The Scottish Terrier (or the Scottie, as they’re often referred to) is a feisty, independent breed with a small body and a big personality. They don’t much like other dogs, can be a terror to the neighbor’s cat, and are prone to turning into little Napoleons given half a chance. But for all their faults, the Scottie’s high-spirited nature and tenacious loyalty make for an extremely lovable companion. To find out more, here are 10 things you didn’t know about the Scottish Terrier.
1. They come from Scotland
It shouldn’t really come as a surprise to learn the Scottish Terrier comes from Scotland. The clue’s in the title. Unfortunately, that’s about the only clue to their origins we get. The first mention of a “dog of low height, which creeping into subterraneous burrows, routs out foxes, badgers, martins, and wild cats from their lurking places and dens” was made by Bishop John Lesley in his book “History of Scotland from 1436 to 1561,” but how that dog of low height came to be is a mystery no one’s been able to unlock. As the AKC explains, the Scotties’ mysterious origins led to some huge arguments during the 1800s, with breeders spending vast amounts of energy arguing the toss about over what was a Scottish Terrier and what was a terrier that just happened to be Scottish. Eventually, Captain Gordon Murray wrote up a proper description for the breed, and in 1880, J.B. Morrison drew up an official standard, thus ending the argument for good and working on more terrier breeds.
2. They were bred as ratters
Back before they discovered just how much fun chasing a tennis ball around the park could be, Scotties were chasing something very different – rats. The Scottish Highlands might have been scarce in people a few hundred years ago, but its population of rats, foxes, and badgers was huge. The tenacious Scottie was bred to dig them out of their burrows and clear them away from farms and homesteads. Their tough attitude and reckless courage was so legendary, one dog-fancying author went so far as to suggest that Scotties may have descended from bears, rather than dogs.
3. They get cramps when they get excited
According to Mental Floss, it’s best not to get a Scottie too excited. When their emotions get the better of them, their muscles can cramp up, leading to a condition known as a “goose-stepping gait.” It might sound comical to us, but as it can make them fall over or even somersault through the air, it isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs for them. Fortunately, the episodes are brief and don’t seem to cause any actual pain.
4. They’ve got friends in high places
Despite the fact they were bred as exterminators, Scottish Terriers have always been something of a favorite with royalty and presidents. Back in the 17th century, King James VI of Scotland was such a fan of the breed, he used to offer them as gifts to foreign dignitaries. Queen Victoria was also a big fan. They’ve proved just as popular on the other side of the Atlantic, and are one of only two breeds to have made it into the White House under three separate Presidents.
5. They prefer being the only dog in the family
The Scottish Terrier is recklessly brave, ferociously loyal, and as lovable as a box of kittens. They’re also cantankerous and strong-willed and don’t always appreciate having to share the affections of their owner with another dog. Due to their strong prey drive, they can be a menace to cats too. Although plenty of training and socialization can help, they’ll usually do best as the only pet in the family.
6. They need lots of grooming
Scottish Terriers have a dual coat, with a harsh, wiry topcoat and a dense, soft undercoat. As Wag Walking explains, they should ideally be hand stripped, a process that’s best started when they’re young so they get used to it. Once a month is the optimal frequency, although it’s up to you whether you work on it yourself or get a groomer to do it instead. A weekly brush will help keep their coat tangle-free. Over frequent bathing can strip their hair and skin of essential oils, so skip the baths unless they start to smell particularly obnoxious. Other than that, the same rules apply as to other dogs: clean their teeth a few times a week to prevent periodontal disease, check their ears for wax and infections once a week, and trim their nails every few weeks if they don’t wear down naturally.
7. They’ve got tons of energy
Scottish Terriers might be small, but these are no sedate little lapdogs. They’re bursting with energy, and need to be kept well supplied in fun and games to prevent boredom kicking in. They’re not designed for endurance work though, so keep walks short but frequent. Add in some games of fetch and frisbee, and you’ll be looking at one very happy dog. As they tend to get bored easily when they’re alone, don’t leave the house without giving them some puzzle toys and interactive games they can play with on their own first.
8. They’re adaptable
Thanks to their small size, Scottish Terriers don’t need masses of space to romp around in. Providing they get plenty of walks and play sessions, they’ll be just as happy living in an urban apartment as a sprawling family home in the country. Thanks to their thick coats, they don’t mind the cold, although they might like a jacket during particularly bitter days. They’re not huge fans of the sun and should be provided with shade and plenty of water during hot spells.
9. They hate long training sessions
Scottish Terriers are intelligent dogs, but they’re also ones that get easily distracted and bored. If they decide you’re not being creative enough during training sessions, they’ll simply stop paying attention. To keep their mind on the job, keep sessions short (15 minutes is ideal), sweet, and entertaining. Positive reinforcement is the key to success, so be sure to grease the wheels with plenty of treats and praise.
10. They’re prone to small dog syndrome
The Scottie makes a lovable, loyal companion, but these are headstrong dogs that need firm boundaries and consistent rules. Without a clearly defined pecking order, they’re prone to developing Small Dog Syndrome, a not particularly pleasant condition in which they come to see themselves as the ruler of all they survey. Keep it at bay with firm but loving training.