How to Train a Scottish Terrier

A solidly compact dog of vivid personality, the Scottish Terrier is an independent, confident companion of high spirits. Scotties have a dignified, almost-human character. Their terrier persistence has earned the breed the nickname ‘the Diehard.’

The well-known Scottie silhouette is that of a short-legged but substantial terrier with distinctive furnishings at the beard, legs, and lower body. The wiry topcoat and soft, dense undercoat coat can be black, wheaten yellow, or a brindle-stripe pattern. Bright, piercing eyes, and erect ears and tail, convey keen alertness’ a hallmark of Britain’s terrier breeds. The Scottie working style has been described as efficient and businesslike, and their aloofness toward strangers makes them excellent watchdogs. Their hunting instinct remains strong, which can complicate life for the neighbor’s cat, and Scotties are known to be cantankerous around other dogs. This bold and clever Scotsman enjoys brisk walks and upbeat play.


Developed to hunt rats, foxes, and badgers on the craggy Scottish Highlands, the Scottish Terrier is a venerable breed. In fact, it is thought to be the oldest of the Highland terriers. And one authority calls the breed “the oldest variety of the canine race indigenous to Britain.” At various times in the breed’s long history there has been controversy about its origins and type. In fact, dog folks spent much of the 1800s arguing over what was a Scottish Terrier and what was a terrier that happened to be Scottish. Despite his humble farm-dog origins, the Scottie had friends in high places. In the 17th century, England’s King James I, a Scot by birth, was well acquainted with the breed and gave them as gifts.

The first Scottie imports arrived in America in 1883, and two years later the AKC registered its first Scottie, a male named Prince Charlie. The Scottie’s peak of popularity was the 1930s and early ’40s, with such celebrity owners as Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis under the spell of the breed’s spicy charm. The Scottie silhouette is a familiar motif of Depression-era knickknacks and advertising, and the image is still popular today with textile makers looking for a sporty retro-kitsch accent for their designs. History’s most famous Scottie was Fala, the constant companion of President Franklin Roosevelt during World War II.

Quick Facts

Temperament: independent / confident / spirited

Height: 10 inches

Weight: 18 to 22 pounds 

Life Expectancy: 12 years

Terrier Group


The breed’s national parent club, the Scottish Terrier Club of America, provides excellent information regarding breed health issues on the club website. A good breeder will discuss with you what they have encountered in their lines. There is also some excellent research being done, much of which is supported by the club, to help breeders identify health conditions and make better decisions when choosing to breed. That means overall better health for the future generations.

Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:
  • Patella Evaluation
  • Von Willebrand’s Disease DNA Test


Scottish Terriers require regularly scheduled grooming. They are a dual-coated breed, with a harsh, wiry outer layer and dense, soft undercoat. Ideally, they are hand stripped. This should be started when they are young puppies so they get used to the process. Once a month would be best once the coat is started, but they can be worked on weekly. If you are not doing it yourself, it may be hard to find a groomer who will do this for a pet. In that case it is acceptable to clipper the coat. With clipping you will eventually lose the correct harsh texture, as the undercoat will take over once the cutting process is begun. Clipped coats can be maintained on a six- to eight-week schedule. A weekly brushing and comb-out will keep the Scottie’s coat tangle free and the skin healthy. Periodic baths with the grooming is acceptable with a good-quality moisturizing shampoo.


Scottish Terriers need a good walk, but also good playtime. They have high energy and need to expend some of that in bursts. Throwing a ball or toy around that they can chase works great. Their nickname is the ‘diehard,’ and all you have to do is play tug with a favorite toy to see they won’t stop or let go until you do. All of that activity will keep them in good shape and attitude. This makes them great dogs for a small home or apartment living.


Scottish Terriers do best with training sessions not lasting more than 15 minutes at a time. Be creative, and do not repeat the training the same way all the time. This breed is a thinker, and if they get bored, they will not respond. Remember, the farmers kept the dogs who could figure things out’¿not the ones who had to be told what to do. Don’t be surprised when they test you. There is an independent streak in them. That is best focused when you make it seem like it is their idea to do something. They respond greatly to vocal tones and know why you are displeased by your voice. Just be persistent, and reward good behavior.


If the Scottish Terrier’s coat is healthy and grows evenly and there is no dry, flaky skin or irritation, and the eyes are bright and there is no chewing or itching, then odds are the dog is being fed a suitable food. Some experienced breeders have found terriers to do well on a moderate-protein diet (mid-20-percent protein), with a bit of an additive such as canned food.