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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Breeds > Cairn Terrier

Cairn Terrier

Origin: The Hebrides Islands

AKC Group: Terrier

Height: Approximately 9.5 inches (Male)

Weight: Approximately 13 pounds (Male)

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The Cairn Terrier took his name from the stony Scottish land over which he worked. His job was to go to the ground and bolt the foxes, otters and badgers from among the rocks, cliffs and ledges. His sporting instincts and vermin killing ability made him a useful member of the lairds' and crofters' households.

Now, because of his convenient size and friendly, affectionate and loyal disposition, the Cairn is kept mainly as a pet. Totally devoted to his owner and family, he makes an ideal mini watchdog. A hardy, tough, active little dog, known for his fearlessness and independence, the Cairn Terrier will stand and look the world straight in the eye! His short, wide, well-furnished head, bright eyes, and alert pointed ears, compact body and jaunty tail all combine to give him a rather sharp appearance. His harsh weather-resistant coat may be any color other than all white, all black or black and tan. He is very easy to groom and keep in good condition.

The Hebrides Islands
Male height: 
Approximately 9.5 inches
Male weight: 
Approximately 13 pounds
Double coated with a soft, downy undercoat and profuse, wiry outercoat.
Any color except white, including red, brindle, black, sand, and various shades of gray.
Special considerations: 
For anyone looking for a small sporting dog, the Cairn certainly is a wonderful dog breed with a lot of spunk.

The Hebrides Islands to the north of Scotland is where the Cairn Terrier called home originally. The breed is named after the Scottish word for a pile of rocks used as a boundary or to mark a grave - a cairn. Foxes and other pests lived in the cairns, and the Cairn Terrier was developed to be able to burrow into their lairs and rout them out. The Cairn's development parallels that of the Skye, West Highland White, and Scottish Terriers, all of whom have been doing their jobs for more than 500 years. The British Cairn Terrier Club has nicknamed the breed "the best little pal in the world."

Cheerful, alert and bursting with joy for life, the Cairn endears himself to all he meets. As charming as he is, he has an independent streak and can prove challenging in the training department. His affectionate nature and kind heart quickly override any annoyance at what might seem like poor manners, making him a beloved family member.
At home: 
Cairn Terriers are adaptable and thrive equally as well in an apartment as on a rural farm. As long as he receives the necessary exercise and mental stimulation to satisfy his energetic personality and active intelligence, the Cairn will do well in just about any living situation. Although independent, he still craves close human contact and doesn't do well if left alone all day. A securely fenced yard is a must, as he will not be able to resist the urge to chase squirrels and birds. For this very same reason, he must be on a leash when taken for walks.
The curious, active Cairn benefits tremendously from several walks a day - preferably long walks. He likes to investigate and socialize, so he needs his outings.
Feed your Cairn Terrier a high-quality, nutritious diet. He can easily become overweight, mostly due to his highly honed begging skills and adorable, pleading eyes.
Your Cairn will most likely dote on you - up to the time you ask him to do what you want rather than what he wants, at which point he may change his tune. The best way to work with his seemingly stubborn streak is with positive, motivational training. You must be one step ahead of your Cairn to make him understand that following your lead will be worth his while.
Cairns love all type of people and get along particularly well with children. They usually do well with other dogs - historically they were hunted with in packs - but may see smaller animals as prey.
The average life span of the Cairn Terrier is 12 to 15 years. Breed health concerns include an extreme sensitivity to flea bites and a tendency to obesity.
Fun fact: 

It is believed that Toto, Dorothy's pal in "The Wizard of Oz," was a Cairn Terrier.

Grooming blurb: 
The wiry outercoat and downy undercoat were intended to protect this small dog from the harsh and unpredictable weather and environment of northern Scotland. Because it is thick and tends to the scruffy side, the Cairn's coat needs regular brushing, and the hair around his eyes should be trimmed. Professional grooming several times a year to keep his coat plucked and looking its best is advised.
Copyright by T.F.H. Publications, Inc. This document has been published with the intent to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter within. While every reasonable precaution has been taken in preparation of this document, the author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any errors, omissions, or adverse effects arising from the use or application of the information contained herein. The techniques and suggestions are used at the reader's discretion.