Breed Group: Terrier
In contrast to other breeds in their group, Skye Terriers are more serious and reserved, more polite and sensitive to their owner’s moods, and less energetic. Although intensely loyal, they are not particularly social with their family. Many are a one person dog, and it is not unusual for them to prefer children. But care should be taken when in the company of small children as they do not tolerate rough handling and can be snappy. They are naturally suspicious of strangers and other dogs, but socialization can blunt some of this tendency. However, it is virtually impossible to override their desire to hunt animals their size or smaller, which includes cats. They should get at least one walk daily and time to explore outside in a safe area where they are no more than reasonably active. But a fence is important to prevent them from allowing their nose from leading them on an adventure. Unlike many terriers, they are unusually calm inside, especially when their modest exercise needs are met. This makes them good house pets, even in an apartment. Typical of terriers, the Skye Terrier is feisty, bold, willful, mischievous and sometimes comical. Always willing to bark, at times excessively, they make first class watchdogs. Although their loyalty may drive them to make an attempt, they are below average guard dogs.
Skye Terriers are more muscular than a picture may suggest. Females are 10 to 12 inches tall with males an inch or two larger. They weigh between 25 and 40 pounds. Their long and harsh coat gives them a cold hardiness unusual for a tiny dog and they prefer cooler temperatures as opposed to being warm. Their coat is colored from a dark blue-gray to cream with black ears that are usually upright but sometimes droopy. Their coat needs brushed well every few days to keep it from tangling. They shed no more than an average dog.
Skye Terriers should be well socialized to ensure their reserved nature does not become excessive. Less intelligent, more willing to please, and more sensitive than most terriers, a Skye Terrier is easier to train. But, they can still be independent and stubborn, so training sessions should be short and fun. Trainers must be firm and consistent to avoid dominance issues, but never harsh or unfair. Even though easier to train than other terriers, with their strong dose of terrier attitude, there are much better choices for first-time dog owners.
The Skye Terrier has a one in four chance of having Patellar Luxation and the breed has about a 16% occurrence of Hip Dysplasia. They are also known to be prone to Lens Luxation. IVDD is also seen in the breed. To prevent problems with the growth of their long bones, it is recommended they not be heavily exercised until at least 10 months to one year of age. Some may be fatally allergic to ivermectin, a medication for parasites. Their average lifespan is 12 to 14 years.
Since their days as Queen Victoria’s favorite, the popularity of the Skye Terrier has waned significantly. Currently, they rank 144th in popularity as tracked by the American Kennel Club There are fewer than 100 dogs registered in a typical year.
Skye Terriers date back to the 1500s when they were used to hunt fox and otters along the coastline of the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Their exact ancestry is unclear because for many years, several breeds, all of which came from the Isle of Skye, were called Skye Terriers. The breed known today as the Skye Terrier became very popular in the 1840s when Queen Victoria took a strong liking to them. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1887 when their popularity soared in the U.S. But their popularity did not last and today they are one of the least recognized breeds.
A Skye Terrier can become exceptionally devoted to one person. Perhaps the best example of this was a Skye from Edinburgh, Scotland named Bobby. After his master died, Bobby visited his master’s unmarked grave every day for fourteen years, stopped only by his own death. Robert Louis Stevenson was a Skye Terrier owner. Their National (US) Breed Club is the Skye Terrier Club of America.