Scottish Terrier

"The Dog with the Built-In Kilt"

Photo of Scottish Terrier


Imagine yourself in 19th century Scotland, and take a look around at all the different rough-coated little terriers ferreting out vermin from burrows and dark corners, all of them informally called “Scottish Terriers” or “Scotch Terriers,” and you may wonder what the heck a Scottish Terrier really is. This was the very problem Scottish Terrier fanciers faced in the late 19th century, when every manner of small terrier was being called a Scottish Terrier, and even winning dog shows under that name. Many Scottish fanciers wrote angry letters to a local magazine until Captain Gordon Murray penned a breed standard clearly distinguishing the Scottish Terrier from other Scottish breeds like the Cairn Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, and Skye Terrier. The Scottie came to the U.S. in the 1880s and was one of the most popular breeds in the 1940s and 1950s. Today, the Scot's popularity has declined somewhat but they still rank in the top 50 breeds (currently 42nd).


Fiery, alert, and always at-the-ready, Scotties want to work, and hard. They will make it their business to chase down critters in the yard, dismantle stuffed toys (theirs or your kids'), patrol the borders of your yard daring other dogs to step over the line, and dig, dig, dig. To stay out of trouble, Scotties need walks in interesting places where they can sniff and explore (but no runs – their short legs don't allow them to move too fast). They need interactive games and training. They also need attention. While not needy or clingy, and certainly not hyperactive, Scotties require the stimulation of people around them and jobs to do. If a Scot doesn't feel useful, it will create a job for itself, such as a serious and large-scale excavation of your backyard. Best to keep the Scot busy!


Short and sturdy with surprising weight for its size, the Scottish Terrier has heavier bones than many other terriers. The long head is accented by the pointed ears and forward-pointing beard, topped off with bushy eyebrows. In the rear, the Scot has a tail like a carrot. His rough wiry coat has a shaggy harsh texture and is typically groomed short along the back but long around the legs, like a kilt. Most people think of Scotties as black, but they can also be wheat-colored or brindle (dark stripes over lighter background).


Admiring a Scottie is much easier than training a Scottie. Because the Scot knows exactly what to do and when to do it, it may not be particularly interested in what you think it should be doing. For all its independence, however, the Scottie is very sensitive. Yelling and punishment will only hurt its feelings. Instead, upbeat interaction with plenty of praise and rewards makes training more fun. And because Scotties are clever, it helps to switch your techniques often. Keep the Scot surprised, and you'll stay one step ahead – that's exactly where you want to be.

Grooming & Care

Pet Scotties should be brushed several times a week to pull out dead undercoat and prevent matting. A professional groomer can clip the Scottie into its traditional haircut – shaved back and ears, long beard and eyebrows, carrot tail, long skirt around the legs – or pet owners can learn to do it themselves. Show dogs should be hand stripped to maintain rough coat texture – a time-consuming process of pulling out dead hair by hand. Most pet owners won't want to bother, though. Clipping is easier and more comfortable for the dog. Keep those big nails trimmed, pluck or trim ear hair to prevent ear infections, and brush the Scot's big teeth at least a few times per week. Always supervise a Scottie around water – their short legs and heavy bones make them poor swimmers.

Health Concerns

Most Scotties are healthy, but like any purebred, they can be prone to certain genetic health problems. For the Scottish Terrier, these are most likely to be von Willebrand's disease (a bleeding disorder), Scotty Cramp (hind-leg cramping after exercise), and like many short-legged, long-backed dogs, spinal disc ruptures. Ask your breeder about these issues.

Famous Scottish Terrier

Scotties have been companions to Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Liza Minnelli, and Shirley Temple.

Ideal Owner
Activity Level 4
Schedule 6
Home 44
Children 48
Experience 54
Quick Facts
Grooming 57
Exercise 60
Challenges Keep this dog busy to keep him out of trouble.
Height 9 to 11 inches
Weight 19 to 21 pounds
Life 11 to 13 years
Home Alone 84
With Kids 86
With Strangers 106
Availability 95

This client information sheet is based on material written by: LifeLearn

© Copyright 2014 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.