Silky Terrier: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Standing side profile of a silky terrier

CaptureLight / Getty Images

The silky terrier is a small toy dog breed from Australia with a low-shedding, long, shiny coat from which the breed gets its name. Its silky hair is parted down the back and hangs straight. Some owners clip it short for easier maintenance while others let it grow long and luxurious. These dogs have a wedge-shaped head and upright, V-shaped ears that help to give them an alert expression. And they are truly bright and watchful dogs. They are quick to bark at strangers or other perceived threats, yet they tend to be quite loving with their family. 

Breed Overview

Group: Toy

Height: 9 to 10 inches

Weight: 10 pounds

Coat: Long, silky

Coat Color: Black and tan; blue and tan; blue, silver, and tan; gray and tan; silver and tan; or silver, black, and tan

Life Span: 13 to 15 years

Temperament: Active, alert, affectionate

Hypoallergenic: Yes

Origin: Australia

Characteristics of the Silky Terrier

Silky terriers generally have a spunky and playful personality. They are alert to their surroundings and like to be busy. High intelligence also helps to shape their temperament, though they sometimes can be stubborn when it comes to training.

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly Medium
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness High
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark High
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Silky Terrier

The silky terrier got its start in the early 20th century. Breeders in Australia crossed Yorkshire terriers with Australian terriers to get the earliest versions of the breed. Other breeds that might have played a role in its makeup include the cairn terrier, Dandie Dinmont, and Skye terrier

At first, there were conflicting breed standards throughout Australia. But those were merged by 1926. The breed also was initially known as the Sydney silky terrier before it became the Australian silky terrier in 1955.

The Australian National Kennel Council first recognized the breed in 1958, the year the council itself was formed. And one of its first orders of business was to recommend a breed standard to the American Kennel Club. The AKC then recognized the breed in 1959, calling it the silky terrier.

Silky Terrier Care

Silky terriers need daily exercise and consistent training and socialization. Their grooming also can be a substantial time investment, depending on how long you keep their coat.

Exercise

The silky terrier is an active but typically not hyper dog that requires daily exercise. Plan to spend at least an hour per day exercising your dog via walks, hikes, vigorous games of fetch, and more. In addition, silky terriers can enjoy and excel at a variety of dog sports, which will challenge them both mentally and physically.

Make sure always to keep your dog on a leash or in a securely fenced area for outdoor exercise. These little dogs don't tend to back down when confronted by larger dogs. And their prey drive can cause them to run off chasing squirrels and other small animals. They also are prone to digging and might escape under fences, so they always should be monitored in a yard.

Grooming

The silky terrier’s coat is straight, shiny, and fine in texture. It grows continuously and is quite similar to human hair. A commitment to routine grooming is absolutely essential if you have this breed. Brush at least twice a week and up to daily, depending on how long the coat is. Use a pin brush, soft-bristle brush, or comb to work out tangles and prevent mats. 

Plan on a bath, along with a coat trim, roughly every four to six weeks. You might want to use a canine conditioner or grooming spray to help keep the coat tangle-free. Also, check your dog’s nails at that time to see whether they need a trim. Look in its ears at least weekly for wax buildup and irritation. And aim to brush its teeth every day. 

Training

Silky terriers are quite smart and can learn training commands quickly. However, they also can be stubborn about when they want to obey. Aim to start training at a young age to prevent bad habits from forming. Always use positive-reinforcement methods. And be consistent in your commands; don’t let bad behavior slide.

Likewise, start socialization from a young age. Introduce your dog to different people and other dogs to boost its comfort in new situations and ward off potential problems of being territorial. Silky terriers are typically adaptive to different living situations, but they sometimes can be reserved around new people. 

Furthermore, many silky terriers don’t like being left alone for long periods. They might act out due to boredom or loneliness via problem behaviors, such as excessive chewing or barking. A professional dog trainer or behaviorist can give you tips on leaving your dog alone. But it’s still best that a silky terrier lives in a household with someone home for most of the day. 

Similarly, excessive alert barking also can become problematic. So you’ll likely have to work on training your dog on when it's appropriate to bark and how to be quiet on command.

Silky terrier holding a ball
TBoug​_ / Getty Images 
Kids holding silky terrier
maki_shmaki / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

The silky terrier is overall a healthy breed, but it’s still prone to some hereditary health issues, including:

silky terriers as pets illustration

The Spruce / Kelly Miller

Diet and Nutrition

Make sure your dog always has access to fresh water. And feed a high-quality canine diet with balanced nutrition. A diet especially made for small dog breeds, offered twice a day in measured meals, can be ideal. But you should always run both the type of food and the amount by your vet to make sure you’re meeting your dog’s individual needs. Also, be mindful of treats and other extra food to ensure that your dog isn’t overeating, as even a little extra weight can be a lot on a small frame.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Silky Terrier

The silky terrier isn’t a very popular dog breed. However, it’s still possible to find one for adoption. So be sure to check local animal shelters and breed-specific rescue groups for a dog in need of a home. If you’re looking for a puppy from a reputable breeder, expect to pay around $800 to $3,500 on average.

For more information to help you find a silky terrier, check out:

Silky Terrier Overview

Pros
  • Affectionate and playful

  • Generally adaptable to different living situations

  • Can excel at dog sports

Cons
  • High grooming needs

  • Can be stubborn about training

  • Prone to digging

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you think the silky terrier is the right dog breed for you, be sure to do your research before getting one. Seek advice from veterinarians and other pet professionals. Also, talk to silky terrier owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups to learn more.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

FAQ
  • What's the difference between silky terriers and Yorkshire terriers?

    Silky and Yorkshire terriers do look quite similar, as they are closely related. However, silky terriers tend to be slightly larger than Yorkies. And their head is wedge-shaped while the head of a Yorkie is more rounded.

  • Are silky terriers good family dogs?

    Silky terriers are moderately good with children and would be best for a household with respectful older children. However, they might be too feisty and not gentle enough around young children.

  • Are silky terriers good apartment dogs?

    Silky terriers can do fine in an apartment if they get outside for sufficient exercise each day. However, they are prone to barking, which might disrupt nearby neighbors.

Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Silky Terrier. American Kennel Club.

  2. Silky Terrier Puppies and Dogs. Adopt a Pet.