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Silky Terrier - Rodent Hunter from Down Under

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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.

The Silky Terrier at A Glance
Name Silky Terrier
Other names Sydney Silky, Sydney Terrier, Silky Toy Terrier and Australian Silky Terrier
Nicknames Silky
Origin Australia, Great Britain
Average size Small (toy)
Average weight 8 to 11 pounds
Average height 9 to 10 inches
Life span 11 to 14 years
Coat type Fine, flat, long, silky
Hypoallergenic Yes
Color Blue, tricolor, silver, grey, black, tan
Popularity Not very popular – ranked 102nd by the AKC
Intelligence Quite intelligent – above average
Tolerance to heat Very good – can handle hot climates but nothing extreme
Tolerance to cold Low – not good in any kind of cold weather, extra care will needed
Shedding Low – this is a good breed to get if you do not want lots of hair around
Drooling Low – not a breed known for its drool or slobber
Obesity Average – can become overweight but not especially prone
Grooming/brushing Moderate to high maintenance to keep the coat looking good if keeping it long
Barking Occasional to frequent – like most terriers, quick to bark and it is high pitched which some find unbearable
Exercise needs Somewhat active but easy to meet their needs
Trainability Moderate – with experience it is easy
Friendliness Good but needs socialization
Good first dog Good but best with experienced owner
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Good with socialization but best with older children
Good with other dogs Moderate – challenges dogs with no care about the fact most are larger than it is, socialization and supervision is essential
Good with other pets Moderate to good with socialization – high prey drive
Good with strangers Good with socialization can be wary till introduced and adjusted
Good apartment dog Excellent due to size but its barking means problems with neighbors could occur without training to control it
Handles alone time well Good – can be alone for short periods of time
Health issues Somewhat healthy, some common issues including Patellar Luxation, Diabetes, Epilepsy and tracheal collapse
Medical expenses $435 a year for basic medical care and pet insurance
Food expenses $75 a year for treats and a good quality dry dog food
Miscellaneous expenses $460 a year for grooming, license, basic training, toys and miscellaneous items
Average annual expenses $970 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $750
Rescue organizations Several including the Silky Terrier Club of America, Inc
Biting Statistics None Reported "
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The Silky Terrier's Beginnings

The Silky Terrier was developed in Australia in the late 19th century with breeders crossing the Yorkshire Terrier brought over from Great Britain, with Australian Terriers. At the time there was a mix in looks, some would be more Yorkie like, some more Terrier like and some more like the Silky we are used to now. The Silky looking offspring were bred together and in 1906 a breed standard was developed in Sydney and then another in 1909 in Victoria. There was a difference in the standards regarding ears and weight and eventually there was a compromise agreed upon and in 1926 another standard was written.

For a while, the Silky, Yorkshire and Australian Terriers could interbreed and it was possible for each or any of them to be born in the litters when they were then separated just by appearance. By 1932 though this was discouraged. In Australia it was called the Sydney Silky Terrier at first but then in 1955 that was changed to the Australian Silky Terrier. In 1958 it was recognized by the Australian National Kennel Council. Despite being a terrier it was classified as a toy dog because of its small size.

New Lease on Life

When World War II came there were Americans stationed in Australia who saw the small dog and admired it. When the war ended and they returned home, they came back with some Australian Silky Terriers. In 1954 photos of the dog were in the news and its popularity spread further in the US. The AKC recognized the breed in 1959 but named it a Silky Terrier. Today they rank it as 102nd most popular registered purebred.

The Dog You See Today

The Silky Terrier is a small dog weighing just 8 to 11 pounds and standing 9 to 10 inches tall. It has a long, flowing, fine, silky coat that is straight and parts on the back and hangs down about 5 inches but should not meet the floor. It comes in common colors of tan, silver, grey, blue, black and tricolor though often they are born black and then as they mature develop a different colored coat. It has an elegant build and is fine boned and is a little longer than it is tall. Its tail is high set and in countries where it is still allowed often docked. Dewclaws too are in places, removed. It has small feet that almost catlike and its front legs are straight.

The head is a wedge shape and it has almond shaped eyes that are small in size, and if keeping to show standards should be dark colored not light with dark rims. The ears are erect, V shaped and small and are set high on the head. On its head is a topknot that tends to be in colors that are a lighter version of its tan or red markings.

The Inner Silky Terrier



The Silky is a great watchdog, it is alert and will bark to let you know if someone is approaching or even breaking in. It is not an especially protective breed though and being so small is not going to scare off anyone. It can be good for new owners but because of its stubborn and feisty side it is best with experienced owners. It does have an aggressive side so it is important it is socialized so it does not get overly suspicious or snappy.

Its bark can be high pitched which can be annoying for some people. It is quick to bark too like most terriers so training for that will be needed. With the right care it is an affectionate and happy dog, friendly enough and intelligent. It loves to play and is very energetic and lively. Without proper training it gets bossy and can develop small dog syndrome where it comes hard to control, snappy and destructive.

This is an independent breed, intense and impulsive too. It likes to cuddle and be on your lap but it is also ready for action. It is affectionate and tends to bond very closely to one owner in particular. It is overly bold though and will challenge when it is not a good idea to do so. It can handle a small amount of time being alone but not long periods. It can act out if left alone for too long. It will likely follow you around the home and is happiest when its family is with it. Like most terriers it is a tenacious and scrappy dog and loves to chase things, bark at things and dig up things!

Living with a Silky Terrier

What will training look like?

This dog is moderately easy to train for people who have experience as it is intelligent and quick to learn when it is willing. It does have a stubborn independent side though so may try to challenge you. Use praise and treats to motivate and reward it and be sure to be firm and consistent about it. Small dogs tend to get away with things they should not, because owners see them as babies or are not as strict with them because it is hard work. These dogs develop small dog syndrome and then become very difficult to live with. Housebreaking too will be hard as small dogs can sneak away and do their business without you noticing. It can then become a bad habit that you are finding harder to break.


Early socialization is very important for Silky Terriers too so try not to neglect it. By introducing it to people of different ages, places and sounds it is not familiar with it can learn to accept them and the right responses. It will become a more trustworthy, confident and happy dog.

How active is the Silky Terrier?

Silkies are well suited to apartment living due to their size but their level of barking means there could be problems with neighbors and noise regulations. It will need training to control its barking. It is a slightly active dog so a yard is not a requirement as long as its gets out a couple of times a day for a good walk. That along with its indoor play time should be enough to for its needs in terms of health. It will also ensure it behaves better, as when a dog is under exercised it can get destructive and difficult.

Silky Terriers are agile and quick, so be ready for when they dash off and make sure they are leashed or harnessed when out walking. A harness is better as their necks are fragile. It is also a good digger so make sure the yard is properly fenced in so it does not dig its way out! Along with its physical exercise make sure there is mental stimulation too. You can take it a dog park but chose one that has a special space for small breeds like this one where larger dogs do not think they are chew toys. It has a lot of stamina for a little dog so be prepared it can go for longer than you might think!

Caring for the Silky Terrier

Grooming needs

Silky Terriers have moderate to high needs in terms of grooming and maintenance. It does not shed much hair and is meant to be a breed suitable for those with allergies. However if allergies are an issue make sure you or the person visit with the dog first to test a reaction before you buy. The coat if kept long needs regular combing and brushing otherwise it turns into a tangled mess. It will also need some trimming in its length and around its face. The hair is usually tied in a topknot on its head to keep it out of its eyes. This means regular visits to a professional groomers. It will need owners willing to commit some time each day for grooming. Bathe it when it needs one to avoid drying out its skin, some require special shampoos to prevent itchiness.

Brush its teeth two to three times a week, dental care is important especially in small dogs. Have the groomer trim its nails when they get too long. If you want to do it yourself you can, but make sure you learn how, have a vet show you or do some research. Dog nails if not cut correctly can bleed and it can hurt them as there are blood vessels and nerves in them. Check its ears for infection once a week and give them a wipe with an ear cleanser. Do not however insert anything into the ear.

Feeding Time

A Silky will need about ½ to 1 cup of a good quality dry dog food, divided into preferably two meals a day. When it is younger it will need puppy food of about 1/8 to ¼ cup a day, in 3 meals. How much exactly your dog needs will depend on its weight, metabolism, level of activity, health, build and size. Be warned it is a dog very successful at begging for table scraps and treats. It will act hungry to con you. Go by whether it is at a healthy weight not what it wants, as it will overeat!

How is the Silky Terrier with children and other animals?

It can be good with children with socialization but is best and safer with older children (over 10) who know not to be too rough, not to tease or startle it and who won't cause it stress or fear. It can be playful and affectionate when it is happy but without socialization and with younger children it could even react with snapping.


With other dogs despite its size it can get into situations that are dangerous for it, as it will pick fights with other dogs, even ones that are much larger. With dogs it has been socialized with and raised with it does get along better. It can learn to get along with other pets in the home but it does have instincts to chase small critters so supervision is still a good idea. Strange animals outside are fair game so make sure the yard is well fenced and it is on a harness when out walking.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The Silky Terrier has a lifespan of about 11 to 14 years and is generally fairly healthy though there are issues it can be prone to such as patellar luxation, hip and elbow dysplasia, intervertebral disc disease, Legg-Perthes, epilepsy, diabetes, tracheal collapse, hypothyroidism, von Willebrand's disease and eye problems.

Biting Statistics

Reports from Canada and the US concerning dogs attacking people over the last three decades do not include any mention of the Silky Terrier. This is not a breed to be overly concerned with when it comes to other people's safety but that does not mean it has not and does not have aggressive moments, they just might not have made it to reports because they were not serious in nature. It can be snappy, and all dogs can have a bad day. There are some things you can do as a good owner, make sure it is trained, socialized, well raised, given the attention it needs and the stimulation. Also when in doubt always supervise!

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Silky Terrier puppy will cost about $750 if you are looking for a pet quality dog from a good breeder. If you are looking for a show quality dog this is going to go up to a couple of thousand dollars from respectable show dog breeder. Please avoid buying pets from pet stores as most of their dogs come from puppy mills. Also be careful with local or online ads, some of those breeders are at best ignorant and at worst deliberately cruel. If you are willing to give a dog a new home and do not mind that it is may not be a puppy you could opt to check local shelters and rescues. You can get a dog with medical needs taken care of for you, for around $50 to $300.

Your dog will need to take a trip to a vet when you bring it home. It needs a physical exam, blood tests done, shots, deworming, micro chipping and neutering or spaying. These medical needs will cost about $260. It also will need some items back home like bedding, harness and leash, carrier and crate. These will cost about $120.


Yearly ongoing costs for a Silky will include food costs covering dry dog food and treats for about $75. Medical basic care like check ups, flea prevention and tick prevention and shots along with pet insurance will come to about $435 a year. Miscellaneous items, license, basic training, toys and grooming are going to be about $460 a year. This means there will be an annual starting figure cost of $970.


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

Male and Female Silky Terrier Names

The Silky Terrier would seem to be an easy pet to get if someone is looking for a small companion and lap dog. But keep in mind it has a lot of spunk, you will need to spend at least 15minutes a day grooming its silky coat to keep it from becoming a matted mess and it is not best suited to homes with children. It also has a high pitched bark not everyone can live with. It is very loyal and devoted to one owner in particular though, it has a cheerful, feisty and lively nature that will keep you smiling too, and it loves to snuggle on your lap with you.

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