Australian Silky Terriers


About Silkies  

The origins of the Australian Silky Terrier may never be known. All we have are myths and stories as to the creation of this wonderful companion.
Our story begins sometime in the late 19th century during the haphazard cross breeding that eventually produced the Australian Terrier. The English immigrants that travelled to Australia were only allowed to bring the various small terrier dogs due to the space and food restrictions that existed on the sailing ships of that period. The early colonials needed a dog to control rodents and also watch animal stock on their properties. Several English terriers were cross bred to produce what was then known as the rough or broken coated terrier. The list of terriers is thought to include the Skye, Black and Tan, Scottish, Paisley, Clydesdale, Waterside, Norwich and Roseneath terriers. The Broken Coated Terrier appeared in the 1872 Royal Melbourne Show with exhibits divided into two classes, under and over 7 pounds. The less than 7 pound class was later known as the Broken Coated Toy Terrier. In 1888 the exhibits were known as the Broken Coated Blue Terrier, although blue and tan eventually became the accepted coat colour. It is thought that at this stage of the breeding program the Broken Coated Terrier became known as the Australian Terrier. The new terrier came in two distinct groups, the first with a course wiry coat and the second with a soft textured coat. The successive breeding programs strengthened the characteristics of each group. The Tasmanian Broken Coated Terrier breeding program is said to have introduced the Dandie Dinmont Terrier to further soften the coat and improve the top knot. A Toy Terrier, Sandy or Silky Coated, was exhibited at the Tasmanian Agricultural Pastoral and Horticultural Society show in 1875. At some stage the Yorkshire Terrier was also introduced into the breeding program, initially to develop the blue and tan colour and then later to improve the texture and length of the soft coated Australian Terrier. A structured breeding program continued to further refine and develop the breed.

The first breed standard was drawn up by the Victorian Silky Terrier Club. This club was later superseded by the Victorian Silky and Yorkshire Club in 1904. 1906 saw classes for the Silky Coated Terrier begin to appear at a large number of shows. In 1908 the Victorian Silky and Yorkshire Terrier Club applied for separate classes at shows. However, it wasn't until 1911 that separate classes were recognised by the Victorian Poultry and Kennel club. Around 1906 another breed standard was introduced in New South Wales where the breed was commonly referred to as the Sydney Silky. In 1934, the Kennel Control Council (KCC) introduced special regulations which essentially prohibited cross breeding between the Silky, Yorkshire and Australian terriers. As a consequence, the breed quickly stabilised. Following consultation with all Australian states, the breed was officially recognised as the Australian Silky Terrier in the June 1956 edition of the KCC Gazette. A complete Australian wide agreement was not achieved until 1959. At this time, the newly formed Australian National Kennel Council accepted the standard and breed name for the Australian Silky Terrier.

Character & Temperament
Extremely brave, assertive and full of energy, the Australian Silky Terrier is not your typical lap dog. Rather, they prefer to be treated as an equal. They are equally matched to suburban family life and unit living. They integrate into the modern family and associate well with growing children, although, they will usually form a stronger bond with one person. Common terrier characteristics embody keen alertness and constant activity, whilst maintaining their ratter instinct by always watching for scurrying prey! Silky’s are a robust breed and are generally very happy and love to play. But, they also have a mischievous side and although they are regarded as quite intelligent, loyal and trainable, a defiant streak can appear. Above all, they are known to maintain a puppy attitude throughout their entire life excelling in obedience, agility and earth dog.

The Australian Silky Terrier is generally a very healthy breed. I n past years, there were instances of patella luxation and Calves Legge-Perthes (deterioration of the hip joint). Due to selective breeding, we rarely see these problems in the modern Silky. Some problems seen today include cruciate ligaments and juvenile cataracts. However, a growing problem is poor dentition. Breeding programs in place aim to improve these elements. They are relatively fit and hardy dogs and should live to an expected life span of 14 to15 years.

The very few Veterinary expenses that owners will typical face are the usual annual vaccinations and check-ups, as long as a healthy and balanced diet is provided. They should also have a regular regime of exercise consisting of playing and walking. Their weight should be in the range 4 to 5 kilograms.

General Appearance
The Australian Silky Terrier is a compact low set dog of medium length and an approximate height of 23 cm at the withers. The silky coat normally is parted to present a well groomed appearance. The small dark oval eyes represent an intelligent watchful expression and their small pricked ears are set high on the head. The ears, muzzle and feet are clean pointed and free from long hair.  Puppies are born with a black and tan coat. The characteristic blue and tan colour should be established by 18 months of age. All Australian Silky Terriers now have natural long tails since the prohibition of the practise of tail docking in April 2004.

Grooming & Maintenance
The Silky is a low maintenance dog. They have a fondness for grooming if it is started at a young age. Basic grooming should include bathing, brushing and combing of their coat on a regular basis. Some of the many endearing qualities include a single coat that does not moult and a distinct lack of “doggy” odour, therefore making them ideal for people who have allergies.

Australian Silky Terrier Today by Hingeley, Marshall  & Wren. 1997.
Australian Born Australian Bred. The Australian Silky Terrier by Jan Boyce. 1997.
KCC Gazette, January 1936 and June 1956 editions.
Dogs Life, March/April 2007 edition.
Silky Terriers by Alice J Kane  2005.