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Silky Terriers: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em

Silky Terrier temperament, personality, training, behavior, pros and cons, advice, and information, by Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Silky Terrier dog breed

The Silky Terrier combines the hardiness of the short-legged terriers with a finer-boned, more graceful, more elegant build and lovely coat. (Although I recommend trimming the coat shorter for easier maintenance.)

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 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
  • 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)
  • Barking
  • Housebreaking difficulties

A Silky Terrier may not be right for you.


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In this brand new series, I'll help you decide which dog breed traits would best suit you and your family, your home and yard, and your lifestyle, so you can choose the best dog breed for your family.

Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament  is less predictable than the inheritance of physical  traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.

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dog icon"Respect Training for Puppies"  and "Teach Your Dog 100 English Words"  are free step by step guides to teaching your pup to be calm and well-behaved.

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  • You can avoid some negative traits by choosing an ADULT dog from an animal shelter or rescue group. With an adult dog, you can easily see what you're getting, and plenty of adult Silkys have already proven themselves not to have negative characteristics.
  • If you want a puppy, you can avoid some negative traits by choosing the right breeder and the right puppy.

More traits and characteristics of the Silky Terrier

If I was considering a Silky Terrier, I would be most concerned about...

  1. Barking. Like most terrier breeds and also most toy breeds, 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 lest it become an intractable habit.
  2. 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 and sanitary. Personally, I think a short coat is much easier to keep clean and neat, plus it looks great.
  3. 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. 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.
  4. 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.

    I do not recommend Silky Terriers for homes with small children. Many Silkys will not tolerate any nonsense from little life forms whom they consider to be below themselves in importance. They can be 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).

  5. Mind of their own. Silky Terriers are more amenable to training than many other terriers; some Silkys even excel at high levels of obedience competition. But they must 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.

    In other words, you must teach your Silky Terrier to respect you. A dog who respects you will do what you say and will stop what he's doing when you tell him "No." Follow my free online training programs.

  6. Fence security. Some Silky Terriers are agile escape artists who can climb chain link or wire fencing. Solid wooden fences are recommended. I've worked with Silky Terriers who actually required a pen covered with a roof. You may also need to sink wire into the ground along the fence line to thwart digging.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

My best-selling books – now available  FREE  on my website

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy is for puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know. Click here to read for free.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say. Click here to read for free.
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