Scottish Skye Terrier

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Scottish Skye Terrier
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An exceedingly rare crossbreed that exists only in small numbers, it is not often that one is lucky enough to meet a Scottish Skye Terrier, which is a cross between the Scottish Terrier and the Skye Terrier. Tenacious and independent, these dogs are typical terriers and do not suffer fools gladly. Remarkably energetic, they require plenty of activity, despite their small size.

The Scottish Skye Terrier has a stocky build, with a long back and straight limbs. They have coarse, straight fur that can grow quite long. A range of coat colours are possible, though many will have black or grey fur. Due to their dense coat, they do require regular grooming and can be prone to developing matts.

About & History

There is little to say about the recently developed Scottish Skye Terrier, who has yet to stake its claim in history. However, they have been bred from a couple of truly ancient dog breeds; the Scottish Terrier and the Skye Terrier, who have interesting histories.

The Skye Terrier

Skye Terriers are one of the oldest breeds of Terriers in existence and are no longer a popular breed today. In fact, they are classified as a ‘vulnerable’ breed and are thought to be near extinction. They were first developed on the Isle of Skye over 500 years ago. Their original purpose was as a hunting dog and they would pursue small prey, including rabbits and rats, as well as larger animals, such as foxes and badgers.

To fulfil this task, they were bred to be both athletic and fearless. They belong to the Kennel Club’s Terrier Group and are believed to have played a part in the development of all Scottish Terriers, including the Cairn Terrier and the West Highland White Terrier. The most famous Skye Terrier is probably Greyfriars Bobby, a dog who visited his deceased master’s grave on a daily basis. There is even a monument dedicated to him in Edinburgh!

The Scottish Terrier

The Scottish Terrier (or ‘Scottie’) comes from Scotland; a country where a large number of our Terriers have been developed. They are descendants of the Skye Terrier and were originally used to ‘go to ground’ and hunt small quarry, such as rodents. Up until the 1800s, this breed was often called the Aberdeen Terrier, as they enjoyed a great deal of popularity in the city of Aberdeen.

It was in 1881 that the Kennel Club recognised the Scottie, with the American Kennel Club following suit just four years later. Interestingly, the dog piece on a Monopoly board is a Scottish Terrier. Sadly, in 2019, the Scottie was classified as an ‘at risk’ breed for the very first time. This is likely due to the recent trend of favoring more ‘exotic’ breeds, such as the French Bulldog and the Pug.


Built for purpose, the Scottish Skye Terrier is robust and well-muscled with a strong and sturdy frame. Their head is long and solid, ending in a mouth with a powerful jaw. While most dogs will have triangular ears that stand erect, a number of individuals will have folded ears. While they have beautiful dark brown eyes, these are not always easily visible thanks to their long facial fur! As well as being excessively furry on their face, many also have long fur on their ears, chest and tail. Their tail is rather short and usually straight.

Measuring only 26cm to 28cm at the withers, the Scottish Skye Terrier is a rather short dog. They do, however, make up for this with a very long body. When fully mature, an adult dog will weigh in at between 10g to 15kg, making them substantially heavier than the Scottie.

The harsh coat of the Scottish Skye Terrier is weather resistant, allowing for it to spend hours on end in the harsh Scottish climate. Black and grey are the two most common fur colours, however, dogs can also be fawn, wheaten or cream.

Character & Temperament

A hardy dog with the confidence typical of Terrier breeds, the Scottish Skye Terrier is poised and self-assured. They are happy in their own company and are not overly reliant on people. This independence makes for a dog who is not particularly affectionate but, on the plus side, one who is not at all prone to separation anxiety.

Given the working history of their ancestors, it is little wonder that the Scottish Skye Terrier is tenacious and enjoys being kept active. They can have a one-track mind when out on a walk, sniffing for new and interesting smells rather than listening to your cues. They do not tire quickly and move with surprising speed and dexterity considering their body shape.

Some Scottish Skye Terriers are quite antisocial, preferring the company of one or two humans over anyone else. They need intensive socialisation with other dogs early on or they can be prone to canine aggression. Similarly, they are not very tolerant of young children and can quickly become defensive and snappy when in their company. Due to this, they are best suited to households with older children only.


While clever and well able to learn a range of cue words and phrases, it can be tricky to keep the Scottish Skye Terrier on side and to convince them that training sessions are fun. Owners can encourage participation by rewarding heavily with treats and vocal praise. For some, playing with their favourite toy is the best reward they can be offered so it can be useful to bring some toys along on any training session.

Not for the novice trainer, the stubborn nature of the Scottish Skye Terrier means that they tend to take longer than others to train. Their recall is quite good; however, they often forget it when distracted. Due to this, many owners will walk their Scottish Skye Terriers on a long lead when in a public place.


Pedigree dogs, hybrids and ‘Heinz 57s’ can all become ill, however, it can be easier to predict which diseases will affect those with a known genetic background. This knowledge can be useful when determining which individuals to breed together, as responsible breeding can help to maintain a healthy population.

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

IVDD is an orthopaedic complaint of small, longer-backed dogs and can occur to varying degrees. Injuries can be prevented in some instances by using harnesses rather than neck collars, avoiding stairs and high jumps and maintaining a lean body condition.

Atopic Dermatitis

Those with atopy can be allergic to a wide range of things, including certain foods, pollens, house dust mites, etc. For some, their allergy will be seasonal. Though atopic dermatitis tends to be a disease that a dog has for life, it can often be well managed with courses of medication and medicated shampoos. Avoiding the allergen is advised if it is known what a dog is reacting to. For some, immunotherapy can dramatically improve symptoms.

Von Willebrand Disease

This genetic disorder occurs when there is a missing von Willebrand factor and the dog’s ability to clot their blood is negatively impacted. This can lead to heavy and long-lasting bleeding and can pose a challenge during certain surgeries.

Bladder Cancer

Signs of bladder cancer can include chronic bladder infections, blood in the urine and a palpable mass in the abdomen. This cancer can usually be detected on an ultrasound scan. In some cases, surgery may be beneficial, while other cases will benefit more from medical therapy.

Exercise and Activity Levels

These dogs love to sniff, explore and run about. Where possible, they should have access to a fenced-in back garden. Though they do not need hour long runs every day, they do enjoy being brought out on several walks. Owners should vary where they take their dog in order to make it a more enjoyable experience and to prevent boredom.

Scottish Skye Terriers can adapt to life either in the city or the countryside as long as they are exercised sufficiently. They do not need large homes as they themselves are relatively small.


The wiry coat of the Scottish Skye Terrier needs brushing two to three times a week and should only shed a moderate amount. The help of a professional groomer may be needed to keep the longer fur on their face from growing out of control. The fur around their eyes and mouth should be cleaned on a daily basis to remove old food and other debris.

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