Petkeen is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commision. Learn More

Scottish Terrier

Nicole Cosgrove

Scottish terrier puppy posed at the park

The Scottish Terrier is a small purebred also called a Scottie or the Aberdeen Terrier. It has talents in hunting, agility, earthdog and watchdog. It is one of five terrier breeds that come from Scotland and is one of the most successful dog breeds who are entered into the Kennel Club Dog Show. Known to be independent and sensitive it takes a patient and experienced owner to get the best out of it.

Here is the Scottish Terrier at a Glance
Name Scottish Terrier
Other Names Aberdeen Terrier
Nicknames Scottie and Aberdeenie
Origin United Kingdom
Average size Small
Average weight 18 to 22 pounds
Average height 10 to 11 inches
Life span 11 to 14 years
Coat type Harsh, wiry, dense
Hypoallergenic Yes
Color White, cream, grey, black, wheaten, brindle
Popularity Somewhat popular – ranked 58th by the AKC
Intelligence Average
Tolerance to heat Good but nothing too hot
Tolerance to cold Very good just not extremes
Shedding Low – especially if coat is kept short
Drooling Low – not a dog known for a lot of slobber
Obesity Average – just make sure it does not over eat and that it gets daily exercise
Grooming/brushing Moderate to high depending on if you use a professional groomer
Barking Rare
Exercise needs Fairly active
Trainability Difficult – stubborn dog, needs experienced owner
Friendliness Very good – social dog
Good first dog Low to moderate – best with those with experience
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Good with socialization
Good with strangers Very good – approachable but sometimes a little wary
Good apartment dog Very good due to size as long as it gets daily walks
Handles alone time well Moderate to good – can handle some time alone but not extended periods
Health issues Generally a fairly healthy dog, some issues though such as Scottie cramp, cancer, Von Willebrand’s and patellar luxation
Medical expenses $435 a year for basic care and pet insurance
Food expenses $75 a year for good quality dry dog food and treats
Miscellaneous expenses $515 a year for professional grooming, basic training, license, miscellaneous costs and toys
Average annual expense $1025 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $800
Biting Statistics None Reported3

The Scottish Terrier’s Beginnings

The Scottish Terrier’s origins are somewhat clouded, they were certainly around in 18th century Scotland but there is mention of Skye terriers in records from the early 16th century and there are also records from the 15th century that mention a dog of similar appearance. It is believed they were bred to help on the farm, hunting vermin like rats and then were also used to help hunt small prey like rabbit, foxes and badgers.

It was first called the Aberdeen Terrier, being named after the town with the same name. In the 1800s there were a lot of different terriers and when it was decided to try and separate them in to breeds at first they were split into just two categories, Skye Terriers and Dandie Dinmont terriers. In dog shows this is how they were shown for a while. In the 1870s more distinction began to be made between the dogs once more with the Skye Terriers eventually being split into the Scottish Terrier, the Westie, the Cairn and the Skye.

In 1880 the first written standard for the Scottish Terrier was created and in 1881 the first bred club was formed in England. In 1885 it was recognized by the Kennel Club. In Scotland a breed club was not founded until 1888. For years the two clubs disagreed about a breed standard for the Scottie and it was not until 1930 that they reached an agreed upon revised standard. The breed came to the US in the 1890s.

New Lease on Life

In America the STCA (Scottish Terrier Club of America) was started in 1900 and an American standard was created in 1925. The AKC recognized it in 1934. Its popularity did not rise much until around the time of the first and second world wars. By 1936 it has become the United States’ third most popular dog. It has been owner by many famous people over the years, and has several places in popular culture, a playing piece in Monopoly for example and a beloved character in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp. It continues to fluctuate in popularity and right now is ranked 58th by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

This is a small dog weighing 18 to 22 pounds and standing 10 to 11 inches tall. It is a sturdy dog with a longer head and a muzzle the same length as its skull. It has small dark or black eyes set wide apart that are almond shaped. Its hair covered ears are high up on its head, pointed and erect. It has a medium length tail that’s base is thicker and then it is straight or has a slight curve.

Its double coat is soft underneath and an outer coat that is dense, harsh and wiry. It comes in common colors of brindle, black, wheaten, grey, white and cream. Hair in the face can grow longer than the rest creating a beard and eye brows. It also grows longer around the lower section of its body and its legs.

The Scottie has short legs and because of how its coat is often trimmed it can seem to be an even shorter dog than it really is. In places where it is allowed dewclaws can be removed. Its front feet are round and larger than its back feet.

The Inner Scottish Terrier


The Scottie is an alert and smart dog who is a great watchdog that will bark to let you know of there is an intruder. It is very loyal and brave and is somewhat protective so despite being small it is possible some Scotties will act to defend its home and owners too. However it can also be independent, stubborn and has an aggressive side and for that reason it is best with experienced owners not new ones. It needs firm handling or it can become a very difficult dog to live with.

Apart from when it is alerting you or in play the Scottish Terrier is a rare barker. It has a lot of personality and character and is very friendly and playful when young and then grows into something more dignified. It has a lot of charm it uses very well to try to get its own way and is an affectionate and loving companion or family dog. With socialization and training this is a dog you can rely on to have a great temperament wherever you take it.

Scotties have a lot of determination and are very confident and bold. It is more independent than most other terriers and can be left alone for short periods of time without any problems. Sometimes it can be more attached to one owner over the other and can be seen as aloof. While it is reserved around strangers it is not like that with its family but it is a more serious dog when it has grown. It is also surprisingly sensitive to the moods of its family and adapting to that.

Living with a Scottish Terrier

What will training look like?

Scottish Terriers are not easy dogs to train at all, another reason they should be homed only with experienced owners. Training is difficult because of its stubborn and independent nature and because it takes a very firm and clear leader for it to be inclined to listen and obey. It is important to stay consistent but not to get aggressive, impatient or negative. Be in control yes but not to the point where you think smacking can help, this is a sensitive dog and it will not respond well to that. Praise it, encourage it, use treats and be its boss!

If the Scottie thinks it is the boss it can develop small dog syndrome which makes a very hard dog to deal with, it is snappy, aggressive, destructive and moody. It is also important that everyone in the home is involved in the training and that all of you are consistent so that the Scottie knows its place.

Along with obedience training it is important it is given early socialization too. Meeting new people, going to new places and learning what is acceptable and to be a confident and well rounded dog you can trust. Its wariness of strangers for example can become more aggressive as it grows older, but early socialization can keep that in check.

How active is the Scottish Terrier?

This breed is fine for apartment living being a small size and calm indoors as long as it gets daily outings in the form of a couple of walks that are are least 20 minutes long each. It handles cold weather a lot better than it handles the heat. It is fairly active but with enough play time, walks and trips to a dog park where it can run off leash and socialize, it does not need a yard. However if there is one that is a bonus and it will enjoy hanging out there though be warned it foes like to dig. Just make sure the yard is well fenced as it will happily take off after a squirrel. For the same reason make sure it is on a leash when out walking.

Strangely while the Scottie often does like water in fact it is not a good mix and you should not encourage it. With its heavier body and short legs it will sink and can drown. Care must be taken if you have a pool, make sure it is fenced so your Scottie is not at risk if it decides to jump in. Being a dog that comes from a working background it likes to be busy and have jobs to do, teaching it some tricks can help with that.

Caring for the Scottish Terrier

Grooming needs

As this breed is low shedding it is assumed by some that it is an easy to maintain dog that will not take up a lot of your time. In fact this is not the case, it does have certain grooming needs and several kinds of grooming tools will be needed if you intend to take care of at least some of it yourself. If you are keeping it as pet the grooming can be done once or twice a week but if it is a show dog it needs to be done daily. Useful tools will be a hound glove, wide tooth comb, stiff brush and trimming scissors. It will need its beard cleaned and trimmed and its eyebrows trimmed too.

The Scottie needs to be stripped and trimmed regularly. If you know how you can do it yourself or you will need to take it to a professional groomer. If you having it clipped it should be done every 2 months. This will lead to a softer coat but a coat that is duller. If you are keeping a how dog avoid the clipping. Give it a bath just when it needs one so that you do not dry out its skin. Also make sure you check often for fleas as Scotties can have bad reactions to them.

It will also need its nails trimmed if it does not wear them down naturally. If you are familiar with the task it can be done yourself with the right tools but if you are not, have the groomer do this for you too. You can brush its teeth at least two to three times a week and check its ears once a week for infection then give them a wipe clean.

Feeding Time

Feeding the Scottish Terrier should be done in two meals at least per day, using a good quality dry dog food. Amounts will depend on metabolism, activity, size, age and health but will likely fall somewhere between ¾ to 1 1/2 cups in total a day.

Scottish Terrier with children and other animals

Scottish Terriers are very good with children, they are happy to play and run around with them, and loving towards them. However it is probably best to have them with older children not younger ones as the Scottie needs everyone to be firm with them and it does not like its tail or coat being pulled at. A toddler who tugs too hard may get snapped at. Make sure to teach the children how to touch and play nicely. Early socialization is important and when a Scottie is raised with the children it tends to be more protective of them.

With other dogs it can be aggressive with dogs of the same sex and if another dog provokes it, it will fight back. However if left alone it is very unlikely to start anything itself. It gets on well with other dogs when raised with them. Because of its hunting background it is not the best dog around small animals especially without socialization. It can tolerate cats sometimes but is likely to chase and possibly kill smaller pets like mice or hamsters. It will also try to chase down strange small critters outside.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

It has a life span of 11 to 14 years and it does have problems with giving birth. As well the already mentioned flea allergy other health issues it can be prone to include Scottie Cramp, Von Willebrand’s disease, skin problems, cancer, CMO, patellar luxation and eye problems.

Biting Statistics

Looking at reports of dog attacks against people in the US and Canada over the last 34 years there is no mention of the Scottish Terrier. However this does not mean it is not possible for it to be involved in such incidents. The best way to have a dog you can trust is to have it socialized and trained, give it the right amount of food, exercise, mental challenge and attention, and lots of love.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Scottish Terrier puppy is going to cost something close to the $800 mark. This would a good quality pet dog from a reputable breeder. For something more show quality from a top breeder it is going to cost several thousand. If you are interested in rescuing a dog and giving it a new home shelters will be less, around $200 to $400 but the dog is more likely to be an adult than a puppy. Try to avoid using puppy mills and bad breeders that often advertise online or in local papers. While some people are genuine in just having a puppy to sell, some are the kind of breeders you would never want to fund.

Initial costs for a crate, collar, leash, carrier, bowls and other necessary items are going to be about $120. Initial medical needs like a physical exam, shots, deworming, blood tests, micro chipping and neutering or spaying (depending on its sex) are going to cost about $300.

Annual costs for food and treats is about $75 for this small dog. Medical basics like ticks and flea prevention, visits to a vet for a check up, shots and insurance or savings for emergencies or health issues are going to cost about $435 a year. Other costs like toys, grooming, license, basic training and miscellaneous needs come to about $515 a year. This give an annual starting figure cost of $1025.


Looking for a Scottish Terrier Puppy Name? Let select one from our list!

The Scottish Terrier is a bold, independent, free thinking and stubborn dog. It needs experienced and firm ownership, training and socialization. It also takes a certain level of care when it comes to its coat and such. If you do not want a dog with its own mind who needs a certain amount of attention and care this is not the dog for you.

With the right owners and home a Scottie is completely faithful, loving and brave. It can be a great family dog and is a fun mix of playful and extroverted as a puppy growing into a more dignified and serious dog when as adult. It still has a lot of energy though and is happy to go out with you for walks and play with you in the dog park. It is an excellent watchdog and dos not shed a significant amount either.

Popular Scottish Terrier Mixes

Doxie Scot
Doxie Scot
Scottish Terrier, Dachshund Mix
General Information
Size Small to medium sized
Height Up to 10 inches
Weight 18 to 28 pounds
Life span 12 to 14 years
Touchiness Quite sensitive
Barking Occasional
Activity Somewhat active
Breed Traits

Brave and Alert
Good Family Pet
Good with Children
Good Apartment Dweller


Can be

Chihuahua, Scottish Terrier Mix
General Information
Size Small
Height 8 to 11 inches
Weight 16 to 20 pounds
Life span 12 to 15 years
Touchiness Very sensitive
Barking Occasional
Activity Slightly active
Breed Traits

Can be stubborn
Good Family Pet


Can be

Scottish Terrier, Poodle Mix
General Information
Size Small
Height 8 to 12 inches
Weight 10 to 20 pounds
Life span 12 to 15 years
Touchiness Quite sensitive
Barking Occasional
Activity Slightly active
Breed Traits

Alert dog
Very loyal
Good Family Pet



Image Credit: GoDog Photo, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.