The Scottish Terrier, a Big Dog Clothed In a Small Package

July 3, 2014

scottish terrierHe sat in a cage that had grown too small. His dark chocolate eyes begged to be free. How could anyone resist?

“Why is that dog in such a small cage?” I asked the sales person. This was in a day before I knew how pet stores got their wares in way too many instances.

“Oh, he’s ready to leave us.”

“Wonderful! Someone bought him.”

“No, he’s too old to sell. He’s at least six months.”

I laughed. “Which one of you will be taking him home?”

“We can’t take every dog that doesn’t sale. He’ll be put down if no one wants him.”

All semblance of laughter disappeared at the prospect of this gorgeous Scottish terrier being killed simply for being too large to be puppy cute.

“How much?” I growled.

“One hundred and he’s yours.” Never have I written a check so hastily. That day I had learned more about the horrors of pet shops than I ever wanted to know. In return I had the pleasure of meeting a type of dog that had never previously been considered for our home.

He bounced with excitement when we introduced toys. Balls ended up under the sofa or met with shredding teeth. To and fro, back and forth, he bounced, reminding us of Winnie the Pooh’s Tigger. Only when exhausted or disinterested did he walk like a normal dog.

A passionate player, he chased anything that rolled, walked, ran or flew, never catching them, just enjoying the game. However, when facing another dog that posed a problem, our Scotty became all business and would charge anything, no matter what size.  At eight months of age he wanted to take on a Rottweiller at a rest stop.  This is a trait most all Scotties share.

Described in breeder magazines as ‘stubborn, independent, sensitive to praise or blame and hilarious in his seriousness,’ I would never have recognized Mr. Scotty as that breed. Stubborn and independent at times, seriousness never seemed to enter his hard head. Devoted to my husband, whom he adopted before the man even walked in the door, he followed his master’s every command without question. Bred to work apart from his master, this is a dog that can be difficult to train. Never depend on an electronic fence to stop this little guy or gal.  Either will happily barrel past the shock to chase a squirrel or anything else that catches the doggy fancy.

Ours did not, and neither does the breed as a whole, jog. Although his short legs can pound some ground, a Scotty simply doesn’t care for running long distances and will adamantly refuse the invitation. He will, however, wreak havoc on a person who is unprepared for the enormous strength of those legs. By the way, do not toss your Scotty in the pool. Most of them cannot swim.  The heavy body, big head and short legs conspire to make him sink like a stone. A Scotty is a champion digger, as I noted the day I lay down on a hammock in the backyard. Upon awakening, I stepped into an eight-inch deep trench that mysteriously appeared during my nap.

A Scotty, unless he’s too old to move fast, should never be put in a chest harness or a reel-type leash. The trademark broad chest in a harness allows him to pull with greater strength than a neck leash. So will running out to the end of a reel. My husband discovered the error of his ways when he combined a chest harness and reel leash. He decided to toss a tennis ball and let Mr. Scotty run out the full fifteen feet. Mr. Scotty hit the end of the leash; Bruce hit the ground. A person who is unsteady on their feet should own a Scottish terrier only if it is totally trained to obey commands.  Otherwise, walking becomes a test of strength and he will generally win.

Some folks laugh at this terrier as a guard dog – until they hear him bark. He has a huge dog’s bark inside a compact, muscular small body. An amazingly nimble pup, he can excel at agility tests.

Scotties have several unique features, having been bred to chase animals that go underground. To safely hunt burrow game, they have super hard skulls. This allows them to bump their heads in close quarters without resultant damage. Massive teeth that can put a German shepherd to shame hold their prey. In addition, this is one dog that counts on having his tail pulled, should he get stuck in an animal den. Thus, it lacks the sensitivity other dogs’ tails might possess.

All in all, the Scottish terrier is a tremendously loyal pup, who will give his all for those he loves. Although he is said to be aloof, ours was anything but. He wanted to be included in every aspect of our lives even to going fishing out on Sarasota Bay.  There he made removing the fish from the hook a contest of speed between him and his master.  Yet if he got a sample of fish taste in his mouth, he spat it out violently!  He much preferred beef.

Scotties shed very little, but as they age they may be prone to large water cysts, tumors and cancer as well as joint problems. Our pup died within six weeks of being declared perfectly healthy because of spleen cancer that raged through his body within a very short time.

If there was ever a perfect dog, the Scottish terrier is it. Whether groomed with traditional Scottish coat or shaved for brutal summers to look more like a black fox, the Scotty is a beautiful dog.

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