Cairn Terrier is from the Isle of Skye, Scotland, and is a working terrier. Traditionally, this breed’s job was to protect small farms from foxes and other vermin. He would squirm his way into piles of rocks, called cairns, to get to a hiding fox or badger. He would then either flush the vermin or hold it there so the farmer could dispatch it. Originally classified as a Scotch Terrier and then as one of the Skye Terriers, he became known as the Cairn Terrier in 1912. The breed is closely related to the West Highland White Terrier, and in early years the two were cross-bred.
The Cairn Terrier today is still a game, hardy, working terrier. Size is of utmost importance, with males weighing 14 pounds and females weighing a pound less. These dogs are short-legged but should be proportional, with most standing between 9.5 and 10 inches tall. The skull is broad, muzzle strong, eyes hazel, and nose black. The ears are upright and small. The tail is short and carried upright. The coat is double, with a hard outer coat and a soft undercoat. The coat may be any color except white.
We recommend weekly brushing and combing to keep shedding to a minimum. They also recommend trimming the hair from the tips of the ears, tail, and feet. Many Cairn Terriers are allergic to fleas, so keeping the dog free of these pests is important. Cairn Terriers are active little dogs who love to play. Although they enjoy a walk morning and evening, walks are not enough exercise for this spunky little dog. A Cairn Terrier also needs a chance to play on the agility course, chase a ball, or jump for a small flying disc. All offleash exercise should be within a fenced-in yard, because Cairn Terriers love to chase squirrels and other small animals. If your terrier takes off after a small animal, all the calling in the world will not bring him back.
Dog Breed Standards recommends kindergarten puppy classes for Cairn Terrier puppies. Be sure to train your Cairn Terrier puppy with firmness and consistency. Harsh punishment is not necessary. Be sure, though, that your Cairn Terrier knows you are in charge. Like children, they will test your limits, but need discipline to turn out well.
Training should continue on into adulthood to keep this bright breed’s mind active. Cairn Terriers are also quite good at many canine sports, including agility, obedience trials, tracking, and terrier go-to-ground competitions. Cairn Terriers are great family dogs. They are affectionate and enjoy children and their games. They are sturdy enough to take some rough play, but kids should be taught to treat them with respect.
Cairn Terriers prefer to be with people; when left alone for too many hours, they are prone to get into trouble. Most Cairns also get along well with other dogs. They are fine with cats when raised with them but will chase strange cats who come into their yard. Cairns should not be trusted with smaller pets; a Cairn will have a hard time differentiating between a pet rat and a wild rat. Health concerns include eye problems, liver shunt, and knee problems.