputable breeders, but we’ll discuss this in detail further on.

Like all purebred dogs, the Scottie breed is prone to certain health concerns more so than others. This means that while you shouldn’t discount other health concerns, there are a few that you definitely need to know about. The following conditions are the most prevalent in the breed:

Von Willebrand’s Disease

This is an inherited blood disease that means his blood cannot clot due to a lack of clotting proteins. Your Scottie must be checked for this condition because it can be fatal if he suffers from an injury that caused heavy bleeding. Most dogs with Von Willebrand’s disease lead normal lives, but they need regular medication to manage their blood health. Dogs with the disease should not be bred, so be sure to ask for health certificates.

Patella Luxation

This is a common health condition in smaller dog breeds like the Scottie. It affects his kneecaps and causes dislocation. This is a painful condition that usually affects the rear legs and will require surgery to correct it.

Scottie Cramp

This is a condition that is unique to the Scottie breed. It is quite common, but thankfully it is harmless, just uncomfortable during cramping. It occurs throughout his lifetime but usually during high-stress periods such as exercise, fighting, or mating. If your Scottie is arching his back, stretching his legs and freezing, or unable to walk for short while, it is likely to be due to Scottie cramp.


Active Small Black Dog Outside
This is an active breed, and they need a high-quality kibble to support their energy levels.

The Scottish Terrier will eat between one and one and a half cups of high-quality kibble every day. The Scottie is not particularly greedy compared to other dogs. But you should still take care to keep fatty human foods and toxic substances out of reach. The amount of food that your Scottie needs is dependent on his age, activity levels, and size. So be sure to follow the package instructions for specific guidance.

Always feed your dog the best quality food that you can afford. Top-quality kibbles will provide a well-balanced diet to meet his every nutritional need. A well-balanced diet includes real and named meats, fish, meat, and fish meals. Healthy carbohydrates such as potatoes and grains and prebiotic fiber such as pumpkin and chicory root are also important. Vitamins and minerals are important to boost his immunity.

The protein content should be above 22% during puppyhood and above 18% during adulthood. During his first year, feed him a puppy kibble designed for small breeds. Omega fatty acids are super important for healthy puppy development, and puppy kibbles will contain more of these to meet his needs. And they also maintain organ and coat health, as well as overall wellness. Ingredients such as fish, egg, flaxseed, and oils are great sources to look for in the ingredient list.

Although it might be tempting to save money on cheaper nutrition, you will notice that your Scottie will have less energy. As well as a dull coat and more illnesses, amongst many other things. So, please don’t be tempted to feed him a budget kibble. Plus, the Scottie is known to be a fussy pup who will probably turn his nose up at anything other than the best.


Well Groomed Black Dog Outdoors
A Scottie’s grooming needs will depend on how you want them to look.

The Scottish Terrier’s grooming regime difficulty will depend on whether you want him to maintain a traditional Scottie look. If you do, or he is a show Scottie, you will need to preserve the blended coat that requires careful styling and skill. His jacket on his topline should be clipped and kept close to his body. And the hair around his chin, legs, and underbelly needs to be kept long.

Many Scottie owners choose to send him the groomers because it can be time-consuming. Whereas others learn how to style his coat themselves. His coat usually needs styling once every six to eight weeks. Always try to find a groomer that will hand strip his coat rather than clipping it. Because eventually, clipping it with dog hair clippers will result in the loss of the desired harsher outer coat.

He will need brushing several times a week to ensure that his long hair doesn’t matt and tangle. A pin brush will be the best tool for his coat, so be sure to invest in one of these. Unlike some other double-coated dog breeds, he doesn’t shed much heavier during the shedding season. Instead, he is a light to moderate shedder all year round.

The Scottie will need periodic bathing, so aim to wash him once every two to three months. Always use a shampoo specifically designed for dogs, and make sure that it uses natural ingredients that will be gentle on his skin and wiry coat. The Scottie’s teeth will need to be brushed twice a week. His small mouth increases the chances of periodontal diseases, so it’s important to keep up with his dental hygiene.

Breeders & Puppy Costs

Wheaten Coated Scottie
Depending on the breeder, expect to pay a minimum of $1,000 and up for a purebred puppy.

The Scottish Terrier is not the most popular of dog breeds, but he isn’t extremely rare either. You might have to travel out of state to find a good quality breeder. But you can almost definitely expect to be placed on a waiting list for a Scottie pup. A top-quality breeder will have years of experience in breeding Scotties. As well as invite you to meet them and their dogs in person and are able to provide you with health certificates for your new pup.

The average price of a purebred puppy from a reputable breeder will be around $1,000 and up. If you are seeking a Scottie from an award-winning lineage, you can expect to pay several thousand dollars. A great place to start your search for a top-quality breeder is with the AKC’s Scottish Terrier breeder list.

Anything less than the average price is a warning sign that they are a poor-quality breeder or, worse, part of a puppy mill. Other indicators of a poor quality breeder include poor health and appearance, pressured sales, and not meeting the puppies with their parents in their home environment. These types of breeders do not screen for health concerns or socialize their pups. Meaning you will receive a Scottie with increased chances of diseases and behavioral problems.

Rescues & Shelters

Older Black Rescue Dog
If you are open to a rescue dog, you can save a life and save on costs at the same time.

With so many dogs across America searching for their forever homes, including Scottish Terriers, why not consider adopting a Scottie? Head out to your local rescue shelters and speak to the staff who can talk you through the adoption process. Not only can it be much cheaper than buying a new puppy, but it is an amazing thing to do.

There are also breed rescues that focus their efforts on rehoming one particular breed. This means that by contacting them, you are more likely to find your Scottie soulmate. The Scottish Terrier Club of America lists Scottie rescue organizations state by state, all with contact details. Be sure to check them out, and they have plenty of other useful information too.

As Family Pets

  • Scottish Terriers are stubborn dogs.
  • Don’t mistake his stubbornness for a lack of intelligence.
  • They do better with experienced dog owners.
  • Their perfect family is one that doesn’t immediately expect an obedient dog.
  • He has lots of energy and needs around one hour of exercise every day.
  • He needs to be socialized well as a puppy.
  • This will help ensure that he doesn’t become too overprotective.
  • The Scottie is a fantastic watchdog who will alert you to visitors.
  • He has a high prey drive and will chase all rodents out of sight.
  • He is suitable for apartment living or large homes, just as long as his yard is secured.
  • The Scottish Terrier isn’t needy and is happy to spend hours alone.
  • He is affectionate with his humans when he wants attention.
  • He doesn’t like to be smothered, so should only be homed with older children.

Final Thoughts

The Scottish Terrier is a particular pup who isn’t suited to every family or dog owner. By now, you should know whether you have got what it takes to welcome one of these pups into your home. But if you think you will make a good fit, the likelihood is you probably will. He can be grumpy, stubborn, and bossy, but this is all a part of his unique personality that many Scottie fanciers adore.

If you can put up with these qualities, know that you will find a loyal terrier on your hands, who loves to have fun with his humans, and cuddles in the evening. Dress him up with a tartan coat, and you’ll be the talk of the town. Whether you love all things Scottish or looking for an independent canine who doesn’t take any rubbish, this diehard doggo is a blast for sure.

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