What to Know About Skye Terriers

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen Claussen, DVM on July 08, 2022
7 min read

Hailing from the Isle of Skye in Scotland, the Skye Terrier is known for being courageous, loyal, and very intelligent. Both a working dog and a house dog, the Skye Terrier is a great companion that has a stylish and unique appearance. 

A favorite breed of the nobility, this little dog has a small body, but the heart of a lion. Find out if the Skye Terrier is the perfect breed for you.

So, what does a Skye Terrier look like? This breed is often described as being long, level, and low to the ground. Skye Terriers only stand between 9 to 10 inches at the shoulder. These short-legged dogs weigh 35 and 45 pounds, and females are slightly lighter than males. Skye Terriers have short, muscular legs and thickly-padded feet that are ready for all kinds of terrain. They either have drop ears that hang down or prick ears that are bat-like and stand straight up.

The Skye Terrier has a very distinct look thanks to its long double coat. Its long, straight outer coat falls straight to the ground and covers much of the dog’s face, so unless the hair is trimmed, you won’t see much of your dog’s eyes. The outer coat, while long, shouldn’t get in the way of the dog’s movement, and the hair in its eyes shouldn’t block its vision. The undercoat is short and soft and sticks close to the Skye Terrier’s body. 

There are several Skye Terrier colors, including:

  • Fawn 
  • Cream
  • Black
  • Dark gray
  • Light gray

These dogs have black ears and noses and brown eyes. They might also have a white spot on their chest.

The Skye Terrier temperament is very sweet, polite, and affectionate with its owners. While more serious than some other terrier breeds, the Skye is known to be fearless despite its size and is very loving and playful. One thing to note is that Skye Terriers need a lot of attention and affection from their family to be happy. They are very protective and usually don’t like to be approached by strangers, to the point that some are known to bite. Skyes need early socialization to avoid becoming too wary or fearful of strangers.

Ultimately, Skye Terriers make great companions because of their incomparable loyalty and devotion. Of all breeds, this may be the one that is most dedicated to its owners. Besides being affectionate, it’s key to the Skye Terrier personality to do their best to protect you and the home.

Even though this dog has a long, luxurious coat, it’s not as difficult to care for as you might think. When it comes to Skye Terrier grooming, use a soft brush or comb to brush out their coat a few times a week. This helps to remove dead hair and tangles and to keep your dog’s coat looking healthy. 

Skyes don’t need any scissor trimming or clippering, so their coats should be left in their natural condition. Your Skye Terrier will need a bath about once a month to keep clean, and their nails should be trimmed every couple of weeks or so. When you do give your Skye a bath, don’t scrub the coat, as this will cause it to mat.

The Skye Terrier has a moderate level of shedding. Once or twice a year, your dog will go through periods of heavy shedding as it gets rid of its wooly undercoat.

It’s important to brush your Skye Terrier’s teeth every day or two to keep them clean and healthy. Using a dog-specific toothpaste, gently lift your dog’s lips up and down to brush its teeth, concentrating on the gum line, brushing gently. Your dog’s mouth doesn’t need to be opened much to do this.

When it comes to feeding, you can give your Skye Terrier either high-quality commercial dog food or homemade food prepared at home. If you’re thinking about preparing food for your dog, talk to your vet about recipes and nutrition information. How much you feed your dog depends on their age and activity level. Treats, while good for training, should be given sparingly to prevent your dog from becoming overweight.

When you get your puppy, there are several steps that you need to take to protect its health. The first is to talk to your vet about vaccinations. Your Skye Terrier will need several rounds of required vaccines in their first months of puppyhood, followed by booster shots every 1 to 3 years. These vaccines cover:

  • Distemper
  • Parvovirus
  • Rabies
  • Parainfluenza
  • Adenovirus

While not required, your vet may recommend these vaccines to keep your Skye Terrier healthy depending on lifestyle and exposure potential:

  • Bordetella
  • Canine influenza
  • Leptospirosis
  • Lyme disease
  • Coronavirus

Another concern for dog owners is heartworm. There isn’t a vaccine to prevent infections, but there are several vet-recommended products. Your Skye Terrier can try a monthly chewable pill or topical spot treatment to prevent heartworm. Many vets recommend a prescription injection medication that’s given every 6 or 12 months. Some of these medications also help to prevent infections caused by other internal parasites.

Protecting your Skye Terrier from fleas and ticks is also very important. Check your dog’s body regularly for any signs of pests, especially after they come in from being outside. Products like flea and tick collars or topical treatments can prevent infestations, especially if your dog is in a wooded area. If you spot fleas or ticks, use a flea comb or tick tool to get rid of them, followed by a bath using a flea and tick shampoo, but be careful not to expose yourself to the blood inside the tick, which could be infectious. 

Many vets recommend flea and tick chewables, which tend to be more effective, to protect dogs against infestations. These are oral products that contain different ingredients to either control, prevent, or treat fleas in dogs. Your vet can guide you to the best product for your Skye Terrier.

In general, Skye Terriers are a very healthy breed and live anywhere from 12 to 15 years. However, just like other breeds, some are affected by health problems. Similar to other breeds that are long and low to the ground, Skye Terriers are prone to disk injuries. Because of this, Skye puppies younger than 8 to 10 months should avoid going up and down the stairs too much or jumping too aggressively.

Something to watch out for is a condition called “puppy limp”. The Skye Terrier is a dwarf breed, so some of the bones in its legs grow at different rates when it’s a puppy. While this doesn’t cause any pain, it can cause your dog to limp. As your puppy grows, their puppy limp usually goes away on its own, but you should monitor your dog when they are jumping or playing. Dwarf breeds are known to have high rates of degenerative disc disease, as well.

Today, Skye terrier breeders are careful when it comes to inheritable diseases. They screen for conditions like autoimmune diseases, skin allergies, hip dysplasia, and luxating patella. This breed has a high rate of cancer, especially mammary cancer in females, so be sure to look out for any signs of illness or discomfort.

Other health problems to keep an eye out for include:

  • Allergies 
  • Glaucoma
  • Lens luxation
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Hypothyroidism 
  • Renal dysplasia
  • Von Willebrand’s disease (blood clot disorder)

Because the Skye Terrier is small, they can adapt to live in either a large or small home in either the city or the country. This dog is energetic and loves to play, so having a yard or park nearby to let your dog play would be ideal. As working dogs, Skyes love to play chasing games, so you should keep an eye on any smaller pets that you may have in your home.

Like other Terrier breeds, Skyes are very smart but need ongoing training throughout their lives. They can be very stubborn and strong-willed, but respond well to positive training techniques. Skye Terriers are quite sensitive, so they will withdraw from you if you correct them too much or use harsh training techniques. These dogs can be quite reserved, so they need to be socialized at an early age to get on well with kids and other pets.

When it comes to exercise, your Skye Terrier can adapt to your lifestyle. While it’s important to walk your dog regularly to keep it fit and happy, it doesn’t require an excessive amount of exercise and is happy to be inside with you. Skye Terriers love to play and do really well with agility and obedience training exercises.

One thing to note is that Skye Terriers are quite lively and alert, so they like to bark.

The Skye Terrier origin story begins on the Isle of Skye in Scotland in the early 1600s. A Spanish ship wrecked on the rocks of the island, and some of its furry passengers, Maltese dogs, made it to shore. These dogs were then bred with local terrier breeds, and the result was the Skye Terrier we know today. This breed has changed very little over the last 400 years, so these dogs retain many of the same characteristics as their ancestors.

Skye Terriers were then bred by Scottish farmers as working dogs to hunt down vermin on the farm. Their short legs were great for digging, and their thick paws and double coat helped to protect them from harsh Scottish weather and terrain.

In the 19th century, Queen Victoria of England took a liking to Skye Terriers, and the breed’s popularity soared, especially among the country’s nobility. The queen particularly loved the prick-eared variety of Skyes.