Scottish Deerhound

Scottish Deerhound
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The Scottish Deerhound breed has already been known for hunting deer down as early as the 16th century. Due to his bravery and dignity, this dog has been recognized as “The Royal Dog of Scotland” and was owned only by noblemen. However, because of this restricted ownership, the breed has almost faced extinction a couple of times.

This dog is strong but gentle, and loyal but brave. But even with his dignified reputation, this dog isn’t so much about being prim and proper because he would surely love a good chase!

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessHigh
Exercise NeedsHighest

Dog Breed Group:Hound Dogs
Height:Generally 2 feet, 4 inches to 2 feet, 8 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight:Generally 75 to 110 pounds
Life Span:8 to 11 years

How royal is this “Royal Dog of Scotland?” Well, let’s just say that he can help a nobleman keep his life. It has been said that giving a Scottish Deerhound as a present can save you from being executed, but you can only do this if you are a nobleman, as only noblemen are allowed to claim ownership of this breed.

The breed is noble and loving, and is affectionate towards everyone, even strangers! Because of this, he might not do a good job at being a watchdog. Yes, his size might be intimidating enough to some, but he’s just so nice that he might even jump with enthusiasm at the sight of an intruder.

Training this breed is not a breeze and would require patience from you. They would appreciate praise and incentive and would not respond favorably to harshness and aggression. Training him should be consistent and should be done firmly but tenderly at the same time. Your dog can be a very obedient and loyal dog if trained well.

The breed stands from 28 to 32 inches tall at the shoulder, and can weigh 75 to 110 pounds, depending on the gender. The breed’s coat color is usually dark blue-gray. However, they may also come in an assortment of colors such as light gray, dark gray, sandy red, or red fawn.

The Scottish Deerhound can live with little children, but it might not be a good idea to try and make them playmates, since the dog’s size may cause him to knock down little kids accidentally. The breed is best suited for older children who already know how to deal with dogs. This dog can also live peacefully with smaller pets indoors, but might not be able to fight the urge to chase after them if the smaller pets do run.

Main Highlights
  • The Scottish Deerhound was known as the “Royal Dog of Scotland.”
  • The breed is a gentle one, and is affectionate with family, friends, and strangers.
  • Training this dog might not be so easy. Praise, incentives, and a gentle manner would work best in training him.
  • Dogs from this breed usually have dark blue-gray hair, but can also come in light gray, dark gray, sandy red, or red fawn.
  • The breed might not be suitable for homes with toddlers and would live best with older children.
Breed History

As early as the 16th century, the Scottish Deerhound has been known to be used in hunting deer down. But other than that, nothing much is sure about the exact origins of the breed. The breed has been called with different names like Irish Wolfdogs, Highland Deerhounds, Rough Greyhounds, and Scottish Greyhounds. Aside from taking down deer, they were also known for hunting wolves and stags.

There had been very high regard for this breed probably because of his hunting prowess, and this led him to be considered as the Royal Dog of Scotland. The extent of this breed’s royalty can be seen in his ability to save a nobleman’s life. No, he’s not going to attack the executioners and drag the man away from them. But, say, if you’re a nobleman who has been sentenced to death, just present a deerhound as a gift and you’re pretty much safe from that death sentence. Unfortunately, you have to strictly be a nobleman to have this option.

Since only noblemen could have a claim to this breed and ownership has been limited, there were a number of times that the Scottish Deerhound had almost come to extinction. The second half of the 1700s had been very challenging for the breed. Fortunately, by 1820s, Archibald and Duncan McNeill have been nice enough to help the breed get back on its feet. The Scottish Deerhound has also reached America, and in 1886, the American Kennel Club acknowledged the breed, of which a dog named Bonnie Robin was the first one to be registered.

The breed faced another hiccup and decreased in number during the World War I because of the breakup of estates in Scotland and England. Because of this, the breed became uncommon again, and owned only by a small number of people. Up until now, the breed is still relatively rare, but more people are starting to become aware of its wonderful traits.


Generally, the males of the breed stand at around 30 to 32 inches tall at the shoulder, while the females stand from 28 inches and above. The males weigh 85 to 110 pounds, while the females weigh 75 to 95 pounds.

Personality and Character

Perhaps the Scottish Deerhound has been considered as the Royal Dog of Scotland not only because he is great at hunting, but also because he is dignified. He’s like the Prince Charming of dogs. He is strong and brave, but he is gentle and loyal, with a particular quietness which should not be mistaken for meekness.

Although the breed is all about these great characteristics, these traits do not just appear without some work and preparation. The dog’s personality is still determined by his genes, training, and exposure to other dogs and people. Usually, the better puppies are those who don’t act aggressively towards other puppies in his litter, but at the same time, they’re not the ones who seem to be anti-social. If possible, it’s best to meet the pup’s parents to see their dominant traits because these usually reveal the characteristics that the puppy will have when he’s older.

Socialization early in his puppyhood will be beneficial to the Scottish Deerhound. In order for him to be the best dog that he can be, it is important to introduce him and let him get used to different people and experiences. Letting him be with people and other dogs regularly will help him become sociable and well-adjusted.

Health and Potential Problems

The Scottish Deerhound is a generally healthy breed but as with any other breed, there are particular health issues that he is prone to. Your dog will not necessarily eventually have these diseases, but it still important to become aware of these concerns.

  • Gastric Dilatation Volvulus – This condition is more commonly known as “bloat.” This usually occurs in large dogs. Bloat happens when the stomach is filled with food, liquid, or gas, causing the stomach to expand. This is a dangerous condition because once the stomach expands, it puts pressure on other organs, causing laborious breathing, limited blood flow to his stomach lining, and a tear in his stomach wall. Signs of bloat are restlessness, drooling, a swollen stomach, and anxiety. If this continues, the dog may collapse, be short of breath, or feel weak. The chances of bloating in dogs are increased by giving your dog one large meal a day, having a lot of strenuous physical activities right after eating, stress, as well as eating and drinking too much. If bloating happens to your dog, it is best to take him to the vet to be treated accordingly.
  • Hypothyroidism – It is the condition wherein the body does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Symptoms include hair loss, weight gain or obesity, aggression, and fearfulness. This condition is usually treated by hormonal pills, and medication has to be maintained for the rest of the dog’s life.
  • Allergies – Allergies are not uncommon in dogs. These allergies can be categorized into 3. First, there are allergies that are caused by certain foods, and can be addressed by avoiding feeding the dog with those foods. Second, there are allergies that are triggered by a contact with certain substances such as but not limited to dog shampoo and flea powders. These allergies can be addressed by keeping the dog’s environment free from the chemicals or substances that trigger the allergy. Third, there are inhalant allergies that are caused by allergens present in the air such as dust and pollen. Among these categories, Scottish Deerhounds are most susceptible to inhalant allergies. These can be addressed depending on the kind of allergen, and treatment may include a change in the dog’s diet, an intake of certain medicines, and a change in the dog’s surroundings.
  • Osteosarcoma – This bone cancer mostly affects large breeds. An early symptom of this disease is a lame limb, but usually, an x-ray is still needed to pinpoint the cause of this lameness. The treatment of this condition is usually aggressive, which can involve amputation and chemotherapy.
  • Factor VII Deficiency – This condition is characterized by excessive bleeding from small wounds and surgeries, and this excessive bleeding can be fatal for the dog. This condition is an abnormality in the genes, and is usually present at It cannot be reversed. There is a DNA test available to know if a dog has Factor VII Deficiency.
  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy – This disease develops when the heart cannot contract normally because of thinning muscles. Because of this, the heart has to work more laboriously, and this overexertion of effort causes enlargement of the heart. Dogs affected by this condition are prone to heart failure, which is characterized by loss of weight, weakness of the body, poor appetite, and depression. They are also prone to collapsing, breathing difficulty, and enlargement of the abdomen. This disease cannot be cured but you can give your dog some ease by letting it rest, providing it with proper diet, and giving it appropriate medication.
  • Cystinuria – this disorder is brought about by an abnormality in the dog’s genes, and is characterized by the inability to reabsorb the amino acid Cystine. Because of this, kidney stones may form, which can dangerously block the urinary tract. This is more common in male dogs. This condition can be treated by a change in diet, surgery, and medication. Dogs who are affected by this condition should not be bred anymore.
  • Anesthesia Sensitivity – The breed can be sensitive to anesthesia and other drugs which can be fatal for the dog. It is said that the condition can be attributed to the low percentage of body fat in Scottish Deerhounds. If the Deerhound is given a regular dose for dogs of the same size, the dog may die because the “regular” dose might be too high for him. Choosing a veterinarian who is knowledgeable of the breed’s sensitivity is important, or at least make sure to make your dog’s veterinarian aware of your dog’s sensitivity so that drugs will be safely administered.
Care Features

The breed is a generally calm one, but he would still appreciate running and strolling. He would also love playing chase. We say chase and not fetch because usually, he’s not the best dog when it comes to giving you back whatever it is you made him chase.

The Scottish Deerhound is a giant breed, therefore, exercise must be introduced slowly to the puppy in order for him to be safe from bone and joint damage. A puppy of this breed will benefit from an access to a wide yard where he can run around in whenever he wants to. You can already start walking him at 2 months old and then slowly increase the distance he takes up by the time he turns 3 months old. Jumping and running should be avoided until he is two years old.

When he is indoors, it is best to puppy-proof your house so that there won’t be too much mess or damage while still allowing him to exercise and be playful. Staying in a crate for too long can harm his joints, so if you’re not around to oversee your puppy’s activities, it is best to just keep him confined using a tall dog gate.

When it comes to training, handling this breed can be a challenge, and would require you to become patient with him. Although he loves being praised for commendable behavior, he would rather do as he pleases by default. If treated harshly, his feelings can get hurt. Punishment or instilling fear in him is not the way to go when training. He would best respond favorably to food incentives, praise, and play. Firmness and consistency are also important when training him. He can be a very obedient dog with proper training.

When walking your dog, it is important to keep him on a leash, or his hunting instinct might lead him to prey on a small animal upon seeing it. Again, he loves chasing, and once it starts, it’s hard to talk sense to him and make him follow your commands.

Feeding Schedule

Recommended daily amount: 3 to 4 cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The Scottish Deerhound has a thick coat which can measure from 3 to 4 inches long. His coat is wiry and it served to protect the breed from rough terrains whenever he hunted. However, fur on the head, belly, and chest is usually softer than the rest of the coat. The breed may have a mixture of wiry and silky hair, depending on the climate. The breed’s coat color is usually dark blue-gray. However, they may also come in an assortment of colors such as light gray, dark gray, sandy red, or red fawn.

If you want a dog who only seasonally sheds, this breed might not be for you. He sheds consistently within the year. It grooming his coat, you would have to brush him with a wire slicker brush at least once a week in order to keep the coat healthy. After that, it would be better to brush the coat again with a “greyhound” comb this time to keep the coat tangle-free. You may also remove long or light-colored strands of hair from his ears by plucking the strands with your fingers.

The bathing schedule isn’t really strict as you would only have to bathe him as needed in order to get rid of accumulated dust, dirt, or odor. If you regularly brush his coat, he would only need a couple of baths a year.

Aside from grooming his coat, it is also important to groom his teeth and nails. Brushing his teeth every day would be best to prevent gum diseases, but brushing at least twice or thrice a week will do. When it comes to nail care, you would have to trim his nails regularly if they don’t wear down naturally.

The breed’s floppy ears make him prone to ear infections more than others, therefore it is best to clean them once a week. Using a cotton ball with a prescribed cleaning solution from the vet, wipe dirt off of the ear, but do not go further than the parts you can see. Sticking cotton buds deeper into the ear might damage it. Signs of an ear infection include bad smell coming from the ear, redness, or your dog’s frequent ear-scratching.

For grooming to be a smooth activity for both you and your dog, it is best to get your dog used to be brushed and checked even when he’s just a puppy. Your dog can be sensitive to people touching his feet, so it’s best to get him used to his paws being handled at an early age. You can make grooming a fun experience for him by praising him and giving him incentives.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

The breed can live and get along with children, but it might not mean that he can also be a good playmate for them. This dog loves activities that can be more strenuous than what little kids can take. He would live best with children who are older, and who know how to mingle with dogs. This breed is not too patient with toddlers who are prone to poking the dog or pulling his coat or tail or basically just any part of his body that can be pulled. Being a big dog would also mean that he might knock little kids over even when he did not intend to.

For safety, make sure that before interacting with dogs, children have already been taught how to do it right. Also, in order to prevent biting, pulling, or any kind of injury, little kids should always be overseen when they are around dogs. The kid must know that he or she should not approach a dog during sleep or meals.

The breed can live amicably with smaller pets inside the house. However, because of his love for the chase, he might come chasing after them if he sees them running around, and it might be hard to stop him once he starts the chase game.

The Scottish Deerhound is a brave and strong dog, but will surely fill your home with love. He is a sociable dog, and will love being around your friends, familiar and unfamiliar alike. Training him might be challenging but it will definitely worth it because he can very obedient and loyal.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.