Scottish Terrier

Table of Contents

scottish terrier portrait
Welcome to the world of Scottish Terriers, a breed brimming with charisma and charm! These compact, sturdy dogs are famous for their distinctive silhouette, feisty spirit, and deep-rooted loyalty.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

If you’re a fan of small but mighty personalities, the Scottish Terrier is your perfect match! These feisty, independent dogs are best suited for individuals or families who appreciate a dog with a mind of its own. Ideal for those who love outdoor adventures and cozy cuddle sessions alike, ‘Scotties’ offer the best of both worlds!


OFFICIAL NAMEScottish Terrier
OTHER NAMESScottie, Aberdeen Terrier, Aberdeenie
BREED GROUPTerrier Group
HEIGHT9-10 inches
WEIGHT18-22 lbs
LIFESPAN12-15 years
scottish terrier lying in the garden
Photo: Ohoho/Getty Images


A Scottish Terrier, or ‘Scottie,’ as they’re affectionately known, stands at a petite 10 inches tall at the shoulders and weighs in between 18-22 pounds. But don’t let their small stature fool you, these dogs are robust and well-built, often described as a ‘big dog in a little dog’s body.’

Their bodies are compact yet muscular, providing them with the strength and agility they were bred for. Short legs support their strong bodies, giving them a distinctive, almost amusing, waddle when they walk. But don’t be deceived by this endearing gait, these dogs are born diggers and can move surprisingly fast when they want to!

One of the most recognizable features of a Scottish Terrier is their head. It’s long in proportion to the rest of their body, adding to their unique charm. Their ears stand erect, always alert and ready for action, while their eyes, set under thick eyebrows, sparkle with intelligence and curiosity.

Scotties have a distinctively shaped tail too, resembling a carrot – thick at the base and tapering to a point. This tail wasn’t just for show, it had a purpose back in the day, helping their owners pull them out of burrows while hunting badgers and foxes in the Scottish Highlands.

Now, let’s talk about the crowning glory of the Scottie – their coat. They sport a double coat; a hard, wiry topcoat and a soft, dense undercoat. Their hair is typically black, but you may also see them in shades of wheaten or brindle patterns. The coat requires regular grooming to maintain its neat, distinctive appearance.

But perhaps the most endearing feature of a Scottie is their expression. Bold, confident, and dignified, their face truly exemplifies ‘power in a small package.’ They look at the world with a determined and thoughtful gaze, making them a constant source of amusement and companionship for their lucky owners.

In short, Scottish Terriers are an enchanting blend of strength, spirit, and style. Their unique physical characteristics make them stand out in the canine crowd, ensuring they leave paw prints on the hearts of those lucky enough to know them.

scottish terrier walking in a forest
Photo: Stephen Barnes/Getty Images


The Scottish Terrier is a breed with a character as distinctive as its silhouette. These small dogs are packed with personality, embodying a unique blend of feisty spirit, fearless determination, and deep-rooted loyalty.

Scottish Terriers are not your typical lap dogs. They’re independent thinkers, often described as having a ‘mind of their own.’ This isn’t a breed that’s happy to sit on the sidelines, no sir! Scotties like to be in the thick of things, exploring their surroundings, investigating every nook and cranny, and making their presence known.

Despite their small size, Scotties are incredibly brave, a trait that harks back to their roots as hunting dogs in the rugged Scottish Highlands. They’re not easily intimidated and will stand their ground when faced with a challenge. Their courage, combined with their natural curiosity, makes them excellent watchdogs, always alert and ready to protect their family.

Yet, for all their boldness and bravado, Scotties are also known for their unwavering loyalty. They form strong bonds with their human families and are fiercely protective of them. A Scottie might take a little while to warm up to strangers, but once you’ve earned their trust, you’ve got a friend for life.

Scotties are also known for their dignified demeanor. They carry themselves with a certain air of aristocracy, walking with a confident strut that speaks volumes about their self-assured nature. But don’t let this fool you into thinking they’re aloof. These dogs love to play and have a surprising sense of humor, often displaying a playful streak that can leave their owners in stitches.

When it comes to intelligence, Scotties are undoubtedly one of the smartest breeds out there. They’re quick learners, always keen to explore and understand their environment. However, their independent nature means they can sometimes be a bit stubborn. They like doing things their way and at their own pace, which only adds to their charm.

Despite their independent streak, Scottish Terriers are very much people dogs. They thrive on human companionship and enjoy being part of family activities. They’re also quite sensitive and can pick up on their owners’ moods, often providing comfort and companionship when it’s most needed.

scottish terrier looking at the camera
Photo: OMEN MEDIA/Omen Media

Ideal Environment

Scottish Terriers are adaptable and versatile in terms of their environment, but there are certain conditions that help them thrive.

Physical Environment

Firstly, let’s talk about the physical environment. Despite their small size, Scotties are active dogs that love to explore, dig, and play. They would love a home with a securely fenced yard where they can unleash their energetic spirit. However, they can also adapt well to apartment living, provided they get their daily dose of mental stimulation and playtime indoors.

Climate Adaptability

Scotties are sturdy dogs, originally bred to withstand the harsh climate of the Scottish Highlands. This makes them fairly adaptable to both cold and hot weather. Their dense double coat provides insulation in colder temperatures.

However, like all dogs, they should not be left outside in extreme weather conditions. During hotter months, ensure they have access to shade and plenty of fresh water, and try to avoid taking them out during the peak heat of the day.

Ideal Owner

Now, onto the human environment. Scotties are best suited for individuals or families who appreciate their independent spirit. They enjoy the company of their human family members, but also appreciate having some time to themselves. They are loyal and protective, making them excellent companions for those living alone or for families with older children.

Other Pets

When it comes to other pets, Scotties can get along well with them if they are introduced properly and early. However, due to their strong prey drive, they might not be the best choice for homes with smaller pets like hamsters or rabbits.

five scottish terriers sitting on a park bench
Photo: leo-roman/Getty Images


Coat Care

Firstly, let’s talk about their coat. A Scottie’s outer coat is hard and wiry, while the undercoat is soft and dense. This double layer not only gives them their distinctive appearance but also provides insulation from harsh weather conditions.

To keep this coat in top shape, regular brushing is a must. Aim to brush your Scottie at least twice a week using a slicker brush or a pin brush. This helps remove loose hair, prevents mats, and keeps the coat healthy and shiny.

Every few months, your Scottie will need a trim to maintain the classic ‘Scottie’ look. This usually involves clipping or hand-stripping. Hand-stripping is a method where the loose outer hairs are plucked by hand or with a stripping knife, maintaining the texture and color of the coat.

However, it can be time-consuming and requires a certain level of skill. Clipping is quicker and easier, but it can soften the coat over time and may cause the color to fade. If you’re unsure, it’s best to consult with a professional groomer who has experience with the breed.

Dental Care

Now, onto dental care. Like all breeds, Scotties can be prone to dental issues if their teeth aren’t regularly cared for. Brushing their teeth several times a week with dog-specific toothpaste can help prevent tartar build-up and gum disease. Dental chews can also help keep their teeth clean and healthy.

Nail Trimming

Don’t forget about their nails! A Scottie’s nails should be trimmed regularly, usually every few weeks. If you can hear their nails clicking on the floor, it’s time for a trim. Use a dog nail clipper or grinder, making sure to avoid cutting into the quick, which can be painful and cause bleeding. If you’re uncomfortable doing this yourself, a vet or professional groomer can do the job.

Additional Grooming Tips

Scotties also have characteristic bushy eyebrows and a beard which add to their charm. These areas should be checked regularly for any food or debris that might get caught. A quick comb through these areas can keep them clean and tidy.

Lastly, don’t forget about those ears! Regular checks can help spot any signs of infection early. Clean them with a vet-approved solution and a cotton ball, avoiding going too deep into the ear canal.

scottish terrier walking on snow
Photo: iluhanos/Getty Images


Scottish Terriers may be compact, but don’t be fooled into thinking they’re couch potatoes. These dogs are full of life and need regular physical activity to keep them healthy and happy.

Exercise Amount & Types

On average, a Scottie requires about 45 to 60 minutes of exercise each day. This can be split into two walks or play sessions.

While a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood will certainly be appreciated, Scotties love to engage in more vigorous activities too. They enjoy games that stimulate both their body and mind. Fetch, hide-and-seek, and agility training are all great options to keep your Scottie entertained and active.

However, despite their energy, Scotties are not typically suited for long-distance running or strenuous hiking. Their short legs and long bodies can make these activities challenging and potentially harmful to their spines. Short, brisk walks or a romp in the backyard are usually more their speed.

Dog Sports

Their strong prey drive and love for digging also make them excellent candidates for earthdog trials, a competition where terriers navigate underground tunnels to ‘hunt’ for rats (safely protected in a cage, of course).

Mental Stimulation

Along with physical exercise, Scotties also thrive on mental stimulation. Puzzle toys, obedience training, and interactive games can help keep their sharp minds busy. Remember, a bored Scottie can be a destructive Scottie, so keeping them mentally engaged is just as important as keeping them physically active.

scottish terrier sitting near a river
Photo: eAlisa/Getty Images


First off, it’s important to know that Scotties are intelligent dogs. They’re quick learners and can pick up new commands and tricks with relative ease.

However, their independent streak means they can sometimes be a bit stubborn. They like doing things their way and at their own pace. This doesn’t mean they’re untrainable, far from it. It just means you’ll need a bit of patience and a dash of creativity.

Positive reinforcement is the key to training a Scottie. They respond well to rewards, whether it’s tasty treats, praise, or a favorite toy. Make sure to recognize and reward your Scottie’s efforts during training sessions, as this encourages them to repeat the behavior.

Socialization is another important aspect of training. Start introducing your Scottie to different people, places, and situations at a young age. This helps them grow into confident, well-rounded dogs. Remember, Scotties can be a bit reserved with strangers, so regular socialization can help them feel more comfortable in various situations.

Obedience training should also be a part of your Scottie’s routine. Basic commands like ‘sit,’ ‘stay,’ ‘come,’ and ‘leave it’ are essential for every dog’s safety and well-being. Scotties are also known for their strong prey drive, so teaching a reliable recall command is particularly important.

Lastly, don’t forget about mental stimulation. Scotties love to use their brains, so puzzle toys, hide-and-seek games, and agility training can be a great way to keep them mentally engaged.

scottish terrier running with a ball in his mouth
Photo: Ilya Mitskavets

Diet & Nutrition 

Feeding a Scottish Terrier requires a careful balance of the right nutrients to keep them healthy and energetic. These little powerhouses have specific dietary needs that cater to their unique breed characteristics.

What to Feed & How Much

Firstly, let’s talk about the type of food. Whether you choose dry kibble, wet food, or a raw diet, it’s important to ensure it complies with the AAFCO guidelines. These guidelines ensure that the food contains all the necessary nutrients your Scottie needs.

High-quality protein should be a primary ingredient, as it supports muscle development and maintenance. Additionally, a good balance of carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals is essential for overall health.

The amount of food your Scottie needs will depend on their age, weight, and activity level. Puppies generally require more frequent meals — typically three to four times a day. As they mature, this can be reduced to two meals a day. Always refer to the feeding guide on the pet food packaging and adjust as needed based on your vet’s advice.

Lastly, be aware that Scotties are prone to certain health issues, like bladder stones and allergies, which can be influenced by diet. Some owners choose to feed a grain-free diet to prevent allergies, while others may need to adjust the diet based on specific health concerns. As always, it’s best to consult your vet regarding any dietary changes.


Treats are a fantastic tool for training, but remember, they should make up no more than 10% of your Scottie’s daily calorie intake. Also, opt for healthy options like carrot sticks or dog-specific treats that are low in fat and sugar.


Water is another crucial aspect of your Scottie’s diet. Ensure they always have access to fresh, clean water, especially during hot weather or after exercise.

scottish terrier walking in a park
Photo: PaulShlykov/Getty Images


Firstly, the good news. Scotties have a relatively long life expectancy, typically ranging from 12 to 15 years. With the right care, nutrition, and regular vet check-ups, there’s every chance your Scottie will be your loyal companion well into their golden years.

However, there are several health issues that this breed can be predisposed to. Here are five of the most common:

Scottie Cramp: This is a neurological disorder specific to the breed, causing temporary muscle spasms and coordination problems.

Von Willebrand’s Disease: A blood clotting disorder similar to hemophilia in humans.

Patellar Luxation: A condition where the kneecap dislocates or moves out of its normal location.

Bladder Stones: Scotties are more prone to developing bladder stones than other breeds.

Allergies: These can manifest as skin conditions or digestive problems.

While this list might seem daunting, remember that not all Scotties will develop these conditions. It’s just important to be aware and proactive about their health.

Regular veterinary checks are also key in keeping your Scottie healthy. Early detection of any potential health issues can make a significant difference in treatment outcomes. Keep up-to-date with vaccinations and preventative treatments for parasites like fleas, ticks, and worms.

scottish terrier resting outdoor
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The Scottish Terrier holds a rich history that’s as distinctive as their silhouette. This breed’s tale begins in the rugged landscapes of Scotland, where they were originally bred for hunting foxes, rats, and otters from as early as the 13th century.

Scotties are naturally skilled diggers, a trait that made them invaluable on farms where vermin posed a problem. They were bred to be tenacious and brave, qualities that still define the breed today.

The development of the breed as we know it started in the late 1870s, when dog shows began gaining popularity. However, it wasn’t until the late 19th century when a man named Captain W. W. Mackie brought these dogs out of Scotland that their true journey began.

The Scottie’s arrival in America marked the beginning of a new chapter in their story. The breed was first registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1885, and since then, they’ve become a cherished part of many American households. While their popularity has fluctuated over the years, Scotties consistently rank within the top 60 in the AKC’s list of Most Popular Dog Breeds.

But their fame isn’t just limited to households. Scotties have enjoyed a fair share of the limelight in popular culture too. They’ve graced the White House with Presidents Roosevelt and Eisenhower both being proud owners of Scotties. Perhaps one of the most famous Scotties is Fala, President Roosevelt’s constant companion during his time in office.

In the world of film and literature, Scotties have made their mark as well. They’ve appeared in classic movies like “The Wizard of Oz” and “Lady and the Tramp,” and even inspired authors like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who mentioned a Scottie in his Sherlock Holmes series.

Even in the world of board games, the Scottie is a superstar. If you’ve ever played Monopoly, you’ll recognize the little Scottie game piece, further proof of the breed’s cultural impact.

Parent Club

The Scottish Terrier Club of America (STCA) is the official parent club for this breed in the United States. The club is dedicated to preserving and promoting the Scottish Terrier breed, offering resources and support to Scottie owners, breeders, and fans nationwide. You can find more information about the club and its initiatives on their official website.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed. 

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

Check out the Scottish Terrier’s breed standard as set by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

scottish terrier puppy in a backyard
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Preparing to welcome a Scottish Terrier into your life is an exciting journey! Before you bring your new furry friend home, ensure you have all the essentials – a comfortable bed, quality dog food, toys for mental stimulation, and grooming tools suited to their wiry coat.

If you choose to buy a Scottie, it’s crucial to find a reputable breeder. A good breeder prioritizes the health and temperament of their puppies and will provide you with all the necessary health clearances.

But remember, buying isn’t the only option. Rescuing a Scottish Terrier can be an incredibly rewarding experience. There are many wonderful Scotties in shelters and rescue organizations waiting for their forever homes. The American Kennel Club and the Scottish Terrier Club of America can help connect you with rescue groups.

Whether you choose to buy or rescue, remember that every Scottish Terrier deserves a loving home!


Is a Scottish Terrier a good pet?

Yes, Scottish Terriers make excellent pets. They are loyal, intelligent, and have a spirited personality. However, they can be independent and sometimes stubborn, so they might not be the best fit for first-time dog owners.

How intelligent is a Scottish Terrier?

Scottish Terriers are highly intelligent. They’re quick learners and can pick up new commands and tricks with ease. However, their intelligence is often paired with an independent streak, so consistent, positive reinforcement training is key.

Are Scottish Terriers high maintenance?

Scotties require moderate maintenance. Their wiry coat needs regular brushing to prevent matting and occasional professional grooming. They also need regular exercise to keep them physically fit and mentally stimulated.

Are Scottish Terriers noisy?

Scotties are not typically noisy dogs. However, like all dogs, they may bark to alert you to strangers or if they’re bored or anxious. Training from a young age can help manage excessive barking.

How often should a Scottish Terrier be groomed?

Scottish Terriers should be brushed several times a week to keep their coat free from matting. Professional grooming is recommended every 6-8 weeks to keep their distinctive cut looking its best.

Are Scottish Terriers good with kids?

Scotties can be good with children, especially if they’re raised together. However, they can be a bit reserved, so it’s important to supervise interactions between Scotties and young children and teach kids how to interact respectfully with dogs.

Do Scottish Terriers like to cuddle?

Every Scottie is unique! Some may enjoy cuddling more than others. Many Scottish Terriers enjoy being close to their owners, whether that means curling up on the couch or simply being in the same room. Remember, it’s important to respect your dog’s boundaries and give them space when they need it.

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