The Scottish Terrier: What a Diehard Fan Needs to Know

The Scottish Terrier is one of the most recognizable dog breeds, thanks to its distinctive beard and skirt. 

Other Scottish Terrier names include the Scottie, the Scotsman, and the Aberdeen Terrier. The terrier’s stubborn nature also earned it the nickname of The Diehard.

Black Scotch Terrier sitting on green grass
Black Scotch Terrier on green grass

This terrier breed may have a small stature, but it has a large heart and plenty of courage. Let’s look at the independent Scottie below. 

Where did the Scottish Terrier originate? 

The breed originated from Scotland, hence the name. During Rome’s invasion of Britain in 55 B.C, Pliny the Elder described his surprise at seeing small dogs following their quarry to the ground.

The Romans referred to these dogs as terrari, meaning ‘workers of the earth.’ 

This is a suitable description as the Scottish Terrier is a determined hunting breed. Their breeding purpose was to hunt foxes, badgers, and vermin living in dens across the Scottish Highlands. 

Confusion about this terrier’s origins stems from how Scottish terrier breeds were classified. There was a custom where people called all terriers originating in Scotland Scottish Terriers or Scotch terriers. 

The matter became more complicated. People separated Scotland’s terriers into two groups: the Dandie Dinmont Terriers and the Skye Terriers.

The Scottish Terrier was grouped with the Skye Terriers, a large collection of terriers originating from the Isle of Skye. 

In the 1870s, a detailed description of the true Scottish Terrier dog breed was released. The modern breed standard was put forward around 1880, and the first Scottish Terrier Club formed in Scotland in 1882. 

By the end of the 1800s, breeders further divided the Skye terriers into four different terrier breeds:

  • Skye Terrier
  • Cairn Terrier
  • West Highland White Terrier (Scottish Highland Terrier)
  • Scottish Terrier

Of the many short-legged, hard-coated terriers in Scotland, the Scottish Terrier became a favorite in Aberdeen, Scotland. Leading to their other name, the Aberdeen Terrier

In the 19th century, another nickname for the Scottie arose. The fourth Earl of Dumbarton, George, had a famous pack of Scotties. These dogs showed immense courage in battle, which earned them the nickname “diehards.”

In 1883, the first Scotties, Tam Glen, and Bonnie Belle went to America with John Naylor. Naylor showed these dogs and imported more of the breed to the United States.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) registered its first Scottish Terrier, Prince Charlie, in 1885. The dog breed gained popularity, and their fame soared after World War II. 

Similar to the Irish Setter, US Presidents also favored the Scottie. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s terrier, Fala, was his loyal companion.

Former President George W. Bush also had a female called Miss Beazley and a male called Barney at the White House. 

At a glance, you may think the Schnauzer and Scottie are related. They both have beards and a fringe of hair (skirt). Let’s take a brief look at Scottish Terrier vs. Schnauzer.

Standard Schnauzer laying on grass
Standard Schnauzer laying on the grass

Standard Schnauzers originate from Germany. The AKC categorized them into the working group. On the other hand, the AKC categorized the Scottie into the terrier group.

North America classifies Miniature Schnauzers into the terrier group because of their rat-catching abilities. But, they do not share an ancestral family with Great Britain terriers. 

What does a Scottish Terrier look like?

The Scottish Terrier looks like a small hairy Scotsman with a beard and kilt. The dog is solid and compact with short legs and a sturdy build. This gives it the impression of power in a small package. 

The terrier has a hard, wiry coat with a noticeable fringe of hair along the underside of its belly, front of its legs, and sides. We’ll go in-depth into the coat and its markings later.

a Scottish Terrier on a tree stomp looking to left
Meet Theo, a Scottish Terrier adventurer – Image source

The head is long compared to the rest of the dog. The domed skull shape is medium-sized.

A Scottie’s eyes are small, almond-shaped, and set apart on the head. Eye colors range from dark brown to nearly black, and the nose should be black. 

The muzzle is long, medium-sized, and tapers towards the nose. Their ears are pointed and stand erect atop the head. Its neck is short and muscular, flowing into laid-back shoulders. The Scottie has a scissor or level bite.

The back is level along the top of the terrier, and the tail resembles a carrot, thicker at the base. The tail is of medium length and showcases short, hard hair.

A Scottie’s front feet are larger than the hind feet and have a round shape. 

How big does a Scottish Terrier get?

Scottish Terriers don’t stay puppies for long as they reach maturity at between 12 to 14 months. 

A Scottish Terrier’s height is roughly the same for male and female adults. Both reach a height of about 10 inches (25.4cm). Male and female Scottish Terrier size differs with weight.

A healthy male should weigh between 19 and 22 pounds (8.6 and 10 kg). A female can weigh between 18 and 21 pounds (8.1 and 9.5 kg). 

Their height means they fall into the toy breed category, whereas their weight classifies them as a small breed. This means they’re suitable for all manners of living, including apartment living (provided they get a daily walk). 

The breed is small, so it’s not necessary to have a mini Scottish Terrier. But, if you’re looking for a smaller version, you may want to look at mixes like the Scottish Terrier Chihuahua Cross (more on this later) or Fox Terrier Cross

Similarly, you won’t find a purebred giant Scottish Terrier. You might find some large crosses with Scottie features or breeds that look like a big Scotsman, like the Giant Schnauzer

Scottish Terrier vs. Miniature Schnauzer

a Miniature Schnauzer smirking while laying on the grass
Miniature Schnauzer lying on the grass

As we said before, the miniature schnauzer and Scottie are similar in appearance. But, there are some differences between them. 

Miniature Schnauzers tend to weigh less, ranging between 11 and 20 pounds (4.9 and 9.1 kg). They both have wiry coats, but the Schnauzers have grey coloring, which Scotties don’t.

The two breeds also differ slightly in temperament. Schnauzers get on better with kids and are more tolerant of other animals, like cats. Schnauzers are also considered to be easier to train as they are less willful. 

If you need help choosing between a Miniature Schnauzer and a Scottish Terrier, take a look at this video. 

What’s unique about a Scottish Terrier’s coat?

The Scottie has dual layering: a wiry outer coat (topcoat) and a softer, dense undercoat. This weather-resistant coat protects them from bad weather conditions. 

The traditional archetype is the pure black Scottish Terrier. But, they come in various colors and even with brindle markings, like the brindle Pitbull

These include:

  • Black
  • Black brindle
  • Red brindle
  • Silver brindle
  • Wheaten
  • Grey or steel
  • Black with some white markings
  • Brown

A brindle Scottish Terrier can come in any color so long as they have black stripes. 

A pure white Scottish terrier in the breed is unheard of, but the Wheaten Scottish Terrier comes close, with its pale tan coloring. 

Sometimes, people confuse the white West Highland Terrier with a white Scottie, but these are separate breeds. The white Scotsman is a myth created by popular culture and advertising. 

Temperament: Do Scottish Terriers make good family pets?

Yes, the Scottish Terrier temperament is fitting for a family. This terrier enjoys companionship, showing gentle affection to children and consideration to seniors. They treat people well who treat them well – mutual respect applies. 

Although they adore children, they are not a great match for families with babies and small children. Scotties will assert themselves when prodded, which can result in a bite. 

These dogs are not mean. They are independent, feisty, stubborn, loyal, and sometimes aloof, but not vindictive. Many see the Scottie as a big dog in a small package, with plenty of heart and bravery. 

a gray Scottie wearing a bandana on his neck
Image source

This terrier doesn’t take to strangers as easily as other breeds like the Labrador Retriever. But, they love being a part of a family unit and will protect them.

Take heed though, Scotties like to have their own space and me-time. They are not lap-dogs and will not appreciate too much cuddling. 

Scottish terriers tend to be friendly with family members but can be aggressive to other dogs. This is why they need to socialize with other dogs from an early age.

They also have a strong prey drive, thanks to their hunting heritage. This can be problematic if you have hamsters, small animals, or cats at home. 

You’ll also want to take a firm, but not harsh, hand when training your Scottish Terrier. Scotties are smart, sensitive, and stubborn. This makes them a handful in the training department.

The best training method for this terrier is positive reinforcement. Their sensitive natures mean mistreatment or abuse devastates them. But, you also need to be firm to address their stubbornness.

Try and change the training where possible. They’re smart so they respond well to challenges and get bored with too much repetition. You can start with stimulating 15-minute sessions and work upwards. 

Crate training is beneficial and also feeds into Scottie’s need for their own space. This will ensure they don’t have ‘wee’ accidents around the house. 

As mentioned, the Scotsman is independent and so can tolerate time on their own. But, keep in mind, you need to stimulate them.

Like many dogs, if they get bored, they may engage in destructive behavior, like digging or chewing. 

Unlike other small breeds, like the Chihuahua, the Scottie is not a yappy dog. They have a deep and powerful bark, great for startling potential intruders.

They are excellent watchdogs as they conduct regular “patrols” of their territory and are alert. They feel it’s their duty to protect your home. 

Due to their den animal hunting instincts, the need to dig runs deep. You will need to conduct regular garden checks to make sure they aren’t digging potential escape routes.

If you can create a designated digging area in your yard, this will keep you and your Scottie happy. 

Scottish terriers can swim, but it’s not their strongest skill. Their short legs and solid bodies do not lend towards agility or flotation. Supervision when near water is a must, and if you have a pool, make sure you have a cover. 

a white Scottie super soaked in water after swimming
Meet Haruki, a water-loving white Scottie – Image source

Scottish Terriers love regular walks but are not great jogging buddies. They have moderate exercise needs. Go for a high-energy dog if you want a running buddy. They do well in earthdog trials but best skip agility training. 

How to take care of your Scottish Terrier

They may be little dogs, but they need a lot of grooming attention. They shed little to no hair, but their coats still require weekly grooming, even daily if they participate in dog shows.

Their coats protect them from bad and cold weather. They can also tolerate hotter weather conditions, but you’d be wise to keep their coats shorter. 

Financial aspects to keep in mind are food, vaccines, grooming, flea preventatives, toys, beds, treats, collars, and spaying/neutering expenses

We’d recommend budgeting between $500 to $2000 for the first year, and $500 to $1000 after that. This will contribute to your dog’s health and wellbeing. 

How to Exercise your Scottish Terrier

a happy Scottish Terrier waiting for dog walk sitting on the grass
Image source

These terriers are not typical small breeds with low energy levels. They need daily moderate exercise and engagement. This can be in the form of a daily walk or regular playtime

They will show their “diehard” tendencies in a vicious match of tug of war. A game of fetch will also keep them happy. Aim for between 20 and 40 minutes of exercise a day. Romps around the garden also count. 

Grooming: Do Scottish Terriers shed?

No, Scottish Terrier shedding is little to none. This means they are a great breed for people with allergies as they are hypoallergenic. 

They do, as we stressed before, need significant weekly grooming. It’s ideal to set up a grooming space in your home. A visit to the groomer every one to two months for a haircut and brush is beneficial if you want to keep the hair short. 

a handsome Scottie puppy being groomed
Meet Bentley, a brave and handsome Scottie being groomed – Image source

Scottish Terrier grooming isn’t an easy undertaking, it can be challenging, especially if you’re grooming them for the ring.

It’s not because they’re difficult dogs, but it has more to do with the specificity of the coat style and the double coat. And if you’re showing them, you will need to learn the stripping technique

But, if you want them matt-free and manageable, a Scottish Terrier haircut isn’t a huge exercise. Regular brushing with a stiff brush will do the trick.

You can use a wide comb for your dog’s beard and some scissors for trimming the skirt. You can decide how short or long you want to keep the hair. You can find out more about how to groom your dog here

Scottie skin, like many terriers, dries out easily. You should only bathe them when necessary. They are not smelly dogs unless they’ve rolled in something unpleasant. They are also not droolers. 

Aim to brush your Scottie’s teeth between two and three times a week to prevent tartar and bacteria from building in the mouth.

Check their ears when grooming to ensure there is no wax or soreness. Clean the ears with an ear cleanser treatment to prevent infections.

What to feed a Scottish Terrier

Scottish Terrier guarding its cookies
Meet Hummer, a Scottish Terrier guarding his Christmas cookies – Image source

We recommend feeding your dog good-quality dry food as part of a healthy diet. 

You can feed puppies between eight and twelve weeks old four bowls of food in 24 hours. From three to six months, three meals a day is fitting. From six months to one year, you can make it two bowls a day.

After one year, the recommended daily amount for a healthy diet is one to one and a half cups of good-quality dry food. A healthy and shiny coat, with no dryness or flaky skin, indicates your dog eats suitable food. 

Other breeders have found their dogs do well with moderate protein in their diet, supplemented with an additive like canned dog food. 

Canidae Life Stages Chicken & Rice Formula is a great choice for puppies and all your Scottie’s life stages.

For adults, Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult, Small Paws for Small Breeds, Lamb Meal & Brown Rice Recipe provides balanced nutrition and supports bone strength. 

Foods to avoid for your Scotsman include anything with xylitol, avocado, alcohol, onions, and garlic. Take a look here to see the full list of toxic foods for dogs

What kind of health problems do Scottish Terriers have?

You’ll be happy to know the Scottish Terrier lifespan averages at 12 years. But, some of these dogs live to the ripe age of 15 or older. 

With regular exercise and a good diet, your Scottie will live a good life. As with most dogs, though, there are some common health conditions to watch out for in this breed.

A weekly examination of your pet should help to catch any health issues early. 

Scottish Terrier wearing a dog cone
Image source

These terriers can struggle with eye problems, such as cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). PRA is an eye disorder with the potential result of blindness.

Scottie cramp is an unusual and common disorder specific to this breed. Your dog may experience it when stressed or overstimulated by exercise.

You’ll notice your Scottie walks in a goose-stepping fashion, with front legs moving sideways and their rear legs over flexing. Note it is harmless to your dog.

Von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD Type 3) is a blood clotting disorder causing severe bleeding in dogs. You can ask a vet to test your dog for this disorder. 

Craniomandibular osteopathy (CMO) may affect puppies. As they grow, the skull becomes abnormally enlarged. Symptoms include atrophy of chewing muscles (jaw problems)

Common in small dog breeds, patellar luxation is a problem where the dog’s knee joints slide in and out of place, which can be debilitating for your dog. 

Scotties can also suffer from bladder conditions, such as bladder stones and cancer. They are also susceptible to many common skin ailments affecting other breeds. However, skin problems can also be a symptom of serious underlying issues. 

Dogs with Cushing’s disease can exhibit thinning skin, hair loss, and lesions on the skin. A tumor in the pituitary gland usually causes this syndrome. 

Hypothyroidism also manifests as skin issues. The dog’s thyroid glands don’t produce enough thyroid hormone, which regulates the dog’s metabolism. Symptoms include skin infections, dandruff, and flaky skin.

Mast Cell Tumors are common skin tumors in dogs. These tumors represent a form of cancer affecting a type of blood cell related to the response to allergens. They form nodules or growths on the dog’s skin. 

Scotties have bad reactions to flea bites. Scotties will chew at themselves to the point of baldness as a result. Using a flea preventative can help avoid bites. 

Ligneous Membranitis is a rare inflammatory chronic condition affecting the mucous membranes. It is a devastating disease needing aggressive treatment.

Neurological problems can also affect Scotties, like brain cancer and cerebellar abiotrophy, aka cerebellar degeneration. This causes neurological symptoms, like abnormal gait, swaying, and muscle tremors, among others. 

Scotties can inherit deafness like other dogs, such as the Boxer breed. If you notice your dog doesn’t respond to noises, take them to the vet to investigate. 

Scottish Terriers can be difficult whelpers. It’s common for female Scotties to be unable to give birth naturally. Many mothers need a cesarean to deliver their pups. This is due to abnormalities in the pelvis shape. 

There are tests to identify some of the above ailments. These include:

Cancer is a leading cause of death in elderly dogs. Diehard in temperament and life expectancy, the Scottie does live longer than many large breeds. This means they are prone to getting cancer in their final years.

In 2019, the Scottish Terrier’s registrations dropped dangerously. The Kennel Club noted a 38% decline in Scottie puppy registrations.

People feared they would go extinct. In the first few months of 2020, puppy registrations increased by 92%, giving them a brighter future. 

How much do Scottish Terrier puppies cost?

a Scottie puppy sitting and celebrating its 12 weeks
Meet Rory, a 12 week old Scottie puppy sitting on stairs – Image source

These terriers whelp between one and six puppies per litter. The median price for a Scottish Terrier puppy with papers is $1 125, and the average cost is $800.

However, the Scottish Terrier price can be between $1 700 and $5 500 for a puppy with a solid pedigree and elite breed lines. You’ll also want to keep the additional expenses, mentioned above, in mind. 

If you’re looking for puppies closeby, try searching for “Scottish Terrier puppies for sale near me.” Make sure the website is official and lists professional breeders.

Good breeders screen their dogs for health conditions and are straightforward about the parents’ health status.

Where to find Scottish Terrier Breeders

Always make sure you choose reputable Scottish Terrier breeders. You want to find a healthy dog with a fitting temperament for your home. Try to avoid supporting unethical practices like puppy farms and pet stores. 

The Scottish Terrier Club of America is a great resource to find breeders. Here are some additional places to find Scottish Terriers for sale:

Adopt from a Scottish Terrier Rescue

If you want to see Scotties for adoption, take a look at rescue organizations for the breed. Adopting an adult dog can be rewarding as you can easily see the dog’s temperament and personality.

Curious about Scottish Terrier mixes?

As such a recognizable and distinct breed, it’s not surprising several mixes have emerged. Let’s take a look at four of them. 

The Scottish Terrier Chihuahua mix combines the small stature and cuteness of a chihuahua with Scottie independence. This spunky pup also goes by the name Scotchi or Scotchahua.

Scottish Terrier Chihuahua mix sitting
Scottish Terrier Chihuahua mix – Image source

A Scottish Terrier Schnauzer mix fuses German and Scottish heritage, resulting in a smart and outgoing dog.

a giddy and smiling Scottish Terrier Schnauzer mix on grass
Meet Samwise, a Scottish Terrier Schnauzer mix happily on grass – Image source

A Scorkie, or Scottish Terrier Yorkie mix, is a mix of 50% Scottie and 50% Yorkie, making it a first-generation cross. Scorkies are great companions and fantastic watchdogs.

a Scottish Terrier Yorkie mix on a couch
Meet Princess, a Scottish Terrier Yorkie mix – Image source

Last but not least comes the Scottish Terrier Corgi Mix. This cross gets the best of the Scottie face and ears while keeping the cute Corgi body shape. 

a Scottish Terrier Corgi Mix on field
The Scorgi dog walking in the park  – Image source

Who should get a Scottish Terrier?

We’ve mentioned Scotties aren’t low-energy lap dogs. They need owners who will have playtime daily or take them for regular walks

They’re also intelligent dogs with a deep stubborn streak. This means they need a firm hand and someone the determined Diehard can’t boss around. Experienced owners may be a better match for the willful Scottie. 

a Scotsman standing on the grass while the tongue is sticking out
A Scotsman standing on the grass

Scotties are a good fit for apartments and most living situations. They are great family dogs, but you must take care of babies or small pets in the family. 

If you want a Scottie, make sure you source from a responsible breeder. As mentioned, Scotties can fall victim to several different health problems.

So, it’s important to discuss your dog’s background with the breeder or rescue. 

Please comment and share your stories about your diehard Scotties. 


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