7 things you should know before getting a Scottish terrier

Have you ever wanted the life of a Scottish lord or lady? Well, that may not be easy to arrange but you can certainly live alongside a Scottish dignitary – just get a Scottish terrier for a pet! Is this as much fun as it sounds, however? Is a Scottie the right pet for you? Let’s investigate!

7 things you should know before getting a Scottish terrier

What are the key characteristics that make Scottish terriers special?

Scotties are one of several famous terrier breeds and they might just be the most unique one. A dignified and self-minded breed, these Scottish lords love to spend time at home and they view said home as their own personal kingdom.

Want to train your Scottie – be careful as they might be training you. Want to get a second dog – you better ask your Scottie for permission first!

So, how should you approach this gorgeous breed – here are the 7 main pros and cons of the Scottish terrier.

The 7 things you should know before getting a Scottish terrier


1. The Scottish terrier needs a moderate amount of exercise

Scottish terriers are perfect for people who want to play with their dog but stay indoors most of the time. Scotties have lots of energy but their small stature and homie character mean that they don’t need too many visits to the dog park.

Instead, a Scottie can be fully satisfied with two short and brisk walks outside per day and just spend the rest of their day indoors. If you have a nice and fenced yard, your Scottish terrier would love to play there too but that’s not a necessity – they’d be just as fine chasing a ball in your living room too.

If you want a dog that motivates you to go out and exercise more, the Scotties’ indoor nature is more of a con. For everyone else, however, whether you live alone or with your family, a Scottie can be a perfect indoor pet.

2. This breed has an easily distinguishable long coat that surprisingly doesn’t shed too much

Scottish terriers are one of the easiest breeds to recognize thanks to their short and stumpy physique and gorgeous flowing coats. But even though their coats look like they’d cover your couch and home with thick black fur, Scotties don’t actually shed that much.

So, if you don’t want to have to vacuum your home every other day or brush down all your clothes before you go out, a Scottish terrier is a good bet.

Does this mean that Scottish terriers are hypoallergenic?

Indeed it does! Because they don’t shed too much and they barely drool, Scotties are excellent for people with dog allergies. It may feel counter-intuitive but it’s true.

Of course, no dog is 100% hypoallergenic, so you should still meet the dog first before you get it in your home, but Scotties are one of the safest breeds for people with dog allergies.

This doesn’t mean that Scottish terriers don’t need some grooming, however. Even though they don’t shed too much, their coats still need to be brushed every other day to keep them from matting and to prevent skin infections.

Another good tip is to get your Scottie to a groomer once every several months for a routine clipping and trimming – this will prevent your dog’s coat from growing too long and becoming unmanageable. Trimming the fur around your Scottie’s ears and face, as well as between his fingers is also a good idea.

All this isn’t too much of an issue for most people, however, especially since most Scotties love to be brushed and trimmed. The fact that they don’t shed too much and are hypoallergenic more than makes up for their occasional grooming needs.

3. The Scotties are excellent watchdogs

As a terrier breed, Scotties make for great watchdogs. They are not overly aggressive and are very unlikely to get into trouble. However, they have a distinct defensive temperament and they will bark their little hearts out at anyone who wants to invade your property.

Naturally, this can be both a positive and a negative, depending on what you want from your pet.

If you live in an apartment building and you don’t want a watchdog, you may have to train your Scottie not to bark at anything he hears. Proper socialization at an early age is also a great idea – it will help your Scottie learn that other people are not to be feared and that he doesn’t need to bark at your neighbors. All this is crucial for most Scottie owners as many of them do live in apartment buildings – after all, the breed is great for this lifestyle.

If you do need a watchdog that barks at everything that moves, however, the Scottie is the dog for the job. Going through some socialization early on is still important for the times when you have guests but you can still easily train your Scottie to keep you alerted from any uninvited visitors.

4. This is an intelligent and strong-willed dog

If you want a dog that’s fun to interact with and that doesn’t just roll over at the drop of a hat, Scottish terriers might be the breed for you. These dogs are very intelligent but they also have a mind of their own. Much like cats, Scotties usually have their own agenda and will try to get you to do what they want first rather than follow your lead into every endeavor.

Does this mean that they are untrainable?

Not at all. It just means that you may have to give your Scottie a reason to do what you want him to do – a reason that’s more than just you saying “Do X.”

Treats work wonderfully here, as do positive reinforcement. Obedience training early on in the pup’s life is also a must. All in all, you can have a lot of fun with a Scottish terrier but you can’t just expect such a dog to follow your every move and obey your every word by default.

Another positive of this “self-mindedness” is that Scotties suffer less often from separation anxiety compared to other breeds. They still need lots of attention and love but you can leave a Scottie alone for several hours without it losing its mind the way other breeds would.

As long as you’ve given the Scottie some love, playtime, and pets before going out, and as long as there are enough new and interactive dog toys laying around, your pooch should be able to await your return calmly and happily.


1. The Scottish terrier needs a bit more socialization to be OK around strangers

The guarded nature of the Scottish terrier makes it a very good watchdog but it also means that you’ll need to socialize your dog. Fortunately, Scotties are not too big or dangerous to others but a poorly socialized Scottie can still be a rather loud alarmist when he decides to be.

Good socialization with other people, dogs, and pets can alleviate this defensiveness but even with it, many Scotties don’t become as social as other breeds – it’s just not in their nature. A Scottish terrier will always be “its owner’s dog” and will always act that way.

In fact, even when they are well-socialized, many Scotties still have a certain level of social anxiety to them – nothing dysfunctional, just a preference for hanging around their human and staying away from others. It’s also not uncommon for Scotties to pick one family member seemingly arbitrary and gravitate toward them more than any other family member.

2. This breed doesn’t get along too well with other dogs or pets

If you want a multi-pet household, Scottish terriers may not be the perfect breed for that. They don’t have a lot of aggression toward other dogs but they are not pack dogs either – they prefer to spend time alone with their human, one-on-one.

If you want to get a second Scottie or a different second dog – you can. You’ll just need to be extra patient with their socialization and introduction. This means:

  • Lots of dog treats
  • Lots of time spent with each dog – both together and separately
  • Lots of playtime in the dog park
  • Separate beds and toys as well as some communal ones
  • Lots of caution
  • A calm and gentle but also firm approach

With enough time, you should be able to get your Scottie to get along with any other dog – it’d just take a bit longer.

As far as cats or other pets are concerned, however – the prey drive of the Scottish terrier makes this breed a bit too unsuitable for life with them.

3. The health of a Scottish terrier can be a bit problematic

Scotties are not an especially sickly breed but they are not that healthy either. They can suffer from:

  • Certain skin infections if you don’t take good care of their coats
  • Dental issues if you skip their dental care
  • Obesity if you don’t feed them well and don’t give them enough exercise
  • Certain genetic predispositions such as Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s), allergies, bleeding disorders, eye issues, bladder and kidney stones, reproductive issues, cancer and others.

The way to avoid or minimize the risk of such genetic predispositions is to always ask for a health certificate for the pup you’re buying/adopting as well as for its parents. Dealing with reputable breeders or trustworthy shelters is obviously a must.

Who are Scottish terriers “right” for?

Scotties are perfect for small families of indoor-type people. They can live in larger families too but expect them to gravitate toward one or two family members more than others. Scotties can be great with kids but will mostly prefer to play indoors and they won’t get too well with other pets.

So, they are right for people who’d be happy to devout all their attention and love to them and not need any other four-legged companions.

How to prepare for getting a Scottish terrier?

Preparing for a Scottish terrier is quite simple – get some dog grooming tools, enough dog toys, and a mountain of dog treats, and you’re ready. The rest is just a matter of training and socializing your pup properly, getting them to their routine vet check-ups, and showering them with love.

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