The Scottish Terrier


It is generally thought that the origin of the Scottish Terrier breed as we know it today was, as the name implies, in Scotland where eventually a number of distinct breed types evolved from a common ancestor – the rough, wiry-coated terrier (one of two original terrier types, the other being the smooth-coated black and tan). It is thought that different breeders in different geographical locations (some of which were on the Isles) preferred certain features (colour, head shape, body conformation, etc) hence the original general wiry-coated terrier of Scotland developed into the distinct modern breeds namely the Skye, West Highland White, Cairn, Dandy Dinmont and Scottish Terrier (the latter formerly known for a time as the “Aberdeen Terrier”).

The first record of a “Scottish Terrier” being exhibited was in 1879 and although, at first, the breed was largely in the hands of Scottish breeders, the Scottish Terrier Club of England was founded in 1883. In those very early days, the type being shown was rather mixed, but the colours, in general, were brindles of various tones, in fact black as an accepted colour for the breed was not mentioned in the first breed standard at all. Inevitably there was much early close breeding to achieve the type that has come down to us today, and it is said that most modern Scotties go back to one male line of descent, two dogs in particular; Champion Dundee and Champion Alister, the latter being one of the first of the pure black champions.

Today there are several major breed clubs in this country (and all over the world). Indeed in America and increasingly in parts of Europe, the dog is gaining in general popularity. Here, its popularity has declined somewhat since the nineteen-forties and -fifties, but the diehard Scotty makes a fabulous, loyal and interesting companion. I couldn't urge prospective dog-owners enough to consider having one as a pet.

Breed Description

The Scottish Terrier was originally bred to “go to ground”, in other words to destroy vermin, rodents and other animals which were a pest on farming land. The general build of the dog, therefore, is stocky and low to the ground, thick and muscular with powerful hind-quarters (for short bursts of speed and the ability to get down burrows), the front paws being larger and stronger for digging. The head is generally large in proportion to the body and the coat a double one with a hard, wiry outer and a softer inner layer (initially essential for the cold climates of the North). The eyes are black and almond-shaped, the ears erect. In fact, the overall appearance of the modern Scotty with its long whiskers, skirt and angular, square shape makes it not only most distinctive in looks, but also a popular logo choice. The males, in general, are slightly larger than the females, the modern dog being larger and heavier than the early examples of the breed. The standard has been revised a number of times but in the main has remained true to the original. (It is possible to view the up-to-date Standard online, so I have not included it here).

Although originally bred as a working dog, most Scotty owners these days enjoy their dogs as pets – although one occasionally hears stories of successful ratting escapades!

Characteristics Of The Scottish Terrier

Scotties are intelligent dogs. Independent, but at the same time, loving and loyal. Like many terriers, they can sometimes be rather feisty with other dogs, but this is not always the case. Like people, they are all individuals. They can make very good guard dogs. They are alert and quick and make good ratters, if need be. They have often been described as a large dog in a small frame, but actually, they are not that small. They are officially classed as a “medium” (sized) breed by the Kennel Club. They are stocky and sturdy and very stoical to boot, always ready for activity if offered, but equally happy to be laid back and relaxed. They are an all-weather breed with a double coat and seem to love windy or snowy conditions. In exercise terms, they need less than some of the long-legged breeds but care of the coat is time-consuming (especially if you are showing). The coat (whether you are showing or not) ideally should be combed once or twice weekly to avoid the undercoat becoming matted. One advantage is that the dead under-hair (which is constantly replenishing itself) does not fall out on its own, as it does in some other breeds. It does come out with combing or brushing, however, and the dogs usually enjoy this routine immensely.

Owning A Scottish Terrier

Careful thought must be given to both the requirements of the owner and the dog before deciding upon the breed that is right for you. However, many Scotty owners will say that once you have owned a Scotty (or been owned by one) it is likely that every subsequent dog will also be a Scotty! If you will feel rewarded by having a curious, loyal and intelligent companion, then you cannot go too far wrong with a Scotty. It will certainly draw much comment from passers by since, these days, in Britain at any rate, they are relatively rare, but the distinctive outline and carriage of the dog simply does not go un-noticed!

Buying A Puppy

Most responsible breeders will be happy for you to visit before buying your puppy. I positively encourage this so that the pups can be seen in the environment in which they grew up with the mother. It also is a chance for me to meet prospective owners and to make sure that my little charges will be going to good , caring homes. It is also a chance to chat about caring for the dog and to answer any questions a prospective owner might have. My puppies go with an advice pack on feeding, general care, etc. but I try to encourage people to stay in touch and certainly to ring me if they have any queries at a later date. The puppies are also vaccinated and wormed (and because of this do not normally go to their new homes much before reaching ten weeks of age). They will also be micro-chipped.

Puppy Care

Puppies soon get used to routine and it is best to start as you mean to go on. If you buy your puppy from a reputable breeder, it will have had some house training already. You will need to establish areas in the house where the puppy is allowed or not allowed and provide a corner it can rest, retreat and call its own.

Young puppies need plenty of stimulation, but be careful of toys which can be easily chewed, particularly the ones with squeakers – which can be swallowed. When teething, they will have a tendency to chew more than usual and there are plenty of things on the market which will be good for this.

Do not over-exercise the puppy before it is six months old, since its bones will still be developing. Exercise, yes, but play and moderate walking.
Socialize the puppy as soon as possible both with people, (children if they are in the household) and other dogs. It is also a good idea to introduce your new puppy to your local vet. Regular worming and a booster vaccination at a year of age will be essential.

NOTE There is much divided opinion as well as scientific research regarding the feeding and vaccination regime for dogs. Most established breeders, however, should be happy to share their own views and experiences.