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.
Brought up with well-behaved children who respect his independent nature, rights, and space, a Scottie will adjust to their activities and may even appoint himself their guardian. In general, Scotties can be agitated by the quick movements and unexpected noises of children and their friends and become nippy. Rescued Scotties are usually not placed in homes with young children because of this tendency and the lack of information on their background.
Do Scotties shed?
Yes, but not as much as most breeds. The Scottie (and most Terriers) is a double coated dog with an outer coat that is actually a hair as opposed to the fur found on other breeds. The Scottie coat needs regular brushing to remove the soft undercoat and any dead hairs in the outer coat. If this is done regularly, the shedding is minimal.
Are all Scotties black?
No. Scotties come in 3 colors: Black, Brindle, and Wheaten. All meet the breed Standard for the Scottish Terrier and true Scottie people are color blind. Brindle is any multicolor and Wheaten can be a light cream color to as dark as cinnamon. There is no difference in the other aspects of the dog.
Where can I find a white (wheaten) Scottie?
The AKC Standard for the Scottish Terrier states that the Scottie's coat color may be black, wheaten or brindle of any color. The wheaten coat can be very light especially if it has been clippered. Often the Wheaten Scottish Terrier is confused with the West Highland White Terrier, as in the Black and White Ads. They are not the same breed.
Certain Scottie breeders breed specifically to produce Wheaten colored Scotties. The best way is to ask the STCA breeder referral person listed on this website for breeders they may know who do. You can also contact your local Scottie club board members or rescue coordinators to see if they know anyone in your area who breeds Wheatens. Attending dog shows where Scotties are being shown is also a good way to meet the breeders and ask questions. Put yourself on one of their waiting lists and please be prepared to wait. Only about 5-10% of Scotties are Wheaten. You can also request to be notified if a Wheaten Scottie comes into a rescue program.
Should the tail be docked?
The tail of the Scottish Terrier should NEVER be docked. A Scottie tail should be up and groomed into a carrot shape (not a flag). Likewise, Scottie ears are NEVER cropped.
Does this breed require lots of grooming?
Yes. They require regular brushing to prevent knots and remove dead hair and grooming about every 7 weeks to keep their shape and characteristic look. Show dogs are hand stripped, but this technique can get expensive, so many people take courses on how to groom their Scotties. A great reference is the new 2010 STCA Grooming Manual. This manual is available in the Shoppe and provides information on how to group both show and pet scotties. Jacki Forkel has a site with information on How to Groom Your Scottie at Home. Don’t forget routine tooth brushing, ear cleaning and nail clipping, to keep your Scottie healthy and comfortable.
What is stripping?
Hand stripping is when the hair is pulled out, instead of cut, in grooming. This technique simulates the way the coat was pulled out by thorny bushes in their native countryside while in the process of doing their jobs. As it grows back in, the Scottie's outer coat will have a hard, wiry texture. When a Scottie is being shown, it is necessary to strip them, but pet Scotties should be clippered instead. It is much less expensive and time consuming, and more comfortable for the dog. Clipping will usually give the Scottie a velvety feel, as the longer, wiry hairs are cut off.
Are Scotties rare?
They are not rare, but they have not been bred as prolifically as most other breeds. Most Scottie litters are small and many breeders prefer to show their dogs. It can take some time to find an available puppy for sale, so it’s a good idea to get on a breeder’s waiting list. Another good alternative is to apply for a rescue Scottie and potentially help an adult Scottie that is in need of a new home. This is a particularly attractive idea for older people or anyone who doesn’t want to go through housebreaking or the puppy training stages.
What about exercise requirements?
The Scottie is an active breed and can become destructive if not given enough mental and physical stimulation. The short legs don’t make for good a jogging partner, but they are ideal walking companions. Scotties also love to lounge on the backs of couches and in front of windows to observe the world by the hour. Older Scotties are wonderful couch taters.
Are Scotties noisy?
Typically, Scotties are very vocal. They love to bark at squirrels and dogs passing by their home. Also anything on wheels. They are territorial and will announce visitors loudly and repeatedly.
Do they make good obedience dogs?
The Scottie was bred to work independently of human direction, so they make their own decisions. This has given them the reputation of being stubborn or unintelligent - which is not the case. Obedience with a Scottie will take patience and cooporation between you and your Scottie - but can be rewarding and a lot of fun. Scotties can certainly be trained and should learn basic good manners and general behaviors, such as coming when called. Puppy Kindergarten Training is a wonderful opportunity for a young Scottie to be socialized and learn these behaviors.
Do Scotties make good Agility dogs?
Yes, there are many Scotties who gain titles in agility, and it’s a great way to exercise and bond with your dog. Check with the STCA or local shelters for an agility program near you.
What is an Earthdog Trial?
Scotties were originally bred to work underground ridding their owner's property of small creatures. AKC Earthdog Trials are designed to simulate this activity, so Scotties are well suited for this event and usually enjoy the experience. The Scotties are taught to go through a system of tunnels to get to a caged rat at the end (precautions are taken to insure that the rat remains unharmed). The AKC has defined several levels and official AKC Titles are presented for each milestone. Earthdog Trials are a great outdoor event for both you and your Scottie to enjoy. Check the Internet or your local club for an Earthdog training class or event near you.
Do Scotties need a fenced yard?
Scotties have a very strong hunting instinct and cannot be trusted not to chase anything they consider prey. For that reason, they should be safely confined to a fenced area or on a leash at all times. They should never be tied or chained unattended, as they can get into trouble or be harmed.
An electronic fence is not suitable for Scotties. They will easily endure the zap to chase a squirrel or cat out of the fenced area, but then will not return through it to come back into the yard. Many Scotties have wandered off into the street to be killed by a car when they could not get back into their own yard. Electric fences are also dangerous because they do not deter other animals or people from coming into the yard, but will not allow the Scottie to escape to safety. Most rescue groups will want to know if an electric fence is used for security.
Why does my Scottie dig?
He is doing what comes naturally. The Scottish Terrier was originally bred to go to ground, digging for varmints underground. Owners with Scotties that are natural diggers may be interested in activities such as Earthdog Trials. Often Scotties also kick up dirt after relieving themselves. Gardeners may want to fence off a different section of the yard for their Scotties.
Can Scotties swim?
No. Scotties have no fear of water, but with their short legs and heavy bodies, they swim like bricks. They should never be left unsupervised by any body of water. Most rescue Scotties will not be placed in homes with in ground pools unless suitably fenced, as many have drowned.
What are common Scottie health issues?
All breeds have certain health problems which are more prevalent in their breed than in others. For Scotties, these are usually diseases of the liver, Cushing's syndrome, Scottie Cramp, and Transitional Cell Carcinoma. They can also be allergic dogs, so a proper diet is important. Von Willebrand's Disease, a form of hemophilia, is being genetically tested for by many breeders now, so it has become much more rare. The STCA home page has a link to common Scottie health issues. The STCA Health Trust page also has a list of health studies in progress.
What is the typical Scottie lifespan?
Scotties typically live to 12 if they don’t suffer from disease and are well cared for. We’ve noted some that were much older, but this is an average.
Do Scotties chew or lick their paws a lot?
Many Scotties do lick their paws to clean them - and perhaps relax. They will also "trim" their nails (but it is better if you do that). If paw licking or chewing is excessive and causes bare skin or irritation, it is a problem. This kind of licking or chewing can be caused by allergies to food or something the dogs walked on. It can even be chemicals used to clean the floor or carpet, lawn chemicals, salt used to melt snow, or even the detergent or fabric softener used when you do laundry. Often a diet change or wiping their feet with a damp washcloth after their walks will help. Sometimes boredom or distress also cause foot licking or chewing. Nails that are too long or broken can irritate the toes. If your Scottie does this, try to systematically investigate and narrow down the choices.
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