Breed of the Week - Scottish Terrier

So, you saw Sadie win Best in Show at Westminster Kennel Club dog show and you thought “that’s the dog for me”! But Scottish Terriers, cute though they are, are not a breed for everyone.

What is now recognized as the Scottish Terrier, was once grouped with other dogs from Scotland known as “Skye terriers”, referring to the Isle of Skye. These were the West Highland Terrier, Dandie Dinmont Terrier, Cairn Terrier and Skye Terrier. These hardy dogs were used to hunt badgers and other underground vermin.

Although there are literary references as early as the 1400’s describing a dog similar to the Scottie, it wasn’t until the late 1800’s that the dog we recognize today was beginning to develop. Although Scotties were recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1885 it was in the years after World War I that the breed became popular.

Scotties are a loyal, faithful companion and can be devoted to their family, but they are also independent and not overly tolerant of strangers who invade their space. Scotties may do well with well behaved children if they are raised with them, but can also become excited by their quick movements and may nip. Children should never be left unattended with ANY dog, ever.

The Scottish Terrier has a harsh, wiry coat that enabled it to hunt in the harsh conditions of Scotland, however, this is not an outdoor dog and prefers to live inside with its family. The original colors of the coat were brindle and wheaten, a color varying from cream to cinnamon, but when most people think of Scotties they picture the black coated variety.

The Scottie is an active breed and can become destructive if not given enough mental and physical stimulation. Long walks are an appropriate activity, but always keep your Scottie leashed as they have an intense prey drive! A fenced in yard, not an electric fence, is a safe way to contain Scotties for their own safety, but beware of the holes in the yard! Scotties love to dig because that is what they were bred to do, dig underground vermin.

Regular grooming is required to keep the coat in the traditional Scottie cut. Show dogs are “hand stripped” which is time consuming and expensive. Pets can be clipped every 2-3 months. All Scotties should be brushed every other day to remove and prevent mats, tangles and dead hair.

According to the Scottish Terrier Club of America (STCA), these dogs excel at Earthdog trials and do well in agility but “the majority are not temperamentally suited to” obedience. Scotties are bred to work independently from man and are used to making their own decisions. They are an intelligent breed that should be exposed to early, basic training and socialization but, most do not find success in Obedience.

Scotties naturally enjoy burrowing through a series of tunnels to locate a caged rat at the end so Earthdog trials are a great activity for you and your dog.

While generally a hardy breed, there are a few health issues to watch for. First, at least one of the parents of the dog you are considering should be cleared for von Willebrand’s disease, which is a defective platelet function that results in excessive bleeding. A responsible breeder will have their breeding stock tested for this hereditary disease.

Scottie Cramp, which is the most widely-spread hereditary disorder in the breed is characterized by changes in gait, and often stumbling, when the dog is stressed or excited. Dogs at rest and calm dogs do not exhibit symptoms.

Craniomandibular Osteopathy (CMO) is abnormal bone growth that is usually treatable and as the dog matures becomes undetectable. Epilepsy, Hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease may also affect Scottish Terriers, according to the Scottish Terrier Club of America.

Scotties require firm, consistent leadership for they are a strong willed dog but are also sensitive and should be praised and rewarded to encourage desired behaviors.

One final note, Scotties love to bark. They will bark to announce visitors or to alert someone who has passed into their territory. They will bark at cats and squirrels and cars. Your Scottie will enthusiastically bark as if it enjoys hearing the sound!