The Skye Terrier Is One Of 5 Scottish Terrier Breeds

Skye Terrier Dog

The Skye Terrier is one of 5 terrier breeds from Scotland, the others being the Cairn Terrier, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier, the Scottish Terrier, and the West Highland White Terrier. They are even-tempered and brave little dogs. They belong to the AKC Terrier group.

A dark grey Skye Terrier standing on grass, with winter trees in the background
Skye Terrier

Skye Terrier – Temperament

The Skye was bred as a hunting dog, and they still retain an inquisitive and curious nature, ready to explore any interesting smells nearby. They enjoy getting out with their owner for a walk to explore the neighborhood, to satisfy their curiosity.

As well as getting out to explore for mental stimulation, they also need a decent walk every day, to keep in physical shape.

Although the Skye was bred to be active outdoors, and to hunt as an earthdog, they don’t actually like living outdoors, and prefer to be inside with their ‘family’ most of the time.

They don’t need a backyard to play in, as they are small enough to play indoors in an apartment, as long as they can get out for a proper walk each day. Just playing indoors is not the same as getting outside for a walk.

The Skye Terrier tends to be wary of strangers, and needs socialization at an early age. They may also develop ‘small dog syndrome’ if not trained properly. This is where the dog has not been corrected or disciplined enough when growing up, and they start to believe that THEY are the pack leader in the house, and bark incessantly to get their own way.

A white Skye Terrier standing sideways to the camera, against a white background
A white Skye Terrier

Skye Terrier – Breed History

As the name implies, these dogs are from the Isle of Skye, the most Northern of the Inner Hebrides group off the West coast of Scotland. In the 1600’s, the farmers on the island needed to control the local fox and badger populations, and bred the Skye Terrier to do the job.

From its origins as a working dog breed, the Skye became popular with British nobility and landed gentry. In the 1900s the breed was championed by Queen Victoria, which boosted its popularity even further.

Their are 2 varieties of Skye Terrier, and the difference is all in the ears. The original working dogs had ears that flop down, which made it easier to get into fox and badger holes. At some point in time, dogs with erect ears appeared, and these gradually became more popular than the ‘drop’ eared dogs.

A white Skye Terrier with erect ears, indoors on a chair
Skye Terrier with erect ears. Image courtesy AKC.

In the years since, its popularity has declined, and the breed is now one of the most endangered on Earth, and in real danger of extinction within 50 years.

Vital Statistics

Height; 10 inches (male),  9 inches (female)

Weight; 35 lbs to 45 lbs

Life Span; 10 to 14 years


Black, Blue,  Cream,  Fawn,  Grey,  Platinum,  Silver.

Ease of Training

This one of the calmest of the Terrier breeds, and they respond well to training. They sometimes have a stubborn streak, but with a patient and consistent approach they will pick up commands and tricks quite quickly.

By nature the Skye is a little reserved, and needs to be socialized from a young age to become used to meeting new sights, smells, people and other animals.

Your Skye Terrier should be taken to puppy training classes to learn the basics of puppy training, and to be introduced to other dogs. After that, it’s a good idea to take your dog to adult training classes, so that they learn who is the master in the house, and do not develop ‘small dog syndrome’, where they think THEY are in charge!


You might think that this small dog would offer little in the way of protection, but you would be wrong. They make very good watchdogs, as they are extremely alert, wary of strangers and visitors, and will bark readily if they are suspicious of anything.

The Skye Terrier is also extremely brave,  a trait from his breeding when he had to go down dark holes to take on a badger or a fox. This courage means that this small dog will not back down from a challenge, and will stand his ground.

Obviously, the Skye lacks the sheer physical size to deter an intruder, but he will make such a fuss that everyone in the neighborhood will know something’s going on!


The Skye Terrier has a long double-layered coat. It looks as if it might be a lot of work to groom, but in fact this breed is not difficult to look after. Most experts recommend a once-a week brushing with a soft brush or a pin brush for the top coat and a comb to get through the undercoat. This should be enough to prevent tangling.

The long coat keeps its length well, and does not need trimming or cutting. A bath around once a month is usually enough to keep them smelling sweet, but it’s important not to rub the coat too much while shampooing, as this may mat the coat.

The dog’s teeth should be brushed each day with special dog toothpaste and a small brush. Ears should be inspected weekly for any signs of infection, such as redness, swelling or a bad smell. Claws should be inspected monthly, and trimmed if necessary to prevent splitting and cracking.

Health Considerations

Skye Terriers have long bodies, about twice as long as they stand high. This means they have a long spine, and as young dogs they can be injured by trying to go up or down stairs, for example.

Other conditions to be aware of are:

  •  Hip dysplasia
  •  Skin allergies
  •  Cancer

Famous Skye Terriers Greyfriars Bobby

Greyfriars Bobby of Edinburgh, Scotland. The story goes that Bobby, a Skye Terrier, was owned by a man called John Gray. Their is some disagreement about Gray’s occupation – he may have been a nightwatchman or a farmer.

In any event, John Gray died in 1858, and was buried in the graveyard of Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh. The story goes that Bobby sat by his master’s grave for the next 14 years. When Bobby himself died, he was buried just inside the Kirk gate, not far from John Gray’s grave.

There are several points of dispute about the story; many people believe that dogs who initially find their master’s grave tended to get fed by passers by, which creates the habit of the dog returning to the same spot.

It’s for food, not out of loyalty to their master. Also, some say that Bobby died at a younger age, and was ‘replaced’ by persons unknown as the story of ‘Greyfriars Bobby’ brought a number of interested tourists to the area, supporting local businesses. Which would explain why Bobby apparently lived to the age of 17 years!

A black iron statue of famous Skye Terrier Greyfriars Bobby
Greyfriars Bobby

Whatever the truth, the story has lived on, and there is now even a life-sized statue of Greyfriars Bobby, put up in 1872, standing near the South Entrance to the Kirk yard.

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