Historically, Scotland was the origin of a number of small, hardy terriers which have since become popular throughout the world. The Scottish Terrier is one of these. Affectionately known as the Scottie, this breed was established in the 1700’s to dig out and kill burrowing vermin around the farms. Their enthusiasm for digging still persists in the breed today, to the great exasperation of their owners.
In the late 1800’s, Skye Terriers, Dandie Dinmont Terriers and Scottish Terriers were shown in the same class. This annoyed fanciers of the Scottish Terrier, which led to the breed standard being drawn up in 1880. It has remained relatively unchanged since then.
Scottish Terriers were first introduced to the United States in the late 19th century. They have been faithful companions to Presidents, with Franklin D Roosevelt and George W Bush both enjoying the company of a Scottish Terrier during their time in the White House.
These tenacious little dogs were formally recognized by the AKC in 1885.
The Scottish Terrier is a tough looking little dog with a muscular body. They stand 10 inches, or 25cm, at the shoulder, and weigh up to 22lbs (10kg). Their large paws were made for digging, and their wiry coat is usually clipped. The body hair is left long, almost reaching to the ground while the hair on their head is trimmed short, apart from those distinguished looking long eyebrows and whiskers. They have a soft heavy undercoat which kept them warm during the harsh Scottish winters.
Scotties come in a range of colors including black, red, brindle and wheaten.
As with all terriers, the Scottie can be stubborn and independent. Their strong will can make them a challenge for the novice dog owner, because they need a firm and fair handler who will be an effective leader for them. Obedience training is a must to teach them where they fit in the household pack.
Scotties can be argumentative with other dogs, unless they are well socialized as puppies. A good puppy training class will help your dog to behave nicely in the company of other canines.
These little dogs may be territorial and suspicious of strangers, and will bark to warn if anyone unfamiliar approaches their home turf.
Unfortunately, the Scottie suffers from several serious health conditions.
They are the most likely of all the dog breeds to develop bladder cancer. It appears that genetics plays a role in development of this disease, but it isn’t yet clear how it is passed on.
Scottie cramp is another hereditary condition in this breed. When stressed, affected dogs will arch their back, and they may splay their legs and fall over. They usually recover with rest, but in some cases, Valium is needed to help them relax. This condition is thought to be related to a defect of serotonin in the brain, so drugs such as Prozac can be useful to manage severely affected dogs.
Just like their close relatives the West Highland White Terrier, Scotties suffer from craniomandibular osteopathy. This condition results in increased bone growth around the bottom jaw, and makes eating difficult and painful. It is most common in young dogs, and tends to disappear spontaneously when they reach adulthood.
Von Willebrand’s Disease is a hereditary disease which results in the failure of blood to clot. Dogs with VWD bleed excessively after bumps and bruises, and may develop little hemorrhages in their skin. The main risk is if an affected dog has to undergo surgery – they will need pre-operative blood or plasma transfusions to support them through their operation.
Because of their big heads and small size, Scottish Terriers are very likely to need a cesarian section to deliver their babies. It is important that the time of mating is recorded, and their pregnancy closely monitored, to make sure that whelping is safe for mom and babies.
Any potential breeding dog must be checked for these hereditary disease before they are mated. This helps to avoid the heartbreak of their puppies developing a preventable disease.
If you are going to invite a Scottie to join your family, you must be prepared to groom your dog frequently. They don’t shed much, but will still benefit from weekly brushing, and need bathing only when they are particularly dirty. Their wiry coat will need stripping and trimming several times a year to maintain that typical Scottish Terrier look. You can learn to do this yourself, or you can use a professional groomer. This will add to your yearly dog expenses, so make sure you can afford it. Alternatively, you may choose to clip your Scottie’s hair short, to make it easier to care for.
The Scottish Terrier is a highly active and energetic dog, so a daily walk around the neighborhood is a must. They also love to play chase, and a regular game will burn up their excess energy. This, combined with their routine activity around the home, is usually enough exercise for Scotties. Having said that, if you prefer to go for long walks, your Scottie will happily keep you company.
Scottish Terriers make a great pet for families with older children, but because of their assertive nature, may be too bossy for youngsters. Don’t be surprised your dog shows a strong preference for one particular family member. These dogs may have arguments with other other dogs in the household unless they are introduced to them at an early age.
Scottish Terriers make wonderful companions for families with older children, and the elderly. They are quite happy to live in an apartment, as long as they get their daily exercise. You will enjoy the company of your Scottie for up to 13 years.