Scottish Terrier Temperament
What's Good About 'Em,
What's Bad About 'Em
Scottish Terrier Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2014
The AKC Standard says, "The Scottish Terrier's bold, confident, dignified aspect exemplifies power in a small package... a determined and thoughtful dog whose 'heads up, tails up' attitude in the ring should convey both fire and control."
Friendly and playful as a puppy, the Scottish Terrier matures into a bold, jaunty, yet steady and dignified adult, with greater independence than most terriers. He is staunchly self-reliant and fearless -- also dour and crusty at times.
The Scottish Terrier is content with daily walks and not built for long-distance jogging, but he will pursue squirrels and chipmunks with rollicking enthusiasm.
Steadfastly loyal to his owner (some are one-person dogs) and reserved with strangers, the Scottish Terrier makes an intimidating watchdog. He should be socialized with lots of people at an early age and not allowed to be sharp. He can be scrappy with other dogs.
Training is a challenge, for no breed has higher self-esteem or a stronger will -- this is not a dog for permissive owners. Firm, consistent leadership is a must, and obedience training should be praise- and food-based, for the Scottie is proud, extremely sensitive, and easily insulted. He may retaliate or "go on strike" if jerked around or pushed too far with rough handling or teasing.
If you want a dog who...
- Is a "big dog with short legs" i.e. built low to the ground, but with a robust body, heavy bone, and a strong temperament
- Is bold and jaunty, yet also calmer and more dignified than most other terriers
- Needs only moderate exercise
- Makes a determined watchdog with a surprisingly deep bark
- Doesn't shed excessively
A Scottish Terrier may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- One of the most self-willed and independent of the terriers
- Suspiciousness/sharpness toward strangers in some lines, or when not socialized enough
- Aggression toward other animals -- chasing instincts
- Regular brushing/clipping/trimming
A Scottish Terrier may not be right for you.
- choosing the RIGHT breeder and the RIGHT puppy
- or choosing an ADULT dog from your animal shelter or rescue group – a dog who has already proven that he doesn't have negative traits
- training your dog to respect you
- avoiding health problems by following my daily care program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy
More traits and characteristics of the Scottish Terrier
If I was considering a Scottish Terrier, I would be most concerned about...
- Strong mind of their own. Scottish Terriers are not Golden Retrievers. They must be taught at an early age that they are not the rulers of the world. The toughness that makes them suited to killing vermin can frustrate you when you try to teach them anything. Terriers are stubborn and dominant (they want to be the boss) and will make you prove that you can make them do things. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.
To teach your Scottie to listen to you, "Respect Training" is mandatory. My Scottish Terrier Training Page discusses the program you need.
- Defensive reactions. If you need to physically chastise a terrier, and you go beyond what THEY believe is a fair correction, terriers (as a group) are more likely than other breeds to growl or snap. It may be because they were bred to become more fierce when their prey fought back, i.e. terriers are apt to "return pain" if they "receive pain." As an obedience instructor, I'm always extra careful when putting my hands on any terrier for a correction.
I do NOT recommend terriers for small children. Many terriers will not tolerate any nonsense from little life forms whom they consider to be below themselves in importance. Many terriers are quick to react to teasing, and even to the normal clumsiness that comes with small children (accidental squeezing of their ears or pulling of whiskers or stepping on their paw). Many terriers are possessive of their food and toys and will defend these from all comers, including children.
- Sharpness toward strangers. Standoffish by nature, Scottish Terriers need extensive exposure to people and to unusual sights and sounds. Otherwise their natural caution can become suspiciousness, which is a short step to biting. Obedience instructors and behavioral consultants see a LOT of Scotties who are downright nasty.
- Animal aggression. Like all terriers, Scottish Terriers can be scrappy with other dogs of the same sex. They are a determined force to reckon with if they decide to initiate or accept a challenge to fight. And because of their hunting background, most terriers have strong instincts to chase and seize small fleeing creatures. This can make for conflict if you own a cat. It may be much worse than that if you own a pet rabbit or hamster!
Terriers cannot be trusted off-leash. They will take off -- oblivious to your frantic shouts -- after anything that runs.
- Grooming. Scottish Terriers require clipping and trimming every few months, to keep their coat short and free of mats. But don't expect your pet Scottish Terrier to look like the show dogs you've seen in books or on TV. That particular look takes hours of work by experienced show groomers.
- Health problems. From bleeding disorders to joint disorders to autoimmune diseases to allergies and skin conditions, Scottish Terriers are risky in the health department.
To learn more about training Scottish Terriers to be calm and well-behaved, consider my dog training book, Teach Your Dog 100 English Words.
It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will make your Scottish Terrier the smartest, most well-behaved companion you've ever had.
Teaches your dog to listen to you, to pay attention to you, and to do whatever you ask him to do.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a healthy Scottish Terrier. Health problems have become so widespread in dogs today that this book is required reading for ANYONE who is thinking of getting a purebred, crossbred, or mixed breed dog.
If you'd like to consult with me personally about whether the Scottish Terrier might be a good dog breed for your family, I offer a Dog Breed Consulting Service.
Once you have your Scottish Terrier home, you need to KEEP him healthy -- or if he's having any current health problems, you need to get him back on the road to good health.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy is the book you need.
Raise your dog the right way and you will be helping him live a longer, healthier life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.
Please consider adopting an ADULT Scottish Terrier...
When you're acquiring a Scottish Terrier PUPPY, you're acquiring potential -- what he one day will be. So "typical breed characteristics" are very important.
But when you acquire an adult dog, you're acquiring what he already IS and you can decide whether he is the right dog for you based on that reality. There are plenty of adult Scottish Terriers who have already proven themselves NOT to have negative characteristics that are "typical" for their breed. If you find such an adult dog, don't let "typical breed negatives" worry you. Just be happy that you found an atypical individual -- and enjoy!
Save a life. Adopt a dog.
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Copyright © 2000-2014 by Michele Welton. All rights reserved.
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