The toy-sized terrier has big-dog boldness.
- Dog Breed Group
- Companion Dogs
- Life Span
- 12 to 15 years
Adaptabilitybased on 6 ratings
Trainabilitybased on 6 ratings
Health & Groomingbased on 6 ratings
All-around friendlinessbased on 4 ratings
Exercise needsbased on 4 ratings
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The Silky Terrier dog breed exemplifies the expression "small dog, big personality." Weighing just eight to 10 pounds when full grown, he's tough and confident, perhaps because of his heritage as a hunter of small prey. Beneath the feistiness, however, is a loving companion dog who loves to stick close to his person.
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The Silky, as he's often called, is an elegant little dog with a beautiful, silky — hopefully that wasn't a surprise — coat of tan and blue. Beneath that delicate-looking exterior, however, is a big, bold spirit. People unfamiliar with the breed are often surprised to see the small Silky warn off intruders, romp with large dogs, or keep up with their owners on a hike.
But this shouldn't be a shock. The Silky is, after all, a terrier, with a true terrier temperament: scrappy, tenacious, and fond of digging, barking, and chasing. If you don't consider these characteristics endearing, the Silky Terrier isn't for you.
Despite the tough attitude, however, the Silky's a loyal dog who loves to be with his family. He's best suited to homes where he won't be left home alone for long periods: he needs the companionship of his human pack, and he's apt to get into mischief if he isn't supervised.
The Silky needs daily physical and mental exercise, and will be happy to join you for a walk in the neighborhood or a hike in the country. Despite his high energy, he can be an apartment or condo dog. He does have a propensity to bark though, so a "Quiet" command should be part of his basic canine manners. (The upside: he'll let you know when you have visitors.)
The Silky Terrier who's exposed to kids beginning in puppyhood can be a good companion for children older than 10, as long as they treat him carefully and kindly. He may not tolerate poking and prodding from toddlers and very young kids.
For the right owner, this fun-loving and energetic companion can add spice, and a lot of love, to life.
- Silky Terriers are active dogs who need exercise and mental stimulation. This doesn't mean strenuous hikes or hours of retrieving, but it does mean you'll need to provide more activity than tummy rubs on the couch.
- Although they need exercise, they can make good apartment or condo dogs.
- Silkies have a strong prey drive and will chase cats, squirrels, rodents, and sometimes other dogs. A Silky may not be the best choice if you've got other small pets. Also, keep your Silky leashed when you're in unsecured areas to avoid having him disappear into the wild blue yonder when something small and furry streaks by.
- Silkies like to be with their families and are happiest when they can spend the whole day in your company.
- Despite the long coat, Silkies are fairly easy keepers. But they do require some grooming: thorough brushing two to three times a week and a monthly bath.
- Like all terriers, the Silky enjoys digging. To save your flowerbeds, either consider another breed, or train your Silky to dig in a specific area. It's much easier to channel the instinct than to suppress it.
- Barking, another terrier trait, is a much-enjoyed pastime for Silkies. Although you can teach your Silky a "Quiet" command, he'll still bark when he thinks it's necessary. The upside is, Silkies are excellent watchdogs.
- Silky Terriers can be good family dogs, but because of their scrappy personality, children should be about 10 years old and up.
- Although they're generally friendly, Silkies can be territorial and aggressive toward other dogs if they're not socialized properly.
- A Silky shouldn't be left unattended in a yard. He's small enough to be considered prey by larger wild animals, terrier enough to dig his way out, and Silky enough to get into mischief.
- To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they're free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
The Silky Terrier originated in Australia in the 1890s, when breeders crossed imported Yorkshire Terriers with their native Australian Terriers. Some of the offspring looked like Yorkies, some looked like Australian Terriers, and others looked like the Silky of today, with a size and coat length that was between the two parent breeds. The Silky-looking dogs were interbred until the puppies predictably had Silky traits.
In 1906, Australian fanciers developed a breed standard — written guidelines for what the breed should look, move, and act like — in Sydney, New South Wales. In 1909, another standard was drawn up in Victoria. The two standards didn't completely match up, mostly on the preferred weight and ear type. The two camps compromised and a new breed standard came out in 1926.
The breed has had several names: initially, he was called the Sydney Silky Terrier. In 1955, he became the Australian Silky Terrier (still the official name for the breed in Australia). In the U.S., the name was changed to Silky Terrier.
SizeMales and females stand nine to 10 inches tall, and weigh eight to 10 pounds.
The Silky Terrier is a friendly, intelligent, spirited, and self-assured. True to his hunting roots, he loves to chase small animals, and won't back down from a fight. Despite his small size he makes an excellent watchdog, as he's quick to sound the alarm if something or someone strange enters his turf.
Though independent, the Silky is devoted to his people and is happiest when he's part of daily family life. He likes to be in the house, following you room to room, or joining you at the front door to bark at your guests. He does best if he can be with his human "pack" most of the day. If you travel a lot, this adaptable dog would be happy to hit the road with you.
Temperament is affected by a number of factors, including heredity, training, and socialization. Puppies with nice temperaments are curious and playful, willing to approach people and be held by them. Choose the middle-of-the-road puppy, not the one who's beating up his littermates or the one who's hiding in the corner.
Always meet at least one of the parents — usually the mother is the one who's available — to ensure that they have nice temperaments that you're comfortable with. Meeting siblings or other relatives of the parents is also helpful for evaluating what a puppy will be like when he grows up.
Like every dog, the Silky needs early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences — when they're young. Socialization helps ensure that your Silky puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.
Enrolling him in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start. Inviting visitors over regularly, and taking him to busy parks, stores that allow dogs, and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors will also help him polish his social skills.
Silkys are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain health conditions. Not all Silkys will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.
If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition.
In Silkys, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand's disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).
- Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease: This involves the hip joint. If your Westie has Legg-Perthes, the blood supply to the head of the femur (the large rear leg bone) is decreased, and the head of the femur that connects to the pelvis begins to disintegrate. The first symptoms, limping and atrophy of the leg muscle, usually occur when puppies are four to six months old. Surgery can correct the condition, usually resulting in a pain-free puppy.
- Patellar Luxation: Also known as slipped stifles, this is a common problem in small dogs. The patella is the kneecap. Luxation means dislocation of an anatomical part (as a bone at a joint). Patellar luxation is when the knee joint (often of a hind leg) slides in and out of place, causing pain. This can be crippling, although many dogs lead relatively normal lives with this condition.
- Diabetes Mellitus: This is a disorder in which the body cannot regulate blood sugar levels. Symptoms of diabetes are excessive urination and thirst, increased appetite, and weight loss. Diabetes can be controlled by diet and the administration of insulin.
- Epilepsy: This is a neurological condition that's often, but not always, inherited. Epilepsy can cause mild or severe seizures that may show themselves as unusual behavior (such as running frantically as if being chased, staggering, or hiding) or even by falling down, limbs rigid, and losing consciousness. Seizures are frightening to watch, but the long-term prognosis for dogs with idiopathic epilepsy is generally very good. It's important to take your dog to the vet for proper diagnosis (especially since seizures can have other causes) and treatment.
- Tracheal Collapse: This is often seen in smaller breeds and can be seen occasionally in the Silky Terrier. It is caused by a weakening of the cartilage; the tracheal or windpipe flattens and obstructs the airway. Symptoms include coughing that sounds like a goose honk, fainting, and an intolerance to exercise. It is treated with antibiotics, steroids, cough suppressants, and using a harness instead of a collar. If medical treatment does not work, surgery is recommended.
The Silky Terrier may look like a toy, but he's a real dog who needs exercise and training. He enjoys daily walks, romping with you in the yard, or trips to a dog park with a special area for small breeds. In a pinch, the Silky is happy to take his workout indoors with a rousing game of fetch in the hallway.
These are not outdoor dogs. The Silky craves the companionship of his people, and he's also small enough to be considered prey by wild animals. And despite his size, another risk is that he may fight with another dog who wanders onto his turf.
When it comes to training, Silky Terriers make willing and able students. Because they're so smart, however, you need to be consistent; otherwise they'll be inclined to make up their own rules. The best way to win your Silky's cooperation is with fun lessons that use positive reinforcement.
Crate training is the easiest way to housetrain your Silky, and crates are also a good way to keep your Silky safe and out of trouble when you're away from home. Silky Terriers are mischievous by nature and can be destructive when left unsupervised. A crate is also a place where he can retreat for a nap. Crate training at a young age will help your dog accept confinement if he ever needs to be boarded or hospitalized.
Never stick your Silky in a crate all day long, however. It's not a jail, and he shouldn't spend more than a few hours at a time in it except when he's sleeping at night. Silkys are people dogs, and they aren't meant to spend their lives locked up in a crate or kennel.
Recommended daily amount: 1/2 to 3/4 cup of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals. Puppies need about 1/8 to 1/4 cup a day.
Note: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.
Base the amount of food you give on your Silky's physical condition, not by how hungry he acts. He's a con artist, and if he can trick you into doling out more food, he will. Keep your Silky in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you're unsure whether he's overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test.
First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can't, he needs less food and more exercise.
For more on feeding your Silky, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.
Coat, Color and Grooming
This breed's coat is beautiful: long and sleek, parted down the back, and hanging five to six inches down. The color is a rich tan and various shades of blue.
You might peg the Silky as a fussy breed, grooming-wise, but he really isn't. A thorough brushing and combing two to three times a week (and before bathtime), along with a bath every month or so will keep your Silky clean and tangle-free.
Brush your Silky's teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside it. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.
Trim his nails once or twice a month if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally to prevent painful tears and other problems. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they're too long. Dog toenails have blood vessels in them, and if you cut too far you can cause bleeding — and your dog may not cooperate the next time he sees the nail clippers come out. So, if you're not experienced trimming dog nails, ask a vet or groomer for pointers.
His ears should be checked weekly for redness or a bad odor, which can indicate an infection. When you check your dog's ears, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner to help prevent infections. Don't insert anything into the ear canal; just clean the outer ear.
Begin accustoming your Silky to being brushed and examined when he's a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult.
As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the nose, mouth, and eyes, and on the feet. Eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.
Children and other pets
The Silky can be a wonderful family pet, so long as he's raised with kids and grows up around their noise and commotion. Given his strong personality, though, he's usually best for families with children older than 10 who know how to handle a dog. He may not tolerate pokes and prods from younger kids.
As with every breed, you should always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he's eating or sleeping or to try to take the dog's food away. No dog, no matter how friendly, should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
The Silky gets along with other dogs very well so long as he's been raised to be dog-friendly, though there may be occasional bossiness and rivalry for attention or treats. Like all terriers, the Silky loves to chase small animals, so he may not be suited for homes with cats, rabbits, or other small pets.
Silkys are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many Silkys in need of adoption and or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don't see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club and they can point you toward a Silky rescue.
All Breed Characteristics
Measures how well this breed potentially adapts to different environments
Measures the amount and difficulty of training potentially required for this breed
Health & Grooming
Measures how much effort this breed potentially needs to keep a tidy hound and home
Measures this breed's potential to get along with other dogs and humans
Measures this breed's potential to require lots of physical activity
Adapt well to apartment living
Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn't necessarily an apartment dog make -- plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents, are all good qualities in an apartment dog.
Affectionate with family
Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.
Amount of shedding
If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.
Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog that rates low in the drool department.
Easy to groom
Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.
Easy to train
Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word "sit"), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me?" attitude, in which case you'll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.
High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they're more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells. Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you'll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.
Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise -- especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, such as herding or hunting. Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.
Friendly toward strangers
Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult.
Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.
Good for novice owners
Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.
Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.
A vigorous dog may or may not be high-energy, but everything he does, he does with vigor: he strains on the leash (until you train him not to), tries to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who's elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.
Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (aka pit bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly.
**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.
Potential for mouthiness
Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.
Potential for playfulness
Some dogs are perpetual puppies -- always begging for a game -- while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.
Potential for weight gain
Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.
Dogs that were bred to hunt, such as terriers, have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by -- cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars -- can trigger that instinct. Dogs that like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase, but you'll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.
Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called "easygoing," "tolerant," "resilient," and even "thick-skinned," can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.
Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space.
Tendency to bark or howl
Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby?
Tolerates being alone
Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive, barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.
Tolerates cold weather
Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.
Tolerates hot weather
Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.
Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they'll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses, or that bunny that just ran across the path, even if it means leaving you behind.
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