Breed Group: Terrier
Temperament and Behavior
The Cairn Terrier is the model for terriers. Sturdy, confident, spirited, plucky, bold, inquisitive, stubborn, clever, independent, and scrappy, this little dog is equally at home in a big city apartment as he is on a farm. He is social with the entire family but seems to take special joy in playing with children. Even with his small size, he is able to stand up to, and actively participate in, any activity a child chooses. Cairn Terriers can be friendly or reserved with visitors, but highly active inside and quick to bark, he never misses the chance to announce their arrival. However, his small size prevents him from being effective as a guard dog. He usually tries to exert himself as leader over other dogs but ultimately gets along with them better than some others in the terrier group. But bred to hunt, he sees any other small animal that moves as prey. But with their hunting instincts, it is easy to understand that when outside, Cairn Terriers must be kept in a fenced yard or securely leashed. They simply cannot resist the lure of chasing a passing cat. But don’t forget to secure the fence; Cairns will tunnel under or squeeze through any small gap. Highly active inside, his activity drops to about average outside. His exercise needs can be met with a daily walk and rousing inside play session. Many are frequent barkers but are not as “yappy” as some breeds.
Physical CharacteristicsThe Cairn Terrier is a small dog standing about 11″ at the withers and weighing about 14 pounds. A broad head with erect ears is heavily furnished with hair. Any coat color except white is acceptable with wheaten, red and brindle the most common. His harsh coat needs brushing at least once a week, twice would be better. They don’t shed enough that their hair ever becomes a nuisance and they do well in almost any climate.
Trainer's NotesThe Cairn Terrier is a highly intelligent but stubborn, strong-willed dog that must be taught his place in the home starting as a young puppy. As a terrier, they do not wait for directions and will evaluate any they are given before making a decision as to which ones they will follow. If you employ harsh training techniques, they will likely withdraw; focus on giving treats and lots of praise. Over indulgence teaches him to be demanding to an extreme. As with most terriers, he is best for an experienced owner.
Cairn Terrier, wheaten color
HealthA healthy breed, the most significant health issue is that about 8% suffer from Hip Dysplasia. The Cairn Terrier Club of America maintains an overview of the inherited diseases affecting the breed and a health registry to track the incidence of disease in the breed on their website. A lifespan of 15 years not uncommon.
PopularityThe Cairn Terrier is ranked the 41st most popular breed by the American Kennel Club with slightly less than 4,000 puppies registered per year.
Breed HistoryThe Cairn Terrier was first bred in the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye over two hundred years ago to rout vermin from the rock piles (called cairns) that were in great abundance on farms. From these breedings came the Scottish Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, as well as the Cairn Terrier. The Cairn Terrier was the last of the three to be named as a separate breed and remains truest in appearance to the original dogs.
Additional InformationKing George V and Edward VII were Cairn Terrier owners, as have been David Hasselhoff, J. Edgar Hoover, Liza Minnelli, and Bill Murray. Toto, Dorothy’s dog in The Wizard of Oz, was a Cairn Terrier named Terry who received a salary of $125.00 per week, more than many of the human actors in the film. The National (US) Breed Club is The Cairn Terrier Club of America.