Interview

Interview

Can you please introduce yourself to our members?

My name is Christine, and I live with Kirby, my wonderful, 4-year-old Skye Terrier, in Michigan, USA. My husband and I also have 2 other dogs and a cat. Kirby is my first Skye and my first “more-than-a-house-pet” dog, and I’m absolutely having a blast
with him!

What drew you to Skye terriers? What specific part of the breed were you attracted to?

I initially saw a Skye when I was watching a dog show on TV as an early teen. I was drawn to their beautiful hair and the fun ears. I grew up with Bichons, so was no stranger to coat care (although Skyes and Bichons have VERY different coat types), and the more I learned about Skyes the more I wanted one. I absolutely love Skyes’ loyalty and devotion to their chosen person. I enjoy that really extra-special bond that Skyes share with their human, and that they’re a little cat-like in their indifferent tolerance of other people. It took me 15+ years before I moved out and had my own place where I could get a dog (my Mom had found a breed that worked for her in Bichons and really isn’t a terrier person), but I have Kirby now and think he’s awesome!

Why do you like them?
Any specific temperamental characteristics in your Skye, or Skyes in general, that is particularly outstanding?

What I love about Kirby that’s so typical of Skyes is his absolute devotion to me. Every single weird thing I’ve asked him to try, he’s gone out and done the best he could for me. He’s not a natural therapy dog; he does have some of that aloofness towards strangers, but he went and passed his testing and tried it because I asked, and he trusted that all the smells at a hospital or all the new people were OK because I asked him to trust that I wouldn’t put him in an unsafe situation. He chose to trust me.

I’m SO PROUD of how he’s doing in agility, and he’s not a dog that’s shaped to make agility easy, but I love it, and even my instructors have noted that he’s giving his all for me. He goes out and runs his very best because I ask (and the treats help ), but it’s for me. I couldn’t ask for a more loyal partner, and I absolutely LOVE that intense, connected relationship that Kirby and I have.

I also appreciate Kirby’s thoughtfulness. I’ve never been one to really understand dogs that just rush into everything or run up to every person, even ones they’ve never met, and just treat everyone like they’re the best person ever. I don’t like most people
nearly that much, and so dogs who spend a little more time thinking and a little less time slobbering all over strangers make more sense to me! With Kirby, I can see him assessing situations and thinking about what’s going on. He really watches my
reactions to things and draws his own conclusions about what’s going and what’s OK. I appreciate that thoughtfulness (although I don’t ALWAYS understand his conclusions!), but I like that he thinks before he acts, and I like that it gives me a chance to work
with him before he just goes running off doing whatever with whoever. I appreciate a smart, careful, thoughtful dog with a little bit of terrier sass!

I also think this has made agility easier for us. Since Kirby thinks before he acts, his style of learning and mine are similar, so it’s made it easier to learn agility together. The fact that he was careful and thoughtful while approaching each obstacle or each time I tried something new in handling, allowed me time to figure out what I was doing. Agility is HARD, and I think trying to learn with a really fast, crazy dog would have been much more difficult for me, as I’m someone who needs that time to think about what they’re doing, and Kirby has allowed me to have that without constantly just needing to run around like a crazy thing. His carefulness and thoughtfulness have allowed me time to find confidence as well!

Where did you get your first Skye? Rescue? Breeder? How long did it take?

Kirby was bred by Travis Black of Quiraing Skyes in Texas, USA. I was SUPER lucky with him and actually got a puppy VERY quickly; Travis had already had the litter, and Kirby became available due to a kink in his tail that made him “pet quality”. I love Kirby’s tail because it meant Kirby could come home to me rather than staying in Texas with Travis! Travis had TONS of questions before he agreed to send Kirby to me, but he’s been a fantastic friend and resource for me as I’ve learned about Skyes and about Kirby. I feel fortunate to have Travis as Kirby’s breeder and my friend.

  

What is your secret to keeping your dogs healthy and to assure longevity of life?
Specific nutrition?
There is a lot of talk about nutrition currently, what are your views?

I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer this! I try very hard to keep Kirby fit. In agility especially, keeping your dog trim is REALLY important. Agility is a high-impact sport – the jumps and steep angles on some of the equipment can be very hard on shoulders (especially in Skyes who have big, heavy heads, and sometimes delicate front shoulders to start with). Agility can also be hard on their backs with all the tight turns and jumping, so keeping agility dogs trim is important to minimize extra impact on their shoulders and extra strain on their long backs. I also try to support Kirby’s joints with supplements – fish oil and Dasuquin with MSM – which were recommended by our rehab vet to support him.

We have worked with a rehab vet to try to come up with a conditioning regime to keep Kirby fit for agility. It also set up some ground work and understanding so that if something does happen (hopefully not), Kirby and I have the basic understanding to do rehab exercises (under vet supervision as to which exercises are appropriate). This vet also does chiro, massage, and cold laser therapy to try to help Kirby in peek condition as well. I’ve noticed that he does seem to be less stiff after chiro, and he LOVES massage so much that I want to try to learn more about it so I can work on him as well!

Do you prefer dogs or bitches? Why?
I like dogs. I think Travis, Kirby’s breeder, put it wonderfully, “Bitches love you. Dogs are in love with you.” Different type of relationship, but I love my dogs!

Do you prefer pricked ears or dropped? Why?
Just from an aesthetic standpoint, I love the big prick ears. I’ve never met a drop, so I can’t speak to the rumors I’ve heard about personality differences, but I just really enjoy the look of the big prick ears.

How is it living with them, compared to other breeds?
I think the biggest difference is the type of relationship that Skyes have with their person. Kirby is more intense; he genuinely NEEDS one-on-one time with me every day to be happy. It’s not that he’s clingy necessarily, he doesn’t need to always be touching me, but he just needs that focused time where he gets to be the center of my world for a little bit every day. I love that, but it’s not for everyone.

I also love Kirby’s energy level. He likes to play. He likes to train, but he has a great off switch. I think a lot of the terriers might be a little too much energy for me (I really enjoy an evening sitting on the couch playing on my computer or reading). Kirby is fantastic in that he’s happy to go to agility class and run and work with me, but he’s also happy if we just spend an evening sitting on the couch hanging out.

Why did you take the path you took? i.e. breed, train, show….
Why agility?
I’ve wanted to do agility since I was a teen. I tried it with my Bichon, who would do almost anything for food, but he HATED agility. He would literally check that I had a treat in my hand, walk to the jump, hurl himself over like it was the worst thing he’d ever been asked to do, and then immediately sit down and refuse to move again until he’s received a handful of treats and lots of praise. So, he only did it VERY briefly. I told myself that maybe someday when I got another dog, I’d try it again. It just looked like fun, but not if my dog hated it that much.

Fast forward to after college, when I got my first house, and was able to get a dog as an adult. I finally got the Skye I’d been thinking about since about the same time that I’d started thinking about agility. When Kirby was around a year old, I lucked out and got a fantastic deal on some used agility equipment and set it up in the yard. My thought was, we’d just play with it in the yard, but I didn’t think we’d ever be good enough to compete. I loved it, and Kirby is SO smart and willing to try for me when I ask something of him. When we put the equipment up for the winter (don’t want to risk the dogs slipping and getting hurt in our snowy, gross winters here in Michigan), I really missed it. So, the second winter, I signed us up for some classes, just to keep playing. As Kirby and I improved, I thought, well, maybe we’ll just try the precompetitive titles, and the rest is history! I definitely got bit by the trial bug! Every goal I’ve thought, “I really want to do that, but we’ll never be good enough…”, Kirby has blown away, and I am SO lucky to have such a great partner who is so patient with me learning (I swear most dogs are better at agility than their handlers!) and also patient with all of the emotions that go along with competing – ring nerves, occasional disappointment, and all the excitement! Kirby really is my best boy.

What is the most fun you have had with your Skye? Any specific anecdotes about
your Skye’s talents or quirkiness?
I love spending time with Kirby, whether it’s just playing fetch at home, or taking him to my family’s events, or agility, I just like being around Kirby; he makes me smile. I love waking up to his face kisses every morning

Obviously, Kirby and I spend a lot of time together at agility – between classes, practice at home, and trials. I really enjoy working with Kirby. I love watching him figure out what I’m asking and gain confidence in working with me. I do have to be a little careful, as Kirby wants so badly to please and be right, that I have to remember to keep my energy really positive, or it can just shut him down. But, as long as I don’t screw up (99% of agility mistakes are handler error), I think we work really well together, and I really enjoy showing him off! It blows me away when I think that Kirby and I entered our very first Novice A (handler and dog are both brand new to agility) trial not quite a year and a half ago, and Kirby has accomplished SO much – he’s earned his Masters Standard Bronze and Masters Jumpers titles (and all the titles leading up to those), he’s been to Invitationals, he’s qualified for (and going to) Nationals next month, and he’s more than half way to his MACH (agility championship). He’s just such a good boy, and I am VERY lucky to have him as mine.

Who was the best Skye you may have seen and what struck you?
I’ve actually only met one other Skye in person, and just in passing. Of course, I’m awfully biased to my special boy, so… Kirby is the best!

Why do you think the breed is vulnerable and how do you think one could help
bring the breed back into the public eye and make it more popular?
I think there are 3 things really working against Skyes.

1) I think very few people even know that the breed exists to look for puppies or to consider them when looking for a new dog. Everyone knows someone with a Golden that was super sweet or a Lab, and so people are more likely to consider those breeds because everyone knows someone who had one. I think getting our well-behaved Skyes out and about, letting people see and meet them, is critical to promoting the breed. Not just at shows (I honestly can say that very few people I know have ever even considered going to a dog show), so we have to get them out to other events as well. I try to take Kirby to the pet store with me when I go. I take him to festivals and events that allow dogs in the summer (at least I did pre-COVID). I talk about him all the time (my co-workers are probably tired of hearing about how awesome he is). All of the wonderful Skyes who do therapy work, meeting children and exposing them (and their parents) to how great a Skye can be… I think these are all wonderful ways to get the breed out there and to advocate for them. People need to know the breed exists, and be able to meet friendly, well-behaved Skyes in order to even consider the breed.

2) I think the online presence for Skyes isn’t helping the breed. I know a lot of breeders are a little older, so they don’t necessarily spend a lot of time online and can find computers frustrating, but I think being able to find breeders websites with a Google search can make such a difference. I know when I was looking for Kirby, I went online to look for breeders to contact, and not that many breeders had websites, and when they did, the sites were often years out of date. I know breeders are busy; I know caring for your dogs comes first (obviously), but I wonder if the STCA could maybe do a class on how to make a simple website (even just a couple pages) on one of the more popular website building sites or provide some sort of template that breeders could use and just fill in info about themselves and their program and dogs. I think even having something that simple, that maybe doesn’t have tons of bells and whistles, but could be maintained easily, and kept up-to-date with info on planned litters or available puppies, might make a huge difference for people who are interested in the breed, but not necessarily already plugged into the dog show world.

3) I think a lot of the info available about Skyes isn’t terribly positive. I’ve been multiple places where people see Kirby and act like he’s going to eat them, which confused the heck out of me at first. Kirby is sweet; he’s a good boy. He passed his therapy dog testing on his first try. He’s friendly, but I feel like people who have only known Skyes tangentially often have this impression of them as “sharks” and have the impression that Skyes can’t be around children due to bite risk. I hate that impression for the breed. It makes me so sad, and it doesn’t fit my experience with Kirby at all. I think countering this impression is some combination of the above approaches – getting our well-behaved Skyes out in public places where people can see and meet them and get a different impression, and also creating positive content available about Skyes in the online space – but it also goes back to all the wonderful breeders who have worked and continue to work so hard to breed dogs with correct temperaments and to all the owners who work hard to socialize their Skyes correctly so that they can go into public spaces and create good impressions. I think anyone involved in Skyes has to take a little bit of that breed stewardship to heart to try to counter all the negative out there with real-life, positive experience.

 

Email: info@skyeti.ch
Skye Terrier International Association
Zuegelweg 18
3777 Saanenmoeser
Switzerland