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Judging the Skye Terrier

Skye Terrier standing outdoors in profile


Judging the Skye Terrier

Over the past several years, the Skye Terrier Club of America (STCA) Board of Directors has been working toward the final development of an Illustrated Breed Standard. A new, breed amplification has already been developed and approved and the necessary drawings are well underway. It is our strong desire to finally complete this project in time to introduce it at a Special Judges Education Seminar we plan to host in conjunction with our Diamond Jubilee Show (100th National Specialty and 75th year as an AKC Member Club) over the Montgomery County Kennel Club weekend in October 2013.

Given the wonderful opportunity provided us by Showsight Magazine to highlight our breed in this issue, I have developed this article on judging the Skye Terrier, with the input of the STCA Board, to include some of the key elements of our new, Board approved Breed Standard Amplification. Additionally, I have included comments taken from an article prepared by the pre-eminent Skye Terrier Breeder Judge of more than 50 years experience, Mr. Walter F. Goodman. This article, which focuses primarily on breed proportion and balance, is one provided to attendees at Judges Education Seminars because these are key elements that speak to the essence of Skye judging. It is our sincere hope that those who read this article will find the material of use.


General Appearance

The official breed standard for the Skye Terrier describes the general appearance of the breed as follows:

“The Skye Terrier is a dog of style, elegance and dignity, agile and strong with sturdy bone and hard muscle. Long, low and level—he is twice as long as he is high—he is covered with a profuse coat that falls straight down either side of the body over oval-shaped ribs. The hair well feathered on the head veils forehead and eyes to serve as protection from brush and briar as well as amid serious encounters with other animals. He stands with head high and long tail hanging and moves with a seemingly effortless gait. He is strong in body, quarter and jaw.”

It is this critical paragraph that describes breed type. According to Mr. Goodman: “Type is breed character. It is the combination of distinguishing features, which add up and make the
individuality of a breed.” Skye Terriers are long and low and their breed type can be abused by fanciers. Type should not be a matter of personal preference, but an adherence to desired breed characteristics as stated in the Standard. There are variations in size or bone, but substantially, type should remain constant. Those Skyes that adhere closely to the written word are obviously nearer to correct type.”

Judging skye terrier
CH Jacinthe de Ricelaine, “Jackie” – Owned by Walter F. Goodman


Balance, Style & Soundness

Mr. Goodman then goes on to describe balance, style and soundness as follows:

“Balance, perhaps, is easier to understand, since there are clear dimensions involved. A correct Skye is well proportioned—length of head to length of neck, to length of back and tail and height. A Skye with correct proportions can look short-backed. A Skye who may be lower with a shorter neck and head, but the same length of back as the latter dog is unbalanced. Skyes can be too long as well as too short. Usually a properly proportioned dog stands out because of correct balance. Style becomes the next ingredient. It comes from that proper balance combined with showmanship and personality. A dog of lesser quality but with showmanship tends to conceal many of his faults.

Soundness is more difficult to describe. In dog show parlance, soundness refers to proper action or movement. The standard is quite specific as to shoulder placement and front assembly as well as the rear quarters. It tells us what to expect as the dog moves towards you or away from you or as you view it in profile. To me, a proper moving Skye is not only sound but typey. In other words, a correct Skye is a sound Skye. Skyes should drive from behind. If the front seems unable to keep up, it means that the front assembly is not completely correct. Often the questionable movement of the topline is the give-away of labored action. Equally unpleasant is a lack of drive from the quarters. This is every bit as unsound and not typey.”


Key elements in our new Skye Terrier Breed Standard Amplification also speak directly to the major elements of breed type, balance, proportion and soundness and are as follows:

  1. The ten inch height standard for Skyes has been retained in the Breed Standard since it was first approved by the AKC in 1938. Although Skyes, like many other breeds, have become larger over time, this height standard remains in place because it is a major element of breed type. As regards proportion, overall balance is paramount. Size and length of head, neck, back and tail must be in proportion to overall body height and length to complete the
    ideal picture. Dogs must be at least twice as long as they are high to achieve ideal proportion. Anything less than the required two to one length to height ratio must be faulted. Substance is another critical element of breed type. Skyes must be solid in every respect yet not coarse, strong of bone and yet elegant. Any virtue exaggerated becomes a fault. Bitches should be a feminine version of the breed standard.
  2. The Skye’s front assembly bears approximately two-thirds of the dog’s weight and as such, correct structure is critical both in terms of overall movement and soundness and as a working Terrier. The chest is deep and the sternum is prominent. Legs are strong boned, short and muscular and should be placed well under the dog to best support the breed’s deep chest and strong head. Shoulder blades, while tightly placed at the withers, should not touch. The upper arm should be equal in length to the well laid back shoulder blade and to the lower leg. The ideal angle of upper arm to shoulder blade is approximately 90 degrees. In the ideal front assembly, a plumb line dropped to the ground from the point where the shoulder blade meets the withers would touch the point where the elbow meets the lower leg and then parallel the lower leg to the ground. A short upper arm is a fault. When a dog is set up with elbows set properly, two or three fingers (depending on hand size) should fit comfortably between the front legs at the wrist.
  3. While the breed standard discusses color in some detail, two key elements need to be kept in mind. First, coat color in a Skye is among the least important breed considerations other than that all Skyes should have darker colored points (ears, muzzle and tip of tail). Second, Skye Terrier coat colors typically include variations of the same color family. These variations are most noticeable in the darkest and lightest of the allowable coat colors (black, platinum, light silver and cream coats) but as long as the dog is one overall color at the skin, they are
    completely acceptable.
  4. Skyes should be gaited at the trot with the legs moving in parallel planes.
  • Viewed coming forward, the forelegs should have good reach and form a continuous straight line.
  • Viewed moving away, the hindquarters travel straight forward and this should be evident by watching the rear feet pads.
  • Viewed from the side, the dog should maintain a level topline.

Reach and drive should be well balanced with the gait easy, fluid, light, effortless and almost floating.

In summation, the “Essence of the Skye Terrier” is that the ideal dog must be both sound and a possessor of correct breed type. Essentials require that movement must be fluid and effortless and that the Skye carry a strong, level topline. Anything less is typically an indicator of poor front/rear construction and/or poor condition.

Skyes must also possess both good substance and elegance, be well balanced in their height to length ratio, and carry a double coat including a hard, lank topcoat. In judging the Skye, any dog lacking these notable requirements, listed as follows, should be seriously penalized.


Notable Requirements

  • Correct front and/or rear construction and good condition.
  • Level topline, particularly while dog is on the move.
  • Correct balance between strength of bone and elegance without exaggeration of either element.
  • Correct balance (at least 2 to 1) in proportion.
  • Double coated with a hard, lank topcoat.