Skye Terrier: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Black Skye Terrier outside smiling at camera.

LourdesPhotography / Getty Images

There’s something regal about Skye Terriers, and it’s not just the fact they were the preferred dog breed of Mary Queen of Scots. These distinctive looking dogs are sweet but particular, with a bit of a haughty side indicative of their aristocratic background. Small, elegant, and featuring long bangs that feather off their ears for a constantly well-coiffed look, Skye Terriers are interesting dogs with a rich history—and they have plenty to offer the right owner. 

Breed Overview

Group: Terrier

Height: 9 to 10 inches

Weight: 35 to 45 pounds

Coat: Soft undercoat and long, straight, and hard outercoat

Coat Color: Black, dark or light gray, fawn, blue

Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

Characteristics of the Skye Terrier

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

History of the Skye Terrier

Skye Terriers were first discovered on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, hence their name. Skye, located in Scotland’s northern-most Inner Hebrides islands, is home to rugged landscapes where early Skye Terriers were prized for their abilities to assist farmers in protecting their livestock from local menaces like badgers and otters. Reports of Skye Terriers go back many centuries, including a mention in the 16th century book Of English Dogges by Johannes Caius.

In addition to their reputation as athletic hunters of local predators—a common trait among their Terrier peers—Skye Terriers were also, as previously mentioned, prized in more aristocratic circles. The breed was incredibly popular in elite circles of Victorian England, keeping company not only with Mary Queen of Scots but Queen Victoria herself.

Unlike many other foreign-born breeds, Skye Terriers actually have a rather long history in the United States. The breed was first recognized by the American Kennel Club as early as 1887, due in part to their inclusion in the book The Illustrated Book of the Dog by Vero Shaw, which piqued interest across the globe in these unique-featured dogs. However their popularity hasn’t quite been sustained, and today, they’re one of the lesser known breeds of Terriers. Still, this dignified breed has maintained its regal air, and can still be found occasionally in the competition circuit.

Illustration of Skye Terrier from William Jardine's "The Naturalist's Library".
THEPALMER / Getty Images

Sky Terrier Care

For all their athleticism, Skye Terriers actually have pretty low energy levels and do not require any sort of excessive exercise to remain at their best. One or two short walks a day will generally suffice (about 30 minutes total), provided they’re coupled with other one-on-one play time with their humans. Skye Terrier do enjoy playing, and some of them are also open to dog sports like agility.

In terms of training, Skye Terriers have a bit of a stubborn streak—perhaps an offshoot of their regal past. They’re good-natured but strong-willed, and while they can be taught good behavior with positive training techniques, they won’t always take to more intensive training, though it’s always worth a try. As always, stick to positive reinforcement when training. These reserved dogs don’t respond well to harsh words or body language, nor is negative reinforcement a proper or effective way to train any dog.

As for grooming, that luxurious feathered coat does require a fair deal of upkeep, as you might expect. This includes regular brushings and combings to prevent tangles and matting, in addition to general grooming practices like regular teeth brushing, nail trims, and ear cleaning. Take extra care with keeping a Skye Terrier’s ears clean, since having so much fur gathered around them does make the breed more prone to ear wax build up and infections. Baths should be given too on a regular schedule (about once a month; less in the winter), but be careful not to scrub too hard since that can mat their fur.

Light gray Skye Terrier outside on grass.
DevidDO / Getty Images
Black Skye Terrier sitting in field.
LourdesPhotography / Getty Images
Skye Terrier sitting in field looking to the left.
LourdesPhotography / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

Skye Terriers are quite healthy dogs, with no known propensity for certain genetic illnesses. That being said, their stature—stocky and muscular with short legs—does make them prone to orthopedic problems, especially if they engage in excessive activity during their formative growth period, about ages 18 to 24 months. If you have a Skye Terrier puppy, be careful to limit aggressive play and jumping during this time so that their bones and joints have a chance to form without any potential interference. This includes carrying your Skye Terrier puppy up the stairs instead of allowing him to run up and down himself.

Diet and Nutrition

The nutritional needs of Skye Terriers are the same as they are for most dogs, with the breed doing best on a high-quality diet with plenty of protein. Do accommodate certain dietary needs if necessary, such as if your Skye Terrier is a puppy or senior. Feel free to give your Skye Terrier plenty of healthy treats (remember: they respond well to positive reinforcement!), and talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions or notice that your dog is gaining too much weight.

Pros
  • Great for apartment living

  • Keen on positive reinforcement and training

  • Make excellent companions

Cons
  • Not fond of cats, other dogs, or small children

  • Tendency to bark and dig

  • High prey drive

Where to Adopt or Buy a Skye Terrier

We always recommend looking at adoption first. Start your search via sites like Petfinder, Adopt-a-Pet, and Overstock Pet Adoptions, and check out Skye Terrier Rescue, a designated breed rescue. If you do choose to purchase through a breeder, be sure to do your research and only work with someone who is reputable and takes excellent care of their dogs. Start your search with the Skye Terrier Club of America for advice on finding a good breeder.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

There is a perfect dog out there for everybody. Continue researching our dog profiles to learn about other popular breeds and how to care for them, or just go to a shelter and see who you connect with.

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