The Skye Terrier is a very down-to-earth dog. He originated on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, where he was a working terrier, using his short, strong legs and agile body to go after fox, badger and otter in their burrows. The Skye became something of a fad among the Victorian aristocracy, and today almost exclusively is a show dog and pet. As a pet, he is typical of the terriers, a tough-minded little dog that loves his family but prefers to make up his own mind about what they’re asking of him. Lively and entertaining, the Skye will need guidance from puppy-hood to become a well-mannered pet and not a bossy little beast.
Is the Skye Terrier the Right Dog for You?
His companion dog pedigree may be more than a hundred years old, but the Skye Terrier still possesses a number of terrier traits, good and bad. He digs, he barks and he chases cats. He doesn't get along all that well with other dogs, particularly if both are males. And he can be stubborn and a bit hard to train.
But do right by your Skye and he'll give you a love and loyalty with the same tenacity he went after vermin in his ancestral Scottish homeland. In his case, "doing right" means providing him with gentle, firm and consistent training from an early age, seeing the funny side of his quirks and independence while still making sure he learns the lessons he needs to be a good family dog, and making sure he has enough exercise to keep his mind and body busy.
Don't expect him to be outgoing with everyone he meets; many of his most devoted fans use words like "cautious" and "aloof" to describe his attitude towards people he doesn't know. Puppies need to be socialized to accept strangers without aggression or fear, but shouldn't be expected to be tail-waggingly friendly to one and all. And while there are exceptions, this is probably not the best breed for families with children.
The Skye Terrier usually weighs somewhere between 25-40 pounds, and comes in shades of gray with dark ears. His ears can be either upright or hang down, and dogs with hanging ears need a little more attention to ear cleaning than those with prick ears.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Skye's grooming needs are modest – even for show dogs. Just brush the long, silky coat a couple of times a week to remove dead hair and prevent matting. They do shed, but not heavily. Occasionally a dog will have a very soft coat that will tangle more easily, and these require more frequent brushing.
Skye Terriers don't do well if they're left alone for long periods and are not happy as backyard dogs. Let him live as a member of your family or you might find yourself with a lonely, bored, noisy, and destructive nuisance instead of a happy, well-behaved companion.
7 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Skye Terrier Puppy
- Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers many breeds and popular mixes, or that ships with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you’ll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
- Start your search for a good breeder on the website of the Skye Terrier Club of America; choose one who has agreed to be bound by the club's Code of Ethics, which prohibits its members from selling through or to pet stores and outlines the responsibilities of its member breeders to the dogs they produce and the people who buy them.
- Ask your puppy’s breeder to show you written documentation from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) that her breeding dogs have had their eyes tested within the last year, along with Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) clearances on their elbows and thyroids. Because temperament is so important in companion dogs, a breeder who has American Temperament Test Society (TT) certification on her dogs is to be preferred over one who does not.
- Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing, and any breeder who says her lines are free of all these problems, or that they're not a concern, is either lying or knows almost nothing about Skye Terriers. Look for your puppy elsewhere.
- It's not likely you'll find one but if you do, don't hesitate to consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Skye Terriers aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. Since a Skye Terrier can live to be 14 years of age or older, even an adult dog will be with your family for a long time.
- Puppy or adult, take your Skye Terrier to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues, and in particular to watch out for the early signs of degenerative disc disease and other bone or spinal problems.
- Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Health Issues Common to Skye Terriers
Skye Terriers can be affected by several genetic health problems. Skye Terriers, like Bassett Hounds, are what is known as "achondroplastic." This term indicates not just that the dogs have short legs relative to the size of their bodies, but that this trait is a form of dwarfism. There are a number of health problems common to achondroplastic breeds, one of which is a high incidence of degenerative disc disease.
The other, known as "Skye limp" or "puppy limp," is caused by too-early closing of the growth plates in the leg bones. While the condition is not considered to be painful, it does mean that Skye Terriers of less than 8-10 months usually need to be restricted in exercise to prevent damage to their bones. They typically outgrow the condition after that age.
One of the most serious breed-related health problems in the Skye Terrier is a high rate of cancer, particularly mammary cancer in females. They also may have a breed-related sensitivity to the ivermectin class of drugs, which should be used with caution in these dogs until more is known.
Skye Terriers may also suffer from genetic forms of liver and kidney disease. There are no screening tests for these conditions, but your puppy's breeder should be willing – eager, in fact – to go over the health histories of his parents and their close relatives, and discuss how prevalent those and any other health concerns are in his lines.
Pet Insurance for Skye Terriers
Pet insurance for Skye Terriers costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Skye Terriers are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.
Embrace pet insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Skye Terriers are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Skye Terrier is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.