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Scottish Terriers: Understand and Love the Breed

Carol is a loving parent to a beautiful Scottish terrier and has raised two other terriers in the past.

My current Scottish Terrier, Isabel.

My current Scottish Terrier, Isabel.

Scottish Terrier

Scottish Terriers are wonderful animals! The breed, also known as "diehard," for their fierce determination and unwavering loyalty, make fantastic companions and add fun, excitement, and love to the lives of the humans lucky enough to be owned by a Scottie.

We have shared our lives with three Scotties over 28 years, and I have come to respect their intelligence and independence, love their great hearts and hilarious antics, and tolerate their Caledonian stubbornness.

Scotties, however, have a temperament different from other dog breeds and are not suitable for every family. They are difficult to train, like their own "space," do not tolerate small children, and have their own ideas about how your household should run. Always keep in mind that Scotties consider themselves companions, not pets. Read on to determine if you are worthy of a Scottie in your life.

Scotties are highly intelligent.  Meg takes a walk

Scotties are highly intelligent. Meg takes a walk

Scottish Terrier Temperament

Scottish Terriers differ noticeably from some other breeds in terms of intelligence, stubbornness, sensitivity, and other characteristics. Their unique temperament can be delightful but also slightly frustrating.

Scotties Are Highly Intelligent but Particularly Stubborn

They can be trained, but it takes extra effort and patience because, unlike other breeds, they seek a reason to obey other than just to please you. To train them you must be 100% consistent and never, ever relent. If you relent one time and let your Scottie have his way instead of obeying your command, he will learn that you are a pushover, and it may take weeks for him to unlearn this lesson.

If you adopt a Scottie, I strongly recommend hiring a professional dog trainer for at least the first few weeks of puppy instruction to ensure the dog, and you, learn the basics of Scottie training. If you don't apply firm but gentle handling from the start, the Scottie will likely come to control the household.

Scotties are very dignified.  My beautiful girl Banquo.

Scotties are very dignified. My beautiful girl Banquo.

Scotties Are Sensitive

They hate to be scolded, laughed at, ignored, or humiliated. Never force a Scottie to wear silly costumes or bows. It offends their natural dignity. Our Scotties seem to understand when we are talking about them and even act insulted if made the butt of a joke. Treat them as a respected member of the family, not as a toy or plaything. They will repay you with love and unwavering devotion.

Scotties Are Not Good With Young Children

Our current girl Isabel is as sweet and good-natured as you could ask for. She has never snapped at, bitten, or threatened any other animal (except for squirrels) and loves all people and dogs alike. She is, however, a rough and tumble play companion who growls fiercely, wrestles competitively, and runs madly. She has accidentally bit me many times trying to grab a toy before I could and has also run into me with her mouth open, which has the same effect. Scotties should only be introduced to households with mature children and adults.

The independent Scot.  Isabel likes her space.

The independent Scot. Isabel likes her space.

Scotties Are Independent

They are faithful, loyal companions – and tend to become highly protective, “one-person” dogs. My first Scottie Banquo drove a man from my front porch who claimed he had been called to fix the water heater. My girl curled her lip, showed her impressive canine incisor, and growled menacingly. The guy left in a hurry.

Scotties are not lap dogs. They want their own space, bed, food bowl, and “me” time. They are not put on earth to please you or cater to your whims. They will love you, protect you, share your life, but they will not be “window dressing”.

Scotties also love to “patrol” your yard and home; in fact they consider it their job so don't attempt to discourage them. They are defending their territory. They are not yappers, but they will bark if they feel their territory is threatened. This makes them good watchdogs. If you can, give your Scottie a perch in a front window where he can see the "action" outside. It will keep him entertained for hours. And allow him daily yard time to complete his "rounds". Scotties like a routine and will become sulky if deprived.

Scotties love to play. But mind the teeth!

Scotties love to play. But mind the teeth!

Scotties Were Bred to Go “To Ground” for Varmint Removal

They instinctively chase squirrels, chipmunks, possums, mice, rats, and other such vermin and will kill them if given the chance. My first girl Banquo was a fierce warrior, as her named implies. She would catch and kill possum in wild and vociferous fights to the death. I would find their gutted carcasses stuffed behind trees, shoved under the deck, partially buried, or just left in the open as a warning to others. Yet she was the most dutiful and sweet companion I ever had and people would refuse to believe me when I told them my compact little Scot had dispatched yet another possum.

Scotties Like to Dig

That’s why they are classed as terriers. You must take extra care to secure your yard's perimeter so your Scot does not dig under the fence. Give them a place where they can indulge their digging urges, like a sandbox or corner of the garden. But do not expect them to resist the freshly turned earth where you just planted your prize begonias.

One of my fondest memories is when puppy Banquo dug up my carrot patch. At first, she enjoyed rolling and playing in the curly, green tops. But after crushing them flat that was no longer fun so she decided to dig instead. Imagine her surprise when dozens of delicious orange "chew sticks" emerged from the ground! She developed a lifetime love for carrots and I learned that my raised bed gardens are an irresistible draw to all Scotties. I now protect the garden from marauding paws rather than expect my Scots to ignore their God-given calling to "go to ground."

Scotties make adventurous playmates

Scotties make adventurous playmates

What Are a Scotties' Play Habits?

Scottish Terriers are lively, energetic dogs with a well-developed sense of fun and mischievousness. They love to play! Frankly, if they have their druthers, their first choice of playmate is usually another dog with whom they can enjoy rowdy wrestling matches and chase games. But if only a human is available, a Scottie will “make do”. This is what you can expect from your playmate:

Scotties don't fetch.  Meg hordes the balls.

Scotties don't fetch. Meg hordes the balls.

Scotties Do Not Play Fetch

Your Scottie may chase a ball, pounce on it, and chew it, but good luck if you think he will bring it back to you. To his mind a much better game is “keep away from the human”, so be prepared to relinquish the ball or suffer the indignity of having to chase him to get it back

Scotties Enjoy Games

Scotties are highly intelligent and capable of fairly complex games. My girl Meg loved to play “hide and seek” around our house. I would hide in different rooms, behind doors, in closets, and she would use her considerable powers of scent and hearing to find me. She loved the game but quickly learned my hiding places so I had to find more tricks to throw her off. Sometimes I’d sneak out the back door then around to the front to hide in the living room. In the end, she would always find me! Scotties also enjoy finding toys or treats you hide from them.

Meg and her "orb"

Meg and her "orb"

Scotties are hard on chew toys and other items.  Note the holes in the slippers.

Scotties are hard on chew toys and other items. Note the holes in the slippers.

Most Scotties Love to Roll and Chase Large Balls

Give your Scottie a basketball or soccer ball and she may keep herself entertained for hours just rolling it around with her nose. You will have to replace the ball with some regularity, however, because her sharp teeth will eventually puncture it.

Scotties Love Squeaky Loys

Scotties are very tough on equipment. Your Scottie’s main goal with a squeak toy is to surgically remove the squeaker with his teeth. Once that is accomplished, the toy becomes an object for “keep away” or tug-of-war. Most trainers warn you to never let your dog beat you at tug-of-war because it establishes her dominance over you. Your Scottie is a Diehard tug-of-war expert so if you can’t beat him at it, don’t get lured into the game.

Don't expect your Scottie to differentiate between a plush chew toy and your suede and lambskin slippers. They are both things to be humbled to the Scottie will! If it is not a toy, keep it out of Scottie tooth and claw range.

Scotties Are Very Rough and Tumble

when they play, they love to run, growl, and pounce on small, moving objects. Mind your fingers at all times. Never attempt to grab a toy that a Scottie is dead set on grabbing first. She may accidentally bite you and I can say from experience that this will be painful.

Isabel.  Scotties absorb the mildest corrections with acute understanding.

Isabel. Scotties absorb the mildest corrections with acute understanding.

Meg.  Scotties have a sense of fun and mischievousness.

Meg. Scotties have a sense of fun and mischievousness.

Scottish Terrier Training and Discipline Considerations

Scottish Terriers are intelligent, tenacious and stubborn. These qualities tend to make them think obedience is optional, especially when they are off leash and out of your immediate control. To maintain your status as pack leader and Alpha dog, you must never let your Scot get away with such breaches of respect. But you must do this the correct way or risk breaking his unique spirit.

Do Not Yell at a Scottie

Don't scold her harshly for a misdeed. Her hearing is acute and yelling will only agitate her, making her less likely to focus on what you are attempting to instruct. Scotties absorb the mildest correction with acute understanding, and may sulk or pout for hours afterward. Intone your commands and corrections firmly in a normal volume: “Duffy. Leave it. Down. Stay.” Don’t smile. Your Scottie will understand he did something wrong and is being scolded for it.

Do Not Shame Your Scottie

Scotties are very sensitive and protective of their dignity. Repeatedly shaming her will make her avoid you, which is not conducive to good obedience. If you catch your Scottie digging in the flower bed, remove her and then intone: “Nessie. Leave it. That was naughty.” Then ignore her while you repair the damage. She will understand she displeased you and will be remorseful on her own.

Banquo.  Scotties will reward you with years of love in return for understanding.

Banquo. Scotties will reward you with years of love in return for understanding.

Don’t Repeat Commands That Are Not Obeyed the First Time

Scotties love to test how far they can push things. If you command “Sit” and your Scot ignores you, don’t continue to repeat “Sit” because he will learn he doesn’t have to sit until you say it 3 or 4 times. Instead, gently push him into a sitting position, praise lightly (“Good boy”) and then walk away and ignore him. You have compelled him to obey, but for not obeying the first command he is deprived of your esteemed presence. Scotties hate to be ignored. If he comes looking for you, greet him warmly then issue the command again. If he obeys, praise lavishly.

Never, Ever Hit Your Scottie

Her bond of trust and affection with you can be broken forever after even one instance of physical abuse. Scotties have long memories. If your Scot commits a grievous mistake, such as biting someone, scold her sharply (“Nessie! Bad girl!”) and confine her immediately in her crate. Then you will have to begin the work of figuring out what prompted the behavior and how to correct it. But hitting definitely will not solve the problem. On occasion, I do tap my girl Isabel lightly on the nose with one finger when she is being willful. That is more than enough to get her attention.

Love and understand your Scottish Terrier and he will give you years of devoted companionship, fun, wisdom, and insight into the heart of one of God's great, noble creatures.


Juile gough on September 06, 2020:

Is there any time terriers for sale

Lisa Tarr Cohn on August 31, 2020:

I have heard from a Scottish terrier owner that they are not that friendly and will bite you--and that they are unpredictable when biting you.I would rather have a more loving and affectionate breed of dog that look similarly to a Scottish terrier called a Schnauzer.

Gordon and Elizabeth Marron on August 25, 2020:

We have 2 Scotties brother and sister, they are now 2 and a half years old, along with 2 norfolk terriers. They all get on great together, our last Scottie was the same temperament. To say that they are not lap dog's is like saying it never rains in the summer. There is a condition the breed has got called Scottie cramps. Breeders don't like giving any information about the condition so be aware.

mactavers on July 21, 2020:

Scotties are stubborn, but we've had one scottie that loved all ages of children and one that I would not have trusted around small children.

paul on July 20, 2020:

I have a 75% scottie, 25% poodle Mexican street dog. I certainly agree with the stubborness and wanting to kill small animals, but retrieving a ball is her favourite game, although if she decides not to come back with it, I do have to go get it. That usually occurs when she figures out I am going to make her come in

Rebecca on October 16, 2019:

Omg I laughed reading this, it’s the most bang on article I’ve ever read. Though my scottie is in some ways didn’t get the characteristics, he’s very gentle with small kids (from bring a puppy), he plays fetch relentlessly and is obsessed with swimming, so much so that I bought him a life jacket because he refuses to get out like a stubborn child. They are just the most comical breeds, their attitudes are hilarious. Kind of like a saucy teenager. Anyway great article!

Joey on April 17, 2018:

How do you teach or train a 15 old week Scottish terrier to come and stay

Kelly on February 18, 2018:

Respectfully, I totally disagree with playing fetch. If you have 2 balls, one to throw and one in your hand, you can totally get a Scottie to bring a ball back. I have done this with both of my Scotties. Also, I am living proof, that in the right household, a Scottie is a wonderful puppy to bring into a home with small children. I had my first Scottie at the age of 4 and have had a Scottie in my life ever since (46 years now). My 10th Scottie just turned 1 and I love the breed more than. Ever!

Mark on May 13, 2017:

I need help I am having problem with a scottie who wants to play with the next door neighbor dogs they keep digging holes under the fence so they can be with each other. I am afraid that my dog might get lose due to this behavior. She makes me feel that she would be happier on a farm than with me. I am not sure what to do? find her a farm or keep her with me?

Connor Sayers on October 02, 2016:

How do I get my svottish terrier to come over to me on his own instead of me comming over to him. And sometimes he walks away from me.

The only times we bond probably is when I play games I have made up for him on the trampoline and when am eating I give him food.

DJCalifornia on October 01, 2016:

Thank you for the wonderful article. It describe our Murphy Brown to the "T."She is exactly like Candace Bergen's character on the show and that's why she has the name. Stubborn Brave and Honest she is no push over. Can't live without her!

Mary Hyatt from Florida on March 15, 2015:

I think the Scottish Terrier is just a gorgeous dog, but I don't think I would be a good Scotty person. I love my Miniature Schnauzer, Baby who is truly a lap dog and loves to cuddle. I have taught her many tricks.

I enjoyed reading your HOTD, and love all your photos of your dogs.

Voted UP, etc

stella vadakin from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619 on March 15, 2015:

Hi Carol, I enjoyed this hub on the Scottish Terrier. I have had all kinds of dogs but never a Terrier. They sound a lot like my Dalmatians, they were very loyal companion dogs. I have two small beagles one old and one new one. I also like the idea that the command is given once. This really does work great. Good hub, Stella

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on March 15, 2015:

Such a full and informative hub on the Scottish Terrier. I found it interesting to learn that they only need to hear a command once. They are sensitive little darlings. Your photos are just precious Carol. I will be sharing this and voted up and more.

Cynthia Hoover from Newton, West Virginia on March 15, 2015:

I have been raised around Scotties, my mother had her first as a child as well. In my teens my mother took on breeding a champion bloodline- per an agreement to obtain Mia her companion. I must say this is a great hub, although I have never seen a Scottie that did not tolerate small children. I did not find them any harder to train than other breeds, that is just my experience though. I love our Scotties!

Thelma Alberts from Germany on March 15, 2015:

Congratulations of the HOTD award. This is a very well informative hub. Thanks for sharing.

poetryman6969 on March 15, 2015:

Does not seem like a dog for the casual dog fancier as they seem to have a mind of their own.

Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on March 15, 2015:

Very informative! Wish one certain family I know had read this before they got their Scottie; the fit wasn't a particularly good one and now I understand why. Your dogs are just beautiful and, most definitely, lucky to have you. Congratulations on today's Hub of the Day honors!

mactavers on March 15, 2015:

We have had two Scottish Terriers and you have done a great job of describing them. They both were very protective of us and our yard and could dig to "China" on occasion when they wanted to. While we love Scottish Terriers, and find them adorable, our current dog is a West Highland Terrier and she is more affectionate.

Linda F Correa from Spring Hill Florida on March 15, 2015:

What a great article to explain the breed. Someday I would love to own one.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on March 15, 2015:

Very interesting and useful hub. There's lot of information for those keeping Scottish terriers. Voted up.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on March 15, 2015:

O my, tears are streaming down my cheeks. Our very first pup my parents got when I was born and I loved "Scotty" so. He followed me all around the house and when I went into the yard he trotted along beside me. I have such vivid memories of him which is surprising in a way because I was so young.

When I was just three and a half, he became ill. My Momma and Daddy took him to the vet and when they came home neither of them was smiling.

Scotty had what was termed 'dropsy' and he died just as I was turning four.

He was the love of my life kind of pup.

Seeing the photos brought it all back. Thanks for the memories...these are happy tears.

Angels are on the way to you this morning. voted up++++ and shared

Congrats on HOTD.

Clairissa from OREFIELD, PA on January 27, 2015:

Buster sounds awesome and is a perfect companion for your son. Our one Scottie is a ball addict, it is all he thinks about. And he loves to fetch it but will only drop it when he is ready and on his terms. LOL All three of my Scotties have been totally different with their own unique personalities.

Michelle on January 27, 2015:


We got a Scottie named Buster. He has a wonderful temperament and is brilliant with our 7-yr-old son, who is very hands on with him. he loves to fetch and drop (even though all articles seem to say Scotties won't do this) and he is very obedient. He has been a really important addition to our family and is friendly to absolutely everyone he meets.

Clairissa from OREFIELD, PA on August 19, 2014:

Scotties are absolutely awesome! I was fortunate to be owned by one for 9 wonderful years, and then he passed on. :( However, due to Duncan, we now have two Scotties, Brodie and Sully. This year my son begged for a Corgi which he named, Thor. Oh well, least they all look good together, since they are all 10 inches tall. The corgi does seem to have a pin head compared to the Scotties. LOL

Ingrid Threet on August 18, 2014:

I agree with Morgan. My Scotty, Scarlett, has never been aggressive. Sweetest dog. I treat her as an "equal" ad she is a wonderful companion/friend.

Briggybee on June 14, 2012:

We have a Scottie Beagle mix. Jack is a very jealous doggie. He squeaks all the rime if we are paying attention to something other than him, for example using technology like a kindle or cellphone. Do Scotties display behaviors like this or would that be the Beagle in him?

berkana on April 24, 2012:

Thank you ever so much for your article! I laughed from beginning to end! You've got Scotties pegged! lol We LOVE our Scotties, couldn't, wouldn't live without them. Everything you wrote about them is 100% true. Only someone who's enjoyed Scotties for many moons would know that stuff. I've read other comments about the breed, but they don't compare to yours. I can't wait for my husband to read your article, he's going to so enjoy it too! Thank you, you made my day!

ronda on March 09, 2012:

i am looking for someone that is in the Kansas area to bred my Scottie with.. Darcie will be 2 August 8th

Laura on January 24, 2012:

I have a 4 year old male Scottie named Samual and he is the love of my life (besides his "daddy" my boyfriend) Amazing dogs!!! I will always have a scottie!!!

Morgan on December 17, 2011:

Im 11 years old and I own a Scottie, Mine is the nicest dog I have ever seen, to be honest with you, mine is so loving and loves attention. My Scottie is a girl and Called Morag (scottish name). Morag Has never once bitten me, or growled at me. I don't Think any of this post is ture, my Scottie is a loving,caring,kind,shy,Playful dog.

Notasheep on October 08, 2011:

Love this post thanks so much!

Debby- Scottish terriers were trained to track and kill rats, opposums, and other small rodent-like animals! Its in their blood! You should keep him on a leash outside if you don't want him doing that! :)

Debby on September 27, 2011:

Help! I could not get my scottie to come in last night. I finally tood the leash out to get him and he was chewing on a dead possum. Two weeks ago he killed one and brought it up by the deck. I am alone with him and I hate this. He is so sweet and loving. I adopted him four years ago and this is all new. What can I do to stop him from going after possum in the yard. We have a tall wood fence all around the yard. Should I take him to the vet. He is current on his shots but I am not happy with picking up dead possum. Other than not letting him out at night, do you have any other suggestions? This is my second scottie and I love them.

Carol Rossi (author) on May 06, 2010:


If puppies are socialized well they will usually get along with any other type of breed. If your two learn early to play nice they should get along. Just be sure to have them both "fixed"!

Bianca on May 05, 2010:


I have a 8 month old pekingese (female), and I just bought a scottish terrier (male), picking him up this afternoon. Do you perhaps know whether a scottish terrier and a pekingese will get along well?