Meet the Silky Terrier
August 18, 2022
Charming, spirited, and devoted
Bright, spunky, and adaptable, the Silky Terrier is a relatively new breed. Developed in Australia in the early 1900s, the breed is primarily a blend of the Australian and Yorkshire Terrier, plus a few other terrier breeds that arrived in Australia with English settlers.
Depending on who you ask, those breeds could be the Dandie Dinmont Terrier, the Cairn Terrier, and/or the Skye Terrier. 1 The breed has been known by several names, including the Victorian Silky, Sydney Silky, and Australian Silky. Known today as simply the Silky Terrier, the breed is appreciated by those who love them for being very much a happy medium. Neither as active as the Australian Terrier nor requiring the extensive grooming of a Yorkshire Terrier. They were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1959, and by the Canadian Kennel Club shortly thereafter in 1965. 2
Although rare here in North America, the Silky is a delightful and engaging pet. They pack lots of character into a small package as they measure 23-25 cm at the shoulder and weigh a very portable 3.5-4.5 kg.
To learn about this fascinating member of the Toy Group, a friend encouraged me to reach out to Canadian Kennel Club member breeder Jean Evanoff of Cantell Silky Terriers (one can also find her dogs under the kennel Annevan). Jean has been with Silkys for over 25 years.
How do you get involved with Silky Terriers?
I got my first Silky in 1997. She was a lovely little thing. She was a great example of the breed and a wonderful ambassador. She ended up being the #2 Silky in Canada one year, based on a single weekend of showing. She gave me beautiful puppies, and I was very lucky to get her and have her as my Foundation Bitch. Her name was Aggie.
I bred my first litter during the time I sent Aggie to be finished. She finished in two weekends and came home to give me 4 lovely girl puppies, several weeks later.
What initially drew you to the Silky Terrier?
I like how they are feisty and smart. The coat is easy to care for, and they are very dedicated to their owners.
Describe the Silky Terrier’s personality
They think about their environment and love to watch for things out of the ordinary. This is part of what makes them such a good little watchdog. They are extremely devoted to their people and can be protective or even possessive. This is something to be aware of and kept in check.
The breed is funny, and individuals can have quite a sense of humour, playing with toys, other dogs or their people. Some can really benefit from having "a job" like obedience, scent work, or agility.
How much exercise do they require?
Silkys do not generally require a lot of exercise. However, they do like a good walk or romp in the yard or park. A Silky who is in condition can take a 2-mile walk, but I would limit that to a few times a week. Shorter walks on other days. I find that mental stimulation such as food puzzles, hide and seek (with treats or people), and training tricks or obedience to be even more beneficial. The best is scent work, because it actually rewires the brain to be a calmer, more focused dog.
Can they live in an apartment?
Silkys can easily live in an apartment. I have sold several to couples in NYC and other places that live the apartment life. The best thing you can do, no matter where you live, is provide a stimulating environment. Not all the time, but give their brains things to work on. Also, it's nice to have a dog that is litter box or pee pad trained. I train all of my puppies to use a litter box, long before they learn to go outside. There is no problem with the transition, so it works out well.
Tell me about the coat and grooming requirements. Can pet owners trim down the coat?
Silkys actually have a fairly easy coat for care. You can leave it long, but it is best if you can bathe them every other week or so, with a high-quality dog shampoo and conditioner. Sometimes that is difficult for people, so they can be shaved or trimmed shorter. It is sometimes easier, especially with the older dogs, to have a shorter coat. Brushing isn't so uncomfortable for those seniors, when the hair is short.
How long do they usually live?
I have known of several that lived to be 20 years old. Mine tend to average 14-16 years. I had one that lived to 17. They tend to live a long and healthy life, until they are about "done".
Which dog sports are they involved in?
You can find Silkys in almost every sport. There are actively competing Silkys in Scent Detection, Agility, Obedience, Sprinter, Barnhunt , etc. They are fun to train, and I would encourage every owner to try something with their dog, even if it's getting a trick dog title.
Are Silky Terriers easy to keep with other dogs?
Like people, each Silky has a unique personality. If they are raised with another dog, they will generally get along with that dog for life. Sometimes they can meet the other dog as an adult and get along. Silkys tend to like to bark at strangers and strange things, so they could teach the other dogs to bark along with them. They've been known to "sing" the song
s of their people too, and will encourage others to join in (even the humans!)
How are they with children?
If the children understand to be gentle and not tease a dog, they can do well with children. I do not hesitate to place a puppy with a family that understands dogs and has taught their children proper dog/child interactions.
Who makes an ideal Silky Terrier owner?
The ideal owner is willing to put some time into their dogs with walks and training. They will provide a stimulating (puzzles, training, etc.) environment and enjoy the strong bond that is made with the dog while working with them. They will understand the Terrier personality and keep it under control, so the Silky can remain a good citizen of the town or neighbourhood, without being a terror!
Why are they so rare?
Silkys are a well-kept secret, and those that know about them, never want to be without one. I think the long hair and terrier personality may make people nervous. I also believe that people think Silkys are Yorkies and don't want to get a "little froufrou" dog. A Silky is not a stuffed toy, but a sturdy little companion.
What differences can one spot when comparing a Silky Terrier to a Yorkshire Terrier?
Silkys are bigger, sturdier, and without as much hair. Another telltale sign is the muzzle. Silkys have more muzzle (wider, longer, sturdier) and have the appearance that they could kill a snake or rat easily.
Anything you would like everyone to know about Silky Terriers?
They are charming little dogs and make a great companion. If you choose to compete in a sport, they will often excel, especially with consistent and careful training. They love to sleep on the bed, but they ARE NOT couch potatoes (at least not for the first 10-12 years). They are a long lived and healthy breed, so expect a long-term commitment, when you decide to bring one into your life.
This really is a lovely little breed. They can be a fit for a lot of people if those people are willing to put time into their dog and work with them to be good companions and citizens. Please research your breeder and make sure that they health test each parent. Not just a vet visit, but actual health tests for eye health, and patellas, at the minimum. There is a special certificate of passing that comes with each of those tests, so ask to see the results. Find a breeder who is willing to help you work through issues and will give advice as needed. Follow that advice!
The Silky Terrier might be the breed for you if:
- If you like a dog with a big attitude and personality in a small package
- You like to take long walks (1-2 miles) and enjoy a companion that is good at sniffing out the bunnies and alerting to birds.
- You don't mind a moderate amount of coat care, whether it's for bi-weekly baths or grooming for a haircut on a regular basis.
The Silky Terrier might not be the breed for you if:
- If you want a couch potato that will lie around all day.
- If you are not willing to train your dog to be a good citizen.
- If you are gone too many hours a day and cannot spend time with your dog. A Silky may get destructive when bored and you will not be happy with your dog.
Thanks to the help of CKC Member and Breeder Jean, I’m able to share this information with you. Jean has bred Silky Terriers since 1998 and resides in Fargo, North Dakota.
If you are interested in adding a Silky Terrier to your home, you can contact Jean by email firstname.lastname@example.org You can also join the Maple Leaf Silky Terriers group on Facebook to learn more.
1 American Kennel Club, https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/silky-terrier/
2 Ibid., American Kennel Club
The opinions expressed by authors on the Canadian Kennel Club Blog and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Canadian Kennel Club or any of its employees.
Les opinions et les commentaires exprimés dans le blogue du Club Canin Canadien sont ceux des auteurs et ils ne reflètent pas les opinions du Club Canin Canadien ni de ses employés.
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Ian Lynch is a comedian, on-air personality and Canadian Kennel Club member.