What to Know About Scottish Terriers

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on May 28, 2024
7 min read

The Scottish Terrier, also known as Scottie and Aberdeen Terrier, is a rugged, confident, human-loving dog breed. They have a vivid personality that makes them loyal and sweet companions. Scotties are also known as "the Diehard" due to their persistence. This dog breed is one of the five breeds of Scottish terriers grouped under "Skye Terrier" in the 1800s. 

A Scottie has a medium wiry outercoat and a softer and denser undercoat. They require regular grooming sessions and are one of the best watchdogs. 

Like other dog breeds, Scotties are prone to several health issues. But they are resilient dogs with high energy levels and affection for people.

The Scottish Terrier is a small breed with a distinctive body shape and size. Their personality is feisty, energetic, and vigilant. 

The average Scottish Terrier size is about 10 inches in height. The male Scottie weighs around 19 to 22 pounds, while the female is 18 to 21 pounds. The average Scottish Terrier's lifespan is 12 years.


The Scottish Terrier is a short-legged but strong dog breed with unique characteristics of the beard, lower body, and legs. The eyebrows enhance their sharp facial expressions.

Their coats can be wheaten yellow, black, or brindle. The overcoat usually has some white or silver hair. Scotties have bright eyes, erect ears, and a tail that gives the alert whenever the dog senses danger.

This compact dog has high energy and low shedding and drooling levels. 


The Scottish Terrier temperament can be defined as good for people but aggressive toward other dogs and animals. They are moderately open to strangers and are mostly friendly and playful with everyone.

Scotties have a high adaptability level, so you can easily train them when they are small. They learn quickly and are very energetic. They also have a protective nature.

They always need something to do. When left alone, Scotties may dig or bark.

Scottish Terriers need regular grooming due to their dual coats. Many dog owners prefer to hand strip Scotties' coats when they are small puppies. This way, they get used to this method as they grow older.

It's better to groom your dog weekly, but it can be monthly once the coat has started.

If you can't groom your pet on your own, you can search for a professional groomer who hand strips. If you can't find anyone, you can clipper the coat. Clipping removes the rough, hard texture of the outer coat, and the undercoat will be more prominent.

Clipped coats need to be taken care of every six to eight weeks. Brush your Scottie's coat weekly to untangle the hair and keep their skin healthy. You can also bathe your dog periodically with a moisturizing soap or shampoo.


Scottish Terriers like to have a good playtime and a walk. They need to take out their energy in spurts, such as by chasing a ball and then bringing it back. 

They are quite persistent, and you'll see their stubbornness when playing tug with a toy. They won't let the toy go, and you'll be the one giving up.

Scotties stay happy and healthy when they get the right amount of regular exercise.


While Scottish Terriers are playful and energetic, they can easily get bored with repetitive exercise and long training sessions. They perform well in sessions lasting no more than 15 minutes. 

Scotties are good thinkers and observers, so they respond well to changes of the environment. This dog breed isn't one that you can control by training. Instead, they are independent and don't like to be told what to do.

As a pet owner, you should let them think that what they're doing is their idea. Scotties can sense the tone of your voice and respond well to it. So try to be friendly and persistent with them in training sessions and reward them for good behavior.


Scottish Terriers need a diet containing mid-20% protein. You can include a small portion of canned food with their meals. 

The best way to determine if your pet is getting the proper diet is by examining their coat. If it seems healthy and even, with no dryness, flakiness, or allergies, you're more likely feeding your Scottie suitable foods.

It's best to consult a vet before making feeding decisions.

Scottish Terriers are healthy dogs, but they can develop or inherit several health conditions. These include bleeding disorders, joint issues, autoimmune diseases, infections, and allergies. 

Responsible pet owners must schedule regular vet appointments to identify any underlying health condition early. A vet usually runs knee, hip, and DNA tests to examine the overall health of the Scottie.

Scottie Cramp

This is an inherited disease named after the Scottish Terriers. Scottie Cramp results in leg hyperextension and spasms in your Scottie's legs, making it hard for them to walk and run. This condition is caused by serotonin deficiency that affects dogs at a young age.

Common symptoms of Scotty Cramp include an arched spine, cramps, and a goose-stepping gait. These signs mainly occur after a training or exercise session and last for several minutes. 

They usually resolve on their own but can occur again later in the day. It's suggested that Scotties with Scottie Cramp shouldn't be bred further.

Patellar Luxation

This is a common Scottish Terrier health issue in which the kneecap (patella) shifts to one side or is displaced from the usual position in front of the knee. Patellar luxation is also known as dislocated kneecap. It is a congenital abnormality.

In dogs, patellar luxation mostly pushes the kneecap inward or sideways (toward the other leg). This condition is known as medial patellar luxation (MPL), which is more common in smaller dog breeds.

When the knee displaces outward and away from the other hind limb, the condition is known as lateral patellar luxation (LPL). It occurs more commonly in larger dogs but can be found in almost every dog breed.

The general symptoms of patellar luxation include frequent limping, bow-legged posture in the legs, lower back hunching, and an audible cracking sound when the dog bends their knees. 

Since patellar luxation is a congenital condition, it can be diagnosed when the dog is young, and the earlier the better. If left untreated, it may lead to arthritis and multiple orthopedic abnormalities.

Cerebral Abiotrophy

This is a genetic disease that causes the pet's cerebellum to degenerate over time. The cells of the cerebellum die gradually, causing balance and posture issues. This condition becomes more severe over time. 

The rate of progression of cerebral abiotrophy usually varies from one dog to another. Some dogs show quicker symptoms and lose their walking ability within a few months. However, other dogs may take three to eight years to show visible symptoms. 

Some common symptoms of this condition include abnormal gait, tilted head, broad-based stance, lack of coordination, and swaying.

Von Willebrand Disease (VWD) 

This is a common inherited bleeding disorder in dogs caused by deficiency in von Willebrand factor (VWF). VWF is a unique protein in dogs that helps platelets function properly and form clots. 

The common symptoms of this condition include spontaneous bleeding from the nose; mouth; or reproductive, urinary, or intestinal systems. A dog who has undergone surgery may experience uncontrollable bleeding afterward.

Craniomandibular Osteopathy (CMO)

This is a rare, non-inflammatory bone disease occurring in dogs at three to six months of age. 

Craniomandibular osteopathy is a genetic condition that can cause intermittent or continuous pain around the dog's mouth. Mild cases of CMO are asymptomatic and can be diagnosed by X-ray or palpation.

Scottish Terriers’ double coat requires regular grooming sessions. They are not too picky with their food and like both canned and homemade foods. Just make sure that if you are feeding a homemade food that it is approved by a veterinary nutritionist. It is very difficult to make sure that you are getting the appropriate nutrients when making your dog's food.

Scotties also have low drooling levels.

They do bark pretty often and may start digging when left alone. Scotties can be aggressive toward other animals and dogs, so never leave them alone together.

The Scottish Terrier is the oldest Highland terrier breed in Britain, originally developed to hunt badgers and rats in the Scottish Highlands. These dogs had an important role in the early 1800s. The First Earl of Dumbarton got impressed by Scotties' persistence and named them "the Diehard". 

Britain's King James I, who was Scottish by birth, gave these dogs as gifts in the 17th century. In 1883, the first Scottie arrived in the United States. 

In 1885, the American Kennel Club registered the first Scottie under the name "Prince Charlie". The world's most popular Scottie was Fala, owned by President Franklin Roosevelt during World War II.

Scotties got more famous in the 1930s and the early 1940s, when celebrities started to own them. Today, Scotties are prominent in advertising and other industries.