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Skye Terrier Dog Breed Info, Pictures, Traits & Facts

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

Skye Terrier Dog

Height: 8 – 12 inches
Weight: 25 – 40 pounds
Lifespan: 12 – 15 years
Colors: Dark grey, light grey, fawn, blue, black
Suitable for: Apartment dwellers, those looking for a rare but relatively low-maintenance dog
Temperament: Independent, loyal, aloof, energetic, affectionate

The Skye Terrier is a wonderful little dog that has suffered a rather unfortunate (and undeserved) fall from grace. At one point, these dogs were the breed of choice for English royalty, but now they’re struggling to survive.

That’s a shame because while these dogs have their fair share of challenges, they’re still a loving and relatively easy breed overall. However, they can be a chore to train, so they may not be ideal for first-time owners.

Unless you’re a member of Victorian royalty, there’s a good chance you’re unfamiliar with this breed. In this guide, we’ll fill you in on everything you need to know about these spirited pups.

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Skye Terrier Puppies

skye terrier puppy
Image by: Eric Isselee, Shutterstock

These pups are lowrider dogs even when they’re fully grown, so you might expect their puppies to look roughly the same as the adult dogs. There’s some truth to that, but Skye Terrier puppies are definitely on another level when it comes to cuteness.

Adult Skye Terriers have stubby little legs and long torsos, but the puppies are more proportional. Of course, if proportionality is important to you, we wouldn’t recommend falling in love with a Skye Terrier.

The puppies are more energetic, inquisitive, and puppy-like than the adults, but they should still exhibit many of the behaviors that you can expect from the grownup dog. They’re prone to frequent vocalization, they’re willing to chase anything that moves, and they’ll demand every bit of your attention that they can get.

It’s important to take advantage of their puppyhood to teach them how to behave around people, or else they’re likely to become Velcro dogs to one member of the family while reacting aggressively to everyone else.

If you can teach them to accept strangers, though, you’ll have a sweet, loyal dog.

Skye Terrier Eyes_shutterstock_Akifyeva S hypoallergenic
Image Credit By: Akifyeva S, shutterstock

3 Little-Known Facts About the Skye Terrier

1. The Skye Terrier is the most endangered breed in England.

In 2005, there were only 30 Skye Terriers born in the entire United Kingdom. Given that the U.K. was once the epicenter of their popularity, it’s discouraging to learn that they’re not easy to find in their home country anymore.

Some experts estimate that these dogs could go extinct within the next 40 years. That would obviously be tragic, but fortunately, there’s a dedicated push by breeders to keep these dogs alive. However, it won’t do any good if more people aren’t willing to bring one of these dogs home.

2. They’re notoriously loyal.

There are many legends in the United Kingdom about this breed’s undying loyalty. One such tale involves a night watchman named John Gray, who had a Skye Terrier named Greyfriars Bobby constantly by his side.

When Gray died, his dog followed his funeral procession to his grave — and stayed there for 14 years, until he followed his master into the afterlife.

There’s even a legend that states that Mary, Queen of Scots, had her Skye Terrier tucked under her petticoat while she was being beheaded. We don’t recommend testing your dog’s devotion in that way, however.

3. The “Skye” in their name refers to their land of origin.

These dogs were first found on the Isle of Skye, an island in northern Scotland. They were used there to hunt all manner of small game, including foxes, otters, and badgers.

Skye Terriers had a reputation for tenacity, and they would follow their quarry into the water if the need arose. These dogs have tremendous prey drives, something that made them exceptional hunting dogs hundreds of years ago but potentially troublesome pets today.

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Skye Terrier 🧠

Skye Terriers are independent, and they can be aloof around strangers. However, they’re extremely loving and devoted toward their families, although they can sometimes zero in on one particular family member at the expense of the others.

They love to play, but they also love to be in charge of the play sessions. You’ll have a hard time talking a Skye Terrier into doing anything that they don’t want to do, which can make training sessions difficult.

That difficulty isn’t due to stupidity, however. This is a fairly intelligent breed, but those smarts can often work against you. They can be stubborn, and they’re also known to be escape artists if left to their own devices for too long.

The good news about that intelligence is that you can put it to work for you, especially if you can figure out what your dog loves to do. For most Skye Terriers, that’s hunt, so asking them to sniff out treats or chase down a ball are usually met with enthusiasm.

The Skye Terrier may not be as boisterous and affectionate as say, a Golden Retriever, but if you can earn their hearts, you’ll have a companion that will follow you to the ends of the Earth.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡

Skye Terriers can be excellent for certain families, but they’re not ideal for everyone.

While they’re playful and excitable, it’s best not to have small children around them. They have strong opinions about how playtime should be run, and they’ve been known to snap if they’re not happy with what you’re doing. That can obviously be problematic if you have toddlers in the house.

They’re also energetic, but they don’t have much in the way of stamina. A simple walk around the neighborhood is likely all the exercise that you’ll need to provide. That makes them a good choice for seniors or those with limited mobility.

That limited stamina means they don’t need a ton of space, which makes them an excellent fit for apartment living. However, their barking can become a problem, so you may need to either find a good trainer or understanding neighbors.

You’ll also need to make sure that your Skye Terrier splits their time evenly between all the family members. You don’t want them playing favorites, as that can lead to possessiveness, so they should be equally happy to hang out with every person in your household.

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets? 🐶 😽

Skye Terriers aren’t necessarily big fans of other animals as a general rule. They much prefer the company of their human families.

However, they can be accepting of other dogs, especially if they were raised with them. If they consider the other pooch a member of the family, then that dog will be seen as a playmate and a cuddle buddy.

It’s unlikely that one of these dogs will ever be accepting of strange dogs, though. That makes them a poor fit for dog parks, and you may have issues on walks unless you’re diligent in your training and socialization.

Cats and other small pets are a bad idea to have around Skye Terriers. These dogs are tenacious hunters, and while they haven’t been regularly used for that purpose in quite some time, you can’t just turn that part of their genetics off.

Not only does their strong prey drive encourage them to chase after smaller critters, but it also ensures that they won’t give up. There’s not likely to be a safe hiding place in the entire house, so don’t think you can still have a cat if you just keep the two animals separate.

Divider 4Things to Know When Owning a Skye Terrier

This breed’s rarity means that relatively few people understand how to properly raise one of these dogs. They don’t necessarily have many unique requirements, but there are a few things that you should know to bring up a healthy and happy dog.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Skye Terriers don’t eat much, although that isn’t necessarily by choice. They’ll eat anything that’s offered to them, especially treats or table scraps, so it’s important to limit their diet as much as possible.

Obesity can be a problem with this breed, and it doesn’t take but a few extra pounds to put them in the danger zone. Being overweight can shave years off their lives and exacerbate their other health problems, so it’s important not to let them pack on extra pounds.

Don’t let them free-feed either. Practice strict portion control, and pick up their bowls when they walk away from them.

We’d recommend feeding them a high-protein kibble that’s also high in fat and fiber. This will keep them full and (hopefully) cut down on any begging, while also ensuring that they have plenty of energy to zoom around your living room.

You may need to shell out a few more bucks to get a worthy kibble, but it will be worth it. Avoid problematic ingredients like corn, wheat, soy, and animal by-products; while these may drive down the price of the food in the short term, your dog’s health will pay the price in the long term.

Exercise 🐕

These are energetic dogs and as such, they require regular exercise. If you neglect their exercise requirements, their behavior will likely suffer, as they’re prone to misbehaving if not properly worn out.

They love to dig and chase things and not necessarily in that order. If your dog has plenty of excess energy and you leave them alone in the yard, don’t be surprised if you come home to find that a jailbreak has occurred.

Fortunately, it’s not hard to tucker them out. A brisk walk around the block should do the trick, or you could spend 20 minutes or so playing fetch or tug-of-war with them. You don’t need a huge backyard or hours of spare time to wear them out.

Be careful about a high-impact activity like jumping, though. These dogs can be prone to back problems, and leaping around — especially on hard surfaces — can make those problems worse. As a result, activities like agility training and jumping after Frisbees are probably a bad idea.

While the Skye Terrier’s high energy levels may seem off-putting at first, it’s easy to wring all the excess energy out of them, so even owners who prefer a sedentary lifestyle can consider owning the breed.

Skye Terrier
Image by: Sevostyanova Tatyana, Shutterstock

Training 🦮

Training these dogs as thoroughly as possible is extremely important, as is proper socialization. They can be hardheaded and independent, and if you don’t get that behavior under control, you could have several hard years ahead of you trying to raise them.

That stubbornness extends to training sessions, though. They like to be in charge, and they may resist your attempts to teach them anything.

However, if you can enlist their natural tendencies into helping with the session, you may have more luck. These dogs love to sniff after prey, so you may want to use their noses to your advantage rather than forcing them to watch you for their next instruction.

If you can earn this dog’s respect (and convince them that you’re someone worth trusting), you can teach them to do just about anything. Remember, these dogs were bred to dive into the water after otters and badgers, so they’ll do anything that you ask of them if they trust you.

If you’re not confident in your training abilities, then it might be worth investing in the services of a professional trainer. The last thing you want is to have these dogs remaining unruly into adulthood, or you may never be able to rein them in at all.

Grooming ✂️

These dogs have long, silky hair that requires frequent brushing. If you don’t take care of their coat regularly, it can quickly become matted and tangled, and that can be a pain to deal with.

You may only need to bathe them when they become visibly dirty — unless you plan on showing them, that is. In that case, you may need to bathe them several times a week (and spend plenty more time combing their hair).

Be careful about how you bathe them, though. You should dilute the shampoo or use the gentlest formula you can find, and be careful about scrubbing them. Their hair is fragile and can easily be broken.

If you let your dog go outside at all, then it’s important to check them thoroughly for parasites and other problems. That long hair can hide a variety of things, including fleas, ticks, cuts, mange, burrs, etc. If you don’t check them thoroughly, you risk letting them suffer needlessly.

Their teeth should be brushed regularly — every day, if possible. You should also take them in for thorough cleanings once or twice a year. You should trim their nails as needed.

Health and Conditions ❤️

Skye Terriers are relatively healthy dogs, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their fair share of issues. Their overall health can be strongly impacted by how you treat them.

Be careful not to work them too hard before they’re 8 months old. If you let them run and jump too much as a puppy, it can damage their bones, leading to badly bowed legs and possibly even a painful limp.

You’ll want to wait until their growth plates are completely closed before you let them bounce off the walls — but that should still be limited even when they’re adults. Long dogs like the Skye Terrier are prone to disc disease, so you don’t want to put more pressure on their spines than absolutely necessary.

Also, carrying excess weight is terrible for these dogs. Not only will it hurt their backs, but it can also leave them more susceptible to all manner of diseases.

This breed is highly prone to cancer, especially mammary cancer. It shouldn’t affect them too early in their lives, but you’ll still want to make sure to take them in for regular checkups with their vet.

Minor Conditions
  • Lens luxation
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Tracheal collapse
Serious Conditions
  • Cancer
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Hepatitis
  • Occipital dysplasia

Divider 5Male vs. Female

Male and female Skye Terriers are similar in both build and personality. Males tend to be a bit taller and heavier, but the difference is slight — usually only about 5 pounds and maybe 1-2 inches.

Both genders love to play with their families and are naturally wary of strangers, although females can be a bit more standoffish. The ladies are also more likely to keep to themselves, while males tend to be Velcro dogs.

Aggression can be an issue with either sex, especially if they’re guarding a favorite human. It’s a bit more prominent in females, but proper training and socialization are essential regardless of the dog’s gender.

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They’re becoming less common with every passing year, but Skye Terriers are a breed truly deserving of a renaissance. They’re easy to keep because they don’t require tons of exercise, and they can be incredibly affectionate and loyal to their owners.

They’re not without their challenges, however. They can be extremely willful, and if not properly exercised, they can turn loud and destructive. You may also need to discourage them from becoming devoted to just one member of the family.

If you can track one down, a Skye Terrier will make a fantastic companion, especially for apartment dwellers. You’d better hurry, though, because the breed is in danger — by adopting one, you can save more than just a single animal.

Featured Image Credit: Sevostyanova Tatyana, Shutterstock

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