Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Skye Terrier
Average Cost to keep/care for a Skye Terrier
The Skye Terrier was immortalised when a stature was erected of Greyfriars Bobby in Edinburgh. This little dog mourned his owners’ passing for 14 years by lying at his graveside. They are small dogs with short legs being longer in the body than they are tall. Sadly, breed numbers have fallen over recent times which means they have been placed on The Kennel Club's list of vulnerable native breeds. Anyone wishing to share their homes with a Skye Terrier would need to register their interest with breeders for the pleasure of doing so because so few well-bred puppies are registered with The Kennel Club every year.
The actual origins of the Skye Terrier remain a bit of a mystery with various versions on how the breed first came about. Some people believe they came about when a Spanish ship went aground along the coast of the Isle of Skye and that Maltese dogs survived the shipwreck. These dogs were crossed with local terrier breeds and the result was the foundation stock for the Skye Terriers we see today. However, there are records of similar dogs existing way before the shipwreck occurred. What is for sure is that the Maltese did play a part in the development of the Skye Terrier along with other breeds like the Welsh Corgi.
The dogs seen today have not changed that much from the dogs of days long past when the breed was known as the Clydesdale Terrier, the Fancy Skye Terrier, the Silky Skye Terrier, the Glasgow Terrier and the Paisley Terrier. Queen Victoria was a big fan of the breed having bred them for many years in her kennel. This saw these charming dogs becoming a popular choice throughout her reign.
Skye Terriers were bred to hunt vermin and to go "to ground" in the pursuit of their quarry, a job these little dogs proved to be excellent at. The breed was finally recognised by The Kennel Club in 1993, but their numbers have remained low which has seen the Skye Terrier being placed on The Kennel Club's list of vulnerable native breeds. As such anyone wishing to share their homes with a Skye Terrier would need to register their interest with breeders for the pleasure of doing so.
Height at the withers: Males 23 - 25 cm, Females 23 - 25 cm
Average weight: Males 8.5 - 10.5 kg, Females 8.5 - 10.5 kg
The Skye Terrier maybe short in stature, but they are dignified, elegant dogs that have a lot of presence about them with the long, flowing coats. They are twice as long as they are tall and when they move, it seems as if they float. They have powerful, long heads with a slight stop and strong muzzle. Their noses are black and their eyes are a dark brown being medium in size and closely set on a dog's face. Skye Terriers always have a keen, alert and intelligent expression in their eyes.
They can have either pricked or dropped ears and when they are pricked, they are nicely feathered and small. However, when a dog has dropped ears, they lie close to a dog's head and are larger. The Skye Terrier has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Their necks are slightly crested and long with dogs having broad shoulders, deep chests and short, well-muscled front legs.
A Skye Terrier's body is low and long with dogs having nice level backs and oval, deep and long ribcages. Loins are short and hindquarters are full, well developed and strong being nicely angulated. Back legs are well muscled, straight and short and a Skye's front feet are bigger than their back ones, but both have thick pads and strong nails. Their tails are long, nicely feathered which dogs carry raised when excited or alert and lower when resting or relaxed.
When it comes to their coat, the Skye Terrier boasts having a double coat that consists of a short, soft, woolly and close lying undercoat and a moderately long, straight, flat and harsh outer coat. The hair on a dog's head is shorter and much softer falling nicely over their forehead and eyes without interfering with their vision. The hair on the side of their faces and around their ears forms a fringe which adds to a Skye's unique look. The accepted breed colours are as follows:
Skye Terriers are renowned for being tenacious, tough with a passion for digging and barking. Although very affectionate towards everyone in a household when kept as a family pet, they form very strong bonds with one person and are very much a "one man, one dog" characters. They can be a little "off" with younger children which in short means they are best suited to households where the children are older and who therefore know how to behave around dogs.
They are charismatic little dogs and they love nothing more than to be involved in everything that goes on around them. However, they are naturally wary of people they have never met before, but rarely would a Skye Terrier show any sort of aggression towards a stranger, preferring to keep their distance and bark to let their owners know someone’s about.
It's really important for these dogs to be well socialised from a young age so they grow up to be confident, outgoing mature dogs. Their socialisation has to include introducing them to lots of new situations, noises, people, other animals and dogs once they have been fully vaccinated. It's also crucial for their training to start early too and it has to be consistent throughout a dog's life. A Skye is never happier than when they know their place in the pack and who they can look to for direction and guidance. If they don't know who is the alpha dog in a household, they may quickly take on the role of dominant dog which can make them harder to live with and handle.
Skyes are typical of the terrier breed, although they tend to be calmer than most. However, they can be wilful and stubborn at times which is why they need to be handled with a firm, yet gentle hand so they understand who is the alpha dog in a household. They do not like to be left on their own for long periods of time and as such they are best suited to households where at least one person usually stays at home when everyone else is out of the house or a dog might start to suffer from separation anxiety.
The Skye Terrier is a very smart dog and a quick learner. The downside to this is they are just as quick to pick up bad habits as they are the good. Their training has to begin early and it has to be consistent and always fair throughout a dog's life so they understand what owners expect of them. Skye Terriers are never happier than when they are given something to do which is why they are so amenable to learning new things.
The key to successfully training a Skye Terrier is to make their training as interesting as possible and to avoid too much repetition. It's also a good idea to keep training sessions short which helps dogs stay more focussed on what it’s being asked of them, bearing in mind that the more intelligent a dog is, the faster they get bored. It's also important to show dogs a lot of patience bearing in mind that Skye Terriers do boast a bit of a stubborn streak in them, much like many other terrier breeds.
They do not answer well to harsh correction or any sort of heavy handed training methods, but they do respond extremely well to positive reinforcement which always brings the best out of these intelligent and quick witted dogs, especially when there are high value rewards involved. However, care has to be taken not to give too many food rewards because Skye Terriers are prone to gaining a lot of weight far too easily.
Skye Terriers are known to be very good around children although they tend to be a little too high-spirited around smaller kids. As such they are best suited to households where the children are slightly older and who therefore know how to behave around dogs. They are not the best choice for families with very young children and any interaction between toddlers and a dog should always be well supervised by an adult to make sure playtime does not get too boisterous which could end up with someone being knocked over and hurt, albeit by accident.
When dogs have been well socialised from a young enough age, they generally get on well with other dogs they meet and if they have grown up with a family cat in a household, they usually get on well together. However, a Skye Terrier would think nothing of chasing off any other cats they encounter because they would see them as fair game. Care has to be taken when they are around any smaller animals and pets because they boast quite a high prey drive as such any contact is best avoided.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Skye Terrier is between 12 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
The Skye Terrier is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these energetic, intelligent dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, Skye Terriers need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
The Skye Terrier boasts having a long and silky coat as such they are high maintenance on the grooming front. Their coats need to be brushed every day to prevent any knots and tangles from forming. Particular attention has to be paid to their muzzles especially after they've eaten because food often gets stuck in the longer hair around their mouths which if left dirty could provide the perfect environment for a fungal infection to take hold.
They shed steadily throughout the year only more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent grooming is usually necessary to stay on top of things and to remove dead and shed hair from a dog's coat. It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure with ear infections.
The Skye Terrier is an energetic, intelligent dog and as such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. They need a minimum of 1 hour a day with as much off the lead time as possible, but only in a safe environment. If they are not given the right amount of mental stimulation and exercise every day, a Skye Terrier would quickly get bored and could even begin to show some destructive behaviours around the home which is their way of relieving any stress they are feeling and not necessarily because they are being naughty.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must with as much off the lead time as possible. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these active, high-energy dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape and could get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, Skye Terrier puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.
If you get a Skye puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy eaters, but this does not mean they can be given a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
If you are looking to buy a Skye Terrier, you would need to register your interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list because very few puppies are bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would need to pay anything upwards of £500 for a well-bred pedigree puppy.
The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Skye Terrier in northern England would be £22.55 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £41.75 a month (quote as of August 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £20 - £30 a month. On top of all of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Skye Terrier and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £800 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Skye Terrier would be between £50 to £80 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a well-bred puppy.
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