Scottish Terriers: Understand and Love the Breed
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.
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. I
f 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 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.
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 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".
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 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.
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.
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.
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 compansionship, fun, wisdom, and insight into the heart of one of God's great, noble creatures.