The Skye Terrier is a medium-sized terrier breed from Scotland with either upright or dropped ears, short legs, a long body, facial hair, and plenty of fur in its long double coat. There’s something regal about these dogs, and it’s not just that they were the preferred breed of Mary Queen of Scots. These distinctive-looking canines are sweet but particular, and they have proud personalities 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 unique dogs with a rich history—and they have plenty to offer the right owner.
Height: 10 inches (males); 9.5 inches (females)
Weight: 35 to 45 pounds
Coat: Double coat with a soft undercoat and a long, straight, hard outercoat
Coat Color: Black, blue, cream, fawn, gray, silver, or platinum
Life Span: 12 to 14 years
Temperament: Friendly, loyal, intelligent, even-tempered, brave
Characteristics of the Skye Terrier
While the Skye Terrier is loyal and affectionate with its family, this breed is known for being standoffish toward those outside its close circle. However, that shouldn't be confused for shyness—Skye Terriers are confident in themselves and tend to have a somewhat self-involved temperament. Like other terriers, these dogs are also independent and likely to follow their own desires. They often have dominant personalities, so although they can get along with other dogs when raised together, they typically prefer life in single-dog households. The Skye Terrier's stubborn habits mean that it isn't suitable for everyone, but for the right owner, this unique and beloved breed will become a devoted family member.
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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 prized in more aristocratic circles. The breed was incredibly popular among the elites 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 dogs. However, their popularity hasn’t quite been sustained, and today, they’re a lesser-known and rare breed. Still, these dignified dogs have maintained their regal air, and Skye Terriers can still be found occasionally in the competition circuit.
Sky Terrier Care
The Skye Terrier is relatively low-maintenance when it comes to exercising, but their independent nature and long hair mean that they require significant training and grooming care. Owners should prepare for ongoing lessons in obedience and regular brushings to keep their coats in good shape.
For all their athleticism, Skye Terriers actually have low energy levels and do not require any sort of vigorous exercise to remain healthy. One or two short walks a day will generally suffice (about 30 minutes total), provided they’re coupled with additional one-on-one playtime sessions with their humans. Skye Terriers do enjoy playing, and some of them also excel at dog sports like agility. Like other terriers, they're prone to digging, so it's also helpful for owners to provide a sandbox in the yard to let these dogs stay active while following their instincts.
As for grooming, that luxurious feathered coat does require a fair deal of upkeep. This includes regular brushings and combings to prevent tangles and matting, which should be combed out with detangling spray very delicately should they appear. Owners should also plan to maintain general grooming practices like regular teeth brushing, nail trims, and ear cleaning.
Take extra care with keeping a Skye Terrier’s ears clean in accordance with your veterinarian's recommendations, as having so much fur gathered around the ears makes this breed more prone to ear wax buildup and infections. Baths should be given on a regular schedule (about once a month; less in the winter), but be careful not to scrub too hard since this may cause mats to develop in the fur.
In terms of training, Skye Terriers have a bit of a stubborn streak—perhaps an offshoot of their regal past combined with their terrier traits. They’re good-natured but strong-willed, and while they can be taught appropriate behaviors with positive training techniques, they won’t always take to more intensive training (though it’s always worth a try). Basic lessons should begin early when puppies are about eight weeks old. 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.
Common Health Problems
Skye Terriers are generally healthy dogs. That said, their stature—stocky and muscular with short legs—does make them prone to orthopedic problems. They are also at risk to develop certain cancers, though this does not affect every dog in the breed.
The following are conditions for Skye Terrier owners to be aware of:
- Disc diseases: Skye Terriers are prone to neck and back injuries caused by disc disease. If you have a Skye Terrier, be careful to limit aggressive play and jumping from high surfaces. Carrying these dogs up and down the stairs can also protect against injury. A harness should be used in place of a collar for walks to further protect against neck and back injuries, and excessive weight gain should be avoided.
- Cancer: This breed should be monitored regularly for cancers including mammary cancer and hemangiosarcoma.
Diet and Nutrition
The nutritional needs of Skye Terriers are the same as they are for most dogs, with this breed doing best on a high-quality diet with plenty of protein. Accommodate certain dietary needs if necessary, such as if your Skye Terrier is a puppy or senior or if it develops food allergies. Feel free to give your terrier plenty of healthy treats (remember, they respond well to positive reinforcement!), and talk to your veterinarian if you notice that your dog is gaining too much weight. Your veterinarian can help you determine a healthy meal and portion plan based on your specific dog's age, weight, and activity level.
Where to Adopt or Buy a Skye Terrier
While Skye Terriers are a very rare dog breed, it's still possible to adopt one of these dogs in need of a forever home. Breed-specific rescues exist to help Skye Terriers find families. If you're unable to rescue this breed in your area, your local shelter may also introduce you to similar terriers that can become your next best friend.
If you plan to adopt a Skye Terrier as a puppy, it's essential to do your research. Work with a responsible breeder who takes excellent care of their dogs and provides you with the litter's medical history. These puppies typically cost between $1,500 and $2,000, though prices may vary based on pedigree and availability.
To start your search, check out these resources for the national breed club, rescues, and the AKC:
- Skye Terrier Club of America
- Skye Terrier Club of America Rescue Information
- AKC Skye Terrier Breeders
Skye Terrier Overview
Great for apartment living
Unique personality and appearance
Excellent companion for the right owner
Not fond of cats, other dogs, or small children
Tendency to bark and dig
Can be stubborn and resist training
More Dog Breeds and Further Research
If you love the Skye Terrier, you may also like these similar breeds:
There are plenty of different dog breeds that can become your next best friend. With a little research, you can find the perfect match to bring home!
Are Skye Terriers Good Pets?
Skye Terriers are very affectionate with their close family members, but they are also known for being distant around strangers and can be dominant toward other animals (even when properly socialized). For the right owner, the Skye Terrier is an exceptionally devoted companion.
Do Skye Terriers Bark a Lot?
Like many terrier breeds, Skye Terriers are known for being vocal. There are several ways to discourage excessive barking, but owners of this breed should prepare for a loud dog as it can be resistant to training.
Do Skye Terriers Shed?
Skye Terriers shed less than many other long-haired breeds, but they still leave moderate amounts of fur around the house. Owners should keep up with regular brushings to help manage problem shedding.
Ear Infections In Dogs (Otitis Externa). VCA Hospitals
Behavior Modification in Dogs. Merck Veterinary Manual
Skye Terrier Breed Information. American Kennel Club.