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Cairn Terrier

Breed Information

Cairn Terrier: 101 Learn all you need to know about Cairns before making one a part of your family. From breed information to health issues. You'll find it all right here. 

cairn terrier wearing heart pendant on collar

How they score: 0-5 bones

General Breed Health
Easily Housebroken
Low Maintenance
Good w/Other Pets

“A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down.”

- Robert Benchley

All the many reasons to love them...

Watch Dogs- They make awesome watch dogs! Cairns wholeheartedly enjoy their positions as defender of the family and take this role very seriously. 

Size- Males tend to be the larger of sexes and should reach a maximum weight of 18 pounds. Despite their small size, they're not great pets for apartment dwellers as terriers need plenty of exercise for good mental and physical wellbeing. 

Friendly- Cairns are true terriers. They're loving dogs who enjoy the company of people, but don't put all of your trust in a cairn to be 100% accepting of strangers who might approach.

Trainability- Cairns are quick learners who want to please. However, like many of their terrier cousins, they can be overwhelmingly stubborn.We highly recommend these positive training techniques for Cairns.

Loyalty- Cairns are faithful, affectionate and loyal companions. They love to be in close proximity of their owners, but might vigorously protest to being a full time lap warmer. This breed will insist on a little independent time.

Excitability- More excitable than you might think, Cairns were bred to hunt. Aggressive behavior in certain situations wouldn't be unheard of. "Laid back" is not a phrase used to describe most Cairns.

General Breed Health- High risk of poorly bred and puppy mill dogs in this breed. See more below in Health Issues, below. 

Non-shedding- There is very little shedding with the Cairn, so we've included on them on our Non shedding dog breeds page. Non shedding does not automatically mean hypoallergenic. This is true for any non shedding dog breed. Read more on what makes a dog hypoallergenic and how you can go about finding one. 

Other Pets and Children- Regarding other pets, socializing early and often is recommended if possible, but Cairns aren't known to be a breed intolerant of other animals. Adopting an adult dog means you'll already know if the dog will get along well with other pets. Where Children are involved, Cairns are known to like the company of well-behaved children. Don't leave a toddler or baby alone with any dog of any breed and never allow a ill-mannered child to harass or torment your pets. 

Cairn Terrier sitting on grass looking up

Why not consider adopting a Cairn Terrier? 

We found Maggie on

She was still just a pup and her time was running out at the Cumberland County Animal Shelter. 

Maggie is not an isolated case. Of the 7 million homeless dogs euthanized each year, around 30% are purebreds.

Check out our page on pet adoption. Bet we'll surprise you with all the benefits there are to adopting your next best friend! 

Even MORE About Cairn Terriers…

Willfulness- Training obedience to a Cairn could test the patience of a Saint, but it's entirely possible to achieve having a well-behaved dog... through absolute consistency and plenty of praise. Never, never result to harsh training methods or hit a dog for 'no-nos'. This is an intelligent dog, don't teach him to be fearful of you, teach him to respect you... with absolute consistency and plenty of praise!

Maintenance- Cairns don't need a great amount of grooming and too much can damage their wiry coats. Brushing twice per week and bathing every other week or so is plenty for a Cairn Terrier. Regular attention to his nails, teeth and ears starting when he's young will accustom your dog to these necessary practices.

Chasing Instincts- Cairn Terriers are energetic dogs who, by instinct, love to chase. A simple squirrel could send this little dog bolting. Until he's satisfied with his success in the chase, he'll tune-out your frantic calls to stop him. Never walk a Cairn without a harness.

Digging- The instinct to dig is built into the genetic make-up of this dog. Never assume your dog is secure just because your yard is fenced in. Digging comes naturally to the Cairn Terrier, so discouraging this behavior is difficult to say the least.

Aggression- Not all Cairns have aggressive dispositions, but they are terriers and can be quick to react. A responsible breeder makes it her mission to breed dogs with good temperaments, but nothing is guaranteed. Test your dog's behavior around other animals before allowing him unharnessed, indoor freedom with other visiting pets.

If you often come home to find puddles of pee on your floor and your belongings chewed to bits, it could be Separation Anxiety. Click on the link for helpful tips on stopping this behavior.

-Health Issues-

Not all Cairns are unhealthy. They are normally a long-lived and hardy breed. It's important to ask questions of your breeder about their testing practices and health guarantees before you purchase a puppy.

Skin Problems- Many Cairn Terriers suffer due to allergies. Atopic Dermatitus- known by many other names, is a disorder of the immune system and can cause mild to severe skin reactions. Fleas, grass and corn based food products are common contributors.

Hip Dysplasia and Joint Problems including arthritis and Patellar Luxation (A joint condition in which kneecaps dislocate) are common among Cairn Terriers. These are very painful for your dog and sometimes expensive to correct.

Legg-Calvé-Perthes syndrome is a disease seen in in many small dog breeds. It's degenerative and leads to bone loss and collapse of the hip joint. Early treatment can help to prevent degenerative arthritis.

cairn terrier
Sticky Note

Hypothyroidism is a condition of the thyroid gland seen often in Cairns. It can cause weight gain, hair loss and scaly skin.

Cataracts and a whole host of eye diseases affect the Cairn Terrier. Ocular Melanosis/Secondary Glaucoma is a disease that most often affects both eyes, as opposed to just one. Cairns face losing their sight altogether if this disease reaches advnaced stages.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy- is another condition affecting the eyes of many Cairns. Often called night-blindness, it becomes far more serious as the disease progresses.

Pulmonary Fibrosis- This lung disease is seen mostly in Westies, but Scotties and Cairns are also affected. Very little research has been done on this disease and the prognosis is often very poor once scarring develops. Signs to watch for include, loss of stamina during exercise, dry cough and rapid or labored breathing.

The Cairn can suffer due to Heart, Kidney and liver disease and several Immune System Disorders among many other things. Please choose a breeder wisely and take care of your dogs... They depend on you.

cairn terrier

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