What to Know About a Scottish Deerhound

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on June 20, 2022
7 min read

In his novel The Talisman, Scottish novelist and poet Sir Walter Scott described the Scottish deerhound as "the most perfect creature of heaven," no doubt inspired by his bond with his own Scottish deerhound, Maida. 

Simply called "deerhounds" for short, these sighthounds are gentle giants — sensitive and affectionate dogs that form strong bonds with their human families. 

Scottish deerhounds are sighthounds — dogs that hunt by sight rather than scent. Like other sighthounds, Scottish deerhounds have an aerodynamic body built for speed with a deep chest and a narrow, tucked waist. 

Scottish deerhounds are often confused with Irish wolfhounds. Both breeds are sighthounds with wiry coats, but the Scottish deerhound is smaller and less muscular. 

Deerhounds are widely known to have blue-gray coats, but they also come in other shades of gray and brindle.

Scottish Deerhound Size

Scottish deerhounds are one of the largest dog breeds at 28 to 32 inches in height and 75 to 110 pounds in weight.

Scottish Deerhound Personality

Scottish deerhounds are people-loving dogs that prefer to spend time with their owners and families whenever possible. While deerhounds are an active breed, they're often quiet and easygoing at home, content to curl up at your feet while you read a book or watch TV. Scottish deerhounds tend to be well-mannered dogs and often don't require much formal training.

That being said, Scottish deerhounds are too easygoing to make good watchdogs or guard dogs and are unlikely to alert you to the presence of strangers. Deerhounds tend to be very quiet dogs overall — it's unusual for a Scottish deerhound to bark excessively. 

Scottish deerhound characteristics include being:

  • Dignified
  • Affectionate
  • Polite
  • Gentle
  • Sweet
  • Easygoing
  • Intelligent
  • Quiet

Scottish deerhound temperament can drastically differ between a puppy and an adult dog. While adult deerhounds are known for being well-mannered, Scottish deerhound puppies can be pretty wild and destructive. Deerhound puppies tend to shred and destroy paper, furniture, clothing, shoes, and toys if given the opportunity.

Additionally, Scottish deerhound puppies grow rapidly, gaining around 10 pounds a month, so they will temporarily have immature brains in big bodies. Deerhound puppies need lots of exercise and stimulation to curb their destructive tendencies.

Scottish Deerhound Grooming

Scottish deerhounds are reasonably easy to groom — they don't shed much, and their wiry coat is low-maintenance. Deerhounds need their coats brushed several times a week to remove loose hair and maintain healthy skin. 

If your deerhound's nails aren't worn down through exercise, you should trim them every few weeks using a nail grinder or heavy-duty clippers. If your Scottish deerhound's nails are audibly clicking when they walk, their nails are too long.

A bath every few months is enough for most Scottish deerhounds. Use a shampoo formulated for dogs to bathe your Scottish deerhound. Bathtime is a perfect time to check your dog for lumps, bumps, cuts, and any other skin problem that might need attention.

Check your Scottish deerhound's coat and skin for ticks regularly. The best way to prevent ticks and fleas is to give your deerhound a regular tick and flea preventative. Tick and flea preventative products are available in chewables, sprays, topical treatments, powders, and flea prevention collars, both over-the-counter and by prescription. Your veterinarian can help you choose the right flea and tick prevention for your Scottish deerhound.

Like all dog breeds, Scottish deerhounds need regular dental care. To prevent tooth decay, you should brush your deerhound's teeth with a toothpaste formulated for dogs every day. 

Scottish Deerhound Feeding

Scottish deerhounds typically do well on any high-quality dog food. You should only provide homemade dog food under your veterinarian's supervision. 

Ask your veterinarian if you have questions about what to feed your deerhound. 

Scottish Deerhound Exercise

Scottish deerhounds are very active dogs with high exercise needs. While they're happy lounging around the house, you must provide your deerhound with at least 30 minutes of exercise twice a day, and more is better. Deerhounds need to be able to move freely and can't be left crated during the day.

Scottish deerhounds need to be able to run regularly, either in a well-fenced yard or at a dog park. Older deerhounds often enjoy running alongside a bike, but avoid forcing exercise on a deerhound younger than 18 months. Deerhound puppies need time to build up to an adult level of activity. Don't initially push past a few miles of walking a day, and watch for signs that your Scottish deerhound puppy is tired and needs to rest.

Scottish Deerhound Training

Scottish deerhounds are naturally polite, and formal obedience classes aren't typically needed, though many dogs and owners enjoy them. Deerhounds are sensitive dogs and don't respond well to harsh training, so choose a class that follows a positive reinforcement method. Deerhounds typically don't enjoy drilling, so avoid asking your deerhound to repeat exercises they've already completed successfully in the same training session.

Deerhounds don't need as much socialization as many other dogs — a few social trips a week is adequate for a deerhound puppy.

Scottish Deerhound Medical Care

Scottish deerhounds need to visit the veterinarian every 3 to 4 weeks until they’ve received all their puppy vaccines, then annually after that. Scottish deerhounds need standard core vaccines, and some will need non-core vaccines. Talk to your vet to decide if your deerhound needs any non-core vaccines.

Core vaccines include: 

Non-core vaccines include:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica
  • Borrelia burgdorferi
  • Leptospira bacteria

Additionally, to prevent heartworms, a potentially deadly parasitic infection that's spread through mosquito bites, your deerhound must start taking a heartworm preventative medication by eight weeks of age and continue for the dog’s lifespan. Heartworm preventatives are prescription medications that come in oral or topical forms. Your veterinarian can help you choose which prescription is right for your Scottish deerhound.

The average Scottish deerhound lifespan is 8 to 11 years. Scottish deerhounds are a giant breed and prone to several health problems common in large dogs and sighthounds. Many of the health issues in deerhounds are preventable or treatable, though, so it's helpful to know the signs and symptoms of common problems. 

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat)
Deep-chested dogs like Scottish deerhounds are vulnerable to gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). This potentially deadly condition causes the stomach to rotate inside the dog's body, cutting off circulation to the stomach and sending the dog into shock. GDV is an emergency that is fatal if not treated quickly.

GDV symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain 
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Drooling
  • Retching without vomiting
  • Signs of distress, such as excessive panting, lip-licking, or restlessness.

Symptoms can be mild and mistaken for indigestion. If you suspect your deerhound might have bloat, inflation of the stomach that precedes GDV, don't hesitate to call your veterinarian's emergency line.

Dogs exclusively fed dry kibble are more likely to experience bloat, and dogs fed once a day are twice as likely to experience bloat as dogs fed two or more times a day. Consider using a mix of wet and dry food and providing multiple, smaller daily meals, if possible. Products designed to prevent gas and indigestion can also help prevent bloat, such as slow feeders and elevated bowls.


Cystinuria is a condition in which cystine stones, a type of bladder stone, are formed. Cystine stones can cause a life-threatening blockage — if your deerhound isn't urinating normally, call your veterinarian immediately. 

Cystinuria is much more common in male dogs than in female dogs.

Bleeding Problems

Scottish deerhounds are prone to a deficiency in Factor VII, a clotting factor in the blood, and affected dogs can experience bleeding problems. A DNA test is available for Factor VII, but some Factor VII-normal Scottish deerhounds also experience bleeding problems after surgery or medical procedures. Talk to your veterinarian about what precautions they can take before surgery or any other medical procedure that can cause bleeding.

Scottish deerhounds need company. They're active, social dogs that can't be left in a crate while their owner works. Deerhounds need an active, involved owner who can play and exercise with them daily, and they benefit from having another dog as a playmate.

Scottish deerhounds roughhouse. While deerhounds tend to be gentle dogs, they're large dogs that can play rough. You should closely supervise deerhounds when playing with other dogs or children to ensure that the deerhound doesn't inadvertently frighten or injure a playmate.

Scottish deerhounds can be sensitive to anesthesia. Like other sighthounds, deerhounds can have problems with anesthesia. Deerhounds should see a veterinarian familiar with sighthounds for surgery and other medical procedures requiring anesthesia.

Scottish deerhounds have a high prey drive. As a sighthound, the deerhound's instinct is to chase anything that moves — squirrels, cats, cars. Deerhounds are also swift — they can run a mile in two minutes — and should only be let off-leash in a secure area. A six-foot fence is needed to secure a deerhound, as electric fences aren't safe for this breed.

Scottish deerhounds are an old breed, clearly identifiable in literature dating as far back as the sixteenth century. Considered the "royal dog of Scotland," there's some evidence that the deerhound was in Scotland before the Scottish people themselves. 

As their name suggests, Scottish deerhounds were bred to hunt and kill deer. Scottish chieftains would take down 400-pound wild red deer with packs of Scottish deerhounds. The breed's hunting prowess has made it highly valued, and in the Middle Ages, no one with a lower station than an Earl could own a deerhound.

Such strict rules about ownership threatened the breed, and by the mid-1700s, there weren't many Scottish deerhounds left. Archibald and Duncan McNeill successfully revived the breed around 1825, and it remains valued by Scots and foreigners alike.