‘I feel like I have a Pit Bull and not a Scottie’

I’m posting this letter from a reader in a hurry. I will add my thoughts and some links later. In the mean time, feel free to chime in in the comments.

This is my first visit to your site and I enjoyed reading it.

I am very concerned about my scotty, Bailey and his aggression and behavior to children and adults. I hope you can give me some direction.

Bailey is 7 years old and still full of energy. I walk him every day for almost an hour and we encounter many children and adults who think he is very cute and would like to pet him. Because of his reactions in the past, I just tell everyone not to pet him, he is not a friendly dog, as he is wagging his tail.

Bailey is very devoted and protective of me and would probably risk his life to come between me and someone who may be harmful. Last week several friends visited from out of state. When one went to hug me good bye, Bailey jumped on her, grabbed and ripped her slacks. I think he was going for her leg.

Another instance, a little girl went to pet him, she was warned not to but came right up to him and he grabbed her little hand in his mouth and wuld not let go. He did not bite, but it took a lot of screaming on my part to make sure the little girl got her hand back in one piece. And a third time, an adult went to pet him and he grabbed the cuff of her shirt and would not let go.

He is bad at the vet, needs a muzzle and fights everyone off and we finally found a groomer who is crazy about him but he gave her a hard time, also.
He has been to doggie obedience school, was never abused, and can be very loving and follow directions. Also, he loves to chase cars, people’s feet, kids on bikes, etc. Bailey is very strong and can pull me. He’s been walking daily since he was a pup so he is in great shape.

He came from a private home, his mom was beautiful and friendly. He is a brindle, about 28 pounds and very muscular. Sometimes I feel like I have a pit bull and not a scottie.

My biggest concern is that he not harm anyone. By the way, he gets along with most small dogs, but large, black male dogs are his nemesis. And he absolutely hates a labradoodle who he happens to see on his walks. Just won’t stop barking. And, by the way, he is a very loud barker and it doesn’t take much to provoke him and he will continue to bark. Ihoped he would start calming down at this point, but this dog is veryhealthy and I love him dearly.

Thank you,

20 thoughts on “‘I feel like I have a Pit Bull and not a Scottie’

  1. I wonder if he's been neutered? If not I would have this done as it could make a huge difference, especially with the aggression to other dogs.

  2. I am sure others can offer good advice on training and there are many good books on this subject. In the meantime you must protect this little guy by protecting him from children that may not be properly trained. If a stranger or child is coming at him bend over and pick him up, turn around and walk away explaining he is not friendly. Just walk away from strangers with him in your arms, do not risk a bite because you could loose this guy from such an event. If he is too heavy to lift get between him and the stranger, put your hand up like you are directing traffic and sternly tell the people "no, I am sorry he is not friendly". Pits are not the only dogs to end up in quarantine for bad acts.

  3. Was just going to ask about the neutering or not? It could really be relevant to the problem. If his aggression is getting worse perhaps the Vet should also check him over that he doesn't have an underlying problem increasing testosterone levels. Traning could probably help but he may still always be a "one-person dog". In the meantime as it's a real worry…a muzzle when going out is probably a must (sorry but it's better than the alternative!) Best of luck!

  4. If you are taking walks daily and kids are ignoring you about stroking him, then please think about a muzzle while you are out for now? There's an accident waiting to happen here. I know they are not comfortable, but it's better than a child being scared and your little Scotty having to be put-down.
    I'd go with the first comment and have him neutered, (if it's not already done.)Again not a pleasent choice but his behaviour at present isn't pleasent, he may be past re-training?

    Is he protecting himself and his pack? If so I think you need a pet behviour specialst to suggest ways of shifting his need to be a guard-dog. We have a pet behaviour person at our small village vets,(I live in the UK.) So I'm sure they do them everywhere?
    P.S… I know about the pet behaviour specialist as me and my Scotty Kirk had 2 sessions with her. I appears I was the one who needed correcting at the time.

  5. I think more socialization will help, even if you have to muzzle him at first. Try taking him to the local big-box type pet store and letting him walk around with other dogs and people. While you are there, see about picking up a Gentle Leader harness. We use that on Bonnie as she thinks she is a sled dog, pulling so hard. There are 2 types of these harnesses, one fits over the muzzle and the other around the chest. Our trainer said for Scotties to get the ones that go around the chest. See if the sales clerk or resident trainer can help you fit it. They are tricky at first.I suspect a size medium will work. Bonnie is 19 lbs and the medium is almost too big for her but the small is too tight. A cage type muzzle (you will probably have to order those) will give him the ability to pant and drink water. There is a company in Italy that makes some nice ones, just search on the internet. The rest of it sounds like just socializing more. He's trying to protect his greatest resource, you. Good luck, and don't give up.

  6. I agree with what was said above. You probably want to use a muzzle when out and about to protect others and yourself. I don't have much advice, but good luck. I can't imagine how hard it must be for you!

  7. Hi, My Scottie mix is miserable around new people and children. I simply won't give her the opportunity to encounter them at all.

    I took her to a behaviorist who told me to either 1) invest richly in a professional boot-camp type "re-boot" intensive training endeavor, or 2) just accept the fact that she is not comfortable with new people and kids, and so just adopt the lifestyle of not mixing her with them, ever, for safety's sake.

    When we have friends over, she's in her crate. When we walk, she's right by my side on a short leash and I'm constantly warning people sternly to NOT approach her. I keep my head on a swivel. If there are children present, I'm hypervigilant.

    If you must have a social butterfly-type dog for your lifestyle, consider if trying to stuff a square peg into a round hole is fair to the dog. It's possible that it's just not going to be a good fit and perhaps re-homing the dog should be considered.

    Please remember this: When you are out in public participating with your dog, other people and other dogs have the right to assume that your dog is fine with interacting. Thoughtless people are in charge wen you take the dog into a group setting and he's in arm's reach of people and kids.

    If you want to try and make it work, you should consider training your dog to use a treadmill at home so he can get really tired. Dogs need to be tired and it sounds like polite leash walking is not cutting it for your buffed little Scottie! These dogs were bred for very tough hunting conditions and they really can "run hot".

    Please don't set this dog up for a biting incident. He's told you every way he can that he wants time with you to be one-on-one. Please hear what he's saying!

    Consult a behaviorist for sure. I wouldn't try handling this on your own any more.

    Good luck, he sounds like a heck of a dog. Can't blame people for staring right at his eyes and trying to touch him. Enjoy his great qualities and again, hope it works out.

  8. I had a Scottie with people aggression. He was neutered when he was 7 months old. He became aggressive around age 4. Go figure! Neutering is not a guarantee! I've neutered two Scotties subsequently, and it did not make a difference in their reaction to strange dogs. Do not neuter him unless you really want to, as it is not guaranteed! When you walk your Scottie, you must keep other people away. Tell them he is 'in training' — that is what my trainer suggested. You need a behavior expert. I could never take my Scottie anywhere except to the vet. Of course we took long, wonderful walks, and I just made it clear to passerbys to keep away. The Cornell behavior vet told me the aggression was because I wasn't seen as the ALPHA. She put by boy on Prozac but I finally took him off it for personal reasons. He was getting older, and my lifestyle enabled me to keep him away from strangers. He never had a problem with other dogs.

  9. Laura – Your description is missing some key elements for a full examination. To be sure, Bailey is acting in an aggressive manner but the kind of aggression he's showing will tell you how best to deal with the situation. His body language is key here – it will tell you whether Bailey's is dominant/aggressive or fearful/aggressive. There's a big difference between the two and a big difference in how to over come the behavior's cause.

    Before he makes contact with his teeth, are his ears up and forward or down and back? Is is tail high and erect or is it low? His mouth – open or closed before the bite? Does he growl prior to striking? These things will tell you what's happening in your dog's head.

    If he's a dominant personality – then YOU have to take charge by changing YOUR status. If he is fearful – and many dogs that are labeled dominant or aggressive are actually terrified and lash out due to this raw emotional state – he will have to be desensitized to that which he fears.

    Start with learning to "read" Bailey. Books like: "Learning to Speak Dog" by Stanley Coren, or "The Other End of the Leash" and "For the Love of a Dog" by Dr. Patricia McConnell are invaluable to the understanding of canine root behaviors. They're well written and easy to understand without being condescending. While your educating yourself – look for a licensed Behaviorist. Ask for references, because there are a plethora of folk out there claiming to be dog experts that aren't – so interview the Behaviorist a bit before turning yourselves over to their suggestion.

    Good Luck

  10. Sounds to me like he needs more socialising, not less. I think less will make the problem worse. However you'll need to find dogs who do not wind him up to start this process, and make sure he has quality time with them. I used to leave my Scottie with friends with dogs, without me, for a while so she was not phased by them. Now she LOVES them!

    Also he sees himself as your boss, which is why he's defending you. Take back control from him; don't let him walk ahead of you, or sit on your lap, and tell him off if he is aggressive. On the flip side, praise him A LOT when he is friendly. They are very intelligent – it won't take long for him to 'get it', as long as you are consistent.

    A muzzle is a good idea until he is a bit more socialised. Make sure he can pant though. Might be a good idea to get the vet to check him over in case he is feeling some pain somewhere too.

    1. This was a great comment. Unfortunately some of this behavior has gone on too long. Should be socialized as a puppy. Do you walk with a choke collar, if you do not learn to use it properly to give a correction. A muzzle may be a protective tact temporarily, but you do have to become the boss. Dogs that are held alot by their owner will become aggresive also.

      I agree. Get some additional training for yourself. The situation should never get to the point of an attack. She must be put in a stay position, or down stay position. Some people actually put the dog on their side laying down and hold them there until they become calmer and will obey.

  11. Please get this Scottie a muzzle. I had dog aggression issues with my Scottie, and the muzzle during walks not only distracted him from wanting to kill other dogs, but prevented my husband from getting nervous that we would be sued (or worse) over a dog bite. We also hired a trainer who taught us more effective ways to walk him, and to control him on the leash. However biting human beings is something else that I have not dealt with — but I would get a muzzle and a trainer ASAP. I would also confine the dog when you have people in your home. (Personally I think neutering is of limited usefulness when it comes to Scottish Terriers, but of course it should be done since you are not going to breed a dog who is that aggressive…)

  12. My condolences on your aggressive Scottie. I have an aggressive Westie who has bitten 4 neighborhood men — one wasp, one black, one Jewish and one Chinese. She is not prejudiced! She is a hopeless neanderthol type –freaks out and bites and then denies it.

    Btw, pit bulls are very sweet dogs. I am sure you meant no harm, but they have a very bad reputation and suffer terribly as a result. To title your piece “I feel like I have a Pit Bull and not a Scottie” and then to talk about dog aggression is to further promote the stereotype of pits as vicious.

  13. WOW another loud yapper during a walk!
    My Scottie lad hates the big mongrel down the street who runs at the front fence, barking at us & gives the mongrel a piercing volley of barks back.
    Same performance when we pass a friendly, young, female Great Dane at her front fence.
    Of course, all the neighbours blame my Scottie, as he has such a loud, shrill & prolonged yap.
    However, he loves people on the street saying Hello or wanting to pat him, so that’s a big plus [not to mention he’s so handsome & has so much personality]

  14. My Scottie “Kiltie”, is 4 years old and his agression is from fear.
    i have him in my a pivate class and he is doing well. I am very fearful that he will bite someone again. So we did need help.
    I have not tried the nuzzle in public yet but know this would help my fear of his biting someone. Just reading everyone’s
    comment on this behavior is helpful. We love him dearly &
    never had any of this with our first female scottie. Thank you all for your advise and comments, now I know I am not alone. I will try harder to help my scot socialize in a safe manner so we can all live a happy life together…….

  15. Hello Scottie lovers, Angus is my 10 yr old scottie The first one that I have owned. I have come to understand Scotties and there personalities. They are very very smart and stubborn. They are proud dogs and hyper. They are extremely protective and very good watch dogs.

    I also have a Beagle-Lab mix and they are the best of brothers. I have a cat and she can hold her on when little pesty brother Angus tries to ruffle her feathers so to speak. I will say that scotties will try your patiences, when my granddaughter comes over I have to put him upstairs and she cannot play with him. But Dusty the beagle is the lover so she does have him.

    Cesar Milan had one show with a troubled Scottie and the dog did not like his groomer and he showed the groomer how to handle the scottie and things worked out beautifully. Angus loves his groomer but not my stepson he still tries to bite at his heels. Ihave never thought of giving my dog away. I love and adore him. Just not good with kids and loves other animals.

    Remember what happened when Bush was in the White House and Barney bit the news reporter well that about covers it . Also remember they are very sensitive and intune with there owners. Plz just have patience and give extra love. They are not candy wrappers you cannot just toss them away. Take care Scottie lovers.

  16. The title of this blog piece is very offensive to me and to any other person who does not wish to perpetuate the stereotype of the pit bull as an aggressive out-of-control dog. Pit bulls are very sweet, loving dogs pretty much like a labs are. These sweet dogs are used for fighting because they are physically superior to other dogs and not because their is anything inately aggressive in their nature.

    1. I’m not sure, I entirely agree with you Monica. Some dog breeds do have more aggressive temperaments than others. And I think pitbulls do fall into this category.

      This is not to say that this is true of a all pits. And yes, some of them are lovely. I just think you have to be a little more careful with Pits re aggression than with a golden retriever.

      1. If you took Golden Retrievers and bred them for aggresssion and then took those aggressive GRs and trained them to be more aggressive, you would have very aggressie GRs. Likewise the Pit, or the Westie or the Scottie. Terriers are former rat hunters who were bred for aggression.

        People believe that Pits are naturally more aggressive as a result of media images that portrait them as aggressive — like the title of this blog for example.

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