Cairn Terrier | Information & Dog Breed Facts


The Cairn Terrier is a very graceful, fun and lively dog. Originally from Scotland, it is a small tender dog whose breed has gained much popularity in society thanks to its physical characteristics and its mild temperament, this specimen is undoubtedly an excellent pet, in this article by ‘ Pets Feed ‘, we will know more about this nice dog.

cairn terrier
cairn terrier

A small dog with a sly, fox-like muzzle is a Cairn Terrier. These animals look hooligan, all because of the always disheveled coat.

This fact is not a reproach to the owners of a cairn terrier, just such a coat is a distinctive feature of the breed, just like their “fox” muzzle.

Breed history

According to official data, the Cairn Terrier breed was registered in 1912. But the history of this species began long before this date.

Dogs that hunt perfectly in rocks, penetrating the narrowest crevices in search of prey, were known and popular as early as the sixteenth century.

It is believed that Cairn Terriers are the descendants of the old Scottish hunting terriers. The birthplace of cairn terriers is Scotland. The development and formation of the breed took place on the Isle of Skye, in the western highlands of Britain.

In the eighteenth century representatives of the breed were called “Skye Terriers”. Only at the beginning of the twentieth century the breed acquired the name “Cairn Terrier”. All because of the unique ability to extract prey among stones and rocks, because “cairn” means “a pile of stones.”

The purpose of these dogs was to hunt foxes, badgers and other burrowing animals. These dogs were highly valued by brokers, hunters who kept whole packs of terriers in their kennels.

Brokers during the breeding work did not pay attention to the beauty of the exterior. The main thing for them was to get hardy, agile puppies, with a color that allowed them to remain invisible against the background of rocks and stones.

If the puppy did not meet the expectations of the hunter, it was simply destroyed, only the best remained.

It should be noted that hunting abilities were appreciated not only by brokers, but also by farmers. The owners of livestock, poultry, barns, crops used cairns as guards and rat catchers.

Small, but brave, dexterous terriers guarded the master’s animals from foxes, the master’s buildings from rats and other rodents, and protected crops from badgers.

Not surprisingly, the popularity of the Cairn Terrier has grown so much that it was difficult to acquire a purebred puppy of this breed.

Now cairns are popular not only in their homeland. These dogs are appreciated and loved in European countries, especially in France. Representatives of the breed entered the territory of the former Soviet Union at the end of the twentieth century, immediately gaining recognition from terrier lovers.

Cairn Terrier
Cairn Terrier

Physical characteristics of the cairn terrier

The body of this dog is notoriously longer than large, but still solid and compact. The height at the cross goes from 28 to 31 centimeters, for both males and females. The ideal weight ranges from 6 to 7.5 kilograms.

The deep chest and straight, solid back give the cairn terrier a solid but not heavy appearance. The legs are strong. The head of this dog is shorter and wider than that of other terrier dogs, but well-proportioned to the body.

It gives him a lot of strength in his jaws. The nose is black, and the eyes, slightly sunken, are dark brown, medium and with abundant eyebrows. The erect, small and pointed ends give the face an appearance that many believe is similar to that of a fox. The tail of the cairn terrier should not be high or low, and the dog wears it happily but never bent over its back. It has abundant fur, but does not form fringes.

The coat of the this small terrieris very weather resistant and comes in two layers. The outer layer is very abundant and hard, but not rough. The inner layer is short, soft and dense. The cairn terrier can be cream, yellow, red, gray or almost black, and dark spots on the ears and muzzle are very typical. The tabby is also accepted in one of the colors indicated.

Cairn Terrier
Cairn Terrier

Character traits and temperament of the cairn terrier

In general, the cairn terrier is a very confident and assertive dog, which attracts attention with its audacity. According to the breed standard, this dog should not be aggressive, but it ultimately depends on the socialization given to him. In reality, these dogs tend to be aggressive with people and dogs and other animals, when they have not been properly socialized.

However, with the proper socialization of dogs, they can be friendly to people and accept other dogs, and even some different animals. Either way, you should keep in mind that they tend to fight same-sex dogs, even when they have good socialization. However, well-socialized dogs also tend to be very friendly with children, with whom they can share many games. Some of the behavioral problems that the cairn terrier may exhibit are excessive barking and destruction of the garden.

Not all individuals of this breed tend to bark without reason, but almost everyone tends to dig. However, these problems can be avoided by giving dogs enough physical and mental exercise. Although a dog with a strong character, the cairn terrier can be an excellent pet if it is properly trained and kept in good condition. Keep in mind that this dog requires a lot of companionship and cannot be left alone for long.

Important! The Cairn terrier requires constant contact with people. Lack of communication is bad for his character. A bored Cairn Terrier starts digging holes in the yard, gets carried away with excessive barking.

Cairn Terrier
Cairn Terrier


Breeders, owners and veterinarians have identified several health issues that are important to the Cairn Terrier. Some of these diseases are inherited, while others occur due to non-specific factors (for example, infections, toxins, injury or old age).

Currently, the Cairn Terrier Club of America, in conjunction with the Institute for the Control of Genetic Diseases in Animals, maintains an open registry for Cairn terriers in the hopes of reducing the occurrence of hereditary diseases within the breed.

Breeders voluntarily present the results of their dogs’ tests for research purposes, as well as for individuals seeking to make good breeding decisions. Some of the most common hereditary health problems encountered in the Cairn terrier are:

  • Bronchosophageal fistula
  • Cataract
  • Corneal dystrophy
  • Craniomandibular osteopathy (lion’s jaw)
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Entropion
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Krabbe disease (balloon leukodystrophy)
  • Legg-Calvé-Perthes syndrome
  • Dislocation of the lens

The average lifespan for a cairn terrir dog is between 12 and 17 years.

Cairn Terrier
Cairn Terrier

Basic care

The Cairn Terrier quickly and easily adapts to any conditions of keeping. Such a small dog can feel comfortable even in a one-room apartment. This pet will also not hurt the owners, subject to daily walking.

A private house with a backyard is considered the best option for a cairn terrier living. If the terrier is housed in an aviary, the fenced area should be spacious, with an insulated booth or house.

At the same time, take into account the ability of representatives of the breed to jump high, squeeze, seemingly, into the narrowest cracks and make tunnels.

If you release the cairn terrier to run freely around the yard, watch it. The dog can jump over or even climb over the fence like a cat, make a tunnel under the fence or “dig up” your beds, flower beds, trying to find prey.

Important! Cairn Terrier trimming is quite specific. Do it exclusively by hand.

Terriers, even not participating in real hunting, have a highly developed hunting instinct. It often manifests itself at the wrong time and in the wrong place.

For apartment living, provide the cairn with 2-3 walks per day. These should not be short walks at a leisurely pace.

An energetic pet needs jumping, active games with a ball or rope, jogging. High level physical activity is vital for the terrier.

Taking care of a small terrier is not difficult at all. Just follow the procedures below regularly and correctly:

  • Twice a week we comb out the double cairn wool with a brush, removing dead hairs.
  • A major haircut is not required, even at the exhibition shows the Cairn Terrier is presented in its natural form.
  • We bathe our dog 3-4 times a year or if absolutely necessary.
  • After the walks, we wash the paws and examine the paw pads. If we find an injury or cracks, we immediately take action.
  • We clean our dog’s ears once a week with a special product recommended by a veterinarian.
  • We regularly examine our dog’s eyes for excessive discharge and, if necessary, wipe them with damp wipes.
  • The active cairn terrier usually erases the nails on its own on the hard road surface, if this does not happen, we cut them off with a nail clipper.
Cairn Terrier
Cairn Terrier


The Cairn terrier dogs have no special nutritional requirements. Both natural feeding and ready-made feed are suitable for them.

If you decide to choose dry food, then you need to stay at the super-premium class. Then there will always be a healthy and beautiful Cairn Terrier in front of your eyes.

The price for such food is slightly higher, but you do not have to spend money on veterinarians.

A natural food diet should consist of:

  • 80% protein products (meat products, cottage cheese, kefir);
  • 10% cereals;
  • 10% vegetables;
  • balanced vitamin and mineral supplements.

You cannot overfeed the dog. This breed is rapidly gaining excess weight.

The feeding method can be artificial or natural. Adults should receive food twice a day, small portions. They are determined depending on the age, health status of the dog.

Important! A dog needs purposeful activity. It can be games, competitions or jogging with the owner. Without exercise, dogs become destructive and moody.


The Cairn Terrier is a very energetic dog breed and needs to run and play for at least an hour a day.

However, his hunting instinct is so strong that sometimes they run after their prey, so they must be released from the leash only in safe areas, to ensure that they learn to react as soon as they are called. Their nature of Terrier pushes them to dig, whether in the fields or among the rose bushes of your garden.

Cairn Terrier puppy
Cairn Terrier puppy

Training and education

The Cairn Terrier is renowned for his intelligence, sharp mind and lightning-fast reaction. It’s easy to train him, he grabs commands on the fly, but for the training to really take place successfully, you need to find an approach to the dog.

Terrier education begins at the age of two months. The owner should take into account the dominant character of the pupil and his dislike for monotony. The dog must learn that the owner’s word is law. It is also important to structure lessons in such a way that the terrier does not get bored.

Training cairn terriers is fun, with pleasure. They enjoy activities in a playful way. Roughness towards the terrier is unacceptable. It is better to use verbal and taste rewards for correctly executed commands.

It is important for a Cairn Terrier to take an obedience course. Hunting dogs require special training. For terriers not participating in the hunt, various sports are recommended, such as agility.

Cairn Terrier
Cairn Terrier

Cairn terrier Fun Facts

  • The name of the breed “cairn” means “pile of stones”.
  • In ancient times, every Scottish nobleman kept a pack of Cairn Terriers in his kennel. It was considered prestigious. The more dogs in the pack, the richer their owner.
  • The famous doggie Totosha from Oz is a representative of the Cairn Terrier breed.
  • During life, cairns can change the color of the coat. For example, brindle turns into silver.

Cairn Terrier Dog Breed Highlights

The Cairn Terrier suits almost every person. The main thing is that the owner of the cairn is not a homebody and a lover of passive rest. Such a dog is very active, energetic, it needs movement every day.

Like other rocks, the cairn has its pros and cons. Before you buy a puppy of the specified type, familiarize yourself with them.

Positive points

  • The Cairn Terrier is dog are loving, loyal and devoted by nature.
  • It is adaptable provided it receives enough exercise and mental stimulation.
  • It loses a moderate amount of hair.
  • The Cairn Terrier is a good choice for families with older children.
  • This is a good choice for new owners.
  • The Cairn Terrier is not too demanding on the front of the exercise.

Negative points

  • The Cairn Terrier requires a lot of maintenance on the grooming front.
  • It likes being busy and having a low boredom.
  • The Cairn Terrier has a strong sense of prey.
  • This dog thrives through human companionship and suffer from separation anxiety when left alone.
  • Some Cairn Terriers may suffer from health problems that may result in large veterinary bills.
  • It is known for digging up flower beds and lawns.