Scottish Terrier
(AKC Terrier Group)
Scottish Terrier

The Scottish Terrier is a heavy-boned, compact, and energetic dog with short legs and a long, bearded head. The almond-shaped eyes are shielded by bushy eyebrows, and the ideal expression is said to be keen and "varminty" in the AKC standard. The small, erect ears are pointed, the large nose is black, and the tail, which is undocked, points straight up. The outer coat is harsh and bristly and the undercoat is soft. The Scottish Terrier comes in solid black, dark gray, wheaten, grizzle, and brindle. The standard allows for a little bit of white on the chest.


The Scottish Terrier was developed in Scotland in the 1700s. The breed was first called the Aberdeen Terrier after the Scottish town of the same name. Like many other long, low dogs, the Scottie was used to hunt den animals, especially otter, fox, badger, and rabbit; the breed was especially good at getting these small animals out of rocks and holes. Today the Scottie primarily serves as a companion, although he still retains his hunting instincts and has a very strong prey drive.

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Nicknamed the "Diehard," the Scottie is a lively, brave, and alert little dog who can be at once protective and playful, infatuated with his people, and independent. Although Scotties are charming and full of character, their intelligence, independence, and intense little spirits can make them challenging companions. Most breeders recommend that people who get Scotties know how to set clear boundaries and stick to them; otherwise, the Scottie can become dominating and quite hard to live with. In addition, some Scotties become moody and snappish as adults. Most Scotties are sensitive to and resentful of harsh treatment or arbitrary rules. Nevertheless, these are loyal dogs (often one-family dogs, in fact) that can be indifferent with other people. They are best with older children, as the Scottie both dislikes being poked and prodded and has strong jaws that happen to be right at a toddler’s face level.

Breeders note that Scotties can be good with other pets as long as that pet stands its ground (anything that runs can trigger the Scottie's strong prey drive). That same prey drive, combined with the Scottie's strong dog aggression, means these dogs must always walk on leash and always play behind a fence. While no longer bred to be a hunter, the rugged Scottie may chase after wild animals (including mice, rats, raccoons, and even opossums) with a startling ferocity.

Some Scotties do well in apartments, but some need at least a small-size yard to get away from their owner and have an independent dog life. That same independent spirit makes the Scottie a hard dog to train; he generally likes to think for himself and if it makes more sense to go around a jump than over it, he will do so quite confidently. Similarly, if he knows you don't want him on your bed, he'll comply when you're home, but take a snooze up there once you're out of sight. That makes him a challenging dog to obedience train, but an absolute delight in the agility ring, where he not only can make his own decisions, but he also can watch his owner "running around and looking foolish," one breeder noted. "Scotties love to see that."