Cairn Terrier

13-17 lbs
9-12"
Scotland

This breed is one of Scotland’s original Terriers, and was used in fox and badger hunting. A cairn is a rock den used by foxes and badgers in which they lived. The Cairn Terrier could squeeze into the entrance and bark until the farmer arrived for the kill. The Cairn Terrier has a foxy expression and is a hardy little canine. They are full of life, animated and alert. They make a loveable family member who enjoys playing with children and will be a starter for any game going. They do like to dig (which comes from their instinct for hunting) and need to have mental and physical exercise. This dog can become a handful without proper leadership, becoming destructive and exhibiting excessive barking without a strong pack leader. The Cairn Terrier is intelligent and can be taught all sorts of tricks, they love to please, and if they are rewarded with praise and treats will respond well to training and discipline. Left to manage themselves they can become stubborn, snappy and will be anxious.

Purpose
hunting
Date of Origin
1500s
Ancestry
scottish terrier, west highland white terrier, skye terrier

Cairn Terrier Health

Sketch of Cairn Terrier
Average Size
Male Cairn Terrier size stats
Height: 10-13 inches Weight: 13-18 lbs
Female Cairn Terrier size stats
Height: 9-12 inches Weight: 13-17 lbs
Major Concerns
  • Flea Allergy
Minor Concerns
  • Weight Gain
Occasional Diagnoses
  • Patellar Luxation
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease
Occasional Tests
  • Eye Examination
  • Physical Examination
  • Allergy Tests

Cairn Terrier Breed History

The history of the name for the Cairn Terrier comes from their occupation earlier on where they were used to trap prey in their rocky holes or cairns; the Terrier would squeeze into the cairn and bark for the owner to come and finish off the hunt. Hence the name Cairn (as in fox or badger holes) Terrier. At one point in their early history they were considered the same breed as the Scottish Terrier and the West Highland Terrier, which continued up to the 1900’s when the breeds began to be bred separately. The Cairn Terrier was first publicly presented in the 1909, but its real popularity came in the 1930’s after a Cairn Terrier played Toto in The Wizard of Oz. It was in 1913 that the AKC first recognised the breed. They are ideal dogs for hunting, tracking, go-to-ground trials, agility, competitive obedience and performing tricks as they learn quickly and love to be actively involved in doing something.

Cairn Terrier Breed Appearance

The Cairn Terrier is work like in appearance; this small dog is not just a lapdog, they mean business. They have a small head, but in proportion to their body with sufficient breadth of skull to support its strong muzzle. The teeth meet in a scissors or level bite. There is a definite indentation or stop between the eyes, which are of medium size and hazel in color and are tucked  under their distinctive shaggy eyebrows. The erect ears are small and set apart, the nose is small and black, and they have a longish neck which allows proper carriage of the head. With a medium length body showing well sprung ribs, the Cairn Terrier has very strong muscular thighs with a normal turn of stifle and hocks. Their tail is short and carried high while their coat is rough, double coated and occasionally showing a slight wave. The Cairn Terrier comes in a wide range of colors, except for white. They are a small active dog with a big attitude; they love action and people and make excellent pets.

Appearance of Cairn Terrier
Eye Color Possibilities
brown Cairn Terrier eyes
Brown
Nose Color Possibilities
black Cairn Terrier nose
Black
Coat Color Possibilities
cream Cairn Terrier coat
Cream
black Cairn Terrier coat
Black
brindle Cairn Terrier coat
Brindle
gray Cairn Terrier coat
Gray
red Cairn Terrier coat
Red
Coat Length
Short Medium Long
Coat Density
Sparse Normal Dense
Coat Texture
Cairn Terrier wiry coat texture
Straight Wiry Wavy Curly Corded

Cairn Terrier Breed Maintenance

The coat of the Cairn Terrier is quite distinctive and has a shaggy natural look to it. This thick coat can be deceiving as without regular care can become a sorry matted mess. Get your dog used to being brushed several times a week, being gentle with the soft undercoat. If your terrier is trained as a young dog to be groomed, they will enjoy the attention and love the special time with their human. Once a month give your dog a bath and brush the coat while it dries. The beauty of this coat is that it doesn’t shed much at all, which is ideal for house care. Occasionally, the Cairn Terrier will need the hair trimmed around the eyes and ears with a blunt nosed pair of scissor (they move quickly so for safety, don’t use pointed sharp scissors). All that remains to be done is to clip the nails regularly and your little Terrier will be dressed to impress.

Brushes for Cairn Terrier
Slicker Brush
Comb
Scissors
Nail Clipper
Brushing Frequency
Cairn Terrier requires monthly brushing
Daily Weekly Monthly

Cairn Terrier Temperament

The Cairn Terrier is an alert, lively, hardy little dog who will show undying loyalty to his family. They enjoy playing with children but do need to be supervised as they can be a bit wilful and may not respond well to ear and tail pulling. These dogs were bred to be fearless working dogs, and they love to be active. They need a firm but not harsh leadership and training. The owner must be the pack leader; they must gain the dog’s respect. Meek owners will find these little dogs can become a handful, demonstrating destructive behavior and excessive barking if not controlled. The Cairn Terrier is quick to learn and can be taught to do tricks. They will also take off after a rabbit or small animal if they spot it, chasing it regardless of your frantic calls. It is advisable to walk them on a leash, and have an escape proof fence for these little characters.

Activity Level
Low Medium High
Rec. Walk Mileage Per Week
9 miles
Minutes of Activity Per Day
60 minutes

Cairn Terrier Popularity

Popularity ranking
#70
Popular Hybrids
Cairanian
Cairn Terrier
Pomeranian
Cairanian
Cairicocker
Cairn Terrier
Cocker Spaniel
Cairicocker
Cairmal
Cairn Terrier
Maltese
Cairmal
Bushland Terrier
Cairn Terrier
Scottish Terrier
Bushland Terrier

Cairn Terrier Food Consumption

Cups Per Day
1.3 cups
Daily Cost
$1.00 - $1.25
Monthly Cost
$25.00 - $30.00

Cairn Terrier Height & Weight

6 Months
Sketch of Cairn Terrier at six months
Male Cairn Terrier size stats at six months
Height: 7 inches Weight: 7 lbs
Female Cairn Terrier size stats at six months
Height: 5 inches Weight: 7 lbs
12 Months
Sketch of Cairn Terrier at 12 months
Male Cairn Terrier size stats at 12 months
Height: 11 inches Weight: 12 lbs
Female Cairn Terrier size stats at 12 months
Height: 10 inches Weight: 12 lbs
18 Months
Sketch of Cairn Terrier at 18 months
Male Cairn Terrier size stats at 18 months
Height: 11 inches Weight: 15 lbs
Female Cairn Terrier size stats at 18 months
Height: 10 inches Weight: 15 lbs

Top Cairn Terrier Breeders

Check out who made our list for the most reputable Cairn Terrier breeders of 2018.
Top Cairn Terrier breeder DanBar Ranch
DanBar Ranch
Goldendale, Washington
Top Cairn Terrier breeder Stoneridge Show dogs
Stoneridge Show dogs
Shell Knob, Missouri
Top Cairn Terrier breeder June Bug's Puppies
June Bug's Puppies
Minatare, Nebraska
Top Cairn Terrier breeder CairnShire
CairnShire
Alpine, California
Top Cairn Terrier breeder Cloverleaf Kennel
Cloverleaf Kennel
Park Rapids, Minnesota
Top Cairn Terrier breeder Underwood Ranch
Underwood Ranch
Valera, Texas
Top Cairn Terrier breeder Shady Lane Family Farm
Shady Lane Family Farm
Free Union, Virginia
Top Cairn Terrier breeder DeRan Cairns
DeRan Cairns
Milan, Illinois
Top Cairn Terrier breeder Woodwynd Cairn Terriers
Woodwynd Cairn Terriers
Woodstock, Illinois
Top Cairn Terrier breeder Double J Kennels
Double J Kennels
Canton, Georgia

Cairn Terrier Owner Experiences

14 Years
People
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
Marking
Sniffing
Chew
Walk
My Cairn Terrier was fourteen years old. He was still extremely lively, and super excited to go walk. He set a fairly fast pace, and never fell behind. He walked about three miles at a time, and kept ahead of me all the time. He was not very interested in sniffing anything, but he would stop to "mark" frequently. Whenever another dog passed, he showed interest, but would quickly move on if directed to. He was also fiercely loyal to his person, and would protect her against any perceived threats (even just tickling).
11 months, 2 weeks ago
1 Year
People
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
Run
jump
Play with ball
Walk
He was very energetic! Always ready for a walk and willing to run. Would jump when he saw me. A bit stubborn. Loves to chase balls. Sweet, happy dog.
11 months, 3 weeks ago
4 Years
People
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
Running
snuggling
The Karen I walked was very shy. But once he started walking her she would get super energetic. And want to walk in snap and play and such she just didn’t really like people that much
11 months, 3 weeks ago
6 Years
People
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
Running
Playing
Fetch
The cairn terrier that I walked and boarded was very friendly and loved other humans. He loved to play fetch and would never get tired! He was very well behaved and almost never barked. The other time he would bark was when there was someone at the door.
11 months, 3 weeks ago
6 Years
People
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
Running
Playing
Fetch
The cairn terrier that I walked and boarded was very friendly and loved other humans. He loved to play fetch and would never get tired! He was very well behaved and almost never barked. The other time he would bark was when there was someone at the door.
11 months, 3 weeks ago
1 Year
People
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
Playing in the snow
Running
barking
Playing
chasing
The Cairn Terrier that I frequently walk is so adorable. He's friendly and energetic, but he also likes to bark at everyone and everything he sees. He's very curious on our walks and likes to sniff and stop at everything. He always seems to be sad whenever I have to leave him and I feel guilted into giving him all the love and kisses and I can. He is my favorite dog to walk!
11 months, 3 weeks ago
6 Years
People
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
This particular Cairn Terrier was older, so when we first met he was very skeptical and vocal about my presence. However, as soon as properly processed my scent and I paired myself with treats and his leash, he ready to give kisses and presented his belly for a rub. On our walk he was very interested in searching for good smells and at times could be adamant about following his usual walking route. I followed his lead most of the time to give him the most enjoyable stroll. But if I took a different turn he did not want to take, a treat paired with verbal praised served as enough motivation for the terrier to follow my lead. This suggested his breed to be curious and affectionate in nature, and be stubborn but easily trainable. He did not mind walking for an extended period of time, even in the cold winter rain in Seattle, WA.
11 months, 3 weeks ago
6 Months
People
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
I thoroughly enjoyed taking care of the Carin terrier that I walked. This little girl was still a puppy at the time but I can already tell that she’s going to grow up with a great temperament. She was very energetic and ready to get outside and explore the world. She listened to me and was very well behaved. She already understood words like “sit” when I fed her lunch. We did not have any problems walking. She was very sweet and curious with other dogs and had no trouble socializing with everyone we saw. I would definitely recommend this lovely breed to anyone looking for a small, sweet dog. And boy, was she adorable too! I hope to see more dogs like her again soon.
11 months, 3 weeks ago
5 Years
People
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
Walking
chasing squirrels
The cairn terrier I walked was a sweet girl. She was very friendly when I went to got to her, and she was very easy to walk. We went to the park and she ran around through the leaves and chased squirrels and birds. She did not show much interest in other people and occasionally barked at other dogs. She was very good on a leash and always listened to me.
11 months, 3 weeks ago
5 Months
People
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
Playing in the snow
Eating Snacks
The cairn terrier I walked was very young so she was just learning to be trained walking on a leash. She loved smelling things on the sidewalk and tried eating a lot of things. Very adventurous and wanted to run all over the grass. Very sweet to other dogs and humans too.
11 months, 3 weeks ago
7 Years
People
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
socializing
Cairn Terriers are lovebugs! The one I walked several times was overly excited to be outside and was making eye contact with everyone on the street and wiggling her butt. She was extremely social but gentle with all dogs and people.
11 months, 3 weeks ago
15 Months
People
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
Breeders, owners, and veterinarians have identified several health problems that are significant for Cairns. Some of these diseases are hereditary, while others occur as a result of nonspecific factors (i.e. infections, toxins, injuries, or advanced age). Currently, the Cairn Terrier Club of America, along with the Institute for Genetic Disease Control in Animals, maintains an open registry for Cairn terriers in hopes of reducing the occurrence of hereditary diseases within the breed. Breeders voluntarily submit their dogs' test results for research purposes, as well as for use by individuals who seek to make sound breeding decisions.
11 months, 3 weeks ago
Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
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