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Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography
An active hunter of small prey, this toy thinks he’s a Big Dog and he can be a tiny Napoleon. Forget lap dog status – he’s a terrier who wants to play, dig, run around, and charm the pants off anyone. He’s an excellent watch dog. That gloriously silky coat hardly sheds at all.
When he was first developed in Australia, this breed was known as the Sydney Silky Terrier. The name was changed in Australia to Australian Silky Terrier in 1955. The same year, in the United States, the name was changed to Silky Terrier.
Some people think they're large Yorkshire Terriers, and others think they're tiny Australian Terriers. But even though those dogs are in his ancestry, the Silky Terrier has his own identity – and isn't likely to let you forget it. Sure, he's a charmer and, at 10 pounds or so, highly portable. But he's also a smart, sassy demanding little dog with a great gift for getting his humans to do exactly what he wants them to, and being a pretty big pain in the neck (and a noisy one) when they don't.
Make no mistake: He might be tiny and he might lack the usual scruffy-rough coat of his terrier cousins, but the Silky is no lap dog. Or he is, but mostly on his own terms. He's endlessly curious, full of energy and loves to play. And like most terriers, he has a great fondness for that sub-genre of gardening known as "digging huge holes in the yard" along with a well-developed interest in barking loudly and chasing cats.
Train him gently but consistently from a young age to channel his cleverness and independence into activities that won’t involve noise or destructiveness. The American Kennel Club's Earthdog events offer one such possibility; agility or other active sports are others. He's also a bit difficult to housetrain, so careful training from the day he comes home is essential as well.
Bigger than the Yorkshire Terrier, the Silky is a better choice for families with children, but is still much too small to be played with roughly or unsupervised. In fact, he can be a bit nippy and possessive of his toys, food, and favorite humans. And while the Silky Terrier is not a big shedder, his coat is long and – yes, you guessed it – silky, and it requires frequent brushing to prevent matting.
The development of the Silky Terrier was a happy accident. In the late 19th century, many Yorkshire Terriers were exported to Australia where they were bred to Australian Terriers in an effort to improve that breed’s blue and tan coat color. Some of the resulting puppies were shown as Yorkies, some as Australian Terriers, and some as dogs called Silky Terriers. Those Silkys were selectively bred to achieve the breed we know today.
Breed standards were written for the Silky in 1906 and 1909 in Sydney and Victoria. The two standards were not quite the same, but a revised standard written in 1926 reconciled the differences.
The American Kennel Club recognized the Silky in 1959. The breed ranks 78th among the dogs registered by the AKC.
The lively and spirited Silky Terrier is a confident and friendly companion. He is full of energy, and thrives in the company of a devoted owner. The Silky loves to be active, so expect him to join you as you go about your daily activities. Though he only weighs a dainty 10 pounds, he has the heart of a watchdog and will bark an alert when he thinks it is necessary.
To be sure, the Silky is all terrier: alert and intelligent. His natural outlook is quick, friendly, and responsive, not overly shy or nervous.
The Silky Terrier has a heart for digging, which can be upsetting to owners with well-manicured lawns. Also, he loves to chase. When he isn’t in a secure fenced area, he should be on leash.
The Silky’s assertive terrier temperament can seem bossy at times, so he needs an owner who can firmly and kindly train him. A Silky Terrier’s owner must be a pack leader who is willing to devote time to him.
The Silky Terrier gets along well with children, but is best around older children who are more capable of handling a small dog carefully. He is sturdy, but not so much so that he can’t be injured by a clumsy toddler.
Training should begin right away for the Silky Terrier puppy. Even at 8 weeks old, he is capable of learning good manners. Never wait until he is 6 months old to begin training, which can make bad habits hard to break. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed. These experiences as a young dog will help him grow into a sensible, calm adult dog and minimize any tendency toward being overly suspicious of strangers.
Housetraining the Silky can be challenging, but is successful through repetition and consistency. The Silky can also be overly possessive with food and toys, so early training is necessary to avoid this.
Talk with a reputable, experienced Silky Terrier breeder. Describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Choose a puppy whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized by the breeder from early birth.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
Silky Terriers can develop cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy. They can also develop luxating patellae, a condition in which the knee caps pop out of place. Your puppy's breeder should have 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) clearance on their knees.
Many small dog breeds, including the Silky Terrier, can suffer from Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease, a disorder in which one of the leg bones does not receive adequate blood supply, so the bone degrades. Surgery is required to treat the problem. Even though this disease (and many others) has no screening tests at this time, your puppy's breeder should be willing to go over the health histories of the pup’s parents and their close relatives and to discuss how prevalent those particular health concerns are in his lines.
The Silky Terrier Club of America participates in the Canine Health Information Center, a health database. Before individual Silkies can be issued a CHIC number, breeders must submit patella (knee) evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and eye test results from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF).
Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. A dog need not receive good or even passing scores on the evaluations to obtain a CHIC number, so CHIC registration alone is not proof of soundness or absence of disease, but all test results are posted on the CHIC website and can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Silky at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
It is difficult to improve on the Silky Terrier’s natural good looks, but you can maintain his long, silky coat by brushing and combing it several times a week with a pin or soft slicker brush and metal comb. Spray-on detangler can make this easier and help prevent breakage. Regular brushing prevents tangles, removes dirt and distributes oils, making for a healthy shine. Periodic bathing, every four weeks or so, and light trimming around his ears, eyes and feet, is also necessary. For extra easy care, some owners opt to have their Silkys trimmed short like a Schnauzer.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every one to two weeks. Keep the ears clean and dry to help prevent infections. Check them weekly for redness or a bad odor that might indicate infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball moistened with a mild pH-balanced cleanser recommended by your veterinarian. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath. Introduce your puppy to grooming from an early age so that he learns to accept it with little fuss.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks. Be wary of breeders who only tell you the good things about the breed or who promote the dogs as being “good with kids” without any context as to what that means or how it comes about.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Look for more information about the Silky Terrier and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Silky Terrier Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the STCA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to take responsibility for any dogs bred throughout their life if the owner can’t keep them.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Silky Terrier puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Silky Terrier might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Silky Terrier in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Silky Terriers available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Silky Terrier. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Silky Terriers love all Silky Terriers. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Silky Terrier Club of America’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Silky Terrier rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Silky Terrier home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Silky Terrier, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Silky Terrier to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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