Scottish Terrier

AKC Terrier Group


Photo Copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo Copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

The Scottish Terrier was developed in Scotland in the 1700s. The breed was first called the Aberdeen Terrier after the Scottish town of the same name. Like many other long, low dogs, the Scottie was used to hunt den animals, especially otter, fox, badger, and rabbit; the breed was especially good at getting these small animals out of rocks and holes. Today the Scottie primarily serves as a companion, although he still retains his hunting instincts and has a very strong prey drive.


The Scottish Terrier is a heavy-boned, compact, and energetic dog with short legs and a long, bearded head. The almond-shaped eyes are shielded by bushy eyebrows, and the ideal expression is said to be keen and “varminty” in the AKC standard. The small, erect ears are pointed, the large nose is black, and the tail, which is undocked, points straight up. The outer coat is harsh and bristly and the undercoat is soft. The Scottish Terrier comes in solid black, dark gray, wheaten, grizzle, and brindle. The standard allows for a little bit of white on the chest.

Key Facts

  • Height:  Averages 10 in.
  • Size:  Small
  • Weight:  19 to 22 lbs. (male); 18 to 21 lbs. (female)
  • Availability:  Might take some effort to find
  • Talents:  Hunting, watchdog, earthdog, agility, and performing tricks


Even a pet Scottie’s coat needs a lot of regular attention to keep it looking its best. In addition to twice-weekly brushing, the coat needs to be clipped about six times a year. Some pet owners use a professional groomer to do this, but maintenance grooming also can be done at home with clippers, scissors, a comb, and a slicker brush. (You can learn how to do this from a breeder, videos, or books.) Scotties tend to put on weight, so it’s important not to overfeed them. They like to dig, which can be a problem for owners who take pride in having a nice lawn or garden. Some bloodlines are prone to Scottie cramp (a movement problem), von Willebrand’s disease, flea allergy, skin and jaw problems, and various forms of cancer, including bladder, skin, and urinary tract cancers.


Nicknamed the “Diehard,” the Scottie is a lively, brave, and alert little dog who can be at once protective and playful, infatuated with his people, and independent. Although Scotties are charming and full of character, their intelligence, independence, and intense little spirits can make them challenging companions. Most breeders recommend that people who get Scotties know how to set clear boundaries and stick to them; otherwise, the Scottie can become dominating and quite hard to live with. In addition, some Scotties become moody and snappish as adults. Most Scotties are sensitive to and resentful of harsh treatment or arbitrary rules. Nevertheless, these are loyal dogs (often one-family dogs, in fact) that can be indifferent with other people. They are best with older children, as the Scottie both dislikes being poked and prodded and has strong jaws that happen to be right at a toddler’s face level.

Breeders note that Scotties can be good with other pets as long as that pet stands its ground (anything that runs can trigger the Scottie’s strong prey drive). That same prey drive, combined with the Scottie’s strong dog aggression, means these dogs must always walk on leash and always play behind a fence. While no longer bred to be a hunter, the rugged Scottie may chase after wild animals (including mice, rats, raccoons, and even opossums) with a startling ferocity.

Some Scotties do well in apartments, but some need at least a small-size yard to get away from their owner and have an independent dog life. That same independent spirit makes the Scottie a hard dog to train; he generally likes to think for himself and if it makes more sense to go around a jump than over it, he will do so quite confidently. Similarly, if he knows you don’t want him on your bed, he’ll comply when you’re home, but take a snooze up there once you’re out of sight. That makes him a challenging dog to obedience train, but an absolute delight in the agility ring, where he not only can make his own decisions, but he also can watch his owner “running around and looking foolish,” one breeder noted. “Scotties love to see that.”


  • Children:  Best with older, considerate children
  • Friendliness:  Reserved with strangers
  • Trainability:  Somewhat difficult to train
  • Independence:  Fairly independent
  • Dominance:  High
  • Other Pets:  Generally good with other pets
  • Combativeness:  Tends to be fairly dog-aggressive
  • Noise:  Average barker
  • Indoors:  Relatively inactive indoors
  • Owner:  Not recommended for novice owners


  • Grooming:  Regular grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping:  Moderate trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat:  Medium coat
  • Shedding:  Very light
  • Exercise:  Moderate exercise needed
  • Jogging:  A fair jogging companion
  • Apartments:  Will be OK in an apartment if sufficiently exercised
  • Outdoor Space:  OK without a yard
  • Climate:  Does well in most climates
  • Longevity:  Average (10 to 12 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Scottish Terrier Breed Standard

Scottish Terrier Breed Profile

Scottish Terrier Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Scottish Terrier

Scottish Terrier Gifts