Is your Scottish Terrier Aggressive?

Following up on Bing’s question in last week’s comments sections, the Scottie News wants to know about your Scottie’s behaviour. Is he or she aggressive and, if so, under what circumstances?

I’ll start. Bridget is now 20 months and has never been passive. Even as a four-month-old she would snap back at dogs that were bothering her, although she would never initiate aggressive behaviour. That is until just after she turned one.

First, she started being possessive of toys that she stole from other dogs at the park, growling and going after any dog who tried to take them back. Then she started picking on puppies, including a Rottweiler who now towers over her. And in another recent act of sheer stupidity, she was walking along the sidewalk on her leash when we encountered another leashed dog, who appeared to be part pit bull, and she lunged at his neck, teeth bared.

When a bigger dog becomes aggressive with her on occasion, she will back off very fast.
Update: In the comments, KK makes a good point about distinguishing between aggressive and dominant.

36 thoughts on “Is your Scottish Terrier Aggressive?

  1. I guess I’ll start off. Cambria is usually not an aggressive dog. However, she will snip at other dogs when they are starting to annoy her. She never makes contact, just gives a warning jaw snap to let the other dog know to back off.

    She is not food-aggressive with humans, but she will not let another dog take a treat or bone away from her.

  2. Clara, my two year old, is not aggressive either. She will not put up with being bothered by other dogs, but they really have to push her before she will react.
    Duncan, my previous Scottie, was a lot more the traditional image of a Scottie. He didn’t like other black dogs, no matter how big, he’d have a go. Any other colour he ignored! He was also bad with toys, bones and food in general.

    When I brought Clara home, I was determined not to have another potential liability on my hands. I took Clara to dog school twice a week for her first month and every week for nearly 12 months after that (Any Australian dog owners can contact me if they want to know about the school I take Clara to). I can not recommend LOTS of socialisation for your dog highly enough, but start early!!!!!

  3. 9 month old male and never aggressive with toys, food, other dogs, etc. I think I’ve heard him bark maybe half a dozen times since I got him. I don’t think he fits into the traditional scottie personality stereotype. he’s a big lover, always wanting to be around people, but to him there’s nothing more exciting than a dog he can play with. I’ve made it a point to socialize him well to almost everything I can think of, but a lot of it is probably the dog’s personality. On the rare occasion I find something he cowers from or growls towards, I’m actually glad to have an opportunity to witness it and then expose the hell out of it to him (things like dogs barking from behind a fence, garbage trucks, christmas bells, etc). Usually doesn’t take more than 15 minutes of being in the vicinity in a sit/calm position and a good sniff if possible for him to get over himself, but I do repeat ad naseum if necessary. I’ve heard that he his playful demeanor might change once he gets over his puppy-hood stage, so maybe I’m just lucky for now… hope not. = )

    Only other thing I would advise in addition to socializing/exposing your dog to new situations is to exercise and play with them regularly, so they don’t allow their pent up energy cause them to become fussy. For me it’s 1 daily walk of 20 min or more, 1 daily 20 min playtime of kick the bottle or some other interactive exercise, and a visit to the dog park once a week for about an hour or more.

  4. Roxie is aggressive when on a leash.

    Yesterday she took on a herd of 6 deer in the ditch next to her fence and scattered them all.

  5. Duncan, who will be six this fall, is not aggressive unless you are the mailman, then you, the “mailman” will be his archenemy. Duncan has his moments but generally gives me “warning signs” that he is getting a bit fed up with whatever is going on at the time. Duncan is a gentleman and he has an “old man’s soul”. He is a sweetheart.

    Molly, who will be one in June, is very similar to Ac’s 9 month old male Scottish terrier minus the barking. Molly loves barking. Molly is not like your traditional Scottie personality stereotype. SHE LOVES being around people. Loves, loves, loves people. Can’t get enough love from friends and family. One the other hand Molly does tend to snipe more then Duncan ever did. It’s a work in progress and I am hoping it’s just a “puppy stag” of which she will out grow.

  6. Bridget also does not fit the standoffish Scottie stereotype. She loves all humans and we frequently joke about her lack of loyalty.

    This morning, though, she got tough with Liza the Lhasa Apso over a ball, and things got nasty. Liza, who she’s usually friendly with, pinned Bridget down quickly and then calmly kept her in submissive position until the humans separated them.

    A few minutes later, all the dogs were playing again although Bridget steered clear of Liza.

  7. Maybe it´s good to define first the meaning of agressive dog?

    We had long discussion in our club about meaning of agressive dog some years ago in Estonia.
    I asked then some help from Sweden as they write about aggressive dogs in their breeding rules. The answer was:
    “The word aggressive means angry towards people wanting to bite and injure people. We (scottie club in SWE) use it in that sense and it does not mean aggressive towards other dogs, which terriers can be sometimes depending on the circumstances!
    There is a fine line between aggressive and dominant which is what we want.”

    One who explained me the definition was the scottish terrier breeder Dan Ericsson from Sweden.

    Maybe it helps you to define if the dog is agressive, or if he/she is just spoiled by owner or maybe we just talk here about “bad situation”? 🙂

  8. My scottie Wallace is eight months old. He doesn’t show agression toward any humans. My daughter can rough and tumble with him and he just loves it. He has snapped once about her wanting to get between him and his food. I figured it was my fault for not letting him have more privacy when he’s eating, so now he eats on the other side of a gate that she can’t get through.
    He’s a good dog even if he eventually gets grumpy.

  9. Our Scotties, Ralphie and Gus, are 1 year old brothers and neither have shown any worrying signs of aggression towards people, including my 1 year old nephew and 2 year old niece, or other dogs. They are more friendly with people and other dogs than most breeds I have found. They do get a little carried away when they are playing with my brother’s pair of 1 year old Beagles but, the Beagles always start the rough stuff.

    We have made an effort to socialize and crate train them (both sharing the same big crate) and I think it has made them very well behaved, friendly dogs. They do not have any toy or food issues, probably because they have always shared everything except food bowls.

  10. Tyler is amazing with people. But when he’s playing with other dogs his bark sounds scary – really aggressive. He terrorizes smaller dogs who only get away because his legs are so short, and tries to assert his dominance over larger ones until they make him realize his place, and then he’ll run to me.

    He’s only 4 months and I’m trying to socialize as much as possible so other dog owners don’t get concerned when he’s in the dog park!

  11. Macintosh is atrocious when on his lead, especially if he meets another dog on our street which he thinks he owns. He loves all people and children thankfully. He wriggles with excitement when people visit us.

  12. Angus is quite agressive with other dogs. I find he is more aggresive towards other dogs when he is on the leash. He is fine around dogs that he knows. He is so so stubborn i'm not sure what to do to stop his bad behaviour. Thankfully he loves people though!

  13. Kiltie, 5 years old, guards windows & door, if he sees someone coming he grabs his baby (or handy toy) shaking it with a growl
    until the person passes his window/door. I am now using the squirt bottle, to stop him, any suggestions? I know the expression “Scottie’s rule” which he tries to live by. We probably didn’t socialization him enough, so now what else can we do? please reply

  14. Wait, did you say you have a male Scottie named Kittie? Is there a reason for this? Could he be overcompensating for his name?


  16. Whoops, that’s what happens when I read stuff on my iPhone.

    Now, that we’ve ascertained he hasn’t got name issues and it’s not a boy-named-Sue situation, let me ponder this a bit and get back to you.

  17. first of all, Georgie, is 2 and I don’t consider him aggressive, his full name is Georgie Bush Butler, that being said, he is full of personality and dignified and reverent when needed. I had to bring him home at 5 months because his mother was mean and had already killed one pup and had hurt another. I have always watched for any signs of aggression. Georgie spends his days with me at my consignment store. charming and cute on cue whenever needed. at home he is a typical terrier. VERY respectful of his sister the Greyhound. will never get in her way or snap at her, but the Boxer-lab brother is a different. they growl, fight, and tear into each other at any given moment. sometimes you would think someone is getting hurt. but, then I wake up in the morning and they are sleeping on top of each other, or chasing the same cat or would be burglar on the other side of the fence., that being said…My dog is very sociable…may be too sociable..after all, isn’t that their nature to be the center of all attention… growling and showing toys is just a part of that I would think..”look at me and see what I have”…the same things out kids would do when we have company..but, talking instead of growling…lol

  18. My 8 year old Scottie Dawson has a weird agression. I’ve had him for 2 years. He’s a rescue, and shows signs of having been abused (broken tail, some scar tissue on his back). He’s frightened of people. When we take him out on the lead, he’ll hide behind us. He gets along generally with other dogs, though cats are sometimes a challenge. The biggest problem is when people visit. He will bark like he intends on taking a leg off, and will snap, bite if he gets a chance, that is, until the visitor sits down. Then he climbs in their lap, nuzzles them and is quite happy they’re here. When they stand up or move much, he starts snarling and barking again.

    Since I have no idea what his past was like, I can’t know what might have caused his behavior. Otherwise, he’s a good and loving friend and he gets much love at home. Any suggestions?

    1. I would suggest leashing him up when visitors stop by. It also sounds like you may have to enlist some dog-loving friends to try and train him out of this.

  19. Anyone have one like mine? I think they broke the mold. Finn is two years old, bred for good temperament. He is not aggressive at all, plays well with others. I have had him socialized since day one; he goes to doggy daycare and loves it & we have been in classes since the beginning… any class that comes along, not necessarily doing our homework as we should. Love the trainer and the group of dogs. Then we have our Dog Park buddies, at least monthly get togethers with about fifteen dogs..their pack. He thinks he was put on Earth to keep track of the foxes that are an evening regular from the back fence. Got a bark collar in attempt to stop the barking. Because I don’t get home until after dark the foxes are about & messing up our walks too; so he pulls like crazy on the leash. Tried Gentle Leader but he rubs his nose raw trying to get it off and pouts. So I am the bad guy, always changing collars. His dog class trainer just said that he is the most stubborn dog she has run across! Not cuddly at all, unless in the car and then he wants to ride in my lap! He is a wheaten, too cute for words…lucky for him!! My two other boys were more normal, some aggression but good off leash. Finn bolts, knows his stuff but only on his terms. Needs a sign, “Works for Food.”

  20. I have an 11 year old called Clayton. He used to be a bit nasty before he was castrated but then after that he calmed right down. I would say he is more dominant of other dogs then anything and being a typical Scottie he is fearless! I have never once seen him frightened or worried in his life. He doesn’t start fights but he would love to have a brawl with any dog that was keen. He is fantastic with my other Scottie Margaret, my staffy and the newest addition bruiser the kitten. I have actually found that he is happier and more puppy like as he gets older.

  21. I have a 10 month old male named Riley. He is wonderful and all Scottie, with all that intails. I have socialized him from day one, and he shares the yard and his days with my dad’s Scottie Max. The go for long walks every day, but if we try to play with him in the house on the floor with toys, he always wants to put his teeth on our hands. This is also ture if we try to pet him. He is very gental and does not bare down, put it makes it very hard to love him up and play with him. He is my fifth Scottie and I have never seen this behavior. Any suggestions on how to break him of his oral habit?

  22. I have a 7-month old female Scottie called Eshta. She is very loving and playful but she has not outgrown the habit of biting feet. I have tried everything, including the squirt bottle but it is not getting better. She will obey me when I use a stern voice but guests do not have a hope in hell. It is no longer cute as her teeth hurt and the more a guest will shout at her the more excited she gets and the more she snaps and wants to bite. I know this is playful aggression but it is a real nuisance with guests, especially as we tend to have stay-over guests who need to be able to control her without me being around. Any advice? I adore Eshta. She has learned to sit, stay, come and she even rings the bell when she needs to go out. But I cannot teach her to ‘leave it’ (our feet, that is). I worry that this will only get worse.

    1. Hi Sherine,

      All four of our scotties have had the habit of teething on our feet when they were young. We found that not reacting was the best reprimand. As hard as it sounds when those razor teeth rip into foot flesh, the immediate response to jerk away will invite your scotty to play. Just ignoring them and walking away will make them wonder why fun playtime is over. Eventually they get the idea that they are not getting the reaction they hoped for when they bite. When everyone has calmed down , continue nice play time praising good playtime behaviour and stopping playtime (without reprimand) when the behaviour is bad. You don’t want your scottie to associate you with yelling or negative reactions.

      All our guys have out grown this foot biting desire once their adult teeth came in.

      hope this helps.

      1. Standing still is definitely a way to stop the food biting.

        My dog still goes after feet occasionally. Usually those of humans breaking out in a run at the dog park. Their reaction is almost invariably to move their feet to get her to stop, which just excites her even more. The key is to stand still.

        If you’re dealing with a puppy at home, invest in protective footwear.

  23. My one year old Scottie still bites feet and barks when she is going to go outside. Nothing has worked to stop this. Squirt bottle. Pet control spray, we have to put her on the leash when company comes.

  24. My scottie Jinky is nasty with all other dogs whether on or off the lead. He is indiscriminate – male/female/rottweiler/chihuahua – they’ll all get sniffed then assaulted. I think he was attacked as a pup and now demonstrates his fear through aggression. He’s two now and I’m still hoping he’ll mellow out. Great fun otherwise.

    1. My Scottie Gus, loved to play with all dogs at the dog park, until one sniffed him too many times, and he grabbed him by the ear, and that was that. Now I am too afraid to take him back. , But he loves all the people in my neighbourhood, and he loves all dogs here too., but when he gets running he sometimes plays rough. At home…. biting when he plays. He likes to hid under the bed.. and if you try and get him out, he nips at you….,. such a funny dog. Such a large mouth, and such a painful bite. In our case, outside of the dog park, I don’t think he’s biting to hurt, I think he’s biting to play, and .. yeah, I am going to have to ignore him, so he stops. Funny , but I have a red leather chair… and if I sit in it…he barks and barks, and bobs up and down, until I put him on my lap … really funny….he even nips at my feet until I finally pick him up. I guess Scotties are not really dog park dogs?

      1. Have been reading these stories about aggressive Scotty’s. My lovely Izzy (Isabelle Grace) is the sweetest most social and submissive young lady I have ever known. She loves all, human or otherwise. She welcomes all petting, kind words and tummy rubs!! This girl is so graceful and loving. My previous female “Ellie” was exactly the same temperament. We have truly been blessed.

  25. Alice is sweet and loving with people. She likes children and
    other dogs. The problem is she hates lables on furniture,tags on anything.
    She hates baseboards and eats them she will attack anything that hangs off
    a table or counter. Maybe she thinks she is a beaver? Her name is Alice Misbehaving in Wonderland and she lives up to it!

  26. My dear Spock…i think he has problems at getting along with other dogs since puppy, ever since he started going out he was always afraid of the street, cars, noises. He couldnt see anyother dogs because he will start barking or crying like he wanted to play, is really difficult for me to understand what he really wants to do.
    When he turned a year i tryed to take him to different gatherings with other scottish but it got worst, he would start to bark and attack other dogs (females, males, puppies, chihuahuas) the worst was when he was calm looking a chihuahua and i thought: wow! he’s behaving propperly, maybe they can play and be friends….but when they were close enough to sniff he jumped and send rolling the poor chihuhua!! i was soo afraid the owner was gonna get mad…. so from that time i’m very strict with him when we are outside but still i don’t know if he gets anxious or scared or what 🙁 really need help with him he’s already a year an a half

  27. My Scottie’s name is Mackie and he s 3 years old. He is also a Registered Therapy Dog. When I am walking him on his leash and he sees another dog coming, he begins barking at the dog, pulls on the leash and chews at it, and attempts to go to the dog. I am holding him back and pulling him away so we can exit. The owner looks at us like “what’s wrong with your dog”? From the comments, I see I am not alone with this problem. A dog behavior specialist I used said all this was caused by anxiety. If he is afraid why does he want to go to the other dog? He smells other dogs with his tail wagging but is never mean. He loves all people. Any suggestions on correcting this problem?

  28. My Scottish Terrier, Beau, is very aggressive. She has no problem with humans, (she does bark at them, but not aggressively), but she is horrendous around other dogs, on & off the leash. We actually have sent her to, almost, a trainer that works with dogs with aggression & thats helped a little bit, but she is horrible. I’ve been told by our groomer/boarder that this is a very common trait in our beloved breed, but she scares me every time she snaps. I’m glad that after reading all of these comments, I’m not alone with my little situation.

  29. Oskar is 2-1/2 years old. He is the most wonderful dog, incredible companion, always there for me type of dog. Including through a 9-hr flight when i was going through a difficult move in my life. He was there, by my side, calm and steady always.
    But man…. Wait until another male dog comes along… He is mister terrierist! (Heard this expression before hehe) very aggressive. I am glad in California most male dogs are noodered, and he doesnt mind those. So i tried taking him to dog parks (always freaking out inside that he would suddenly flip out and show his “other side”). I tried a few times and it was going well. Yesterday… There was a ball involved. He played a bit with this other terrier (apparently noodered) and suddenly Oskar jumped on this dog and it was ugly… So glad the other dog wasnt hurt! Because Oskar was winning that one easy. I was SO embarassed and sad for the other dog. How can i stop Oskar from doing that? If I nooder him, would help?

  30. I am relieved to read that Scotties CAN be good with unknown dogs. I recently lost my Scottie, Lux, to a brain aneurysm, but for the 6 years I had him, his only flaw was his seething hatred of other dogs. If introduced slowly, carefully, and often, he was fine, but where I live, there is always a dog 20 feet in any direction. I was stunned to find that if he was tied to something while I went inside somewhere (always so i could still see him), he had zero aggression if someone tied their dog up next to him. Baffling. At any rate, I would like to get another Scottie, but I’m so afraid I’ll get another dog-hater. My mixed breed before Lux was the same, and after 13 years of apologizing to people for my dogs’ demonic behaviour, I just can’t do another decade of it. (Lux LOVED people, though. ALL people, always! Super friendly and loved attention!)
    He was almost 9 months old when I got him.
    While I know we all treasure our little Diehards, even the challenging ones, those of you who have a non-aggressive Scot are truly blessed! 🙂 I am hoping I join your ranks with my next one!

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