The Skye Terrier is a bold, lively, intelligent and stylish (just look at that coat!) Scottish breed of dog. This fancy little canine was bred to hunt vermin and, therefore, still holds a significant prey drive to this day, which can be problematic. While this fearless breed can certainly make for a loyal and affectionate companion once trained, it’s best matched with a confident owner who knows how to work with an independent Terrier breed.
Key facts about the Skye Terrier
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Origins and history
The Skye Terrier originates from the Isle of Skye in Scotland, and is now one of the rarest breeds of Terrier in the world. The breed is believed to date back to the 16th century, when it was loved by royals, including Queen Victoria, for its lavish, luxurious coat and ability to catch vermin. Sadly, it’s widely believed that the Skye Terrier will face extinction in the next few decades, unless a renowned effort is made to revive the breed.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 3 - Terriers
Section 2 : Small sized Terriers
Physical characteristics of the Skye Terrier
Female : Between 10 and 10 in
Male : Between 10 and 10 in
Female : Between 22 and 26 lb
Male : Between 22 and 26 lb
Black, blue, gray, silver, fawn or cream - often multiple shades of the same colour.
Type of coat
Long, double, with a hard overcoat and soft, silky undercoat.
Light or dark brown.
The Skye Terrier is a small dog with short legs, whose body length is roughly double its height. Despite being a small dog, it’s well-built and sturdy. The tail is long and beautifully feathered. The head is long with a tapered muzzle and a subtle stop. The eyes are small and dark, the ears are pointy, feathered and erect, while the nose is black. The beautiful, long, silky coat is this breed’s defining future.
Good to know
There was once a Skye Terrier called Greyfriars Bobby, who is famous for his incredible loyalty. After his owner died, he guarded the grave day-in-day-out for 14 long years, until he also grew old and died. Now, they’re peacefully buried next to each other - adorable!
Around other dogs and strangers, the Skye Terrier is suspicious, alert and sometimes scrappy. Yet with a respected owner, it’s completely different - loyal, loving, affectionate and good-natured.
Loves to play with its owners, but may be too strong-willed and dominant to play with children.
This breed is one of the calmest of the Terrier group, known as being introspective and often serious.
A smart breed with a particularly impressive memory.
The Skye was bred to hunt vermin and holds some serious prey-drive. While solid training and a strong recall can help, this breed will always be a hunter at heart.
Fearful / wary of strangers
The Skye can be extremely wary of strangers. It’s vital to socialize this breed from a young age to avoid extreme shyness and suspicion of new people - in fact, unsocialized Skye Terriers may even bite strangers!
Although firmly attached to its master, the Skye Terrier has a definite independent and strong-minded aspect to its personality and will challenge its owner and other family members. A confident, experienced and respectfully firm owner, as well as lots of obedience training, is essential.
Behaviour of the Skye Terrier
As with all breeds, the Skye Terrier must be used to being alone from a young age to tolerate solitude with patience.
Easy to train / obedience
The Skye Terrier is capable of becoming an obedient, well-behaved dog - though it will take lots of consistency and patience! This breed will try to test its owners and needs to be trained with confidence from the get-go. Aim for fun, short training sessions with plenty of food rewards and positive reinforcement. While it’s important to be firm with the Skye, always remain fair and never scold.
The Skye can be a little bit of a nuisance barker. It’s essential to train this breed to be quiet on demand, though it may take some serious patience!
Tendency to run away
As with most Terrier breeds, the Skye has a strong prey-drive and is likely to run after anything it deems prey. A strong recall is essential, though it may be best to keep this breed on a lead in busy public areas.
Although he is overflowing with energy, he can stay calm at home if his needs have been met.
Greedy / Gluttony
Treats will help in getting this stubborn dog to cooperate.
With a natural suspicion of strangers, the Skye Terrier makes a fantastic watchdog who’s sure to immediately alert its owner of intruders.
The Skye Terrier may suit a first-time dog owner with lots of patience and time for training. However, this breed can be dominant and strong-willed, so it’s better suited to an owner who has experience with training strong-minded breeds.
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Skye Terrier in a flat
This small breed copes well in a flat or apartment setting, providing it’s walked multiple times per day.
Need for exercise / Sporty
The Skye Terrier isn’t overly demanding in the exercise department, but will truly appreciate the chance to get out and explore. A half an hour walk 1-2 times per day is perfect, although the Skye is happy to spend as much time as possible with its owner outdoors, so won’t complain about a longer workout. As this is a smart breed, providing plenty of mental stimulation such as ball games and puzzles is also essential.
Travelling / easy to transport
The Skye Terrier is very easy to transport and is small enough to fit in most cars.
Skye Terrier and cats
If a dog is brought up around felines and extremely well socialized, it may learn to live peacefully alongside them.
Skye Terrier and dogs
The Skye Terrier easily and quickly understands canine codes, and can live harmoniously with other dogs.
Skye Terrier and children
The Skye Terrier is likely to snap at poking or prodding, especially if it’s by someone who they consider to be below them in the pack. For this reason, families with babies, toddlers or young children best avoid this breed.
Skye Terrier and the elderly
This breed may suit an elderly person with experience of Terrier breeds who is physically capable of carrying out thorough obedience training or has the means to attend training classes.
We do not have enough data to set an average price, but you can expect to pay upwards of £500 for a well-bred dog. Looking after a dog of this size typically costs between £50 to £80 a month, including food, medical/insurance, and incidental expenses.
At first glance, most people assume that the Skye Terrier must be high-maintenance in the grooming department. In fact, the long coat simply needs brushing around 2-3 times per week, in order to prevent matts and tangles. It’s best to lightly spray the coat with water to avoid breakage.
The Skye Terrier is a low to moderate shedder.
Nutrition of the Skye Terrier
Feed the Skye Terrier a high-quality, complete dog food which is formulated for small breeds, and appropriate for its current age.
Health of the Skye Terrier
A generally healthy and robust breed, which is unfortunately prone to cancer. The average life expectancy is 11 years.
Strong / robust
Sturdy and well-built for its size.
The Skye generally copes well with hot weather, but would prefer to sit in the shade or swim to keep cool. It may struggle with extremes of heat, so always provide cold water.
Thanks to its thick coat, the Skye Terrier tolerates cold and wet weather very well. However, it’s not an outdoor dog.
Tendency to put on weight
This breed might be greedy, so it’s essential to measure out food portions daily and ensure it receives adequate exercise.