|Group Classification||AKC (American Kennel Club): Terrier
UKC (United Kennel Club): Terrier Terrier
CKC (Canadian Kennel Club): Terriers
ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council): Terriers
RKC (The Royal Kennel Club): Terrier
FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale): Group 4 – Terriers; Section 2 – Small-Sized Terriers
|Bred For||Rooting Out Small Prey from Rock Piles, Companionship|
|Known For||Courage, Intelligence, Tenacity, Independency, Friendliness|
|Activities||Working on Farms, Digging, Exploring, Therapy Dog, Conformation Shows, Dog Sports|
|Measurements||Height at Withers: Males 10 in.; Females 9.5 in.
Weight Range: Males 14 lbs.; Females 13 lbs.
|Coat||Type: Wiry, Double
Color: Any Color Except White
Pattern: Dark Ears, Muzzle, and Tail Tip
Grooming: Periodic Bathing, Weekly Brushing and Combing, Periodic Hand-Stripping, Periodic Nail Trimming, Regular Tooth Brushing
|Temperament||Hardy, Assertive, Active, Intelligent, Fearless, Affectionate With Family, Friendly|
|Expectations||Lifespan: 13-15 Years
Energy Level: High
Exercise Requirements: 1 Hour/Day (Minimum), Daily Walks, Regular Exercise, Playing with Another Dog, Mental Stimulation
|Cairn Terrier Breed Standards||AKC Cairn Terrier Breed Standard
UKC Cairn Terrier Breed Standard
CKC Cairn Terrier Breed Standard
ANKC Cairn Terrier Breed Standard
RKC Cairn Terrier Breed Standard
FCI Cairn Terrier Breed Standard
|Similar Breeds||Norfolk Terrier, Norwich Terrier, Scottish Terrier, West Highland White Terrier|
The Cairn Terrier is originally from Scotland, dating from the 17th century. The breed was first known as the Shorthaired or Prick Eared Skye Terrier. Then in the 19th century it was named Cairn Terrier. It has been bred for its capacity to root out vermin sheltering in rock piles (cairns). Cairns are independent, intelligent, loyal, and friendly dogs, however, they don’t enjoy being left alone at home for too long since they like to express their affection for their family.
The height of the adult male Cairn Terrier is 10 inches at the withers; adult females typically measure 9.5 inches.
In terms of weight, the healthy adult male typically weighs 14 pounds, while the female weighs 13 pounds.
The Cairn Terrier appears as a short-legged breed with a strong body overall. The breed’s body is compact and of medium length, with a level back. Cairns have sloping shoulders, deep and well-sprung ribs, strong muscular thighs, and a good bend of stifle. They are characterized as lighter in build than other terrier breeds. The appearance of the Cairn Terrier has not changed much over time.
Texture: The coat of the Cairn Terrier is weather-resistant, consisting of a wiry, harsh, and profuse, but not coarse, outer layer and soft, short undercoat.
Note: White is an unacceptable color for a Cairn Terrier.
Skull: Cairn Terrier’s skull is broad. The head is small in proportion to the body and indentation with a definite stop between the eyes.
Expression: A Cairn Terrier has a friendly expression, reflecting its playful yet alert nature.
Eyes: The Cairn Terrier eyes are medium in size, set wide apart, and a dark hazel color. The eyes are slightly sunk with shaggy eyebrows.
Ears: The ears of Cairn Terrier are not too closely set, they are small, pointed, well carried, and not heavily coated.
Muzzle: The Cairn Terrier muzzle is short in profile, and wider at the nose. The Cairn Terrier appears with strong jaws.
Nose: The nose of Cairn Terrier is small and black.
Bite: The Cairn Terrier has a Scissor bite, the upper teeth closely overlapping the lower teeth and set square to the jaws.
The tail of a Cairn Terrier is short, balanced, and well-furnished with hair. It’s neither high nor low-set. It is set-on at back level, with the length proportion to the height of the head. The tail is carried gaily, not turned down towards the back. The correct carriage of the tail is between 12 and 2 o’clock.
The Cairn Terrier, with its loyalty, friendliness, and playfulness, is a great choice among single dog lovers and families. However, as with any breed, the Cairn’s high level of energy and other factors come with responsibilities that should be considered before acquiring this breed.
The Cairn Terrier is typically a healthy animal, but like all breeds and mixed breeds, some individuals may be prone to genetic health problems due to indiscriminate breeding practices. This is why it’s always best to contact a preservation breeder who is a member of a Cairn Terrier club for information about obtaining a new puppy or adult dog.
The average lifespan of the Cairn Terrier is 13 to 15 years, but with proper care, a balanced diet, and regular check-ups, many can even thrive beyond these years.
Although generally a healthy breed, some Cairn Terriers may be prone to certain health conditions, including:
Craniomandibular Osteopathy: This affects the skull of a growing puppy. The first symptoms usually appear between four and eight months old. It reflects irregular bone growth with swollen jaws and glands. The cause is unknown but is believed to be hereditary. Pain relievers and anti-inflammatories can help the dog with this painful condition. The irregular bone growth typically stops by itself when the puppy is one year old.
Cryptorchidism: The failure of one or both testicles to descend into the scrotum is known as cryptorchidism. By the time the puppy is two to six months old, the testicles should have descended. If a testicle is left behind, it is usually inoperable and can develop twisting or tumors if not removed. Treatment is surgical neutering and is overwhelmingly successful.
Globoid Cell Leukodystrophy: This is a degenerative disease of the white matter of the brain and spinal cord. Affected dogs usually die at the early stage if not treated, but there is a test that can identify carriers of the disease.
Hypothyroidism: This is a condition of the thyroid gland. Epilepsy, alopecia (hair loss), obesity, lethargy, hyperpigmentation, pyoderma, and other skin diseases are thought to be caused by this disease. Hypothyroidism is typically treated with medication and a healthy diet.
Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease: This condition involves the hip joint. With it, the blood supply to the head of the femur (large rear leg bone) is decreased, so the head of the femur begins to disintegrate. Limping and atrophy of the leg muscle are the first symptoms, usually occurring between four and six months of age. This condition can be treated with surgery.
Patellar Luxation: The patella is also known as the kneecap. Luxation is defined as the dislocation of an anatomical part. Patellar Luxation occurs when the knee joint moves in and out of the position, causing pain. This can be crippling, yet many dogs with this condition can lead normal lives.
Ocular Melanosis/Secondary Glaucoma: Also known as pigmentary glaucoma, this is a painful condition that appears between seven and twelve years old in Cairns. The condition usually affects both eyes. If diagnosed in time, it can be treated with medication.
Portosystemic Liver Shunt: This is a birth defect in which blood arteries allow blood to bypass the liver. As a result, the blood is not properly cleansed by the liver. Surgery is almost always the best option.
The Cairn Terrier is a real terrier: independent, alert, and intelligent; however, the Cairn is also wonderfully friendly. Temperament, it should be noted, can be affected by several factors such as heredity, training, and socialization.
Early socialization is always key. Exposure to different people, sights, sounds, and experiences while young is important for the Cairn Terrier. The breed is happy and cheerful and enjoys meeting people. Cairns are devoted to family and like to be a part of their owners’ lives, and playing with kids can be their favorite activity while at home. However, they are very sensitive and don’t like being left alone at home for too long.
Cairns are curious dogs and are quick to learn. Due to their independence and stubbornness, however, they must know who is in charge. Otherwise, they will take charge. Early training and socialization tend to help with this challenging situation.
Because of the Cairn’s high energy level, the top of the list of activities that can be expected are digging, barking, and chasing. When outside, Cairns will change any small animal if there’s a chance, for example, cats, rabbits, or even small dogs. Because of this, they should always be walked on a leash in public places but should still be given free run in a securely fenced yard. Cairns are typically good watchdogs and will always announce visitors.
Overall, the Cairn Terrier is a family dog and a wonderful companion. The breed needs to live in the house with its family. The Cairn is a great choice for anyone who wants an independent, playful, and alert companion by their side.
The Cairn Terrier should thrive on a high-quality food, whether purchased commercially or cooked at home with the veterinarian’s supervision and consent. The daily amount of food that is recommended is one-half to one cup, divided into two meals.
The Cairns diet should be tailored to the age of the dog (puppy, adult, or senior), size, build, metabolism, and activity level. Highly active dogs will need more food than those that are less active.
High-quality food will nourish your dog better and less will be needed. You should measure the food and split it into two meals per day rather than one. Also, never leave the food out all day and avoid feeding prepackaged food for people; however, if needed, it is safe to feed natural foods such as carrots, peppers, blueberries, broccoli, and cauliflower.
In case of a lack of nutrients in the dog’s food, the best supplements to give a Cairn Terrier are multivitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and fish oil.
To check if your Cairn is overweight, both the eye test and the hands-on test should be given. When looking down on the dog, a waist should be apparent. By placing hands on the back and thumbs along the spine, it should be possible to feel but not see his ribs. If this is not the case, the dog needs less food and more exercise. Before making any changes to a Cairn’s diet, always check with a veterinarian first.
The Cairn Terrier is a breed known for its lively and tenacious nature. This zest for life, combined with their innate intelligence, makes them both a joy and a challenge to train.
For those wondering about their ease of training, Cairn Terriers can be quite independent. They have a strong-willed nature, often making them appear stubborn. This doesn’t mean they’re untrainable; it just requires a consistent and patient approach. Positive reinforcement methods, using treats or praise, typically work best with this breed. They often respond well to rewards, and this can be a great incentive for them to learn.
When it comes to vocal tendencies, Cairn Terriers are known to be quite expressive. They might not always bark without a reason, but they’re certainly not silent dogs. Their barking could be in response to unfamiliar sounds or strangers, making them decent watchdogs. However, it’s essential to teach them the “quiet” command early on to manage unnecessary barking.
In terms of intelligence, the Cairn Terrier is undoubtedly smart. This intelligence, combined with their curious nature, can sometimes lead them into mischief if not directed appropriately. Training sessions should be kept short and engaging to hold their attention.
One concern potential owners might have is the breed’s wanderlust potential. Cairn Terriers, with their history of hunting, can sometimes get a scent or see a small animal and give chase. It’s crucial to ensure they have a secure environment to play in and are always on a leash during walks unless in a secured area.
Lastly, their predation instinct is something to consider. Given their history as hunters of small vermin, they have a relatively high prey drive. While this might not pose a problem for many owners, those with smaller pets like hamsters or birds should be cautious.
A big dog in a small package, that’s what the Cairn Terrier is. The breed is a tireless and high-energy dog that is very vigorous in its approach to life. Everything the Cairn does is done with vigor. The Cairn is intelligent and quick to learn, so this vigor is not just about running around. Many Cairns enjoy going through obstacles and training with a flirt pole. They like to dig, and fetch, and they often enjoy a frisbee toss, stair exercises, and even self-play with toys.
Daily walks are essential to release a Cairn Terrier’s energy. These must be up to one hour a day in length, and two walks a day are best, if possible. Without this minimum of exercise, a Cairn can develop behavior problems such as barking, destructive behavior, and even escaping to explore.
Three main types of exercise for Cairn Terriers include daily walks, high-intensity short bursts of movement, and mental stimulation. Cairns should be provided with the right kind of toy as a great way to burn energy and get mental stimulation.
The exercise needs of puppies are different from those of adults, since their bodies are developing and growing. Older Cairns should still be active in order to maintain muscling and mobility.
The Cairn Terrier coat is double-coated and weather-resistant, which helps the breed through different climate changes; however, this also means shedding throughout the year. Still, the Cairn is generally an easy keeper when it comes to grooming.
Brushing and combing should be done at least once a week, and hand-stripping is necessary to maintain the coat’s proper texture.
Because of the Cairn Terrier’s waterproof coat, bathing is recommended only once every few months. If bathed more often, there is a chance of damaging the coat and its natural protective oils. When bathing, always choose a shampoo for a “hard“ coat.
Trimming should be done by a professional groomer and include the trimming of hair around the Cairn’s eyes to allow the dog to see clearly and to keep the eyes healthy. Also, it is important to make sure the dog’s feet are trimmed, since the Cairn is an active breed and needs to always be ready for adventure.
Lastly, the Cairn’s nails should be trimmed regularly, because overgrown nails are uncomfortable for dogs and can even cause pain. Trimmed nails are not all about aesthetics.
Energetic, curious, independent, and healthy is everything a Cairn Terrier is. The nature of a Cairn is highly adaptable, whether the dog is living in an apartment or a countryside home. The Cairn can thrive in a variety of living environments.
If your lifestyle necessitates frequent travel or relocation, the Cairn Terrier will be highly adaptable to change and will eagerly welcome the new surroundings. The breed’s adaptability makes it ideal for families that value flexibility in their lives.
Although small in size, the Cairn Terrier is big in terms of energy. The level of a Cairn’s energy is high and this requires regular walks and exercise to expend that accumulated energy. Mental stimulation is important for Cairns to prevent developing behavior problems and even becoming aggressive.
When contemplating a Cairn Terrier as a family pet or introducing the breed to other animals, compatibility must be considered. While Cairns can be fantastic with children and other pets when properly socialized, understanding the breed’s prey drive and energy levels is key for managing relationships efficiently.
Because of the Cairn’s double, weather-resistant coat, the breed adapts well to different weather conditions. The Cairn’s soft and furry undercoat keeps the dog cool in the summer heat, and warm in the winter and when it’s raining. The breed’s undercoat does an amazing job at keeping these dogs dry.
Cairn Terrier puppies are playful and full of energy from an early stage of life. Their curiosity combined with their instinct for digging and playing can make them a bit harder to keep calm; however, if trained and socialized early on, they can be great company for just about anyone.
Before bringing home a Cairn Terrier puppy, make sure to provide a safe and nurturing environment. Since Cairns are very active from a young age, constant supervision is required to prevent them from harm. Providing Cairn puppies with toys will help with their teething and play needs.
During the puppy’s growth stages, nutrition is critical. It’s best to feed a Cairn puppy a high-quality puppy chow to ensure it gets all the nutrients needed for healthy growth. Setting a regular feeding schedule is also a good idea.
Regular veterinary check-ups are crucial in the first year of life. Vaccinations, deworming, and basic health checks should be performed to ensure the puppy is growing normally.
Important aspects of puppy care are basic training and socialization. Training a Cairn Terrier puppy at an early stage will allow it to grow into a well-behaved adult. Socialization will instill confidence and can reduce the chances of fearfulness or aggression later in life.
The Cairn Terrier is pretty versatile and is known for its intelligence, fearlessness, and adaptability. Although first bred for work on the farm to dig vermin from rock piles, over the years it has been involved in a variety of activities and dog sports, showcasing the breed’s skills.
Agility: In Agility competition, dogs navigate through a pre-set obstacle course within a time limit. Tunnels, weave poles, jumps, teeters, dog walk, and A-frame are common obstacles on courses of 14-20 obstacles. If properly introduced to the equipment, most Cairns love Agility and participate with great enthusiasm.
Barn Hunt: This activity is based on the Cairn’s instinct and ability to find vermin. Courses are built above ground using hay bales to create tunnels. To keep the rats safe, they are placed in aerated tubes and hidden throughout the course for the dogs to find. Barn Hunt also tests the owner’s ability to “read“ the dog when they have found the hidden rat.
Dock Diving: Dock Diving is a sport in which dogs compete at a distance or height by jumping into the water from a raised platform known as a dock. Dogs can be scored based on distance (the distance between the dock and where they land in the water), speed (how quickly they recover a toy at the pool’s end), or height (how high they can jump to fetch a toy dangling above the water).
Earthdog: An Earthdog Trial puts the terrier’s working ability and instincts to the test. Earthdog tests involve tunnels which the dogs must navigate while scenting a rat (the quarry). The dog must track the smell to the quarry and then “work” it. Depending on the sanctioning organization, “working” can refer to any active behavior such as barking, scratching, looking, pawing, or digging. The quarry is always guarded by wooden bars across the end of the tunnel. The hunting encounter is controlled, and neither the dog nor the quarry are threatened by the activity.
Fast CAT: This is a timed 100-yard dash for puppies at least 12 months old. In Fast CAT, dogs chase a plastic “bunny“ lure and the speed is measured.
Rally Obedience: Rally-O or Rally is a team sport in which the handler guides the dog around a course, similar to Agility. The distinction is that the course consists of many signals that imply obedience-like skills that a team must complete before proceeding to the next sign. The team strives to complete all of the signs in a certain order in the shortest amount of time. The skills on the placards include sit, down, stay, and healing.
Scent Work: Dogs are trained to detect certain “target odors” in a variety of search circumstances. The dogs use their keen sense of smell to locate the odors or “prey.” In Scent Work, dogs are trained to operate as professional detecting canines.
Therapy Dog: Cairn Terriers are excellent Therapy Dogs. In this work, dog and handler work together to get certified to visit schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and other similar facilities and events. It is recommended that the Cairn completes some basic obedience training as well as the Canine Good Citizen test to make sure the dog loves and does well with this type of work.
The Cairn Terrier originates from the Scottish Highlands and is recognized as one of Scotland’s earliest recognized working dogs. One of the smallest of the ground terriers, the Cairn was developed to dig into cairns and flush out creatures. In Scotland’s Highlands, a “cairn” is a mound of stones used as a boundary or to mark a grave where rodents liked to live. Cairns would also hunt in packs to pursue foxes, otters, and other predators. The Cairn’s independence, courage, toughness, and awareness served it well when digging into a “cairn” and when confronted by sharp-toothed quarry.
Cairns were known from the 1600s, but initially, the Cairn Terrier was grouped in the “Skye Terrier“ class together with the Scottish and West Highland White Terriers. In 1912, The Royal Kennel Club of the United Kingdom gave the Cairn Terrier a separate classification.
In 1912, the first year of recognition, 134 Cairn Terriers were registered, and after that, the breed was given Championship status.
The popularity of some purebred dogs has dropped during the past few decades, and so has enthusiasm for the Cairn Terrier. The popularity of designer breeds, rescue organizations’ aggressive marketing efforts, and the wholesale importation of dogs to supply a retail rescue market (as well as restrictive anti-breeding and dog ownership legislation in some jurisdictions) have all had an impact on purebred dog breeding.
While most Cairn Terriers are no longer used for their original purpose, they remain independent and feisty small dogs that enjoy hunting and digging. Thankfully, the range and availability of canine sports has grown rapidly in recent years, and there’s a dog sport that’s ideal for every Cairn.
Cairn Terrier clubs are indispensable in preserving the breed’s written Standard, promoting responsible breeding practices, and fostering a community for enthusiasts and breeders alike. These organizations often serve as hubs for education, organized events, and advocacy for the Cairn Terrier as a unique breed.
The Cairn Terrier Club of America (CTCA) is a dog club dedicated to supporting and promoting quality in the purebred breeding of Cairn Terriers. The organization strongly urges members and mentor-breeders to embrace the Breed Standard as specified by the CTCA and recognized by the American Kennel Club as the only requirement of excellence by which Cairn Terriers will be judged.
The Cairn Terrier Club of Canada (CTCC) stands as the premier organization in Canada for Cairn Terrier enthusiasts. The club was formed by a small group of Cairn fanciers in 1952.
The United Kingdom operates a few clubs, including The Cairn Terrier Club which is the oldest club for Cairns in the world, and the Southern Cairn Terrier Club, which is approved by The Royal Kennel Club.
Joining or engaging with these and similar clubs provides Cairn Terrier enthusiasts with a wealth of knowledge and opportunities to connect with others who share the same passion for this affable breed.
When acquired without sufficient research and knowledge, Cairns can end up in adoption or foster situations.
In the US, Cairn Rescue USA is one of the most popular rescue organizations. This group is dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating, and finding new homes for Cairn Terriers. In addition, the Cairn Terrier Club of America contains a detailed list of regional rescue groups.
Canadian Cairn Terrier Rescue is the leading rescue group in Canada. This organization operates under the broader umbrella of the Cairn Terrier Club of Canada and has found homes for hundreds of Cairn Terriers in need.
In the United Kingdom, the most popular rescue group for the breed is the Cairn Terrier Relief Fund. The group was established in 1969 and provides care for abandoned or neglected Cairns as well as those whose owners can no longer take care of them.
Famous Cairn Terrier: In 1939, a Cairn Terrier named “Terry” was cast as the character Toto in MGM’s production of The Wizard of Oz.
Name: The breed is named after a pile of rocks. “Cairn” refers to a stack of stones that is formed either by the human hand or naturally. These stones are great breeding grounds for mice, rats, and other small vermin, and the dogs were created to go into the pile to flush them out.
Feet: The Cairn Terrier’s front paws are well-padded and larger than their rear paws, giving the dogs an advantage while digging for rodents.
Cairn Terriers have a typical lifespan of around 13 to 15 years, though some can live even longer with proper care. It’s important to note that a balanced diet, regular exercise, and consistent veterinary care are essential factors in ensuring a long and healthy life for a Cairn Terrier.
Cairn Terriers are considered to be a low to moderate shedding breed. While they do shed, their shedding is not excessive. Regular grooming and brushing can help manage their shedding, and pet Cairn Terriers particularly benefit from regular visits to professional groomers.
Cairn Terriers are a small breed, standing around 9.5 to 10 inches in height at the shoulders. It’s worth noting that the size of individual Cairn Terriers can vary, so it’s important to acquire one from a reputable breeder known for producing dogs that align with the Breed Standards.
Cairn Terriers are generally quite agile and can run at speeds of around 15 to 20 miles per hour, depending on their individual fitness and energy levels. While the breed has moderate activity needs, it’s notable that the Cairn has a natural inclination to dig, often displaying this behavior while exploring its immediate environment.
Cairn Terriers typically weigh between 13 to 14 pounds. While there’s a general weight range, the size and weight of individual Cairn Terriers can vary, so when looking to acquire one, it’s best to consult with breeders who are known for producing dogs that fit within the desired specifications.
Yes, Cairn Terriers are known for their affectionate and lively nature, making them excellent family companions. They generally get along well with children and other pets when socialized from a young age. The versatile Cairn Terrier is well-suited for people in all stages of life, from families to active adults and the elderly.
Cairn Terriers are not considered hypoallergenic. While no dog breed is completely hypoallergenic, some breeds are less likely to trigger allergies in sensitive individuals due to low-shedding coats. Like most breeds of dogs, Cairn Terriers do shed to some extent, which could potentially cause allergies in people who are prone to them. Regular grooming and cleaning can help with controlling allergens.
Cairn Terriers typically reach their full-grown size and physical maturity at around 12 to 18 months of age. By this time, most will have achieved their adult height and weight. To ensure optimum health during their mature years, it’s essential to feed Cairn Terriers a high-quality diet and provide them with regular opportunities to exercise.
Cairn Terriers are known for their loyalty and often form strong bonds with their human companions. While they can be sociable and friendly towards the entire family, it’s not uncommon for them to display a particular attachment to one specific person. This loyalty, paired with their alert and protective nature, makes them excellent companions.
Like most dogs, Cairn Terriers prefer the company of their human family members and may experience separation anxiety if left alone for extended periods. If they become bored or anxious, they might engage in destructive behaviors. If a Cairn needs to be left alone regularly, it’s essential to provide it with toys and puzzles, or consider getting another companion to help mitigate the loneliness.
Cairn Terriers can be quite vocal. Their natural instinct as terriers is to alert their owners of any perceived threats, which can include unfamiliar noises or strangers approaching the house or yard. Proper training and socialization from a young age can help to manage and reduce excessive barking.
In terms of grooming, Cairn Terriers are relatively low maintenance. Their wiry coat requires occasional brushing and infrequent baths to maintain its natural state, and periodic stripping of the coat is necessary to keep a dog looking like the champions that compete at dog shows. However, in terms of energy and mental stimulation, they are moderately high maintenance. These active little terriers benefit from regular exercise and activities that will challenge their intelligent and curious minds.