How to Identify a Scottish Terrier and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) about the breed
Have you ever come across a dog and couldn't tell for sure if it was a Scottie or another breed? The process of identifying a Scottie, especially an ungroomed dog can be rather difficult. The Rescue Coordinators have prepared this guide which can be used by potential adopters, rescue assistants and shelter workers to help with the identification process. This write-up is illustrated with pictures of both Scotties and several other breeds that are often confused with them.
The Scottish Terrier is a small, compact, short-legged, sturdily-built dog of good bone and substance. His head is long in proportion to his size. He has a hard, wiry, weather-resistant coat and a thick-set, cobby body which is hung between short, heavy legs. These characteristics, joined with his very special keen, piercing, "varminty" expression, and his erect ears and tail are salient features of the breed. The Scottish Terrier's bold, confident, dignified aspect exemplifies power in a small package.
Size, Proportion, Substance The Scottish Terrier should have a thick body and heavy bone. The principal objective must be symmetry and balance without exaggeration. Equal consideration shall be given to height, weight, length of back and length of head. Height at withers for either sex should be about 10 inches. The length of back from withers to set-on of tail should be approximately 11 inches. Generally, a well-balanced Scottish Terrier dog should weigh from 19 to 22 pounds and a bitch from 18 to 21 pounds.
Temperament The Scottish Terrier should be alert and spirited but also stable and steady-going. He is a determined and thoughtful dog whose "heads up, tails up" attitude in the ring should convey both fire and control. The Scottish Terrier, while loving and gentle with people, can be aggressive with other dogs. He should exude ruggedness and power, living up to his nickname, the "Diehard."
General Appearance; Size, Proportion, Substance and Temperament
Typical before pictures.
Begin looking for your "Scottie in the Rough" by considering the dog's overall appearance, size and basic structure. Try to look past the obvious exterior appearance and look for the inner qualities that truly define the dog. At first, the dog may be nervous and difficult to approach. The Scottie temperament which calls for them to be alert and independent can make appear aloof until you have gained their respect.
The official breed standard puts the Scottie at 18-22 pounds. The smallest we’ve placed in rescue was about 15 pounds and the largest 44 pounds. But these are atypical. One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between a Scottie and a Cairn is the Scottie’s larger size and weight, as they can often be very similar in appearance and color when ungroomed.
Scotties should be sturdy, strong, short legged and thick boned with a muscular chest and neck. They are often referred to as being square or brick shaped. They should be short-backed but a little longer than high. The Skye Terrier is a similar breed that has a much longer back than the Scottie. The Scottie should have large paws designed for digging. A typical neck size is 14 inches, but can go as low as 12 inches on a small (under 20 pound) Scottie or younger dog or as large as 16 inches on a larger adult male who might be in the 28-30 pound range.
Yes, grooming does make a difference!
The head should be long in proportion to the overall length and size of the dog. In profile, the skull and muzzle should give the appearance of two parallel planes. The skull should be long and of medium width, slightly domed and covered with short, hard hair. In profile, the skull should appear flat. There should be a slight but definite stop between the skull and muzzle at eye level, allowing the eyes to be set in under the brow, contributing to proper Scottish Terrier expression. The skull should be smooth with no prominences or depressions and the cheeks should be flat and clean. The muzzle should be approximately equal to the length of skull with only a slight taper to the nose. The muzzle should be well filled in under the eye, with no evidence of snippiness. A correct Scottish Terrier muzzle should fill an average man's hand. The nose should be black, regardless of coat color, and of good size, projecting somewhat over the mouth and giving the impression that the upper jaw is longer than the lower. The teeth should be large and evenly spaced, having either a scissor or level bite, the former preferred. The jaw should be square, level and powerful. Undershot or overshot bites should be penalized. The eyes should be set wide apart and well in under the brow. They should be small, bright and piercing, and almond-shaped not round. The color should be dark brown or nearly black, the darker the better. The ears should be small, prick, set well up on the skull and pointed, but never cut. They should be covered with short velvety hair. From the front, the outer edge of the ear should form a straight line up from the side of the skull. The use, size, shape and placement of the ear and its erect carriage are major elements of the keen, alert, intelligent Scottish Terrier expression.
Neck, Topline, Body The neck should be moderately short, strong, thick and muscular, blending smoothly into well laid back shoulders. The neck must never be so short as to appear clumsy. The body should be moderately short with ribs extending well back into a short, strong loin, deep flanks and very muscular hindquarters. The ribs should be well sprung out from the spine, forming a broad, strong back, then curving down and inward to form a deep body that would be nearly heart-shaped if viewed in cross-section. The topline of the back should be firm and level. The chest should be broad, very deep and well let down between the forelegs. The forechest should extend well in front of the legs and drop well down into the brisket. The chest should not be flat or concave, and the brisket should nicely fill an average man's slightly-cupped hand. The lowest point of the brisket should be such that an average man's fist would fit under it with little or no overhead clearance. The tail should be about seven inches long and never cut. It should be set on high and carried erectly, either vertical or with a slight curve forward, but not over the back. The tail should be thick at the base, tapering gradually to a point and covered with short, hard hair.
Forequarters The shoulders should be well laid back and moderately well knit at the withers. The forelegs should be very heavy in bone, straight or slightly bent with elbows close to the body, and set in under the shoulder blade with a definite forechest in front of them. Scottish Terriers should not be out at the elbows. The forefeet should be larger than the hind feet, round, thick and compact with strong nails. The front feet should point straight ahead, but a slight "toeing out" is acceptable. Dew claws may be removed.
Hindquarters The thighs should be very muscular and powerful for the size of the dog with the stifles well bent and the legs straight from hock to heel. Hocks should be well let down and parallel to each other.
If your Scottie in the Rough passes the first step and you have acquired enough respect to conduct a hands-on examination, begin to search for some of the finer features of the dog's head, neck, and fore chest.
The Scottie head should be large in proportion to his body and the face is somewhat elongated for the size of the dog. This elongation in length can vary from one Scottie to another. The Scottie head should divide into two equal parts at the stop*. So the distance from the stop to the tip of the nose should be the same as the stop to the back of the skull. On other breeds (such as the Westie or Cairn) the nose will be set much closer to the face. Scottie eyes are typically dark brown to black, should be small and narrow, and contribute to a beady and intense look. Scottie teeth are characteristic of the "large dog in a small package" description.
* The stop is the slight rise in the skull bone directly between the eyes.
Scottie with erect ears. Same Scottie with folded ears.
The ears and tail should be pointy and erect. The nose itself should be large, but we’ve had some that were button like. Sometimes one or both of the ears don’t come all the way up during the final puppy growth spurt. Scotties can fold their ears close to the skull, but they will normally carry them raised to the full alert position.
McDuff (shown to the left) has one floppy ear. Floppy ears (which can't be raised) are not recognized as a genetic defect in the Scottish Terrier because the condition is most often attributed to an untreated chronic ear infection or hematoma which has caused a fissure in the ear cartilage. The tails should never be docked or the ears cropped in a Scottie. If you see either of these characteristics, you may have a black Schnauzer instead of a Scottie.
Pet store Scotties are often longer in body than the short backed show dog. Their tails can be longer and even curve over their backs (called gay tail). Without being trimmed short and shaped like an inverted carrot, the hair on the tail can be long and even flaglike.
They can have rounder eyes that are even mustard in color. The legs can be longer, or just the back legs longer, giving a swayback appearance, but should still look short. The ears should be small, but can be large and donkey like.
Black Scottie with gay tail
White Scottie? No, this is a Wheaten Scottie. Notice the color on the topline & flanks.
Another important factor is that the square appearance seen in Scotties on T-shirts and handbags is not their natural ungroomed look. A Scottie needs to be professionally groomed into that shape about every 7 weeks. The cheeks, ears and head are shaved almost to a surgically short length. The beard, eyebrows and mustache are long and shaped into that square characteristic look. In a shelter situation where they come in ungroomed, dirty and badly matted, it will be difficult to see this shape unless you are very familiar with their bone structure. Just feeling underneath the hair and taking some approximate weights and measurements will help significantly.
The Scottish Terrier should have a broken coat. It is a hard, wiry outer coat with a soft, dense undercoat. The coat should be trimmed and blended into the furnishings to give a distinct Scottish Terrier outline. The dog should be presented with sufficient coat so that the texture and density may be determined. The longer coat on the beard, legs and lower body may be slightly softer than the body coat but should not be or appear fluffy.
Color Black, wheaten or brindle of any color. Many black and brindle dogs have sprinklings of white or silver hairs in their coats which are normal and not to be penalized. White can be allowed only on the chest and chin and that to a slight extent only.
Coat, Color and General Health
The final step to finding your Scottie in the Rough is to examine the dog's coat texture, color and general health conditions.
The Scottie coat must have color (a truly white Scottie would be an albino with pink eyes and pink skin), but the color can be anything from solid black, to brindle (any multicolor, but commonly black and silver), or even Wheaten. The Wheaten colored Scottie (versus the Wheaten Terrier which is a much bigger, unrelated breed) may be anywhere from platinum blond (cream) to cinnamon in color. Because the color is on the tip of the hair, a clippered Wheaten Scottie will appear even lighter in color. A Wheaten Scottie might be mistaken for a Westie if the coat color were considered first instead of last. A small amount of white coat is sometimes seen on the chin (milk chin) and / or chest. Scotties have even been seen with a white ring of hair around the tail.
Scotties, like most Terriers, are double coated; with a hard wiry outer coat and a soft undercoat. When hand stripped, the outer coat will remain hard as it was originally intended. However, when cut with clippers, the outer coat is not removed and the remaining coat will grow old and become soft and velvety. When ungroomed, a Scottie can resemble a bear, with very long bushy hair on the head, body and even the tail. When unbrushed, the long outer coat hairs can form into dreadlocks and mats which will need to be removed with heavy duty scissors and clippers.
(Click me to see the after picture.)
The coat on Pet store Scotties is sometimes not double coated, allowing you to see their skin. Some health conditions (like allergies or skin infections) and even flea infestations can affect the skin and coat. Dermatitis (a treatable skin reaction often attributed to fleas) can leave the skin thickened and the coat will become very sparse or splotchy.
Once you have finally found your Scottie in the Rough, please do him the biggest favor of all and see to it that he receives a complete physical examination by a qualified Veterinarian who will look for hidden health conditions.
Professionally groomed Scotties in a variety of coat colors.
The following pictures illustrate several other breeds that are often confused with the Scottish Terrier. If there is any uncertainty with your identification, check out the links to the AKC description of these breeds.