Paging Cesar Milan: The biting Scottie problem

A reader writes:

I have owned Scotties since the early 1980s. That’s 3 total. My last one died at age 12 years 10 months in June. Sadly he was a quirky little fellow. And now that we are starting to think about a new dog my husband seems to think all Scotties are destined to be like Geoff.

Two worst habits, biting, and barking. The biting could be totally unprovoked. Here’s an example. We had guests over for a picnic. The 4 adults were seated on the patio at a picnic table. Their 3 children ages 4, 7, and 10 were playing nearby on the patio with a large ball. They were noisy and excited. The dog came darting out of the house and nipped at the youngest child, drawing blood. There’s a long list of similar stories.

Needless to say, he did not feel like guests were safe around this dog. He could go many months without biting, but just when we’d let our guard down, it would happen again. I can’t say I blame my husband for not wanting an animal like that in our home again. The barking takes a distant second as far as it being a behavior problem.

Well, without going into our life story let me just say, I am 200% devoted to Scotties. It’s hard to imagine that I could bond with another breed of dog. So, my question for you, is; is there any way to find a Scottie that can be counted on to have a gentle disposition? I will add, this dog came from an extremely reputable breeder.

Sign me, Heartbroken Scottie lover,

Advice, anyone?

29 thoughts on “Paging Cesar Milan: The biting Scottie problem

  1. yep, adopt an adult from rescue that has their personality traits known to all. If the dog has never been a biter and starts, you then need to look at what you are doing that could cause this behavior. The reality is that all Scotties have very unique personalities. They do share similar traits, great hunters, many do bark, and they are often hard headed. With that said, some are lovable pookies, some are stand-offish loving only one human, some are very sociable. The only way to know what you are getting is to adopt an adult.

  2. It sounds from your story that you have experience with Scotties right? This is the first one you’ve had with biting problems, etc.? I wouldn’t give up on the entire breed because of that one dog that had some “quirks”. We had a Lab that was the greatest dog on the face of the earth in every way so, of course, when she passed we had to get another one since she walked on water… well, our second one was the total opposite of the first. We still have her and love her to death but it’s amazing how dogs of the same breed can vary so. Now we have a Scottie too and she is the most lovable and social dog. I say, if you really like Scotties and have experience with them stick with it – they are like people and all have their own unique personalities and idiosyncrasies. We’ll for sure try another Lab one day too.

  3. I had a scottie for 10 years and she was wonderful with children and other animals. I now have 2 9 month old puppies and while most terriers do bark …a bit annoying at times. I still think all dogs need to be exposed to children at an early age and need to be socialized their whole life to be able to deal with children. My last dog and these puppies are absoultely wonderful with children.

  4. Yep – CM would be on this like a pup on a new chew toy. From my lowly, humbled view (read as: this writer has a kid nippy Scottie and it’s ALL MY FAULT): Scotties can be great with kids…if socialized to them early. But if you let the early months slide by without exposing them to a child’s energy – you got issues that no amount of cheese will help train out. Notice how the children were ‘playing’ when the incident happened … yeah … kid’s jumping and running around are acting like – well – like “prey”. Scotties generally have a high prey drive and are excited by high energy and high pitched noise. Of course, they’re genetically predisposed to stopping those two things (bite the varmint that’s running and squeeking). Tolerance for noise and activity is best learned early.

    Rebecca’s posting has great merit – there are Scottie Rescue organizations all over the country that would help you find the perfect kid friendly Scottie. You’d know what the dog’s personality was and you’d bypass all the puppy hassle. (Yes, puppies are cute – but admit it – they require alot of your time and energy … and that’s just the housebreaking).
    Now…where’s that cheese? The papergirls coming and Duncan could stand to have some more kid-positive interaction……..l

  5. Angus was six months old when we rescued him. Our first Scottie so we didn’t know what to expect. He was very shy with strangers at first but has since come around. He is not a biter or a licker and he rarely barks. He just wants petted most of the time. He is quite friendly (which we think he picked up from our Westie), especially if you have treats!

  6. I’ve only had two Scotties; my first one was a bit nippy, and Clara, couldn’t be better with kids. I whole heartedly agree with duncki, socialisation is the key. I made a huge effort with Clara, and I reap the benefits every day. (Not that I don’t miss my first Scottie any less!)

  7. More endorsement of socialization with kids. I also read in one of the many training books that I read that it is a big mistake to allow kids and puppies to use chase as their primary game. The natural result of chase is that the kid gets caught and bit.

  8. Once you're hooked on Scotties, no other breed will do.
    I have 2 brothers.
    One is such a placid sweetheart & 110% perfect, whereas his brother … well … let's just say Chalk & Cheese ?!?!?
    So guess it's not the breeder but more just the individual Scottie & how they mature.

  9. MY SCOTTIE BIT MY BOYFREIND, i WAS SITTING ON COUCH WITH max and my boyfreind was playing loud music and dancing and then bent down to kiss me and my dog lunged at him biting his neck…..My boyfreind sometimes plays agressive with him , putting him in a neck hold for a second then releaswing and roughly petting head and ears…could this have led to his unusal behavior? my boy freind has lived with me for 3 months , feeds max and loves him…My Max dose chase small prey and drags the cats around.shoiuld I be concerned ? max is 3 years old and I got him at age 5 months…help any advice would , I would be gratefull.

    1. NEVER let your boyfriend put your dog in a neck hold, not even jokingly. Your dog is protective of you, as he has been there longer than your boyfriend. Your dog likely bit your boyfriend because he was loud, and so on. Did you socialise your Scottie from early puppyhood? Tell that boyfriend NOT to play aggressively with your dog. Its bad behavior on his part, and the dog will misinterpret his actions. The dog also might become aggressive as a result of it.

  10. Shela,
    My advice is to “ditch the boyfriend.” He has no concept of Scottie dogs. Scottie’s don’t like loud music….hurts their ears and dancing close to them with quick movement can make them scared. Playing aggressively by neck holds, releasing and being rough around their heads only promotes negative reactions and a definate “no–no.” Your dog was only protecting you and that is the reason he lunged at your boyfriend and bite him. I would bite him too! What does he expect after all that treatment he has given Max? Your boyfriend is a troube maker and doesn’t “love him” like you think he does. He is going to confuse your dog. You mention that Max chases small prey……….that is what they were bred to do……….You better wake up and ditch the boyfriend or else you Scottie will be put into jeopardy if it hasn’t already happened. I pray not. Give your dog a chance!

  11. Seriously, dogs do not bite without warning. Before a dog bites he/she will be giving ALL the signs of “I have had enough of this”.
    There will be ear talk, eye talk, tail talk — if you’re luck there will be barking. But biting out of the blue…no. Happy dogs do not bite.

    So Max is not happy. Logic: ‘Max bit boyfriend’ >> happy dogs do not bite >> therefore Max is not happy. What would make Max not be a happy dog? Being aggressive with a dog, subjecting it to overly loud noises can not only be considered abusive but can push all the dog’s buttons. Please note Max did not bite YOU. You are not the problem. I would be willing to bet years of experience that Max thought you were a victim of your boyfriend’s attack. Max bit because this loud antagonistic jumping around male, that sometimes holds Max down and roughly handles his head and ears, suddenly bent down to “bite” you. (Dogs don’t know understand Kiss)
    From Max’s view — You-were-being-attacked. Max bit the neck because that’s what your boyfriend presented and it was what he could reach. Suddenly no one is happy.

    Shela, I have to ask, why would you subject your dog to the abuse and put him in that situation? Respect me, respect my dog. It’s an easy concept. Why do you want someone in your life that would treat Max as though he were not deserving of respect? Max is an adult living being. Adult. He’s not a puppy. He’s an adult dog that sees the world through canine eyes. He does not understand kiss, he does not understand why the new guy is so aggressive towards him, he does not understand why you, his pack leader, brought him to this unhappy situation. All he know is he is not happy and he can only react as any dog would with the tools nature gave him.

    But you asked for advice:
    1 – I hope the boyfriend is healing.
    2 – Commit to changing the situation. Aggression and loud must go — you can not keep a dog happy with loud and aggressive sh*t happening around them.
    3 – Educate your selves. Dogs communicate differently than people. Learn how to speak dog. There are books…go read them.
    4 – If you can not do these things find Max a new home before there is worse heartbreak.

  12. Q Would I ditch a boyfriend for my Scottie? A in a heart beat! But someone who is not ok with my dog, would not get very far with me either. I agree with the above, Max is reacting to the rough play and acted in desfense of his owner. I think you’re being a little hard on the boyfriend Carol, he is not being deliberately unkind, He just doesn’t understand scottie merntality,you could probably get away with rough play with a lot of big dogs, but not terriers. He is also prob trying a little too hard to ‘be friends’ it is up to the owner to explain and educate, and change the approach.

  13. Some dogs bite. Period. One of my Westies bites men now and again especially if they happen to be on her block. The sound of the kitchen window going up (cables) turns her rabid. I love her even though she is a sociopath, and she loves me too. I got her when she was 6 after she lost her 2nd home, because she is not good with kids. I am keeping her!!

  14. A neighbour’s boyfriend used to play rough with her dog – he’d wear garden/work gloves and actually encourage the dog to bite him … duh. Meanwhile, I’m with my third and fourth Scotties (also had a Westie) – adopted three Scotties; first one was beautifully socialized by his first family (with children), second pair (Scottie/Westie) were pups and were extremely well socialized, and finally the adopted pair I’ve got now … well … I’ve no idea what happened to them in their first home, but the smaller one is afraid of children but then will nip at passers-by on our walks if he’s “in a mood” (he’s tempermental, unlike any of the previous three). Sum up? I’ve decided Scotties are just like humans – they’ve got their personalities, as well as their moods. $0.02

  15. Absolutely. Do you homework and talk to breeders. You need to find, as we have, a breeder who is breeds for not only good health but temperment. We have now had four (4) Scotties – three (3) presently – who are social and friendly with both adults, children, and other dogs. Good luck!

  16. I have had 3 scotties I am down to just one now and he is six years old I got him when he was just a puppy he is so sweet but he can be a mess at times . He likes to bite and I do worry about that so I have to keep him close to me when we are out on our walks . He did bite the man down the street about 6 weeks ago not bad but he did bite the man thank god the man was ok and did not have to go to the hospital . I love scotties and I will always have one there great dogs or friends as I call them LOL mine is like my kid I tell everyone he is my son .

  17. i have a scottie and this is #2 …the first one was super great nad our second one does have some behavior problems and i have no idea how to fix it…if he don’t get his own way he will show alot of aggressive behavior and will not back down …our vet said he has a mean streak in him .the dog is 1yr 3 month and when we take walks i stay away from people …any ideas on how to fix these problems

    1. Can you provide some more details? Is he aggressive with both dogs and people? Did you get him as a puppy? thx

  18. I have an 8 year old Scottie male. He was diagnosed with Epilepsy at 2 years old. He went through a lot of medical exams and tests that had left him aggressive towards strangers who try to touch him, including groomers! The best advice that I received from a professional trainer was to never set Teddy up to fail! For example..Do not put him in situations that you know will have an adverse reaction. I bought all of my own professional grooming equipment and have done Teddy’s grooming ever since. When a stranger or small child approaches and tries to pet Teddy, I explain to them politely that Teddy would prefer not to be touched. I do not leave him unattended around strangers. With time the memory of bad experiences has faded and he has become much more comfortable around strangers and what he use to perceive as threats. In their minds some thing or experience was traumatic for them and that changed their
    view on what is friend or foe. We ask so much from our dogs and they ask so little in return. I felt that Teddy was worth my patience and understanding from a “DOGS POINT OF VIEW!”

  19. First of all Scotties hate cats. That is why he attacks them.
    The question about the scottie derawing blood with children darting around, the answer to that is 1/2 of all male scotties are threatened by children. They hate things darting around near them. It is part of a terrier insytinct to chase and kill small moving things. How hard is this to figuer out. If your dog doesn’t like kids then keep them away from him. I would pronbably bite them myself.

    1. I disagree that all Scotties hate cats. They can get on quite well together. Depends on the dog, the cat and the situation.

      As for kids, I am always hyper-vigilant around any dog who is not usually around small children. They absolutely need to be supervised.

  20. There was a running joke among the SS men at the US White House on who Barney the Scottie would bite next. He would not give any warning at all…just bite you.
    All animals with TEETH will bite. Every living animal is moody. That said, once the Scottie has made his mind up who is acceptable, there USUALLY is no problem. Also Scotties tend to bond to one person for some reason. My male completely is MY dog, while the female attached herself to my girlfriend and is just tolerant of me. I have had both since birth.

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