Seeking help with an aggressive Scottie dog

Yesterday a reader posted a question on an old post about Scottish Terriers and aggression. Sally wrote:

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

I read her comment in very small type on my phone on a commuter bus and replied:

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

Sally brought out the all caps. And I can’t say she wasn’t justified:


I apologized:

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.

Now, before I stick my foot even further in, does anyone want to help Sally out?

43 thoughts on “Seeking help with an aggressive Scottie dog

  1. I may have misread, is the problem that Kiltie is physically attacking everything that encroaches upon his territory, therefore aggressive and dangerous?

    My Scottie is very aggressive when dogs pass the gate, often she objects to humans too … depending on if she can be bothered. This is normal Scottie behaviour … isn’t it?

    Once inside the gate, Kirk still barks but wouldn’t attack, various Postmen have learned this. She’s all bark, which is great as she’s more fun than an electric alarm system 🙂

    Kiltie’s doing what he was designed for and guarding the house… which is good. If he’s overdoing it and at the age of 4, it’s something you alone can’t solve. Try professional dog training and don’t go it alone with a squirt bottle unless you know exactly what your at.

    My vet in the U.K has a pet Psychotherapist, she was recommended to me …because … well …. Kirk was petrified of vets. She was 8 at the time and I felt that her fear of vets was quite normal, like my fear of Hospitals… but apparently it was MY fear of vets as well that was doing it.

    … just goes to show that you don’t know what’s in their heads, or yours until you talk to someone who does.


  2. Thank you Tegan, I do have to agree with you when you said “Kiltie is just doing his job.” Bless him for protecting us.
    I know some of my close neighbors are throughly disgusted with him, but hey, he’s my dog and in his own yard. Yes, the squirt bottle does work, if I step in the kitchen to retrieve it he stops.
    So nice of you to reply and be concerned. I did visit Liverpool
    years and rode top side on your bus, great thrill, a beautiful
    Collie dog rode next to me and I probably missed some sights while looking at the beautiful Collie dog.
    Kiltie, thanks you & I thank you for your note to us.
    Sally & Kiltie Macgregor

    1. I had problems with the neighbours at first, it’s that deep Scottie bark. Weasties yap, Scotties give it from the lungs. I’m lucky in that Kirk now barks only at things odd after dark, but she’s still game for anything in daylight!
      Hay, she may wake us all up at 2am last week because of the guests at the house party opposite decided to use our front garden as a loo… but the whole street potted them 🙂

    2. My Welsh Border Collie had a bit of an unpleasant experience with one of the neighbours dogs, when she was little. It took rather a dislike to Tamsin, and chased her across the field. I have from that experience, and a couple of more severe, felt wary of having her off her lead, until recently. The dog still is aggressive to my collie at times on encountering it with its owners within the close I live.

      When at home, my pup of nearly twenty two months, on hearing that dog and its pal barking two gardens away, takes hold of her battered rugby ball (which I have at last replaced), and shakes it violently, growling. This in a sense is her punch bag, I would say, and a way of letting off steam without any harm, and I find it funny because it is not harming anything or anybody. She is a bit of a clown, having developed a clown act with my granddaughters pink plastic car, growling at it and pushing it around, then looking at us with a doggie grin, waiting for us to laugh. She does it also with my large wheely bins, and my chairs in the garden, seeming to think she is a right comedian. And I must admit it is funny, and she gives me, and my granddaughters, many laughs.

    1. More information would be helpful. Has this person helped you with an aggressive Scottie… or ? If so, which DVD do you recommend for this problem, or do you have to buy all the DVDs?

  3. I totally agree with Tegan. It’s what they do.
    Inside, I usually go look at what Amelia is barking at (usually a golfer out the window) then I thank her. After that I say, “that’s enough”. I acknowledge the 4 alarm fire and then I want it to stop. In the house that works. Really all she is doing is worrying out loud and she wants to let me know. HOWEVER…outside I can’t get her to be quiet. Maybe it’s because I don’t ever acknowledge what she’s barking at, I yell out the back door for her to be quiet.
    Another way to look at it from your dog’s standpoint is… he carries on and the stranger leaves. He might think he is the reason they are leaving. The mailman comes, I bark and then the mailman leaves, boy my mom should be so proud. That might be what he thinks.

    I do think the way he grabs his baby and shakes it is more than mildly amusing, it’s adorable. A dog psychologist is a good idea, maybe they can figure out a way to make you both feel better about the situation. Oh yeah, plus your neighbors!
    Keep us posted. 🙂

  4. I too have to agree with Tegan and Allison. My two loves will bark at anything and everything that passes our house. What really gets annoying is when the cows come round the field thats on the hill about a quarter mile from us, they will bark almost continuously until they leave. I can hush them down enough where it is just a really low growl, but it is still annoying when you have a baby you are trying to put to sleep. With that being said, they are not aggressive dogs. If the person they are barking at comes up to them, you can bet that they are going to be licked to death. All bark and no bite. So the big question, is do you know whether or not they are for sure wanting to bite what they are barking at?

  5. Why not let the dog be? So he shakes his toy? Why crush his spirit by squirting him with water? If his dominance bothers you, rehome him with someone who is okay with his personality and find yourself a mellow dog. Dogs (and especially terriers) are not blank slates. They come with personalities. If you want a mellow breed, try a Cavalier King Charles. That is what the original owner of my dominant Westie Casey Jane did. She replaced her with a CKC and is now very happy.

    1. Sorry Monica,but I will not tolerate a dog being alpha, not should anyone who has a dog in the household. We are and must be boss. Our Piper is a very mellow dog, which does not mean she is a dishrag. She defends herself against other dogs ( regardless of size ), but is docile in as far as humans go.

      1. Most dogs are followers, not leaders. The occassional dog is an alpha. It is genetic and natural. Whereas, in the wild, the dominant one would have been leader of the pack, in a domestic household, these very same traits are often trouble. Two alpa dogs and you have a dog fight util one backs down and accepts the dominance of the other. My dominant dog will back down if another dominant dog challenges her — she won’t actually fight. I let it run its course and there has never been blood shed –just a natural reordering of the top dog.

        1. Oops. I meant to say you could have a dog fight with 2 alphas. Usually one backs down before it reaches that point.

  6. Oh, barking. I thought the problem was the shaking of the toy. I don’t see any mention of barking being an issue. Just growling and shaking the toy as the person passes. I can’t imagine a passer by complaining, and if they did, so what. Tell them to mind their business. I still say leave the dog alone. Terrriers growl. It is the beauty of the breed.

  7. My dominant Westie, Casey Jane, was put through hell as a puppy by a family who could not accept that she was a dominant Westie terrier. After a year during which she was put through puppy classes 3 times in an attempt to take the terrier out of the terrier, the woman who owned her decided to kill her. Fortunately, the husband took her to work and gave her to a friend of his. And guess what? 9 years later and she is still the same dominant Westie. Terriers, and particularly dominant ones, are not for everyone. No one should pick a breed based on looks alone. Dogs are not blank slates.

  8. I don’t think the squirt bottle will crush his spirit. It’s better than a smack or a poke in the eye, lol.
    Basically I was just trying to tell her that Keltie is perfectly normal. But it’s also normal to be annoyed by a barking Scotty!

  9. This is why God invented squirt bottles – I’m convinced so.

    What not to do: Don’t make a big deal out of it. Give a low, calm “Knock it off” or “Enough” with the squirt and eventually you’ll be able to make him stop with out the squirt.

    Another method is distraction, which would use the opposite vocal technique. High pitched excited – “Look, LOOK!!” turning and hurrying from the room like you’ve got a massive cool thing to try… “OMG, CCCHHHEEESSE!!!!!” while you grab a tasty from the treat container. By the time they get back to the window the offending whatever has passed.
    This is the method we use for the postal person. Our four guys see the post come to the front of the house and they run to the kitchen in the back. “Gooood boys!”

    Keep in mind all training takes time and perseverance.

  10. Hi again,

    Just wanted to give you some more/ better and useful advice than I gave before… and I’ve thought about it again and again over the last two days.

    1. Don’t let your neighbours stress you, your family and the family dog are top priority.

    2. We don’t know the whole story; you could be going through hell for all we know. Go take Kiltie to someone professional who can tell you an impartial opinion, or just talk to your vet. It could be that the bossy neighbours are influencing you against Kiltie’s quite normal behaviour? It could be that Kiltie is making everyone’s life hell? My advice is go talk to an expert and explain in full … as you haven’t done here and therefore got all sorts of answers!

    Kiltie is frustrated too; this frustration is being taken out on his toys bless him, you are also SO frustrated that you mailed here with your plea… bless you.

    You both must be in a twist.

    Kiltie sounds a strong spirited little love and I know your plea here means you are at your wits end… don’t despair, terriers are named in a descriptive sort of way… terror is their nature LOL… they give it and we love them for it.

    Sounds like you both need to understand each other.


  11. Stop assaulting your dog with water or any other means. No God did not invent squirt bottles (or shock collars or swift kicks) to abuse dogs with. If you find yourself assaulting your dog on a regular basis, I really do believe it is time to call Scottie Rescue for a rehoming. Terriers bark and growl. If you can’t handle it, don’t get a terrier.

  12. I’m sorry you are having this issue with your guy. My scottie shook his ball at noises (garbage disposal, dishwasher, dogs on tv) and growled while doing it. Yes, it’s cute and yes, it’s their “nature”, but if it is a problem then maybe he needs different rules. Does he know “leave it”? He can change his behavior, he’s smart. You might start with being outside with him when someone is walking by. Before the bark-object gets near, make him sit and stay. When the person nears, tell him to “leave it”. Make him sit and stay while the person passes, then give him a treat or reward along with lots of praise. It takes tons of practice, but he’ll learn the command “leave it”, and that’s really useful, but also he’ll learn patience. Be sure he gets a walk every day, also. Be firm but kind with him, don’t let him get up when you say sit and stay. And praise, praise, praise when he does what you want. Eventually it will work, it takes a long time to re-train a dog from a bad behavior. Water might interrupt the behavior, but it won’t teach him how to change the behavior. Good luck, give him a hug from me, as I miss my Piper every day, he died in January from TCC.

  13. Monica,
    #1. A Scotty is not, and never will be a Westie. I don’t know where you get your Scotty experience. I am on my third so I have a little. I have been around enough Westies to know….they aren’t enough dog for me. They are entirely too mild for my taste.
    #3 Scotties need firm guidance or they will rule the roost. Barking is a nuisance, have you ever heard a Scotty bark? Squirting a dog with water is not assault. She is not waterboarding her pet.
    #4 Terriers bark and growl, yes. They also urinate, are we supposed to let them run around barking, growling, and urinating wherever and whenever they please? It’s called structure.
    #5 I rule the roost at my house! I’m the boss, and if I’m a good boss, my babies will not only love me, they will respect me.
    #6 This nonsense about Scotty rescues….what are you talking about? Ai Ai Ai!!!!

    Dunki, I love that you trained your dogs that Mail people= snacktime. Good idea.

  14. Squirt bottles rule! I always make sure my Scotties never see me do it though! It never fails to stop the unwanted behavior. Water from Heaven!!

    1. You seem to relish it too. For an extra jolly time, why not follow-up with a swift kick in the head. Just for the fun of it.

  15. I love my dogs. I would never abuse them. I am so sorry for all abused dogs.

  16. Whoa, everybody.

    I just got back from my WordPress meetup and there’s major drama in the comments.

    I’ve got to disagree with you here, Monica. I would hardly call squirting “assault,” but then I’m in something of a conflict of interest situation as I’ve been known to whip out the squirt bottle myself on occasion.

    I also think that everyone — and Carol most of all — has Kiltie’s best interests at heart.

    Tegan is right that there’s probably some back story here that we don’t know.

    So, kumbaya, everyone, kumbaya.

  17. I use the squirt bottle to curb unwanted behavior in my Scotties. It has never failed to do so.

  18. Any type of assault on a dog (or child can be taken too far). What is a squirt? Your idea of a squirt and my idea of a squirt may be too very different things. The same goes for a “spanking”. Many people are very surprised when their dogs (or children) are taken away from them for what they believe to be and for what for them is very normal behavior. Terriers often end up in abusive homes, because the owners want to force these dogs to behave like “normal” dogs. It is better to encourage these people to give up their terrier and to get a breed more suitable to their lifestyle. My dominant Westie’s former owner now has a Cavalier King Charles and she is very happy. (I spoke with her, and she had the gall to tell me that Casey had been a well loved dog. This was the dog she decided to kill after a year because it barked too much.)

  19. My 10 month old, Bron, is walked mostly off lead in an area well away from roads. However the same area is popular with bike riders and they are not popular with Bron. She is good with commands unless there is a bike around. I have started using a trainer comprising of compressed air which is squirted well away from Bron, and which stops her in her tracks – something to do with the noise it makes. Believe me it works and doesn’t touch or harm a dog in any way. Well worth trying.

    1. I am going to look this up. Bridget also is not fond of dogs accompanying cyclists, joggers and skateboarders.

  20. Full disclosure: On the other hand, my sister who was an executive at the ASPCA for 10 years, feels I am too easy going on my dogs!

  21. Re: Bron and squirt can.
    Sorry, I should have mentioned the name of the product: it’s called Pet Corrector and the blurb on the side says this:
    “emits a blast of compressed air. Ideal for interuppting undesirable behaviours. Do ensure that you reward immediately the behaviour has ceased. ”
    I have used it twice now and today just held up my finger as a warning – it was enough. Brilliant product – bought online but can’t remember which site.

  22. Susan that sounds like something I could use when Amelia is barking nonstop in the back yard. Or maybe I should give it to the poor neighbors.
    I remember one day she was barking at the men resetting the electric transformer. Bark bark bark nonstop, then they go to reset it and sparks fly for some reason. She stopped barking and flew into the house as fast as she could. She was all hot stuff until the sparks flew. I’ll bet the air would work. She is not afraid of lightning or thunder but she is deathly afraid of fireworks.

  23. Squirting cats? Why squirt a cat? I have two cats with claws. To save my couch, I got that stuff that is sticky on both sides and put it on the couch legs. And I bought them a scratching post. Problem solved. (They lost interest in the couch quickly, and I took the sticky stuff off.)

    I just have a very hard time hitting an innocent animal with anything –my hand, water, a stick, a foot. I do seem to yell a lot “No barking! I said no barking. I will kill you. Stop the vicious barking!”

    1. First off, I would never ever declaw a cat. Now, that’s something I can agree is cruel.

      Secondly, the cats in your life must clearly be very different from mine. I have never once had a cat who displayed the slightest interest in scratching posts or boards, no matter how many we supplied. As for the sticky tape, the minute it came off the furniture, the cat was back scratching away. I just figure, you have to chose between perfect upholstery and cats.

      Where the squirt bottle really comes in handy, however, is for cats jumping on eating tables and kitchen counters, where ours have always wanted to parade all over.

      1. My cats are undiciplined. They go were they want. They are indoor cats whose nails are never clipped, so they may have more incentive to use a scratching pad than other cats are. The Westies harass them. I should get a squirt bottle for that!

  24. Some trainers say the human’s emotional state sets the tone for the dog – the way this human over reacted with her response to Ann’s simple question tells me that she’s teaching this scottie to do the same (without realizing it). jus’ sayin’

  25. Oh, my, my we have gone on walk-about haven’t we? I was pressed for time on my first comment so gave the cliff notes version… Hmmmm. Squirting vs. Yelling.

    Well, aggressive behavior at a barrier begins with a dog that believes he/she is in charge of the territory. Most dogs will vocalize if someone or thing approaches the boarder of the perceived territory, but to become unreasonably aggressive signals other issues. Dogs need leadership. In the wild the pack will have a canine leader…dogs in homes need people leaders.

    When a dog is wazzed out and strung up in aggression the worst thing to do is add energy to the situation. Yelling confirms that wazzing canine’s first impression: ‘There is DANGER out there and we should BARK as a PACK to ward it off.’ So, yelling adds negative energy to an already negative situation…and you get more negative as a result. Now, if you physically reach out to a dog having an aggression melt down you risk becoming the unintended target of aggression expression — that would be the use of teeth. Not being covered with fur leaves us vulnerable to such canine expressions. The squirt bottle (I’m not talking about a super soaker, high pressure hose here…I mean an average hosehold bottle that I use to dampen my hair and mist my plants.) acts as a tool to distract the dog from unreasonable aggression. The canine brain shifts from aggression to seeking. ‘What was that? Where did it come from? Will it happen again? What does it mean?’ My other suggestion of “LOOK! LOOK!” and running from the room does the same thing: it engages a different area of the brain. The SEEKING instinct can overwhelm the act of aggression everytime. It’s the way our mammialian brains are hardwired.

    Kiltie’s reaction to people beyond his the barrier may have be aggression driven, it may be (simply) frustration driven. Without further investigation we don’t know. Either way, his reaction causes concern… the first step is to distract his attention away from the window then give him something else to do. If the window is an issue – put the shade down if he barks. It won’t take him long to put the action and the result together. Or, if taking the view away isn’t an option, after a quick squirt to get his attention pull him into something that turns on his brain’s SEEKING behavior. You’re still winning the war if you can get him drawn away from his fixation.

    After you have this GGggrrrr thing under control, get some more information. Scottie’s can be seriously prey driven so they’re reaction to the “SQUIRREL!!!” factor might be a little over the top. They’re genetic lines are from dogs that were bred to remove vermin big and small – leaving most of them with an inflated sense of self. To lead a Scottie effectively is find a new kind of self confidence in yourself.

    Wishing you luck in your task.

  26. It’s just water! Water is not abusive.( Although my Scotties give me their nasty looks when they are in the tubby!)

  27. Tried the water squirt gun when Bron was much smaller – it worked twice then she thought it was a game and tried to catch the water.
    On the subject of cats, mine does pretty much what she is told except drinking from the bathroom taps which means hair in the washbasin and bath (muddy paws marks too sometimes). Must remember to keep the door shut always.

  28. An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a
    colleague who has been conducting a little research on this.
    And he actually bought me dinner simply because I stumbled upon it for him…
    lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanx for spending some time to discuss this matter here on your web

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