Scottish Terriers: the most honest dog breed review you'll ever find about Scottish Terrier temperament, personality, and behavior.

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Scottish Terrier dog breed

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 © 2000-2017


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.

Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament is less predictable than the inheritance of physical traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.

More traits and characteristics of the Scottish Terrier

If I was considering a Scottish Terrier, I would be most concerned about...

  1. Strong mind of their own. Scottish Terriers 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.

    In other words, you must teach your Scottish Terrier to respect you. A dog who respects you will do what you say and will stop what he's doing when you tell him "No." Read more about Scottish Terrier Training.

  2. Defensive reactions. 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.
  3. 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 like myself see an awful lot of Scotties who are downright nasty.
  4. 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 could make for conflict if you own a cat. It may be much worse than that if you own a pet rabbit or hamster!
  5. 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.
  6. 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 help you train and care for your dog

book cover To learn more about training your dog to be calm and well-behaved, my dog training book is Teach Your Dog 100 English Words. It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your dog to listen to you and do whatever you ask.

book cover My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a good-tempered, healthy dog.

book cover My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy, shows you how to help your dog live a longer life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.

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