menu icon

Australian Silky Terrier

Home »  Dog Breeds »  Australian Silky Terrier
 Australian Silky Terrier

The Silky Terrier, or Australian Silky Terrier as it is called in its home country and much of the rest of the world other than the US, is a small toy sized purebred. It was bred to be a companion first but also to hunt and kill vermin like rats, and was developed in Australia though in the mix are some breeds from Great Britain. It is often mixed up with the Yorkshire Terrier but is bigger and is in fact more closely related to the Australian Terrier. Today it is more likely to be kept as a companion than as a ratter and is valued for its cheerful and friendly temperament and its feistiness.

Here is the Australian Silky Terrier at a Glance
Name Australian Silky Terrier
Other Names Silky, Sydney Terrier
Nicknames None
Origin Australia
Average size Small
Average weight 8 to 11 pounds
Average height 9 to 10 inches at the shoulder
Life span 12 to 15 years
Coat type Long, smooth, glossy
Hypoallergenic No
Color Silver and tan, blue and tan, black and tan, gray and tan
Popularity High
Intelligence High
Tolerance to heat Average
Tolerance to cold Average
Shedding Average
Drooling Not a drooler
Obesity Low risk
Grooming/brushing Needed frequently
Barking A barker
Exercise needs High
Trainability Very high
Friendliness Average
Good first dog Yes
Good family pet Yes
Good with children Yes
Good with other dogs Okay
Good with other pets Not great
Good with strangers Wary, watchdog instincts
Good apartment dog Can be
Handles alone time well No
Health issues Elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation, disc disease, Legg-Perthes Syndrome
Medical expenses $210 annual average
Food expenses $55 annual average
Miscellaneous expenses $35 annual average
Average annual expense $560
Cost to purchase $550
Biting Statistics Unknown

The Australian Silky Terrier’s Beginnings

The progenitors of the Silky were ratters—the Yorkshire Terrier, which came from Great Britain, and the Australian Terrier, which was a crossbreed of Sky, Yorkshire and other small terrier types that began to be bred in the early nineteenth century in Australia. All of these were working dogs, bred to control pests on the farm.

The Silky, however, was meant from the beginning to be a house pet, bred for looks and companionship. The earliest dogs of the breed showed up in the Sydney area in the late nineteenth century, and were originally called Sydney Terriers. They continued to show some of the terrier temperament, and still have a fairly strong prey drive. Among other things, they are reputed to have a weakness for snakes.

New Lease on Life

During World War Two, American troops stations in Australia got to know the Silky and took a few Stateside. The dogs were an immediate hit, and a large number of them wound up being transported to the United States. Today they are one of the most popular small breeds going. They were formally recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club in 1959. The United Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club gave them formal status at about the same time.

The Dog You See Today

The Australian Silky Terrier is a small dog, weighing from eight to eleven pounds and standing nine to ten inches at the shoulder. The Silky in its name comes from its coat, which is long, smooth and glossy, hanging straight down and parted lengthwise down the back. Although small, the Silky is strong and sturdy, with a squared off, erect stance.

The Silky’s eyes are small and almond shape. The ears, also small, stand erect. The tail is set high.

The dog comes in a variety of colors—black and tan, silver and tan, gray and tan, and blue and tan.

The Inner Australian Silky Terrier


The Silky possesses an overabundance of curiosity. Anything new or different, even the smallest, will get its immediate attention, and will also probably draw some barks, because the Silky wants everyone around to know it has found something new and interesting. This is even more true because Silkies are also suspicious, and are prone to see any unexpected change in their environment as a threat. They will benefit from early socialization, so that they can relate to their fellow critters, human or otherwise.


Living with an Australian Silky Terrier

Training requirements

They are smart, love to learn new tricks, and are easy to train. The Silkie is vulnerable to what is known as Small Dog Syndrome, because it has a need for dominance and very much likes to have its way. The owner that gives in to that can wind up with a spoiled little dog that may be a barker and snapper.

You may choose to do a lot of training and teaching your pet new skills and tricks on your own, but it is usually a good idea to go to a professional for the first round of obedience training, especially for a dog as willful and stubborn as a Silky can be. Silkies also have a reputation for being hard to housebreak.

Exercise needs

Silkies are also extremely active dogs. They need exercise and want attention. They can be very playful, and love to chase around. In fact, if they don’t get the attention and activity they need, they can become bored and destructive. Silkies are escape artists. They are determined diggers and climbers, and also can jump surprisingly high for their size.

Silkies can do well in apartments. They are small, and bond well with their owners. They do, however, need a fair amount of exercise, as well as mental activity; but a lot of that, learning to do tricks, for instance, can take place right in the apartment. On the other hand, they bark, and the bark is loud and shrill, so they need firm obedience training for this.

Caring for the Silky Terrier

Grooming needs

Silkies also need quite a bit of grooming. Their long hair tangles easily, and will mat with the least encouragement. If you are going to own a Silky, prepare to spend a lot of time on brushing and combing, and resign yourself to taking frequent trips to the dog groomer. They will shed a minimal amount so there is less need for cleaning up after loose hair. A bath should be given when needed, roughly every 4 to 6 weeks should suffice. Avoid bathing too regularly as that can damage the natural oils in its skin.

Trim its nails when they grow too long, this can be done by a groomer or vet if you have no experience. Dog nails have live vessels in them so cutting incorrectly can cause pain and bleeding and make the task a lot harder the next time around. Check the ears once a week and wipe clean and brush its teeth at least twice a week.

Feeding the Silky

A Silky will need to be fed between ½ to 1 cup of a high quality dry dog food each day. This amount should not be given to the Silky all at once though, rather use it to give at least two meals. It is possible this amount may change depending on how active the dog is and its health. The Silky will try to get more food out of you but avoid overfeeding it.

How they get on with kids and pets

Silkies are good family dogs. They do well with kids, are playful and affectionate with their people, and love to be included in family activities. They are best, however, in households without other pets, especially smaller ones. Remember that the Silkie is still very much a ratter, and has a fairly high prey drive.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

Australian Silky Terriers are genetically disposed to some problems. Like most small and toy breeds, the Silky may develop a dysplasia in the elbow, where the joint becomes dislocated. Silkies are also vulnerable to patellar luxation. This is a situation where the kneecap slides away from the joint, causing pain and difficulty walking. Once again, small breeds are genetically vulnerable to this disorder. In the Silky’s case, it occurs much more frequently in females than in males.

Silkies can also develop degenerative spinal disc problems. Finally, they are vulnerable to Legg-Perthes Syndrome, a degenerative disorder where the dog can suffer from osteoarthritis, bone inflammation, and disintegration of the hip joint.

Biting Statistics

The Silky Terrier has no reports concerning human attacks that have led to death, maiming or serious injuries that required medical attention. However it can be aggressive when not properly trained and socialized from a young age. Usually that aggression is expressed with snapping and excessive barking. It is vital when choosing a dog that you get one not just based on looks but on suitability, on your own experience level and on being able to meet its needs. A well raised, loved, trained and socialized dog is one that can be trusted.

Your Pup’s Price Tag


At the latest look, a new Australian Silky Terrier pup will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $550 if it is purchased from a professional breeder. You may also be able to find a Silky at your neighborhood pet shelter, where the cost will more likely be around $150 to $200, and that will often include initial puppy shots as well as spaying or neutering if that has not been done already. You will likely be taking an older animal home, but for some people that is a positive, not a negative, especially if the pup is already housebroken, something that is an issue with Silkies. There are also a number of local and regional rescue organizations for Silkies, and they might offer another source to investigate.

With a new pup, once you have purchased it and brought it home, the next step is spaying, if it is female, or neutering if it is male. This will usually cost about $190 to $200, and at that time you will also need to get your new dog its initial inoculations, as well as having other routine medical work done, like de-worming. Expect to spend another $70 to $80 for that work.

Veterinary fees are like all medical fees, they are going up, and as a result many people these days are investing in pet insurance. For your pup this will typically run at least $200 a year, and could be more, depending on the level of coverage you decide you need.

Next is a collar and leash, for around $35, plus a pet license for another $15 or so.

Many people who own small dogs opt for a dog carrier bag, which can be handy with an active dog that is also an escape artist. For a pup the size of a Silkie, a carrier bag will run around $40.

Obedience training comes next. An initial set of obedience training sessions will usually set you back about $110.

Then, of course, your new Australian Silky Terrier needs to eat. You get a break there, because little dogs don’t eat as much as big dogs do. You can expect to spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $55 a year for dog food. That doesn’t include treats, of course, for training, and rewards and just for the heck of it. How much you spend there is up to you. Some dog owners spend more on treats than they do on regulation dog food.

Overall, you should expect to spend on average a little over $800 a year on your Australian Silky Terrier.


Looking for a Australian Silky Terrier Puppy Name? Let select one from our list!

The Australian Silky Terrier is a mix of several different ratters, most of them from Great Britain; but while these forebears were working dogs bred to take on rats and other small varmints, the Silky was meant from the beginning to be a household pet and companion, and was bred as much for looks as anything. It is a small dog remarkable for its long, glossy, and yes, silky, hair. The first of the breed showed up in the Sydney, Australia, neighborhood in the late nineteenth century, and was initially christened the Sydney Terrier. It was already a popular dog when American military people discovered it while they were stationed in Australia during World War Two. A lot of servicemen and women took Silkies back to the United States, where they have become very popular.

Silkies are playful, smart and affectionate. They are also stubborn and willful, and can be hard to housebreak. But if you can get past that, they make charming and happy companions.

More to Explore

Dog Owner Reviews