Scottish Terrier Terror

The last few weeks have been difficult as Abby has decided that she will only be nice to dogs she currently knows or to unneutered males.  This is making walks more like traversing enemy territory.  One must scout what is coming around the bend and try to get Abby’s attention focussed on something or someone else until the dog moves on.

She is really good at hiding her intentions.  Other owners will say, “But she is wagging her tail.”  I have to tell them that it is not wagging but a tail held tight with excitement that is moving back and forth as she tries to hold in the tension.  The problem with her attitude is that she gets so excited that she will turn and bite anything.  That anything is usually me, my jeans, and my coat.  I have holes in my pants and coat and a nice scar on my leg.

Abby’s behaviour has made walks more tense.  When a new dog comes along, I try to stay relaxed and make sure that the dog does not come too close.  I also try to walk with dogs (and owners) that she has had a problem with. This usually works as they are now considered a bit of a pack so she accepts them without issue.

She is always on a leash now as I cannot trust her.  The last time I let her off, she went after a lovely, old Labrador who was just hanging out as all the owners chatted.  Everything was quiet and then Abby just looked up, saw this dog (even though we had been standing there for about 10 minutes) and just ran at it and tried to bite it.  Thank goodness it was wearing a wool sweater to protect it. There was no damage done but I could no longer trust her.

Now, the biggest worry is about off-leash dogs.  Dogs will run up and their owners shout, “Don’t worry.  He (She) is friendly.” That leaves me shouting, “But my dog is not.”  People with large dogs just say that is okay. They don’t realize that I am hanging on to what I can only describe as a tasmanian devil with larger teeth.

Ann agreed to babysit Abby for me for a couple of days.  Before I was to go away, Ann and I met for the regular weekend walk.  Unfortunately, Abby saw a dog that just set her off.  She turned into a screaming, whirling dervish.  Ann was stunned at the level of aggression that was displayed.  I knew she was thinking, “Uh, I have to watch that crazy dog?” (I ended up not going away so she did not have worry after all.)

This behaviour is challenging.  Abby was socialized and loved to play at the park with all dogs.  I am starting to retrain her from the beginning to get her to relearn proper etiquette and that I am the boss (wish me luck with that one).  I am also considering a muzzle.

Wish me luck!

Abby and her bestie Bridget:

Dreaming they are mountain goats.
Dreaming they are mountain goats.


18 thoughts on “Scottish Terrier Terror

  1. I started having exactly the same problem with W around the time she turned one. Luckily she’s not a biter, but it has made walks nervewracking. She’s now nearly 3 and is starting to mellow a tiny bit, but things are still tense and difficult, and she sounds like a daemon when she’s on the lead and sees another dog. I’ll be really interested to see how you get on! Good luck.

  2. I am having a similar problem with my 2-year old scottie Gordon. He is fine with most dogs but some others, he just won’t get along with. Our new neighbours have a very sweet border collie named Mozart that has become Gordon’s nemesis, I just have to mention his name for Gordon to go into mad rage. I use this when Gordon refuses to come inside, pretending that I’m talking to Mozart inside the house, it works like magic.

  3. I have had the same problem with my Lulu and Flora (I believe Lulu is Ann’s Bridget’s mum) – when they were together I had a dog hunting pack on my hands and walks were ALWAYS a challenge!! I had the same problem too with off-leash dogs coming at me full speed while my two dogs were snarling and chomping ready for the chase hunt/kill – with people saying “oh don’t worry she is friendly” and me saying “mine aren’t!!!” – one night we had coyotes in our neighbourhood and sure enough Lulu and Flora were ready for the attack. Thankfully I had my daughter with me – and Scotties are easy to lift. Each of us lifted one dog – (that’s our usual answer when they are out of control – but like you said it’s hard when they are nipping/biting).
    I adopted beautiful Baxter after Lulu passed away a couple of years ago and he was very social and lovely and I thought he could teach Flora a few things about good manners – alas – when he was about six months old – it went the other way around – Flora somehow has taught him to be dog-aggressive and now walks are a nightmare once again! I approached my neighbour and her dog “Sport” who Baxter used to love, and told her “I am with the nice dog today!” and as he approached Sport, immediately bit him on the bottom! *sigh
    It’s hard with TWO crazy Scotties – sometimes if I don’t have a walking partner, I will walk them one at a time, or chance having two of them together (Flora is a bit less aggressive in her older age so I will lift Baxter and keep Flora close to my legs) but definitely it’s not an enjoyable experience! Or I just end up not walking them at all and playing in the house with them!
    If anybody has any tips I would LOVE to hear them. I”m not sure what to do.

  4. After a life of terriers, I have only had one Scottie in the past that showed this kind of aggression. It was a dog that came to me later in his life and so my task was trying to correct the impressions that had already been made. I made it my business to try and learn as much as I could about aggression and its causes and how to modify those behaviors.
    I don’t think I ever had problems recognizing what would set him off or the signals that he was upset–for some people this is the hurdle–but preventing what came next became a full-time job.
    I relied on these books to help me gain insight into the mind of an aggressive dog: 1. Aggression in Dogs: Practical Management, Prevention & Behaviour Modification; 2. Fight!: A Practical Guide to the Treatment of Dog-dog Aggression; and
    3. Click to Calm: Healing the Aggressive Dog,
    I also love the book Bones Would Fall From the Sky by Suzanne Clothier. I don’t think I understood the sometimes fragile psyche of an aggressive dog. Parts of the book brought tears to my eyes. Hers is a relationship-based method of training. (She has a website with a wealth of information on this subject.)

    Anyway, using these tools, I made progress, but I couldn’t guarantee my boy in every situation. I suspect that the fault was wholly my own. It isn’t a small thing to turn a dog around and I was sick not once, but twice during this period. While going through chemo, a dog fight intervention went wrong, and I ended up in the hospital for four days on IV antibiotics due to sepsis from a bite. (What was that smell? Whoa! It’s my arm!) Everyone advised me to lose the dog, but I stubbornly persisted. After all, if I couldn’t convey calm, wasn’t the fault my own? It’s just too easy to blame the dog for our failings.

    But not really having the energy at that precise moment to try harder, I enlisted the help of drugs for my frightened and bite-prone boy. He was on the lowest dose of fluoxetine available, but it made a tremendous difference in his attitude and behavior. Training was easier as he felt relaxed. We had a much stronger relationship and he clearly trusted me, which was no small thing. He could be distracted with a click or a word–even when another dog was coming at him, teeth bared. He knew I was there to support him, and, more importantly, he was less afraid and had more confidence in himself. (You’d think confidence wouldn’t be the problem, right? But so often it is.)

    I can’t say this is the right path for everyone. It might not have been the perfect path for my Scottie. I only know that it made our already complicated lives more peaceful at a time when that was exactly what we needed. I sometimes worry that perhaps I cheated a bit to get to where we needed to be. But finally my boy was happy and calm. The way I had always imagined he would be.

    Bless you and good luck.

    1. Thank you for all the good information. My 6 yr old Scot started bullying other dogs at the dog park around the age of one and now I’m embarrassed to say many people cross to the other side of the street when they see me walking Peat. Just started reading “Bones Would Fall from the Sky”. I think I may try one of the other books you recommended as well.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am glad the treatment worked for your little one. Your dedication to resolving the issue is to be commended. I can’t imagine trying to deal with this and chemo at the same time. Thanks again for sharing.

  6. Thanks for sharing your experiences, all. I have a “Sweetie Wheatie” and a Brindle. They’re opposites when it comes to other dogs. Ceilidh, the Wheaten gets frantically excited when encountering other dogs / people, etc. Bella is good with people but usually very blasé, but is in predictable with other dogs. Some other dog owners just see one apparently very friendly dog and ignore that I am trying to steer both dogs away. It doesn’t seem to occur that a “pack” can consist of a Jekyll and Hyde. Sometimes Bella will seem tie but suddenly turn on the other and usually larger dog. She especially seems to pick Pit Bulls to go after. She was a rescue and had bites that the fosters claimed they hadn’t noticed. But during her life with us the issue mainly seems to ocurrent when she’s on a leash. I’m also not sure how much is set off by Ceilidh’s excitement.

    I don’t really have any suggestions. It’s too bad other dig owners aren’t more mindful that other dogs may have issues and that the owners of small dogs aren’t always afraid that their larger dogs are going to attack but that they’re trying to prevent their own dogs from starting something. Best of luck with Abby.

  7. My Scottie Angus is a troublemaker. Yes, you heard that right. Shocking that a Scottie named Angus could be a feisty, cheeky bugger, huh? BOL! The Scottie behavior toward other dogs that is described above is just typical of Scotties. You can’t really break them of it. I’ve had 3 in my life time, and its just part of their personality.

  8. My 11 year old Wheat Scottie embraces all 4 legged animals but, not strangers. It has always been a challenge to introduce him to new people. But, I have developed methods over the years that seem to work well for him. Basically no touch, no talk, no talk, no eye contact.
    Having said that, My 3 year old rescued Yorkie poo. Does not like other dogs. Walking was just as you describied with Abby, I began to feel the dread and I am sure that he did too. I enrolled him in a socialization class for a year in and half and it really worked. One night a week we would meet with the class and our trainer would have us run drills for an hour and half. We would line up with 25- 30 dogs in close proximity, criss crossing in front of each other, going over jumps but always following the leader, and always moving. We would take breaks away from the group and then get called back in to line up. It worked brilliantly! Now whenever Buster sees an approaching dog on our walks, it’s no big deal. I guess he wore himself out on being aggressive when he couldn’t tackle 25- 30 dogs all at once. I recommend looking in your area for a good trainer who works with socializing groups. It was a great experience and we were all there for the same reason, so you feel a lot less critical about yourself and your dog.

  9. Prozac saved Theo. He was a very disturbed rescue. He was a biter. 20 mg Prozac and he can walk, be groomed and settles down quickly after seeing another dog. Even so the vet has labeled him dangerous which keeps me from getting him groomed there. I drive 30 miles to a groomer but it is worth it.

  10. I have a Westie (male) and Scottie (Female). Most affectionate loving dogs you will ever find UNTIL another dog comes around. Gus goes into a blue haze and Bonnie eggs him on…gettem Gus, killem. I have to pick Gus up and put him in the “thunder hold”. That is under my arm with my hand on his chest. Nothing else works. We took him to a dog social class when he was 3-6 months old. He would routinely go after the other dogs if they looked at him wrong. He was a total outlaw. The trainer said to use a squirt bottle on him every time he misbehaved. It was hilarious – he left class soaking wet and ready to fight. He was neutered at 12 months. I think it made him worse. He does what I say because I am the pack leader. When I am gone he wears himself out patrolling all day and night along our fence. My wife said it would be funny if not for the fact he gets no rest. The minute I return from a trip he goes to sleep for two days on my pillow – yes he sleeps on my pillow with me at night. The Scottie is a priss pot – cheerleader. Gets him in trouble and then laughs at him. She thinks circles around him.

  11. Our Scottie Annie has always been a little bit grumpy when she is sleeping. If she is asleep and you touch her she is like a snake, with no warning she will attack you. A growling biting wild animal!!! She is 8 yes old now and about a year ago her skin started getting worse than it was, more dry itchy spots, and she was not acting herself. Really grumpy and aggressive. Our vet said…let’s check her thyroid… I said.. What??? we did and her thyroid was wayyyy off. We have her on thyroid meds and her whole demeanor is so much better. She is so much happier!!! I’m not saying she still doesn’t growl at us when she is sleeping… She is still a Scottie!! Lol.
    Maybe this can help someone else and their Scottie!!

    Anissa and Annie from Oklahoma

  12. Sorry to everyone that owns an aggressive Scottie ..I am blessed with the perfect Scottie Hamish .. he is very well behaved all the time ,he has so many mates and the whole neighbourhood love him . He is nearly 2 and I could not have wished for a more gorgeous loving loyal and gentle friend .

  13. Re Anissa Alcorn’s comment:
    Good point!
    I neglected to say that my boy also suffered from hypothyroidism and we addressed that with medication and regular testing. Nearly all of our dogs have had this problem in their later years. It really does up the grumpy ante in a big way. Always best to test and be sure that isn’t the underlying issue. It didn’t solve our problem with aggression, but he felt better.

  14. I wholly identify. My Theo was much worse however 20 mgs of Prozac brought him and me redemption. He is not as difficult as Abby is now, he can’t be trusted and does need firmness and avoidance techniques.

  15. It’s so good to read about all these ferocious Scotties. My first Scottie was a puppy mill rescue. We thought her aggression was from poor socialization and living in a cage. But now we have Peat, well loved from puppy hood, socialized and basic obedience trained. I can tell sometimes he’s a little fearful of the big dogs but he’s also a bully when he thinks he can get away with it. Especially to happy, friendly puppies. Walking is always a bit of training in progress.

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