Skye Terrier

More Relaxed than the Typical Terrier, The Skye Terrier Enjoys Family Life with Dignity and Style

What comes to mind when you think of a "Terrier"? Certainly not docile and calm, right? Yet that's exactly what the Skye Terrier is. In fact, some describe the Skye Terrier as "dignified," even introspective.

Because of this unique personality, the Skye Terrier is perfect as an indoor dog. Like most Terriers, the Skye Terrier needs a daily walk – but then, unlike most Terriers, this dog is fine the rest of the day just relaxing with its family.


An old breed, the Skye Terrier got its start probably four centuries ago in Scotland, on the Isle of Skye. This dog, who is not "little" by Terrier standards, nonetheless was perfect for hunting otter, fox, and badger. Even today, more than 400 years later, the Skye Terrier is unchanged from the earliest origins, with short, sturdy legs just made for digging, and a double coat that protects from prey bites, thorns, rough brush, and inclement weather.

In 1570, the Skye Terrier made its first appearance in what is probably the first book on dogs, Of English Dogges by Johannes Caius. The now quaint description says that the Skye Terrier was "brought out of barbarous borders fro' the uttermost countryes northward...which, by reason of the length of heare [hair], makes showe neither of face nor of body."

This breed was also once known as the Glasgow Terrier, the Fancy Skye Terrier, the Clydesdale Terrier, the Paisley Terrier, and the Silky Skye Terrier. Queen Victoria herself loved and kept Skye Terriers. Notably, she also bred them. For quite some time, the Skye Terrier was one of the most popular Terrier breeds, although today it ranks just 146 among 155 Terrier breeds registered by the American Kennel Club. It was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1887 as member of its Terrier Group.


This elegant "little" dog has a hefty sturdiness not typical of some Terrier breeds. These dogs are twice as long as they are high; they stand 9 to 10 inches at the shoulder and can weigh anywhere from 25 to 40 pounds in adulthood.

Unlike some Terrier breeds, though, the Skye Terrier can truly be called "stylish." When groomed for show, the coat is long and flowing, as well as silky smooth. The coat hangs down straight on each side from a part down the back that runs from the head to the tail. With show grooming, the Skye Terrier also has long bangs that cover the forehead and eyes. Frequently, owners of Skye Terriers prefer to draw the bangs away from the eyes with a barrette or elastic.

Skye Terriers who are not shown can have their coats cut short so that they're much easier to groom. Naturally long and fast-growing, the coat comes in blue, black, light or dark gray, fawn, silver platinum, or cream. While usually one color by the skin, the hair can be of varying shades of the same color scheme throughout the whole coat. Skye Terriers can also have "points" of black on the muzzles, ears, and tips of tails. Puppies generally have variations in color until they mature when they're about 18 months old.


The Skye Terrier is a confluence of opposites. Loving, intelligent, brave, good-natured, and exceedingly devoted, the Skye Terrier will be your little shadow and will want to go wherever with you. That said, Skye Terriers can also be quite suspicious of strangers if not well socialized, and – as smart and stubborn as it is – can also be a handful for an owner who is not skilled at being firm and kind at the same time.

If you decide to get an Skye Terrier and then are either too harsh or too lenient, regrettably this dog will make you pay for it. Skye Terriers are very smart and know what they want, so if you don't set boundaries, your pet will simply take charge. That said, if you are at any time overly harsh with your pet, this very smart dog with a very long memory will remember mistreatment. Such mistreatment can make it distrustful, unruly, and exceedingly unhappy. Skye Terriers are best left to experienced pet owners who know how to set boundaries – gently – and keep to them.

Remember to socialize your puppy as soon as you get it home so that you'll have a truly happy and well-adapted pet.

When a Skye Terrier is well-adjusted, though, it is a truly delightful breed. Exceptionally affectionate, loyal and good-natured, this dog is also very brave and – yes – polite. With the proper home and family, this intelligent little spirit is playful, happy and bold, getting along very well with children as long as socialization needs are met early on.

There's a legendary story about a Skye Terrier named Greyfriar's Bobby who was so loyal to his owner John Gray that when John died in 1858 of tuberculosis, Greyfriar's Bobby kept vigil at his owner's grave for years until he died himself in 1872. Kind townspeople made sure that he was fed and cared for including the groundskeeper who had originally tried to shoo Bobby away. Baroness Angelia Georgina Burdett-Coutts, RSPCA Ladies Committee President, was so touched by Bobby's loyalty that she commissioned a statue of Bobby (with the city's permission) to be placed atop a fountain opposite Greyfriars Kirkyard.

About other pets

It's important to note that you should not have other pets – especially cats, small rodents or birds – when you have a Skye Terrier, simply because they are true Terriers at heart and may see them as prey animals. Your pet will be happiest if it is the only four-legged member of the family.


As a sturdy, “dwarf” breed of dog, there are some difficulties associated with the dog's general body shape. Because the dog is long and low to the ground, Skye Terriers can have a propensity for degenerative disc disease, or something called "puppy limp." This is a condition which is not generally painful and most dogs will outgrow it with time. However, to prevent puppy limp, avoid any excessive physical strain on the dog’s joints including too much exercise before the age of eight months. This breed can also be prone to mammary cancer and hypothyroidism. Average life expectancy is 12 to 15 years.


If you decide to keep your pet's coat long, you need to brush and comb frequently to avoid matting. If you are not showing your pet, a shorter cut will be easier to take care of. It can take several years for the coat to reach its full adult potential. This dog is a normal shedder.


Greyfriar's Bobby.

Retrieved April 23, 2015.

Skye Terrier.

Retrieved April 23, 2015.

Skye Terrier.

Retrieved April 23, 2015.

The Skye Terrier.

Retrieved April 23, 2015.

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