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Skye Terrier

Nicole Cosgrove

The Skye Terrier is a medium sized purebred from the Isle of Skye, one of Inner Hebrides Islands in Scotland. It has also been called the Isle of Skye Terrier and is often referred to as the Skye. It was bred to be a working breed specifically to hunt otter, badger and foxes but also other den dwelling animals farmers needed to be rid of to protect their land and livestock. It is sadly at very low numbers and is currently listed by the Kennel Club in the United Kingdom as one of its most endangered dogs. While it is still used by a few today in its original working role it is also valued as a companion too.
The Skye Terrier at A Glance
Name Skye Terrier
Other names Isle of Skye Terrier, Clydesdale Terrier, the Fancy Skye Terrier, Silky Skye Terrier, Glasgow Terrier, Paisley Terrier
Nicknames the Skye
Origin Scotland
Average size Medium
Average weight 25 to 40 pounds
Average height 9 to 10 inches
Life span 12 to 14 years
Coat type Double, hard, short, corded, flat, straight, wiry, wooly
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black, cream ,fawn, blue, grey, yellow, white
Popularity Not popular – ranked 178th by the AKC
Intelligence Fair to average – understands commands with 40 to 80 repetitions
Tolerance to heat Very good – can live in hot climates but not extreme
Tolerance to cold Very good – can live in cold climates but not extremes
Shedding Low – will not leave a lot of hair around the home
Drooling Low – not a dog prone to slobber or drool
Obesity Moderate – not especially prone but make sure food is measured and it gets regular exercise
Grooming/brushing Moderate – brush regularly
Barking Frequent as with most terriers
Exercise needs Slightly active – will need a couple of walks around the block but does not need much more
Trainability Moderately difficult – experience helps a lot
Friendliness Very good with socialization
Good first dog Very good but help or homework into training techniques needed
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Good with socialization, best with older children
Good with other dogs Moderate – socialization is essential as will supervision be
Good with other pets Good with socialization but can have a strong prey drive
Good with strangers Good but need socialization
Good apartment dog Very good – as long as it gets daily outside walks
Handles alone time well Moderate – does not like being left alone for long periods
Health issues A healthy breed – a few issues might include back problems, orthopedic problems, cancer and eye problems
Medical expenses $460 a year for pet insurance and basic health care
Food expenses $140 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $540 a year for grooming, toys, basic training, license and miscellaneous items
Average annual expenses $1140 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,000
Rescue organizations Several including Skye Rescue and Skye Terrier Club of America
Biting Statistics None reported

The Skye Terrier’s Beginnings

The Skye Terrier was bred and developed at least 500 years ago on the Inner Hebrides islands off the northwestern coast of Scotland, specifically the Isle of Skye hence its name. It was bred to hunt den animals like badgers, fox and otters and to go to ground if needed (enter the dens). It was used by farmers to protect their livestock. It is understood that in the early 1600s a Spanish ship wrecked on the island and on board were Maltese dogs. Some survived and bred with island terriers which lead to the Skye Terrier. Scotland has several terrier breeds and it is thought this terrier is one of the oldest of them. Tracing its history back to its early years is tricky as for a while the term Skye Terrier was given to several breeds. Mary, Queen of Scots is famous for having a loyal dog with her beneath her petticoats when she want to her execution, that dog was a Skye Terrier.

For a long while it became a fashionable dog for royalty and nobility as well commoners and farmers. In 1842 Queen Victoria, a dog lover and breeder herself, saw and admired the breed and acquired one. This caused another increase in popularity especially with the nobles. In 1856 a Skye Terrier was bought by a Scottish police officer called John Gray who died just two years later. The dog followed the funeral procession to Greyfriars Churchyard and then would not leave the grave. Eventually it was turned away but each day it would come back, so the grounds keeper built a shelter for it and people fed it. It is said Greyfriar Bobby as it has become known as did this for 14 years until it died and was buried with its master. In 1864 it appeared in its first dog show in England and right till the early 20th century this was top terrier. Its first breed club was started in 1876 and it was recognized by the Kennel Club in the early 1870s.

New Lease on Life

The Sky Terrier came to the US because of how its popularity to English royalty and nobility in the mid to late 1800s. It was recognized by the AKC in 1887 and became popular as a show dog too during this period. A breed club for it was not formed though until 1938 called the Skye Terrier Club of America. However today its popularity is much decreased to the point where many have not heard of it both in the UK and in the US. It is listed as one of the UKs most Vulnerable Native Breeds and without more people taking an interest with 40 years it is possible this dog will face extinction. Today it ranks at 178th in popularity out of dogs registered with the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

This dog is medium sized weighing 25 to 40 pounds and standing 9 to 10 inches tall. It is a low to the ground breed, long with its length being about double its height. It has a level topline and a long tail that hangs down and is feathered. It is more hardy and heavier than many realize. Its neck is arched and long and its feet are like hares, large, long and pointing forwards. It has a double coat, the under is shorter and wooly and the topcoat is harder, flat and straight and parts down the center of the back. It can take up to three years for its coat to reach its fully length. There is an apron of longer hair on the chest. Its color can be blue, black, grey, silver, cream, fawn and there can be black tips around the tail, ears and muzzle. Its chest can also have a small amount of white.

The head is long and the muzzle tapers and ends with a black nose. They have a beard and bangs that fall down over their eyes, often owners will pull them back with a clip. Its eyes are medium sized and brown. It can have either prick or folded ears though the latter is now less common. Erect ears have feathering that falls down to mix in with its side locks. Prick ears are medium sized and are carried high on the head.

The Inner Skye Terrier


This breed is a good one for new owners though some help or work may be needed when it comes to training as it can be stubborn. It is alert so can make a good watchdog who will bark to alert you to any intruder trying to get in. it is a frequent barker though so training to control its barking will be needed. It is a somewhat sensitive dog and is also bold, playful, spirited, intelligent, affectionate and loyal. It has a happy and good natured attitude but it does need a lot of attention. However some people go too far and start to treat it as a baby rather than a dog, spoiling it and letting it think it is the boss. It can then develop small dog syndrome where it can be difficult, aggressive and vocal.

With the right owners it is loving but it is more serious than many terriers. It tends to bond more closely to one owner and it is from that person it needs lots of attention. It does not take being ignored very well and does not like to be left alone for long periods. If it feels neglected it will get up to mischief and do what it takes to draw attention back to itself. For that reason it needs people who are around more like retirees, work from home people, or where there is a stay at home parent. Because of its caution around strangers socialization is very important to make sure that does not turn to suspicion. While it is happy to go out for some walks and will enjoy exploring a yard like any dog, it is also happy to curl up on your lap and likes to have its chill time.

Living with a Skye Terrier

What will training look like?

Training the Skye is not easy, and this is where if there is experience it really comes in handy! Owners will need to have patience and be prepared to create rules and stick to them, be the clear leader, be firm and consistent. Any meekness will be taken advantage of. It likes to make its own decisions but can be lead to follow yours. It does not respond well though to harshness, it needs positive and fair training. Praise it, encourage it and use treats to motivate and reward. Keep the sessions fun, short and engaging. Make sure you include early socialization that introduces it to different sounds, people, places, situations, animals and so on. The more exposure it gets the more well rounded and confident it will be and the less suspicious and snappish it might be towards strangers.

How active is the Skye Terrier

The Skye is not an especially active breed so is a good dog for owners who themselves cannot be overly active. It would be fine with indoor play, time in a yard if there is one and a couple of 15 minute walks a day. It can live in an apartment as long as it gets that outdoor time every day and it will be playful indoors too. If it does not get enough exercise, even though it is not an very active breed, it will still become poorly behaved and unhealthy. When out walking it should be on a leash as it likes to chase small or even large animals and it is too fearless. If there is a yard it needs to be well fenced so it does not escape and run off after something.

Caring for the Skye Terrier

Grooming needs

There is a moderate amount of grooming and maintenance needed for the Skye Terrier. It sheds a low to average amount and needs brushing at least once or twice a week using something like a pin brush. Make sure you give the coat a spray with some water to dampen it before you rush otherwise it breaks. Show dogs have their coats kept long and may need more frequent care or it tangles easily. Companion or working Skyes can be clipped to make the coat easier to look after. Some owners think frequent bathing can help soften the coat but this is not the case, in fact frequent bathing dries out its natural oils. Bathe just when it needs one. Make sure you brush before bathing as tangles when wet are harder to get rid of.

It will also need its nails clipped if they get too long, its ears cleaned and its teeth brushed regularly. Some dogs wear down their nails naturally with activity, since the Skye is not a super active breed it is more likely that it will need either you, its vet or its groomer to take care of them when they get too long. There are proper dog nail clipper to use and care must be taken not to cut too low down into the quick of the nail where there are blood vessels and nerves, as that will hurt it and cause bleeding. If you are unsure have the vet show you how, or have a professional do it for you. Its ears need to be wiped clean once a week using either a dog ear cleaning solution and cotton balls or a damp cloth. Only wipe where you can reach, never inert anything into the ears. You can also use this time to check for infection signs like wax build up, redness or sensitivity. Finally its teeth need to be looked after with a proper dog toothbrush and toothpaste. Brush at least two to three times a week.

Feeding Time

The Skye will eat about 1 1/4 to 2 cups of a good quality dry dog food each day, split into two meals at least. How much exactly can vary from one Skye to another depending on factors such as metabolism, age, health, build and level of activity. Make sure it can access water at all times and that it is freshened often.

How is the Skye Terrier with children and other animals?

If it is raised with the children and gets good socialization the Skye can be good with children but more so older ones, at least over 6 years old than, than young toddlers. As with most terriers it is too feisty and too too prone to snapping if teased, tugged and hurt by accident by younger children. Supervision is always a good idea. Make sure children are taught how to approach and touch safely and kindly.

Around other small pets like rabbits or cats care needs to be taken. It has a high prey drive and will see them as prey to chase. It is best in a home where there are no other pets, or again where he has been raised with them and socialized to adapt to them. Even then a Skye that has accepted the existence of a cat in its home is still going to try and chase strange cats that come into its yard or that it sees when out. There can be dominance issues with Skye terriers and other dogs especially between dogs of the same sex. If they are raised with another dog they should be fine, but strange dogs will be challenge with barking and it does not care how big another dog is. Good socialization is essential as is supervision when around other dogs.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The Skye Terrier has a life span of about 12 to 14 years and while generally a healthy dog there can be problems with its back, eyes, joints and things like hepatitis, hypochondroplasia, cancer, hypothyroidism and ectopic ureters. Make sure as a puppy that you take care not to allow it to jump from great heights or over exercise, for at least 10 months. Otherwise there can be problems with bone growth, bowed legs and being left with a painful permanent limp.

Biting Statistics

In reports ranging over 35 years that looked at dogs attacking people and causing bodily harm in Canada and the US, there is no mention of the Skye Terrier. It is not known for being people aggressive, but being a terrier it is scrappy, it does have some issues with oher dogs, so there is the potential there for something to happen in rare cases. No dog is completely safe, size and breed can affect how much damage they can do, and some are more aggressive than others, but every breed as the potential to have a bad day. That being said some things you can do as a good owner can help to less those risks. Make sure you choose a breed that suits your lifestyle, level of commitment and experience. Give it the exercise and mental stimulation it needs, good socialization and at least basic level training and the kind of attention it needs.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Skye Terrier puppy is rare especially in the US where less than 100 are registered each year. Prices usually start from around $1000 from a decent breeder of companion dogs but for a top show breeder you can expect that to go up a lot. You can also prepare yourself to be placed on a waiting list. Avoid buying from less reputable places like pet stores, puppy mills or even ignorant back yard breeders. Another option especially if you are not looking for a show dog is to check out your local rescues and shelters. It may not be a purebred Skye terrier, or even a Skye at all that catches your heart. There are lots of dogs that need good homes and have a lot of love to offer. These adoptions can be around $50 to $400.

When you have found a puppy or dog there are some things it needs for the home, and it will also need a vet visit as soon as you can arrange one. Initial items will include things like a crate, carrier, bowls, collar and leash and will come to about $200. The vet visit will include deworming, shots, a good physical exam, micro chipping, and when old enough spaying or neutering. These will cost about $270.

There are also ongoing costs to dog ownership, things like toys, grooming if you use a professional groomer, food and so on. For basic health care like shots, flea and tick prevention, check ups and then pet insurance you can expect to pay around $460 a year. To feed your dog a good quality dry dog food and dog treats are going to cost around $140 a year. Then miscellaneous items, license, basic training, toys and grooming are going to fall somewhere around $540 a year. This means owning a Skye will cost you about $1140 a year as a starting estimate.


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The Skye Terrier is a low to the ground dog with a lot of personality, it is feisty and bold as terriers are but is a bit more serious. It is also more independent and stubborn than many terriers which can make training tricky. It does not need a lot of exercise and care needs to be taken when it comes to how far you will allow it to jump up or down. Be careful if you pick it up that it does not wiggle out of your arms to get down, and jump from too high a height for example. Back problems and joint problems are something to be careful about with this dog. It is very loyal, very devoted to one owner usually and will want lots of attention.

Meet Skypoo – Skye Terrier x Poodle Mix

Skye Terrier and Poodle Mix
General Information
Size medium to large
Height 8 and 15 inches
Weight 35 to 70 pounds
Life span 12 to 15 years
Touchiness Somewhat sensitive
Barking Occasional
Activity Slightly active
Breed Traits

Eager to please
Great family dog


Can be

Featured Image Credit: Sevostyanaova Tatyana, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.