Updated 22-05-2023

Cairn Terrier

In Scotland, the Cairn Terrier is a small working terrier that originated on the island of Skye in the Highlands. To rid their land of vermin, farmers required a dog with the boldness, persistence, and intellect of today's Cairn.

Cairn Terriers make excellent family pets because of their intelligence, independence, and friendliness. These pups are great for first-time dog owners as well as those with more experience, because of their small size and high level of affection.

They, on the other hand, have a lot of energy and will require their owners to take them for walks and playtime. If you decide to get a Cairn Terrier, you'll need to make sure that you can give it enough love and attention during the day so that it doesn't get lonely. Cairn Terrier features are listed in the table below!


  • A Terrier at heart, the Cairn's inherent instincts include barking, digging, and chasing. Training can reduce these habits, but it can't eliminate them. There are many alternative breeds to choose from if you dislike the usual terrier attitude.
  • The Cairn has a mind of its own. He's also got his own thoughts. In good humour, he'll question your leadership, but you must establish and keep your position as alpha dog to avoid his taking control.
  • The Cairn enjoys the attention he receives from his family. Keep an eye on him if you plan to leave him alone for an extended period of time.
  • The Cairn Terrier has a tendency to assume he's much larger than he is. Keep an eye out for him when dealing with huge dogs or other animals.
  • Never buy a puppy from a puppy mill, negligent breeder, or pet retailer if you want a healthy dog. If you're looking for a puppy that's free of hereditary illnesses and has a healthy disposition, you should look for a respected breeder.


Social Appearance 


It's a common misconception that a little dog is better suited to living in a limited space. Many tiny dogs have too much energy and are too yappy to live in an apartment building. An apartment dog's best attributes include being quiet, low energy, somewhat peaceful indoors, and respectful to the other inhabitants. Your dog's personal space in your apartment can be improved by purchasing one of these fantastic dog cages.

Sensitivity Level

Depending on the dog, a strong rebuke can be taken in stride by some, while others regard even the tiniest hint of disapproval as a personal attack. If you have a loud or pushy owner, a chaotic home, or a routine that is unpredictable or variable, your low-sensitivity dog, often known as "easy-going," "tolerant," "resilient," or even "thick-skinned," will be able to handle it better. Do you have young children, host a lot of parties, or have a hectic lifestyle? Choose a dog that isn't overly sensitive.


You can't tell from looking at them whether or not they're hyperactive, but when they do anything, they do it vigorously. They tug at their leashes (unless you teach them not to), they push their way through barriers, and they down their meals in huge, gobbling gulps. A home with young children or an elderly or feeble person may not be the best place for these dynamos to learn proper etiquette. On the other side, a dog with poor vitality adopts a more reserved demeanor.

Potential for Playfulness

The playful nature of certain dogs never fades away, and they're always ready for a game, whereas the reserved and serious tendencies of other dogs develop through time. Think about how many times a day you want to play fetch or tag with your dog, and whether or not you have children or other dogs who can act as substitutes.

Personality Appearance


In the same way as working dogs, such as those that herd sheep, are bred for intelligence and decision-making, working dogs like those who run all day need to exercise their bodies. The two most common activities that a bored pet engages in are digging and chewing, both of which require mental stimulation. There are several ways to keep a dog's brain active, including obedience training, interactive dog toys like tug of war, and dog sports like agility and search and rescue.

Energy Level

Energy-draining dogs are always on the lookout for a new activity. There are several jobs that require a lot of stamina from dogs, such as herding livestock or recovering prey for hunters. Children are more likely to engage in activities such as jumping, playing and exploring new sights and smells as a result of this change in their environment

A low-energy dog is more like a couch potato than a dog that needs a lot of exercise. Think about your level of physical activity and whether or not you find a hyperactive dog irritating before making your final choice.

Easy To Train

Easy to train dogs can more easily form associations between a cue (like "sit"), an action (like sitting), and a reward than dogs that are more difficult to train. Dogs that require more time, patience, and repetition are more difficult to train.

Getting your dog interested in training will require incentives and games because many breeds are intelligent but have a "What's in it for me?" mentality when it comes to learning new things.

Family Affection Level

Affectionate With Family

Since puppyhood, some breeds remain aloof and independent; others form deep bonds with one individual but are uninterested in the rest of the family; still other types shower their entire family with affection. Canines raised in homes with people tend to be more open to human interaction and develop stronger ties, regardless of their breed or upbringing.


Kids-friendly dogs are calm, strong enough to bear the hefty hugs and pets kids can dish out, and have an unfazed attitude about rushing, scream-inducing children. There are several names you may not expect to see on the list: Fierce-looking Both Boxers and American Staffordshire Terriers are regarded as family dogs (which are considered Pit Bulls). Chihuahuas, which are small, sensitive, and potentially sharp, are not always family-friendly.

Dog Friendly

Dog friendship and human friendship are two entirely different things. The fact that a dog is friendly with humans doesn't mean it's immune to aggression or aggression from other dogs; some canines choose to play rather than fight; others will just run away. The type of animal isn't the only consideration. Dogs who have spent a lot of time playing with their littermates and their mother at the age of six to eight weeks are more likely to be socially competent.

Physical Appearance

Amount of Shedding

Having a dog in the house means that you'll have to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothing and in the home. It's worth noting, however, that shedding varies widely among breeds. Some dogs shed all year long, while others ``blow" just during specific times of the year, and still others don't shed at all. If you're a stickler for cleanliness, you'll need to choose a breed that sheds less or lower your expectations. You can use a deshedding tool to keep your house a little cleaner.

Drooling Potential

While greeting you, some dogs may cover their arms with ropes of drool and create large, wet patches on your clothing. If you don't mind a little drool, go for it; but if you're a stickler for cleanliness, you may want to look for a dog with a low drool rating.

Easy To Groom

Some breeds of dogs can simply be brushed and left alone, while others require frequent washing, trimming, and other grooming in order to maintain their health and appearance. If you don't have the time or money to take care of a dog that requires a lot of grooming, you may want to look into hiring a professional.

Exercise Needs

Evening walks around the neighbourhood are perfectly acceptable for some breeds. Others, particularly those trained for physically demanding vocations like herding or hunting, require regular, rigorous exercise.

They can gain weight and release their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, including barking, chewing, and digging, if not given enough exercise. Those looking to train their dog for an energetic canine activity, such as agility, should consider getting a dog that needs a lot of exercise.

Average sizes and life expectancy of the breed


13 to 14 pounds


12 to 15 years


9 to 10 inches tall at the shoulder


The Cairn Terrier is one of a group of short-legged terriers that originated on the Scottish island of Skye, and it resembles its ancestors more than any of its otherkin. Since the fifteenth century, these dogs have been used to hunt for foxes, badgers, and otters. When it came to flushing otters from the cairns, the dogs were experts (piles of stone that served as landmarks or memorials).

When they first entered the show ring, the dogs came in a range of hues and patterns, ranging from white to grey to red. Cairns were included in the Skye Terrier group in 1873, when they were split from Dandies. Later, in 1881, this group was divided once more into Skye and Hard-haired Terriers, the latter of which eventually became known as the Cairn breed. Short-haired Skye, Cairn Terrier or Skye, and Cairn Terrier were all names given to the Cairn Terrier prior to 1912.

Before the 1920s, Cairns were allowed to breed with West Highland Whites, but this practice was outlawed. As the dog that played Toto in the Wizard of Oz, the breed gained popularity in both England and the United States. In the eyes of those who enjoy a hard-working terrier, the breed has a lot to offer. The British breed club's motto, "The best little companion in the world," may be the best way to sum it up.

Personality and Temperament

Cairn terriers are well-known for their intelligence, loyalty, and adaptability, making them ideal as family pets. They are, nonetheless, real terriers, and as a result, very energetic dogs. Some dogs are more prone to excessive barking, while others are more prone to digging up their own backyards. Those looking for a mellow companion should look elsewhere. In addition to being fierce, they're lethal around small animals and stray rodents.

The cairn terrier, on the other hand, is a wonderful choice for families looking for a companion that is always up for a game of fetch or a quick stroll around the neighbourhood.

As a breed of dog, Cairns are fearless, lively, curious and hardy. They also have a strong sense of self-preservation and a tendency to get into scrapes. It's a good thing that Cairns are responsive to their family's desires, because they're remarkably empathetic. As long as they are given daily physical and mental exercise in a secure setting, these dogs can make excellent pets. When introducing them to other dogs and small animals, be cautious. They enjoy exploring, sniffing, and hunting. Digging and barking are two of their favourite pastimes.


It's a common belief that the Cairn Terrier is an excellent family dog because of its sturdy, independent, friendly, and playful nature. Although they appreciate spending time with their human companions, they prefer to be out and about. A lapdog is not a good fit for a dog of this size. For the most part, grooming your Cairn Terrier is a simple process depending on your taste for cutting the coat.


There are a few health issues that can affect Health Cairns, just like any other breed. If you're considering getting a Cairn terrier, you should know that not all of these ailments will affect your pet.

If you're considering getting a puppy, look for a reputable breeder that can provide you with copies of the health clearances for the dog's parents. Health clearances are proof that a dog has been examined and found to be free of a specific disease.


One or both testicles may not descend into the scrotum due to cryptorchidism. By the time the puppy is two months old, the testicles should have totally descended. Testicles left behind normally aren't usable and, if not removed, can develop cancer. Surgical neutering is the only option.

Globoid Cell Leukodystrophy

White matter degeneration in the brain and spinal cord, also known as Krabbe's disease, is the underlying cause of this condition. Puppy deaths or euthanasia occur at a very young age in the presence of the disease. Carriers of this disease can now be identified by a simple blood test. Breeding dogs should be subjected to testing before they are used for breeding.


It's a condition of the thyroid gland. Epilepsy, alopecia (hair loss), obesity, lethargy, hyperpigmentation, pyoderma, and other skin diseases are thought to be caused by it. Medication and a healthy diet are used to treat it.

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

This ailment affects the hip joints. Blood supply to the head of the femur (big rear leg bone) decreases if your Cairn is suffering from Legg-Perthes syndrome, and the femur head that links to the pelvis begins to deteriorate. When puppies are four to six months old, limping and atrophy of the leg muscles are common symptoms. The issue can be corrected surgically, which usually results in a puppy that is pain-free.

Patellar Luxation

Small dogs are prone to sliding stifles, which is another name for the condition. The kneecap's name is the patella. Dislocation of an anatomical component is referred to as "luxation" (as a bone at a joint). One of the most common causes of knee pain is patellar luxation, or a knee joint that moves in and out of alignment. A dog's life can be disrupted by this ailment, but it's not uncommon for them to lead regular lives.

Ocular Melanosis/Secondary Glaucoma

In the United States, this was previously known as pigmentary glaucoma (since 1984). It is a hereditary disorder that is most common in Cairns children between the ages of seven and 12. In the majority of cases, both eyes are affected. Observe the scleras of both eyes and look for spots or areas with very dark pigmentation (white part of the eye). It is difficult for fluid to escape from the anterior chamber because of the pigment deposits that have built up over time. In turn, this causes an increase in eye pressure, or secondary glaucoma. Medication can be used to treat the illness if it is diagnosed early enough.

Portosystemic Liver Shunt

Blood arteries in the liver allow blood to bypass the organ because of this inherited defect. As a result, the liver is unable to properly cleanse the blood. surgical treatment is typically the best option.

Recommended Health Tests 

  1. Patella Evaluation
  2. Cardiac Exam
  3. Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  4. GCL DNA Test
  5. PSVA
  6. MVD
  7. Kidney Aplasia/Dysplasia
  8. PSVA


Keep your Cairn Terrier well-fed by feeding it twice a day high-quality dog food. Owners of this breed should keep an eye on their dog's treats and meal portions because they are prone to obesity.

Your Cairn, like other breeds, will require a variety of nutrients at different points in its life. Make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss your dog's age, weight and activity level to determine the ideal food plan for your pet.


Grooming is a breeze with this hypoallergenic breed because it doesn't produce a lot of loose hair. Your dog's coat should be maintained with a weekly brushing. Because their hair grows so quickly, it can become tangled and impair their vision if left on for an extended period of time. Hand-stripping coats is an option for some owners who want to keep them neat and comfortable. Instead of clipping, this method preserves the coat's state and texture.


In order to maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle, the Cairn Terrier requires some daily exercise, even though it doesn't require much. As a general rule, aim for 30 to an hour of exercise per day, which can be accomplished by going for a stroll or playing in the backyard.

Cairn Terriers enjoy playing with youngsters because of their playful disposition. It's a good idea to get your dog involved in family activities like game playing and digging in the yard. Consider installing a sandbox in your yard if your dog's digging gets out of hand.


It's not always easy to train Cairns because of their independent nature, but they're incredibly intelligent. Because of this breed's propensity for excessive barking, some owners choose to socialise and train their dogs to suppress it. Keeping Cairns out of trouble requires constant positive reinforcement training, which can begin at eight weeks of age. Dog activities like agility training help dogs burn off excess energy and strengthen their bonds with their owners because of their high levels of intellect, tenacity, and energy.

The presence of tiny animals such as hamsters or rats shouldn't be a problem for Cairn Terriers, but if you have more than one canine companion, you should exercise caution. A high chase instinct has been developed in this breed because of its history as a ratting dog. Owners may have to put in extra effort to get a good recall because of these traits.

Children and Other Pets

The Cairn terrier has a soft spot for children and is very patient with them. In fact, he relishes the chaos that comes with having children around. It's not uncommon for Cairns to get along with and respect other pets in the household if they've been properly socialised and taught. However, he has a tendency to chase any other animals that enter his yard.

In order to avoid any biting or ear- or tail-pulling on either party's behalf, you should always oversee any interactions between dogs and young children, as you should with any breed. You should teach your youngster the importance of respecting dogs' privacy and not to disturb them while they are having a meal or napping. A youngster should never be left alone with a dog, no matter how friendly it is.


From birth until maturity, a Cairn Terrier puppy requires a total of one year and four months of care. Before the age of eight months, it's best not to overexert your dog. Omega fatty acids, animal proteins, minerals, carbohydrates, and vitamins should all be included in your dog's diet.

These are the nutrients your dog needs to stay healthy for a long time. The transition to adult food can be made by combining adult and puppy formulas at eight months of age. To help the Cairn become acclimated to eating adult food, you can change up the formulations.

Dogs Similar To Cairn Terriers

Bedlington Terrier

Similar to Cairn Terriers, Bedlington Terriers show off their strong personality. As a result of their impulsive nature, pets should be trained at a young age. Active and intelligent, these dogs are a joy to be around.

Bolognese Dog

Bolognese Dogs, like Cairn Terriers, are compact canines. From 5.5 and 9 pounds is the normal weight range for these creatures, which stand between ten and twelve inches tall. Their hypoallergenic nature makes them ideal as a pet for a household with children.


The Chihuahua has many qualities with the Cairn Terrier, including its diminutive size. The Chihuahua is a dog that enjoys spending time with its family and friends. The same as Cairns, they're fiercely loyal and tenacious. Chihuahuas are great guard dogs, despite their small size. Cairn and Chihuahua mixes are made by some breeders. A Toxirn is a cross between a Cairn and a Chihuahua. The characteristics of both the Cairn and the Chihuahua can be found in a crossbreed. A working dog and a devoted lap dog hybrid was created.