The Root of the Behavior
To best understand your dog, you need to comprehend the genetic influences that have shaped the dog you have in your home today. Cairn Terriers were originally bred as hunting companions for their owners. The breed was originally developed in Scotland with the purpose of rooting out nuisance rodents that wreaked havoc with their owner's homestead. Like other Terriers such as the Border Terrier and the Parson Russell Terrier, Cairn Terriers are dogs that were bred to "go to ground." Because of this, the Cairn's job on the hunt was to follow quarry into tunnels or dens underneath the earth and drive them back above ground for the hunter to catch. For this reason, independent thought was extremely valuable. The hunter required a dog who understood his job and fulfilled it without the need for direction. What does this mean for Cairn Terrier owners today? It means that following instructions is more of a foreign concept for your dog. In the field, your dog's ancestors intuitively knew precisely what to do, and they did it. They followed their own natural instincts and were richly rewarded for it. But in today's world, many of these deeply ingrained habits are things we don't like in our modern homes. We are at odds as we work to change things in our Terriers that come to them very naturally.
Encouraging the Behavior
With Terriers, the biggest hurdle is focus. If you gain and keep your Cairn Terrier's focus, you can teach him.virtually anything. Cairn Terriers have very definite ideas about what they want to do, and they rarely include what you want them to do. This is not uncommon amongst Terriers. Because of this, it is critical that all of your training sessions be short and fun. Realistically, there will be days when you and your Cairn begin a training exercise and your Cairn makes it abundantly clear that he is not going to do what you want him to. It is vital for you to realize that all dogs have off days. Rather than sternly scolding your dog or forcing behavior that could cause training setbacks, simply decide to forego your training plan and move on to a fun activity that you and your dog can enjoy together. Tomorrow is a new day. By not insisting on a rigid training schedule, you allow your dog the freedom to be a dog. Just as you sometimes don't feel like doing a task at a set time, your dog feels the same way, and you can cut your dog a little slack from time to time. Your training sessions will improve and become more productive with this one simple insight.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Terriers thrive on weakness. If you give in to them even once, you will set your training back ten-fold. You must learn to be more tenacious and stubborn than your dog. This is not easy because your dog was bred to stand his ground, but for the good of your Cairn Terrier and your relationship with him, you must be resolute. Most of all, it is vital that you be patient. Setbacks happen all the time. It will seem that you take five steps forward then ten steps back. A behavior that Fido had down pat, he now seems to think you have never taught him at all. This is normal and to be expected. Continue on, doing the things you know to be right, and consistency of behaviors will come in time. Sharing your home with a Cairn Terrier is a wonderful experience, and training one does not have to be an onerous task. It's all in understanding your breed and how best to approach them.