History and Origin:
The terrier group consists of a type of breeds that share personality characteristics and physical traits with one another. The Australian Silky Terrier belongs to the group of dogs. They were developed in Australia from breeds and types of dogs that originally came from Great Britain. In North America it is called the Silky Terrier and in Australia it is known as the Australian Silky Terrier as it is in the rest of the world.
The Silky Terrier has an ancestral line that goes through Australia and Great Britain. The Yorkshire Terrier and the Australian Terrier are in that ancestral line. It is not known if the Silky Terrier is just an Aussie with long silky hair or an attempt to develop a new breed of terrier.
The breed’s story begins in Australia where it is believed that the cross between the Aussie Terrier and Yorkshire Terrier occurred. The breed was originally called the Sydney Silky as it was created in the city of Sydney, Australia. This breed was created mostly as a companion animal in the cities as well as for killing snakes.
These three breeds, the Australian Terrier, the Australian Silky Terrier and the Yorkshire Terrier had no clear definition for any breed. Pups of all three types of terriers could be born in the same litter. They would not be sorted into the separate breeds until they were older and identified through their looks. In 1929, the terrier clubs began to separate the breeds and by 1932 the Australian National Kennel Council recognized the breed as the Australian Silky Terrier and it was placed in the toy group. Mixing of these three breeds was now officially discouraged.
The Silky Terrier came to the United States with returning servicemen following World War II. Then in 1954, some unexpected media coverage caused the breed to become more popular almost overnight. With this increase in popularity came a huge increase in the importation of Silky Terriers from Australia.
In 1959 the American Kennel Club recognized the breed along with the Canadian Kennel Club. In1965 US United Kennel Club also recognized the breed and listed it as a terrier rather than a toy. Today the breed is recognized as a terrier or a toy by every major kennel club in the world because of its size.
Personality and Temperament:
The temperament and personality of the Silky Terrier is well rounded and family oriented. They are stubborn, intelligent and very active. All qualities of any terrier breed. They love running, chasing balls, playing and long walks. They need a tight fenced yard as well. Small breed dogs are notorious for boredom and destructive behavior when they are bored. In a survey it was found that the Silky Terrier was at the top of the learning curve for small breed dogs. They are 20th out of 100 small breeds in how quickly they learn.
This is a tough and independent breed that loves to sit on your lap and chill or play, dig and hunt. They are equally at home in either environment. He is a great hunter and a great companion dog.
You might be surprised if you are not familiar with Silky Terriers at what effective watch dogs they are or how they love to play with dogs much bigger than themselves. These scrappy little dogs are loyal to their people, and love to chase, bark and dig. He also hates to be alone or away from his human pack for very long. If they could they would spend every waking moment in your presence and every sleeping moment in your bed.
Your Silky Terrier is smart, quick, happy, independent and fun loving. They don’t just like to be with people but rather they need to be with people. Their relationship with people colors everything in their lives. They are miserable living with only other animals.
Exercise & Training:
Being a small terrier, the Silky Terrier needs stimulation both physical and mental. He needs exercise. With the high energy level of a terrier he needs to be walked daily if you don’t have a fenced yard. He needs to be challenged intellectually as well. Games, tricks, and toys are all keys to having a happy and well-adjusted dog.
This is a breed of climbers and diggers as you might expect with dogs bred to go to ground and chase after vermin wherever they are. They are very quick to learn if trained in a patient and positive manner. They will not put up with negative or abusive behavior as they are sensitive and proud.
If you can’t take your Silky on long daily walks, be sure to play with him inside. There is always enough energy from your Silky for an indoor game of catch or fetch. So don’t let bad weather or your inability to take them for a walk get in the way of their daily exercise.
Silky Terriers are very willing to learn and respond well to positive training regimes. Even though they are not ‘outdoor dogs’, you can do everything with a Silky that you can with a larger outdoor dog. They will work for you because they need companionship and camaraderie with you despite their proud and sensitive nature.
The Silky is also an extremely intelligent dog and they will make up their own behavior plan and rules if you are not strong enough and consistent enough. Make learning fun and your Silky will respond positively to your requests as they love to play.
Small dog or not, don’t leave your Silky Terrier loose in the house when you are not home. First of all they will get bored. Secondly they will go looking for something ‘fun’ to do and being a very mischievous breed they will find it. When left alone and bored the Silky Terrier can be very destructive, destroying furniture, doors, and floors, anything they can get to. Crate training for a Silky is the only way to go.
Just remember the crate is not a place for punishment. It can be used for housebreaking and for a safe place to be when you are not home. However it is not a punishment and your Silky should never feel that it is. If you do it right, the crate will become a beloved haven from anything that stresses your Silky Terrier and for sleeping out of the way of the humans. Also remember that the Silky is a people oriented dog and they need to be with you, not stuck in a cage.
As previously mentioned the Silky Terrier’s coat is long and can become tangled easily. She should be brushed daily as well as combed. Don’t get a Silky Terrier unless you have the time and the commitment to groom her every day. They also need to be bathed more often than many other breeds. An oatmeal or avocado shampoo is best if your Silky has dry skin. Once a month bathing is a good rule of thumb for a Silky Terrier.
At the same time you will want to take your Silky Terrier to a professional groomer at least once per month or once every three weeks. They should have their teeth brushed and cleaned regularly as well.
Their coat is long but should not touch the floor and they need their facial hair and around their ears to be cut on a regular basis. Their ears should also be checked on a regular basis. Make sure there is no odor or redness inside the ears. The ears should also be wiped out with cotton weekly. Do not use anything in the ears except cotton. Absolutely do not use Q-tips. Also remember never go into the inner ear; just wipe down the outer ear.
Make sure your Silky Terrier has her nails trimmed at least once but preferably twice each month. If their nails are too long, a dog can develop serious problems and tears. When you hear your dog’s nails clicking on the floor you know they need to be trimmed and they are way too long. Your groomer or your vet will be happy to trim your Sulky’s nails if you cannot. Care must be taken when trimming your dog’s nails as they have blood vessels in the nails and if you cut too short they will bleed.
Good grooming habits start when your Silky Terrier is a puppy. Handle them, brush them, handle their paws and inside their mouth. Start brushing their teeth very early on so they will be used to it and expect it all their lives. Make it fun, make it loving and your Silky will see grooming as a positive experience all their lives.
Be sure you use your grooming time to make sure your Silky is healthy and free of rashes, sores, cuts or scrapes. Make sure there are no signs of infection or inflammation. Check their feet, their ears, their eyes and their mouth. In this way you will be the first to know of any problems your Silky might be developing.
Health and Wellness:
The Silky Terrier has some important health weaknesses including progressive renal atrophy and cataracts. They have knee issues in respect to luxating patellae. These are conditions that can and should be tested for and documented by the breeder. Certification of this is available through the Canine Eye Registration Foundation and the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.
This breed is also susceptible to a disease where either of the leg bones do not develop because they do not receive enough blood supply called Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease. Surgery is required to address this.
So be aware of these issues and be sure you are checking their teeth and gums on a regular basis. Then you can catch any issues in a very early stage. The same should be true of examining their eyes when you groom them knowing they are susceptible to cataracts and renal atrophy.
The two leg diseases the Silkys are susceptible are Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease and the Patellar Luxation. Both of these are fairly serious conditions to watch out for. One involves the hip and the other involved the knees. With Legg Calve Perthes the pelvis can be disintegrated and the dog will become lame. With Patellar Luxation the kneecap slips and becomes dislocated.
Daibetes and Epilepsy are also serious conditions that the Silky Terrier has tendencies for. Diabetes is not uncommon and is controlled by diet and medication. Epilepsy is more serious and usually inherited. Epilepsy in dogs is like in humans, a neurological disorder that can cause seizures and be very frightening to any owner. However the long term prognosis for dogs with epilepsy is very good.
Finally, the Silky Terrier has a propensity to tracheal collapse if the collar is too tight or if you hold your silky around the neck. Many small breeds have these types of health issues. It is recommended that small dogs like the Silky Terrier are very prone to this condition. Use harnesses instead of collars and pay attention to any symptoms of coughing, fainting and wheezing.
Interesting Facts about the Silky Terrier:
- Origin of the name ‘Terrier’: This originates from the Latin word ‘terra’, meaning earth and the French name ‘chien terrier’ literally meaning ‘dog of the earth’
- This is Australia’s only “toy” breed and is a true toy terrier in all ways.
- The Silky has been known by several other names including the Australian Silky Terrier, the Sydney Silky Terrier.
- Silky Terriers were registered by the AKC (American Kennel Club) in 1959
Organizations dedicated to the Silky Terrier:
- Silky Terrier Club of America
- National Silky Terrier Rescue
- The Australian Silky Terrier Club of Victoria
- Silky Terrier Rescue Charitable Trust