Cairn Terrier Dog Breed Traits & Facts

*The Cairn Terrier spunky little has won the hearts of many dog lovers around the globe. Although you might not have heard the name, most people have seen a Cairn Terrier. Do you remember Toto from Wizard of Oz? That’s right, it’s that little puppy. These pups are adorable, playful, affectionate, trainable, and very easy to train (most of them). He is not the right companion for everyone. To accommodate their high energy needs, it takes a special type of household.

This breed guide will walk you through the characteristics of this breed to help you determine if he is right for you . Let’s learn all about the Cairn Terrier.

Cairn Terrier Dog


The Cairn Terrier, one of many terriers that were born in Scotland’s Highlands, is a *. Until the 20th century, Scottish terriers were all lumped together in one group. It is believed that the breed dates back to the 1600s, although the name Cairn Terrier was not mentioned until 1887. Breed fanciers developed strict breeding programs to ensure that all terrier breeds could be kept apart.

The Cairn Terrier, like most Scottish terriers patrolled game reserves and farms. The word “cairn” is used in his native homelands to describe a pile of stones that marked a border or grave. These were a common place for terriers to nest, and the terriers’ smallest terriers would often dig into them and chase the animals away. When working together, they also faced foxes and other large predators.

They were mostly found in the western Highlands. His cousin, the Skye Terrier ,, was born and raised in particular on the Isle of Skye. You might also hear him called the Shorthaired Skye Terrier .. It is unknown when the first Cairns arrived in America. However, the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized them in 1913.

This breed is still pretty rare in the USA and is currently ranked as the 69th most popular dog breed. The most famous Cairn to date is Toto in MGM’s The Wizard of Oz. Many mistake Toto for a Yorkshire Terrier. Toto was originally named Terry. He was actually a she. Terry starred in 12 other films, and her success was down to her trainability and likeability on set.


The breed is a ratter. This exterminator will not be able to catch vermin on the ground, so you might not use him. This means that he is highly motivated to catch vermin. It will be difficult to train him. He also loves to hunt and dig. He will not dig up your precious flowerbeds if he doesn’t have an outlet. He is a wire and needs stimulation. We’ll discuss this in the exercise section.

This leads us to the next point: he’s not the lapdog that most people think he is. He is a terrier at heart and fun. This Cairn dog is a great choice for those looking for a smaller terrier. He is small but strong, even for his size. He can play with large dogs and children. This is a big advantage over other small dogs.

He’s a curious, alert and intelligent canine. This makes him an fantastic watchdog . He will announce your delivery person or upcoming visitors and leave no need to ring the doorbell. Once he’s gotten to know the newbies, he’s quite friendly. He will never forget his family and the love they have for him. He is loyal and eager for them to be happy (mostly).

Although they might seem tough, Cairn Terriers are sensitive souls that long for the company of their family members. He will cling to you and hates being left alone. He needs someone to keep him company during the day and cuddle him on the couch. He is described by a British breed club as “the best little friend in the world .””.

Size & Appearance

Cairn Terriers small-sized dogs compact enough to be carried in any purse. Females weigh approximately 13 pounds and measure 9.5 inches from paw to shoulder. And males weigh approximately 14 pounds and measure 10 inches tall. His appearance is typical of a small, but hardy dog. His head is the most elongated and broadest of all terrier breeds.

His eyes stand out, with shaggy eyebrows framing them. His ears, which are small and pointed, are also wide apart. His front feet are larger than his , rear feet, which he will use to dig. You must conform to the Cairn Terrier Breed Standard . if you wish to have your Cairn show in the conformation rings. It is quite strict compared to other breed standards, and it hasn’t changed since 1938.

Coat & Colors

Cairn Terriers are covered in a weak and wiry double-coated which gives them a scruffy appearance. The outer coat is thick and stiff, while the undercoat is shorter and more slender and close to his body. His head looks wider because the hairs around his face and head are thicker than the rest of his body.

Many sources say that this breed is a hypoallergenic dog. He does not appear on AKC’s list for hypoallergenic dogs. He isn’t as allergic to skin irritations than other breeds, such as the Poodle. Allergy sufferers beware! If this is a part of your canine checklist, don’t count on him being able to live in your home.

This puppy enjoys nearly all the colors you can find for a dog. He cannot be white in the show rings. The most requested coat colour is brindle HTML1. Then comes black, black brindle and cream, cream brindle. Gray, gray brindle is next. Red, red brindle. Silver, and wheaten are also popular. Cairns are also known for having darker muzzles, ears tips, and tail tips.

Exercise Requirements

*Cairn Terriers can be much more energetic than people realize. It can be quite shocking to not be prepared for his energy. He needs at least 30 minutes of intense exercise every day. He could still go for up to an hour without blinking an eye. He will become a problem . if he doesn’t get enough exercise. He’ll likely start digging in your yard or on your couch.

He is curious and alert and will chase down anything and everything. You must be just as alert as he. If you don’t, he will likely grab your arm at the sight of a daring squirrel. We wouldn’t recommend letting the pup out-leash without a designated area. Because he is a rattling joy seeker and will run up and down rabbit holes.

His exercise should be varied so he doesn’t go the same route each day. The dog loves to explore new places and smell new scents. He should also be mentally stimulated at home between exercise sessions. If you want your dog to be happy, buy plenty of toys for him.

Living Conditions

This breed is smaller in stature and can live anywhere. It might sound silly, but he doesn’t care what size home . you have HTML2_. He is a country man and would be happy to have a yard. But he doesn’t require one. If he does have one, he must make sure it is secured so he cannot escape. We are confident that he will fit through even the smallest of gaps.

He is friendly and willing to live with other dogs , as long as they are socialized as puppies. If he is socialized well as a puppy with the cat, he might be able live with them. However, this is not always possible due to his prey drive. He will chase anything and everything. Multi-pet households may not be suitable for Cairn. Multi-canine households will likely be.

His family must be active in order to accommodate his curious and energetic nature. They should also be available for him most of the day. He is happy to live with singletons, married individuals, retired persons, or families that have young or old children .. He is small but strong enough to handle overexcited children. Responsible adults will supervise all children and dogs, regardless of their breed or experience.


The Cairn Terrier, like most terriers is intelligent and capable of obedience. He can be stubborn and it is impossible to train his high prey drive. He is an averagely trained dog, with some limitations. first-time dog owners should be ready to take on a little , challenge, but not too much. If you want to get the most out of your Cairn, training must be started from day one . Or he will try to be the boss. Establish a routine that the entire family can follow. It is important to make training fun. If he doesn’t find something to entertain him, he will go looking for something else. Positive reinforcement training is the best way to train sensitive Cairns. He’ll run away from you if you make him feel too bad. Cairn Terrier will likely be motivated by toys or fun objects to chase. Make sure you use these to your advantage. It will be a pleasure to give praise and tasty nibbles. Remember that all dogs are different, so it is important to find out what works for your dog. *Socialization is essential for all dogs, even the Cairn. The optimum window for socialization is 3 to 12 weeks. It is important to find a trusted breeder who will help you start the socialization process. Bring him home and mix him with as many humans dogs as possible. You should also expose him to new experiences such as walking on noisy sidewalks, grooming his schedule, and welcoming visitors into your home.

Crate training and the “quiet” command are two final training elements for the Cairn. Crate training can help lower your anxiety when you are away from home. To keep him from getting into trouble when you’re not there. This super barky puppy will benefit from learning the ‘quiet command . He’ll bark until the cows return!


The Cairn Terrier is a relatively healthy dog breed that enjoys an expected lifespan of 13 to 15 years. He is more susceptible to certain health issues than other pedigree dogs.

However, there are some things you can do keep your son as healthy as possible . Regular health check-ups, adequate exercise and good nutrition are key to his well-being.

We have listed most probable health concerns that could affect the Cairn Terrier. Prospective Cairn owners should research all of them. Although it’s not a comprehensive list, it is a good place to start. Healthy litter is possible when responsible breeders screen for health issues.

Eye Conditions

The Cairn Terrier, like many other dog breeds, can suffer from a variety of eye conditions. Most common conditions are progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), glaucoma and cataracts. You should ensure that your puppy has good eyesight and eye health. Responsible breeders must obtain a health clearance form the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.

Cardiac Conditions

The Cairn Terrier is susceptible to several heart conditions, including mitral valve disease. This condition affects small breed dogs, with some exceptions. It involves a defective heart valve. Regular health checks are a good way to check for heart murmurs or other problems.

Patella Luxation

This is a common joint condition that affects smaller breeds. This is a condition that affects the kneecap. It occurs when the kneecap moves around and doesn’t sit properly. This can cause your dog to lose mobility and may be very painful. It’s important to have your dog checked by a veterinarian if he is unable to walk or kicks a lot.

Globoid Cell Leukodystrophy

This is also known as Krabbe’s disease, and it is more prevalent in Cairns and West Highland Terriers than all other breeds. It’s a degenerative condition of white matter in the brain and spinal cord. This is a fatal condition and affected dogs are more likely to die young. It is important to have a DNA test done to determine if the affected dog is a carrier. Trembling and general weakness are the first signs.

Portosystemic Shunt

This is a condition that affects the kidneys. This allows blood to bypass the kidneys and essentially causes a buildup of toxic substances. It can lead to death if it is not treated. Surgery is often required. This can lead to excessive thirst and urination, vomiting, head pressing and circling, as well as stumbling.

Kidney Aplasia/Dysplasia

This is another condition that affects your kidneys. Aplasia means that the kidneys don’t form properly and are unable to function. Dysplasia is a condition where the kidneys develop abnormally, resulting in some but not effective function. These symptoms are similar to portosystemic-shunt.


A Cairn Terrier is a smaller dog and will consume between half and one cup of food every day. It’s different for every dog. If your Cairn Terrier is working on farms eradicating vermin for hours, it’s likely that he needs a bit more.

Always follow the instructions on the packaging to avoid feeding your dog too much. The breed doesn’t have a tendency to gain weight. Be sure that he does not exceed his weight expectations. It’s essential to feed your tiny dog’small breed’ kibble . It is also important to feed your dog the appropriate food for his age to ensure that he has all of his nutritional needs met. Dogs with kidney problems often have to be fed a special diet. If you have concerns about your dog’s kidneys or the diet he should be on, speak to your veterinarian immediately.


The Cairn Terrier’s grooming routine is quite simple. To keep his hair from getting tangled, he only needs to brush once per week . He doesn’t have to brush his coat every day, as it’s not too long. He doesn’t shed as much. You may need to brush him twice per week during shedding season to remove most of his hair.

He only requires bathing every three months . Although this may not seem like much, overwashing your Cairn can cause his natural wiry hair to become more soft. This isn’t an issue for show dogs but it can affect his natural beauty, which many people love. For a calm clean, use a gentle shampoo for dogs made with natural ingredients like oatmeal.

Smaller dogs need their teeth cleaned more frequently than larger dogs . Because of the increased risk of developing periodontal disease, this is important. Doggy-specific toothpaste should be used at least three times per week to clean your dog’s teeth. The rest of grooming is the same for all dogs.

Breeders & Puppy Costs

The Cairn Terrier relatively uncommon dog is the USA. It is possible that you will need to travel depending on where your home is to find responsible breeders. It’s worth going the extra mile (or a few!). If you want a healthy and happy pup, it will pay off in the end. A great place to start your search for a purebred puppy is with the AKC’s Cairn Terrier breeder page.

A good breeder will screen their dogs for any of the health problems mentioned above. These certificates should be requested in writing. They will be able to tell you about the life of a Cairn and will want to learn why you are interested. Meet the puppies in their natural environment. The average starting price of a Cairn puppy from a reputable breeder is around $1,000 and up.

If you find a Cairn puppy that is less than the listed price, don’t be surprised if it’s too good to be true. Irresponsible breeders charge lower prices for their puppies to attract customers. In return, you will often find a sickly puppy and one that hasn’t been socialized and cared for. These cruel breeders should be avoided at all cost.

You should also consider the extraordinary costs associated with owning a puppy , and not just the initial puppy cost. Many dog owners who are soon to be dog owners don’t consider this and end up realizing that they don’t have the money for their pup. Cairns don’t have to be the most expensive dog because they are small. They still need insurance, medical attention and food.

Rescues & Shelters

*Some families might consider rescuing an adult or senior dog, puppy, or adult. There are many reasons why this may be the best option. No matter what your reason, it is likely that rescue costs are much less than buying a puppy from a breeder. It’s also a wonderful thing to do. The Cairn is a very rare breed. Therefore, he is equally rare in rescue shelters .. You have two options. First, go to your local shelter to speak with staff. They will be able to guide you through the adoption process, and may even point you in the right direction for a Cairn that you haven’t met yet. Alternatively, breed-specific rescues exist, and the Cairn Terrier Club of America lists contact details for Cairn-only rescues state by state.

As Family Pets

  • The Cairn Terrier is a smaller pup who fits into most homes.
  • They can adapt to apartment living with adequate exercise.
  • They are terriers by name and nature, meaning he is spunky, curious, and lively.
  • He is a high-energy dog breed, considering how small he is.
  • This breed has tons of physical and mental energy that needs an outlet.
  • Without a proper outlet, he’ll become destructive and naughty.
  • The Cairn Terrier makes a brilliant watchdog.
  • Cairns are always alert and very barky.
  • The ‘quiet’ command will be your go-to instruction!
  • He is sensitive and doesn’t like to be left alone for too long.
  • This means you’ll need to be around for most of the day.
  • He is friendly with strangers once he gets to know them.
  • He is lots of fun and always up for a game of fetch.
  • The Cairn Terrier can live with other dogs and sometimes cats.
  • He is small enough for kids to play with without risk of injury but sturdy enough to hold his own.

Final Thoughts

The Cairn Terrier, a rare American breed, is one that people instantly fall in love with HTML1. He is small and adorable but he is full of doggy personality. There is never a dull moment when this dog is around. He is loved by children, dogs, cats, and everyone else. What’s not to like?

Although he is easy to care for, there are some requirements that make him not suitable for all families. His family must spend the majority of their time with him because he is sensitive and needsy. He needs a lot of mental stimulation because his brain is filled with crazy ideas and needs an outlet. This is something not every family can provide or desire. It’s not hard to see why this dog is considered the best friend in the world.

Becky Roberts

Becky Roberts

One of Becky's favourite things to do every morning is to browse the top pet-related forums, looking for issues and questions that people have. She then shortlists the most common ones, and turns them into blog posts for Fuzzy Rescue. She's had over 4 cats and 2 dogs over the past decade, so she does know a thing or 2 about raising/training, and more importantly, loving them. She's the only one on our team that doesn't like coffee, but it seems to us she really doesn't need more energy :). We're very fortunate to have her on board as she does most of the heavy listing for the site, outputting an insane amount of content each month. Read More

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