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Immortalised in a statue in Edinburgh, the most famous dog of this breed was called 'Greyfriars Bobby'. The statue was erected after the little dog, originally just named 'Bobby', spent 14 years mourning at the graveside of his master in the Greyfriars graveyard, after he had died. When old age took the dog in 1872, a local gentlewoman named Lady Bourdett Coutts was so impressed with the dogs' loyalty and devotion; she had the statue of him commissioned to commemorate him.
There are various versions of the history of the Skye terrier. It was before accepted that the Skye Terrier's origins are connected with a centuries old shipwreck of a Spanish ship in the waters around the coast of the Isle of Skye. It is reputed that some of the survivors were Maltese dogs and when crossed with local terrier types, the result was the offspring that would go on to create generations of the dog we know now as the Skye Terrier.
However in text written prior to the shipwreck, the writer describes a dog fitting the description of the Syke Terrier meaning that they could have existed long before the Maltese Dog survivors of the shipwreck. No one knows for sure the exact origins of this little dog, but it is likely that somewhere along the line, not only have Maltese Dogs played a part in the development, but also other short legged breeds such as the Welsh Corgi. It is likely that they were developed for the tasks undertaken by most terrier breeds - ratting and hunting, especially when their quarry has gone to ground.
The breed was not recognised by the Kennel Club until 1993, and since then had had the somewhat dubious honour of joining the KC list of 'vulnerable native breeds'. This means that fewer than 300 pups are registered annually with only 44 pups being registered in 2011. This was a slight rise in the numbers registered from the year before. It is thought that unless action is taken very soon, this little dog may in fact become extinct.
Average height to withers: Males up to 10 inches and females slightly less at up to 9.5 inches.
Average weight: Males may weigh up to 11kg, with females being slightly less.
The delightful little Skye Terrier is a long and low slung dog, with short legs and a straight back leading into a tail which is held level to the body. The head is quite long and the ears can be either erect or folded, but either way they are covered in heavy feathering. In the erect eared dogs, the hair falls between the ears, forming a 'fringe' of hair which covers most of the face. They have a moderate beard covering also. The coat is double, with a shorter undercoat and a longer, straight over coat. The coat colour comes in many shades of fawn, cream, grey or black, often with darker points and on occasion, white markings on the feet or chest. The parting on the head, continues down the centre of the dogs back down to the tail and hangs in curtains down either side of the dogs body. The overall dog should look elegant and have an overall body length to height ration of 2:1.
The Skye Terrier is more serious, dignified, and quieter than most other terriers. One of the few terriers who are laid back and easy to please indoors, the Skye Terrier will require at least one walk a day, and as a very happy dog, will like to play at any time of the day. Once outside, however, it is a fearless and courageous breed and will give chase to anything that runs. With this in mind, it is probably best to keep this dog on a lead unless you have a reliable recall in place or it is being exercised in a safe and well fenced area. They can become quite dominant little dogs, especially if they are not socialised very well as youngsters, and caution should be exercised if they live with or are around smaller creatures, for example rabbits and cats. This socialisation is important if they are to live with children and some Skye Terriers may not be suited to living with very young children who cannot understand what they can and cannot do with the dog. Because of this dominant and sometimes stubborn trait, they need a confident leader that they can trust and respect. With this, they can be intensely loyal to his family pack, enjoying a lot of attention and thriving on contact with people. It is not a breed that likes to be left alone for prolonged periods of time.
They respond well to training, but can be very single minded about what they do and don't want to learn! But with patience and firm, consistent but kind training, the Skye Terrier will come through and develop into a well rounded dog that the whole family can love.
The average Skye Terrier can live up until the age of around 15 years. Being a dog with short legs and a long body, the owner must always be aware when they are climbing up or down the stairs or jumping off furniture etc. In addition, in pups they may display signs of a disorder called 'Skye Limp'. This is caused by damaged to the growth plates in the bones, and can be caused by over exerting a young dog. This can lead to bowed or deformed legs, leading to issues in later life such as rheumatism and difficulty in its gaits.
Degenerative Disc Disease is seen in around 10% of all Skye Terrier and is a chronic and very painful disease of the spine, leading to stiff and painful movements for the dog. The owner needs to prevent movements such as the ones described above with regards to jumping off furniture, cars etc to prevent further injury. This is a condition which may require surgery and/or medication for the duration.
The long and straight coat of this dog is surprisingly easy to maintain as it seems to resist tangling. As such, a thorough grooming once a week should be all that is needed. Resist from over bathing unless the coat is exceptionally dirty. The long hair between the pads of the feet should also be trimmed back if possible.