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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography
The Skye is a typical Terrier: tough and tenacious with a propensity for barking and digging. He has a long silky gray coat that is relatively easy to care for, and his large ears can stand upright or hang down. The Skye is cautious with strangers and prefers adults to children. In the right home he is lively and entertaining.
One of the best known and best loved Skye Terriers was Greyfriars Bobby, who faithfully watched over the grave of his owner, John Grey, for 14 years after the man’s death. A statue honoring the dog’s loyalty is visited in Edinburgh by dog lovers from around the world.
The Skye Terrier is a 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 foxes, badgers, and otters in their burrows. The Skye became something of a fad among the Victorian aristocracy, and today is almost exclusively 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 puppyhood to become a well-mannered pet and not a bossy little beast.
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 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 and 40 pounds, and comes mostly in shades of gray with dark ears. His ears can be either upright or hang down.
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.
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References to a terrier from Scotland’s Isle of Skye go back a long way. In his 16th-century book Of English Dogges, Johannes Caius wrote that the Skye Terrier was “brought out of barbaraous borders fro’ the uttermost countryes northward … which, by reason of the length of heare, makes showe neither of face nor of body.” That certainly sounds like a description of the Skye’s profuse coat.
The dogs were bred to seek out and kill foxes, badgers, and otters that threatened a farm’s livestock or caused property damage. Their long coat and facial hair were meant to protect them from injury and Scotland’s typically drizzly weather.
Three centuries later, dog-loving Queen Victoria became interested in the breed during one of her visits to Scotland, and the dogs became fashionable pets of noble ladies. It was said that even a duchess would be ashamed to show her face in the park without the company of a Skye. A portrait of Queen Victoria with one of her Skyes, Rona II, was painted by William Nicholson, and other Skyes were featured in paintings by Sir Edwin Landseer.
The American Kennel Club recognized the Skye in 1887. He’s no longer a fad but remains stylish, elegant, and dignified at 160th among the breeds registered by the AKC.
The Skye is a classic Terrier: fearless in the face of, well, anything, friendly toward people he knows, reserved and cautious with strangers. An old Scottish word, canny, applies to him as well. He’s a clever and prudent dog who will study people carefully before deciding whether to bestow his affections upon them. Once given, though, they are given for life.
He might not look like much of an athlete at first glance, but the Skye has stamina, strength, and agility in abundance. You’ll find him participating in agility, obedience, and tracking, but he’s also a willing couch buddy. Two or three 15-minute walks or playtimes a day will satisfy his exercise needs, but he’s up for more if you are. Temperament permitting, the Skye can also be a cheerful therapy dog, visiting people in facilities such as nursing homes and children’s hospitals.
Like all terriers, the Skye has a mind of his own, but he learns well. Train this sensitive dog with loving firmness and you will easily earn his confidence and respect.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at 8 weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Never wait until he is six months old to begin training, or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. 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.
Talk to the 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. Whatever you want from a Skye Terrier, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
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.
Skye Terriers can be affected by several medical conditions including eye problems (like glaucoma and lens luxation), hypothyriodism, vonWillebrand's disease (a blood clotting disorder), allergies, and ulcerative colitis.
"Skye limp" or "puppy limp" sometimes occurs in puppies between 3 and 10 months of age. It may resolve without treatment, but some veterinarians suggest activity restriction. Skye Terriers may also suffer from genetic forms of liver and kidney disease. Your puppy's breeder should be willing — eager, in fact — to go over the health histories of his dogs and discuss how prevalent those and any other health concerns are in his lines.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
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 Skye 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.
The Skye’s long double coat looks as if it would be high maintenance, but no trimming is needed and it can be easily cared for with weekly brushing. Some sources recommend daily brushing, and the frequency really depends on the individual dog’s coat and lifestyle as well as the groomer’s ability. A thorough brushing all the way down to the skin may well be all that’s needed for a pet dog who doesn’t spend a lot of time outdoors getting down and dirty. A show dog or a dog who enjoys spending time digging in the yard or hunting for critters may need daily care. Use a pin brush or a comb with long teeth that will get all the way through the coat to ensure that mats and tangles don’t get overlooked. The coat sheds moderately, but regular brushing will help to keep hair off your floor, furniture, and clothing.
Bathing frequency is also a matter of circumstance. A dog who is kept brushed and doesn’t have a lifestyle that involves hunting and digging will probably need fewer baths than one who’s more active outdoors or walks on dirty city streets.
To avoid breaking the hairs on the coat, the Skye Terrier Club of America recommends squeezing or pulling the shampoo through the coat or diluting shampoo so that it flows more easily through the coat. Rinse thoroughly and apply conditioner the same way. Then brush and comb the coat while drying it, or let it air dry and brush it out. Just be sure your dog is in a warm room with no drafts. For a finishing touch, pull the hair on his head back with a barrette or coated rubber band.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
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. She is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.
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.
Look for more information about the Skye Terrier and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Skye 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 sell puppies only with a written contract.
Avoid breeders who seem interested only in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from a website that offers 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. Quickie online purchases 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 Skye 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) 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.
And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Skye 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 Skye Terrier 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.
Adopting a Dog From a Skye Terrier Rescue or Shelter
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 Skye 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 Skye Terrier s 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 Skye 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
Most people who love Skye Terriers love all Skye Terriers. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Skye Terrier Club of America can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Skye 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 Skye Terrier home for a trial 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 pup. 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 Skye 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, a breeder purchase or a rescue, take your Skye 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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