Seven small Scottish dog breeds

Westie sat on grass
(Image credit: Getty)

If you’re in the market for a little furry Caledonian friend or you simply want to find out what small Scottish dog breeds exist, you have landed in the right place. The allure of these ‘wee dugs’ as the Scots would say, lies not only in their charming appearances but also in the likable roles they play as companions, protectors, and playmates.

As centuries passed, these small breeds evolved, adapting to the challenges of the terrain and climate unique to Scotland, resulting in the creation of distinct breeds that are as much a part of Scotland's history as its castles and clans. Though they may be on the shorter side, these hardy small Scottish dog breeds could give the best dogs for hiking a run for their money.

Despite their mutual origin, each small Scottish dog breed holds its own set of traits and unique appearances that help us set them apart from one another. From the Shetland Sheepdog’s intelligence and elegance to the strong-willed and devoted Skye Terrier, there is a breed out there for everyone. So, stick with us to discover the diverse world of small Scottish dog breeds… 

Seven small Scottish dog breeds

1. Cairn Terrier 

Cairn Terrier

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The Cairn Terrier has roots tracing back to the picturesque Isle of Skye and the rugged landscapes of the Scottish Highlands. The Cairn’s ancestors are one of Scotland’s earliest working dogs, said to be responsible for ridding farmland cairns (rock piles) of pesky vermin.

Famous for their shaggy coats and bright personalities, Cairn Terriers are full of spunk and make brilliant companions for families and singles alike. These little adventurers are high-energy and always up for playtime with the best puppy toys, just note, they don’t enjoy being left home alone for long. 

2. West Highland White Terrier (Westie) 

West Highland White Terrier

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The modern West Highland White Terrier can be traced back to 19th-century Scotland, where Colonel Edward Donald Malcolm embarked on a deliberate breeding journey. Following a tragic hunting accident where one of his beloved dogs was mistaken for a fox, Colonel Malcolm focused on selectively breeding cream and white dogs from his Highland Terriers. This effort led to the creation of the White Poltalloch Terrier, resulting in the Westie we know today.

With their signature white coats and piercing eyes, Westies will bring bundles of joy to any household. They are active dogs who love to chase after things. Also known for their independence they can show touches of stubbornness but overall enjoy human company. Their compact size makes them well-suited for apartment living.

3. Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie) 

Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie)

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The Shetland Sheepdog's were once upon a time skilled herding dogs, which were compact Spitz-type breeds similar to today's Icelandic Sheepdog. With intelligence, agility, and a protective instinct, they were expert herders and guardians of livestock in the challenging terrain. Their small stature, thick coats, and adaptability equipped them to thrive in the harsh Shetland winters.

Shelties might be small, but their hearts are big. These gentle and affectionate dogs are known for their loyalty and agility. Their striking resemblance to mini Rough Collies makes them a popular choice among dog lovers.

4. Skye Terrier 

Skye Terrier

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Originating on the rugged Isle of Skye within the Inner Hebrides off Scotland's western coast, the Skye Terrier stands as one of Scotland's most ancient breeds. Like other terriers, the Skye was purposefully bred to get rid of vermin; in their case, this involved tackling badgers and otters. Their sturdy, short front legs were an asset in digging out these creatures from their burrows.

With their unique long coats and even tempers, Skye Terriers are a rare but charming breed. Despite their elegant appearance, they're true terriers at heart, displaying courage and loyalty. Their low exercise requirements make them suitable for less active households.

5. Scottish Terrier (Scottie) 

Scottish Terrier (Scottie)

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The exact origins of the Scottish Terrier, often referred to as the "Scottie," are not so clear, but they are believed to be rooted in the Scottish Highlands. These terriers were bred for their hunting and vermin control abilities. For centuries, Scottish hunters required compact and fearless dogs capable of pursuing common prey such as foxes, rats, and other pests into burrows.

The Scottie's distinctive silhouette and high-spirited personalities have captured hearts for generations. Their independent nature is balanced by their strong bond with their families. Scotties are known for their loyalty and protective instincts, making them excellent watchdogs.

6. Border Terrier 

Border Terrier

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Originating from the rugged and harsh hill country straddling the border between England and Scotland, known as 'The Border Country,' the Border Terrier's roots are deeply intertwined with the lives of farmers and shepherds. These terriers were essential in controlling the local fox population, which posed a threat to sheep farming in the region. 

Nowadays, a popular household canine, these hard working dogs are energetic, fun-loving and affectionate.

7. Dandie Dinmont Terrier 

Dandie Dinmont Terrier

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The Dandie Dinmont Terrier's origins can also be traced back to the Border Country. This breed was named after a character in Sir Walter Scott's novel Guy Mannering, where Dandie Dinmont was a jovial farmer. It's believed that the breed was developed by farmers and gypsies in the area to fulfill specific roles. Dandie Dinmont Terriers were used primarily for hunting and pest control, targeting animals like otters and badgers. 

Their distinct appearance and charming personality have made them a unique and beloved breed within the terrier family these days.

These loyal and loving small Scottish breeds remind us of Scotland's rugged beauty and timeless charm. If you're considering adopting one, rest assured you'll be welcoming a little piece of Scotland's heartwarming heritage into your family.

Jessica Downey
Staff Writer

With over a year of writing for PetsRadar, Jessica is a seasoned pet writer. She joined the team after writing for the sister site, Fit&Well for a year. Growing up with a lively rescue lurcher kindled her love for animal behavior and care. Jessica holds a journalism degree from Cardiff University and has authored articles for renowned publications, including LiveScience, Runner's World, The Evening Express, and Tom's Guide. Throughout her career in journalism she has forged connections with experts in the field, like behaviorists, trainers, and vets. Through her writing, Jessica aims to empower pet owners with accurate information to enhance their furry companions' lives.