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Cairn Terrier

CairnTerrier

A Clever & Spirited Friend

Inquisitive, stubborn, playful

Cairn Terriers are eager to please, bold, and sensitive, small dogs. This breed is a bit reserved with other animals but loves to play with children. They enjoy learning new tricks, hunting, exploring, digging, and chasing small animals. These dogs are prone to boredom and do not do well when left alone for long periods of time. Cairns make great companions for singles, active individuals, and families. They enjoy hunting, exploring, digging, and chasing, and are excellent house pets as long as they are provided daily exercise.

Understanding their unique needs will help keep them healthy and create a strong bond between the two of you. Explore this page to learn more about the breed’s history, health concerns, characteristics, and care needs.

Breed Details

Height:9.5-10 in. Weight:13-14 lb Lifespan:13-14 years

Size
2

1=small 5=large

Grooming requirements
3

1 = little grooming - 5 = much grooming

Energy level
4

1 = low energy - 5 = high energy

Ease of training
1

1 = difficult - 5 = easy

Affection toward owners
3

1 = independent - 5 = very affectionate

Friendliness toward strangers
1

1 = shy - 5 = very friendly

Routine Care: Cairns have a high prey drive, so they need to be leash walked and a fenced yard is a must. They are well suited for apartment life as long as they are given daily walks.

Grooming: They have low grooming needs. Brush their coat as needed, at least weekly to prevent mats.

Dental: Cairn Terriers generally have good teeth, and you can keep them perfect by brushing them at least twice a week!

Ear Care: Clean their ears weekly, even as a puppy. Don’t worry—your veterinarian can show you how!

The Cairn Terrier is a spirited companion. They love performing tricks and playing with children.

Positive Traits:

  • Lively, with a friendly personality

  • Loves to play games, especially fetch

  • An affectionate companion and family dog

  • Has a short, easy-to-care-for coat

  • Easily motivated and trainable

  • Small, but sturdy

Negative Traits:

  • Needs a lot of activity and mental stimulation to avoid boredom vices

  • Likely to attack other small animals, including cats

  • Bold and fearless, may attack much larger dogs

  • Easily bored and may find trouble

  • Likes to dig

  • Willful and stubborn if you don’t show strong leadership

Whether you are considering adding a new Cairn Terrier to your family or you already have one as a companion, it is important for you to know about the genetically linked diseases known to occur more often in this breed. Of course not every Cairn Terrier will have these problems, but research shows your pal is more at risk than other breeds.

By exploring the health concerns specific to the Cairn Terrier you will become a knowledgeable and confident pet parent. Be sure to speak with your veterinarian about breed risks every time you visit and educate yourself on the most important signs to watch for at home. They are counting on you to be their health expert.

Some health issues a Cairn Terrier could encounter:

  • Liver Problems 

  • Eye Problems

The Cairn Terrier originated in Scotland over 200 years ago and was originally bred to control the vermin population in rock piles. The Cairn enjoys playing with children and excels at learning tricks. A Cairn Terrier played "Toto" in The Wizard of Oz, and the breed became a popular pet. Cairn Terriers are a hardy breed with an average life span of 13-14 years. Like all breeds, they do have some health concerns to watch for, such as diabetes and patellar luxation. Early detection is the key to a long and happy life, so be sure to schedule routine checkups.

Consult with a veterinarian if your Cairn Terrier shows signs of the following:

  • Slow or stunted growth; sometimes seizures after eating

  • Blinking, redness, pain or itchiness around the eyes

  • Squinting, watery eyes, bluing cornea, redness, enlarged eye

  • Cloudiness to eye lens Increased blinking, extra tears and squinting

  • Increased hunger and thirst, weight loss

  • Weakness, pale gums

  • Excessive licking or chewing, pawing at face and/or ears, head shaking, face rubbing

  • Drinks and urinates more, eats more, potbelly, poor haircoat

  • Gums that are a color other than bright pink 

  • Increasing hip pain at less than a year old

  • Coughing, especially at night or upon rising after sleeping, rapid breathing at rest

  • Pain or straining to urinate, bloody urine

  • General reluctance to run or play

  • Care

    Routine Care: Cairns have a high prey drive, so they need to be leash walked and a fenced yard is a must. They are well suited for apartment life as long as they are given daily walks.

    Grooming: They have low grooming needs. Brush their coat as needed, at least weekly to prevent mats.

    Dental: Cairn Terriers generally have good teeth, and you can keep them perfect by brushing them at least twice a week!

    Ear Care: Clean their ears weekly, even as a puppy. Don’t worry—your veterinarian can show you how!

  • Characteristics

    The Cairn Terrier is a spirited companion. They love performing tricks and playing with children.

    Positive Traits:

    • Lively, with a friendly personality

    • Loves to play games, especially fetch

    • An affectionate companion and family dog

    • Has a short, easy-to-care-for coat

    • Easily motivated and trainable

    • Small, but sturdy

    Negative Traits:

    • Needs a lot of activity and mental stimulation to avoid boredom vices

    • Likely to attack other small animals, including cats

    • Bold and fearless, may attack much larger dogs

    • Easily bored and may find trouble

    • Likes to dig

    • Willful and stubborn if you don’t show strong leadership

  • Health Concerns

    Whether you are considering adding a new Cairn Terrier to your family or you already have one as a companion, it is important for you to know about the genetically linked diseases known to occur more often in this breed. Of course not every Cairn Terrier will have these problems, but research shows your pal is more at risk than other breeds.

    By exploring the health concerns specific to the Cairn Terrier you will become a knowledgeable and confident pet parent. Be sure to speak with your veterinarian about breed risks every time you visit and educate yourself on the most important signs to watch for at home. They are counting on you to be their health expert.

    Some health issues a Cairn Terrier could encounter:

    • Liver Problems 

    • Eye Problems

  • History

    The Cairn Terrier originated in Scotland over 200 years ago and was originally bred to control the vermin population in rock piles. The Cairn enjoys playing with children and excels at learning tricks. A Cairn Terrier played "Toto" in The Wizard of Oz, and the breed became a popular pet. Cairn Terriers are a hardy breed with an average life span of 13-14 years. Like all breeds, they do have some health concerns to watch for, such as diabetes and patellar luxation. Early detection is the key to a long and happy life, so be sure to schedule routine checkups.

  • Watch Out For

    Consult with a veterinarian if your Cairn Terrier shows signs of the following:

    • Slow or stunted growth; sometimes seizures after eating

    • Blinking, redness, pain or itchiness around the eyes

    • Squinting, watery eyes, bluing cornea, redness, enlarged eye

    • Cloudiness to eye lens Increased blinking, extra tears and squinting

    • Increased hunger and thirst, weight loss

    • Weakness, pale gums

    • Excessive licking or chewing, pawing at face and/or ears, head shaking, face rubbing

    • Drinks and urinates more, eats more, potbelly, poor haircoat

    • Gums that are a color other than bright pink 

    • Increasing hip pain at less than a year old

    • Coughing, especially at night or upon rising after sleeping, rapid breathing at rest

    • Pain or straining to urinate, bloody urine

    • General reluctance to run or play

Cairn Terrier Discussions

Share your thoughts and experiences, ask questions, or just show your love for the Cairn Terrier breed here!

Select Another Breed

To view the sources for the information listed on this page, see our Dog Breed Guide Reference page.

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