Cairn Terrier Dog Breed Information

The Cairn Terrier breed is known to be fearless, especially when it comes to rooting out foxes and other small furry prey located in the rocky Scottish countryside. The breed comes from the Isle of Skye in Scotland. It was originally owned by farmers who would use it to rid away vermin. Cairn Terriers are also happy, curious, and alert dogs that enjoy exploring and digging.

Cairn Terriers have many unique qualities, including wide heads, short legs, and a double coat. They’re small enough to be lap dogs, and most of them will do well with close family contact. Cairns are ideal for people who are looking to have a dog that’s great when it comes to independent thinking, gameness, courage, intelligence, tenacity, and loyalty.

In most cases, Cairns will do well growing up in apartments and large homes, which makes them an ideal breed for all pet parents. They do have high energy, though, which requires them to be active.

Cairn Terrier Dog Breed Pictures


What Does A Cairn Terrier Look Like

The Cairn Terrier is a dog with a sturdy body that has short legs and a wide head. In most cases, it’ll be no more than 10 inches tall and it’ll weigh roughly 14 pounds.

It is a hypoallergenic breed which means that they’re the perfect dog to have around the house. This little dog tends to come in different shades except for white. They might have some significant patterns or markings. As far as their coats, they don’t shed much at all due to their short and shaggy coats, which also means that they require little grooming.


In terms of temperament and personality, the Cairn Terrier has a lot of them. They’re known to be sweet dogs that also have a bit of a mischievous side. The breed is highly intelligent with high activity levels. However, it’s also less challenging to own when compared to the other terrier breeds.

The small dog breed is very affectionate and gentle with children, which means that they make for a great pet to have, even with babies around. Most Cairns get along well with other dogs, so it’s safe to go to dog parks with them and have them mingle with others.

Living Needs

If you’re looking for an adaptable dog that can be raised in a home or even an apartment as long as they get their activity in each day, then a Cairn is the way to go. This breed makes for the ideal companions.

Cairns are small, but with a lot of energy so walking them on a regular basis is crucial. Most Cairns don’t do well when they’re left alone for hours on end, and they can become destructive.

Since they’re hunting dogs, they can also get distracted easily by small animals, like squirrels, rabbits, mice, and more, which is why you should be sure that your backyard is properly fenced in. This is a breed that loves to lounge around as much as possible with their owners, but they also make for great outdoor companions.

Cairn Terriers will typically get along with cats if you have them, but it’s not ideal to have them around other smaller pets such as hamsters, gerbils, or guinea pigs.

Cairn Terrier


How to Groom a Cairn Terrier

Small dogs like Cairns typically require minimal grooming. In order to properly take care of and groom your Cairn, you’ll need to brush their coat every week in order to keep it looking good. Like other small pups, Cairns are prone to dental issues. However, regular tooth brushing can prevent potential problems.

How to Train a Cairn Terrier

When it comes to Cairns, they’re pretty easy to train compared to other breeds. Cairn Terriers are smart and love their families. However, if they aren’t properly trained, they might try to test your limits.

This breed tends to learn quickly, but be prepared for your Cairn to always have the instinct to chase small animals or to dig. Starting off with puppy training early on can help ensure that they’re well-mannered.

How Much Exercise Does a Cairn Terrier Need

The Cairn Terrier is an active breed despite its small size. They will need a moderate amount of exercise and can typically adapt well to different kinds of living situations whenever they have the proper amount of daily outings. This kind of terrier can exert its energy even when training for various dog sports like herding, tracking, agility, and more.


When it comes to the food that Cairns eat, they will typically eat twice a day. Dry food is common for these breeds, and they’ll typically need about ½ to 1 cup of food each day. It’s good to divide the food portion into two instead of leaving it out all day.


How Long Do Cairn Terriers Live

The average lifespan for a Cairn Terrier can be as long as 15 years given the right conditions and healthy lifestyle.

Cairn Terrier Health Issues

Every dog is prone to some kind of health problems, but for a Cairn Terrier, they’re a pretty robust and healthy breed. As they continue to age, they might have some problems with the luxating patella andor retinal problems like cataracts.

However, these issues are often genetic and can be tested ahead of time if need be. It’s best to provide them with routine medical care so that any red flags can be addressed sooner rather than later.


The Cairn Terrier descended from the Scottish Highlands and Islands and was referenced back to the 16th century. When King James I and VI sent “Earth Dogges” to the King of France. The dogs were often used as shepherds, fox hunters, and crofters for pest control. They would quarry foxes, rabbits, and rats. Leading into the 18th and 19th centuries, they would also be used for otters and badgers.

This breed has the ability to continue to fight and ignore the pain which is part of what has made them so legendary. Cairns were moved to breed status with the help of Mrs. Alastair Campbell as she was the first to register the breed in 1907 as the Cairn terrier. They were registered as show dogs in 1909. There was quite a bit of controversy with the Skye Terrier Club since that breed was long-backed and long-haired. However, in 1910 the dispute was resolved when the name of Cairn Terrier was approved.

“Cairn” is a name that comes from rock piles or cairns, which are part of the landscape in Northern Scotland where this breed would locate their quarry. The breed grew in popularity up until the temporary halt of dog shows due to World War I.

Fun Facts About Cairn Terrier

  • In the 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy had a dog named Toto, who was a Cairn Terrier.
  • If you’re wondering “how much does a Cairn Terrier cost?”, the average price of this breed is between $1,200 and $5,000.

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