The Delightful Little Cairn Terrier

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Cairn Terrier
Weight: 12 — 14 lbs
Height: 9” — 10”
AKC Rank 2008 #49
Life Span: 14—17 yrs
Group Terrier
Origin Scotland

NOTICE -- The DOG BOOK Isle is being revised and so far, 7 pages are now online for you.

Dog Breed Info - The Cairn Terrier

A Cairn with her ball...
Anyone wanna play?

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Breed Overview

This was the spry, adorable little dog that went with Dorothy to the Land of Oz. The Cairn is lively, perky and intelligent. She’s a great family dog. My first dog, back in 1941, was a Cairn-mix and you couldn't ask for a better companion.

The Cairn was used at one time to hunt fox, otter and badger. The dogs came in a variety of colors, ranging from white to shades of grey to red, black.

In 1873 they were divided into the Dandie Dinmont and Skye Terriers. Cairns were in the Skye group.

By 1912 it was known as the Cairn Terrier and in 1913 was registered by the AKC.


descriptive textThe Cairn Terrier has been documented to mix well with other breeds, especially other terriers. A Cairn MIX tends to live longer and be healthier overall than a purebred Cairn. They are extremely smart, obedient, quiet most of the time, polite, and very playful. I certainly found that true with my dog. So, if you have the chance to get a Cairn mix, I'd say go for it.


Very trainable, especially if you start as a puppy. There is nothing they can’t learn with clicker training and positive reinforcement. They want to please and l;earn tricks well.

Crate Training

Want to crate train your Cairn Terrier? It's easy and if you're interested, take a look and you'll see what to do. Crate training your puppy will save many headaches and problems.

Potty Training

Cairn Terrier puppies are easy to house train, potty train, toilet train, housebreak or whatever you want to call it. If you have a puppy, decide if you want to crate or paper potty train it. For the best results, we have a page at Crate vs Paper Potty Training which will help you decide and from there you can get all the information you need to get the job done. Always praise the pup profusely when she goes potty in the RIGHT PLACE so she knows she has done a good thing. Either method will work for this breed

If you have an older dog, take the dog outside every two hours until she gets the idea which door leads to her potty area. Older dogs catch on to the potty or housebreaking pretty fast once they are shown what to do.

A 96 page paperback booklet that gives good information about caring for and handling the Cairn Terrier. For the price and size, it's one of the best breed-specific books out there. Click on the book cover or the link below and visit Amazon. Scroll down their page to the Customer Reviews and read their comments. Plenty of color photos too.

Cairn Terriers (Complete Pet Owner's Manual)

A well behaved Cairn Terrier
taking a stroll beside the river channel.

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If well socialized as a puppy, this is basically a sweet little dog. It is spirited, bold, inquisitive and hardy. They are stubborn and a kind of scrappy at times. The Cairn is a bit sensitive but tries to please her people. This dog can be a great house pet as long as she is given her daily physical and mental exercise. The Cairn likes walks, play, training and to explore new turf. She's a devoted little family dog.

If you happen to have a Cairn Terrier with a separation anxiety problem, that can be dealt with by investing a few hours of work on your part and some "tough love." (Almost any dog can have separation anxiety)

Friendly Toward Other Dogs

Generally ok, but sometimes she can be a little aggressive to strange dogs.

Friendly Toward Other Pets

Okay with family pets, but can vary from dog to dog. If you bring a puppy home, all will be okay. The puppy will grow up knowing only YOUR other cats and dogs and not the neighbors’.

Friendly Toward Strangers

Not always. The Cairn will do okay with your relatives coming into your house, but may not care for strangers out on the street until she gets to know them.


Very playful. Loves to run and clown around, chasing after balls and small objects. The Cairn loves to play fetch.


Moderately affectionate. Will curl up on the sofa next to you after a good play session and is very loyal to her master and family.

Good with children

Yes. Excellent with children 6 and up. Sturdy little dog and will follow kids in play. The dog is tough enough to withstand some roughhousing. Supervise kids under 6 closely and teach them how to behave with a dog. Your Cairn Terrier will tolerate all ages of kids, but not a lot of poking, pulling and screaming.

Good with Seniors over 65?

Yes. The Cairn is an excellent companion for seniors. As long as the senior can walk some and toss a ball in the yard or house, all will be fine. My dad had a Cairn until he was 83. Trained that dog to do every trick in the book. If longevity is an issue, find a Cairn Terrier Rescue group and pick out a 2 or 3 year old dog that is house trained and knows a few commands. This will make it much easier for the senior to adjust.

Living environment

Apartment, farm, big city is OK. This is a rugged little girl that needs some walks but otherwise can do fine in a small space.

If you have a yard, fine, because the Cairn Terrier likes to roam, sniff and investigate her territory.

An alert, happy Cairn Terrier
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Energy level

High energy.

This Cairn needs grooming!
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Exercise needs, daily

Moderate exercise. Two daily walks and some play time with a ball.


Excellent watchdog. Will announce anything unusual.

Guard dog

No. Maybe the barking will ward off an intruder?




Needs brushing with a stiff bristle brush weekly to keep the wiry coat from matting.

The Cairn needs to see a groomer every 12 weeks or so for a general clean-up and shaping.


Suggested Reading - The Cairn Terrier

The book on the right is by the American National Red Cross and deals with dog illness, emergencies and injuries. It's a valuable reference manual for all dog owners.


Cairn Breeders

In the event you decide to go looking for Cairn Terrier puppies, be SURE to find reputable breeders that really know what they are doing. Be sure the puppy has been well socialized and started in obedience training. It's not often that Cairn Terrier puppies turn up in dog pounds.
Cairn Terrier Breeders with puppies for sale.

Cairn Terrier Rescue

In the event you are seriously considering the adoption of a Cairn and are looking for a Cairn Terrier Rescue group or groups in your state, here are several links that might help:
Petfinder - Cairn Terrier Rescue At this writing there are only 343 Cairn Terriers of various ages available in the USA that are listed by Petfinder. Before you adopt, be sure to read the dog breed info above and below and be cautious about dog health when you do adopt.
Adopt A Pet Cairn Terriers are very popular and hard to find so check online for Cairn Terrier Rescue groups, kennels, shelters and clubs.


Dog Health Issues - The Cairn Terrier
Below: The list of dog illness / illnesses or medical problems for the Cairn Terrier as documented by various vets.

This is basically a healthy breed. Don’t let the list below scare you! Your own dog will probably never have ANY of these problems. These are dog health and medical issues this breed is prone to that have been listed by various veterinarians at different times over the past decade or so and some pertain to puppies and very young dogs that a breeder would deal with.

The information contained herein has been gathered from numerous books by veterinarians and is intended as general information only. Every dog and situation is different. You must see your vet. Our information is for general interest only and not intended to replace the advice provided by your own veterinarian.

Other problems could occur with your Cairn Terrier. If you notice any problems with your dog, take it to the vet immediately. This website is for general information only and is not intended to, in any way, be a medical guide.

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