Silky Terrier Temperament
What's Good About 'Em,
What's Bad About 'Em
Silky Terrier Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2015
The Silky Terrier is for people who love the sturdiness and hardiness of the short-legged terriers but who would prefer a finer-boned, more graceful, more elegant build covered by a lovely flowing coat.
The agile, light-footed Silky likes to keep busy -- he is inquisitive, physically and mentally quick, and spends much time trotting (or dashing) around checking things out and inventing his own clever games.
Keen of eye and sharp of tongue, the Silky Terrier won't fail to announce strangers, often in a high-pitched voice that can set your teeth on edge. Early socialization is required so he doesn't become too sharp or suspicious.
Though he can be bossy with other dogs and scrappy with those of the same sex, most Silky Terriers are willing to coexist with other pets. Squeaky pets, however, will be stalked, for he has a strong prey drive and can be an excitable chaser of anything that moves.
Silky Terrier must never be let off-leash except in a safe, enclosed area, and your fences must be secure, for they are amazing climbers and enthusiastic diggers.
Willful and opinionated, but quick to learn, the Silky Terrier responds well to obedience training that utilizes food and praise. Silkys are proud, sensitive dogs and may not put up with rough handling or mischief. They can be possessive of their food and toys, and housebreaking can be difficult.
If you want a dog who...
- Is small and easy to carry
- Looks like a sturdy short-legged terrier, but with a finer-boned, more elegant build
- Has a long, flowing silky coat that doesn't shed much
- Is quick-moving, light-footed, inquisitive, and "busy"
- Makes a keen watchdog
A Silky Terrier may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- High energy level
- Providing enough exercise and activities to keep them busy
- Suspiciousness and/or sharpness toward strangers when not socialized enough
- Excitable chasing instincts
- Stubbornness (mind of his own)
- High coat maintenance (frequent brushing and combing, or trimming)
- Housebreaking difficulties
A Silky Terrier may not be right for you.
- choosing the RIGHT breeder and the RIGHT puppy
- or choosing an ADULT dog from your animal shelter or rescue group – a dog who has already proven that he doesn't have negative traits
- training your dog to respect you
- avoiding health problems by following my daily care program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy
More traits and characteristics of the Silky Terrier
If I was considering a Silky Terrier, I would be most concerned about...
- The dynamic terrier temperament. Most terrier breeds are remarkably similar. The same words are used over and over -- quick to bark, quick to chase, lively, bossy, feisty, scrappy, clever, independent, stubborn, persistent, impulsive, intense.
- Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. Silky Terriers are active go-getters. They MUST have regular opportunities to vent their energy and to use their busy minds to do interesting things.
Terriers were never intended to be simply household pets. I strongly recommend that you get your Silky Terrier involved in obedience classes at the intermediate or advanced level, in agility (an obstacle course for dogs), or in an earth dog club (terriers dig and tunnel after small critters who are secured in a sturdy cage so they can't be harmed).
- Providing enough socialization. Standoffish by nature, Silky Terriers need extensive exposure to people and to unusual sights and sounds. Otherwise their natural caution can become suspiciousness, which is difficult to live with and could even lead to biting.
I do NOT recommend terriers for small children. Many terriers will not tolerate any nonsense from little life forms whom they consider to be below themselves in importance. Many terriers are quick to react to teasing, and even to the normal clumsiness that comes with small children (accidental squeezing of their ears or pulling of whiskers or stepping on their paw). Many terriers are possessive of their food and toys and will defend these from all comers, including children.
- Animal aggression. Silky Terriers can be dominant or aggressive toward other dogs, especially toward larger dogs. Most terriers have strong instincts to chase and seize small fleeing creatures. This can make for conflict if you own a cat. It may be much worse than that if you own a pet rabbit or hamster!
Terriers cannot be trusted off-leash. They will take off -- oblivious to your frantic shouts -- after anything that runs.
- Fence security. Many Silky Terriers are clever escape artists who will go over or under fences in search of adventure. You may need higher fences than you might imagine for their small size because this breed is an agile climber. Solid wooden fences are recommended, as they can climb right up chainlink or wire. I've worked with Silky Terriers who required a covered pen. You may also need to sink wire into the ground along the fence line to thwart digging.
- Mind of their own. Silky Terriers are not Golden Retrievers. Though they are more amenable to training than many other terriers and some Silkys excel at high levels of obedience competition, they must still be taught at an early age that they are not the rulers of the world. The toughness that makes them suited to killing vermin can frustrate you when you try to teach them anything. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.
To teach your Silky to listen to you, "Respect Training" is mandatory. My Silky Terrier Training Page discusses the program you need.
- Barking. Silky Terriers are often too quick to sound the alarm at every new sight and sound. You have to be equally quick to stop them. If you work all day and have close neighbors, Silky Terriers are not the best choice for you. For the same reason, terriers should NEVER be left outside in your yard, unsupervised. To make matters worse, some Silky Terriers have intense, high-pitched barks that can set your teeth on edge.
- Grooming. Without regular brushing and combing, Silky Terriers become a matted mess. If you can't commit to the brushing, you have to commit to frequent trimming to keep the coat short, neat, and healthy.
- Housebreaking. Toy breeds are almost always difficult to housebreak. It is so easy for them to sneak behind a chair or under a small table, and it takes only a few seconds for the deed to be done. The results can be hard to see. When you don't see it, you don't correct it -- and so the bad habit becomes established. If you hope to housebreak a Silky Terrier, consistent crate training is mandatory. Toy breeds should not be loosed in the house for many months, until their small internal organs become strong enough for reliable control.
To learn more about training Silky Terriers to be calm and well-behaved, consider my dog training book, Teach Your Dog 100 English Words.
It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will make your Silky Terrier the smartest, most well-behaved companion you've ever had.
Teaches your dog to listen to you, to pay attention to you, and to do whatever you ask him to do.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a healthy Silky Terrier. Health problems have become so widespread in dogs today that this book is required reading for ANYONE who is thinking of getting a purebred, crossbred, or mixed breed dog.
If you'd like to consult with me personally about whether the Silky Terrier might be a good dog breed for your family, I offer a Dog Breed Consulting Service.
Once you have your Silky Terrier home, you need to KEEP him healthy -- or if he's having any current health problems, you need to get him back on the road to good health.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy is the book you need.
Raise your dog the right way and you will be helping him live a longer, healthier life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.
Please consider adopting an ADULT Silky Terrier...
When you're acquiring a Silky Terrier PUPPY, you're acquiring potential -- what he one day will be. So "typical breed characteristics" are very important.
But when you acquire an adult dog, you're acquiring what he already IS and you can decide whether he is the right dog for you based on that reality. There are plenty of adult Silky Terriers who have already proven themselves NOT to have negative characteristics that are "typical" for their breed. If you find such an adult dog, don't let "typical breed negatives" worry you. Just be happy that you found an atypical individual -- and enjoy!
Save a life. Adopt a dog.
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