Cairn Terrier Puppy Facts

Did you just bring home a new Cairn Terrier puppy and want to learn more about the breed?

Maybe you are thinking about buying a puppy and want to know if this is the right breed of dog for you and your family?

No matter what your situation may be, you will find the answers to your questions right here!



Breed History

This breed is one of the older of the terriers. It originated during the 1500's. It was founded by Captain Martin MacLeod from Drynoch, the Isle of Skye. In the Highlands of Scotland, MacLeod was regarded as an accomplished sportsman and an otter hunting enthusiast.

The Cairn Terrier was originally known as the Short-haired Skye terrier. When this breed was introduced to the Kennel Club, this name faced a lot of opposition from Skye terrier breeders. As an alternative, the name Cairn was introduced. Because of the name's popularity, it became the official name of the breed.

The name 'Cairn' came from this breed's habit of burrowing into large piles of stones and barking at rodents such as rabbits and fox until a farmer would arrive and take care of the vermin. These piles of stones were known as cairns.

These dogs were not originally bred as show dogs or dogs for entertainment. In the Scottish Highlands, this breed was known as a working breed on farms. They shined at finding and killing small pests.

This dog's role has changed since their origins. They can still hunt small rodents, but that isn't very practical any more. People now buy them for their charming looks, companionship, and enthusiasm.

This breed made its mark in pop culture in 1939. 'Toto', from "The Wizard of Oz", was actually a Cairn Terrier.

Mrs. Henry F. Price and Mrs. Byron Rodgers introduced the Cairn Terrier to the United States in 1913. The breed was recognized by AKC the same year.

Physical Characteristics of Cairn Terrier Puppies

Cairns are strong but not heavily built dogs. They are short, fairly long for their height, and shaggy-looking. European Cairns tend to be larger than their American cousins.

The Cairn Terrier has a well-muscled body with a deep ribcage, medium-length back, sloping shoulders, and a tail that's set high but should not curl over back. The legs are medium length and covered with rough hair. The front feet are larger than the back feet.

The head is wide in proportion to length; the muzzle is strong but not too long or heavy. The eyes are hazel or dark hazel in color, set wide apart, with thick eyebrows. The nose is black. The ears are small, erect, and set wide apart on the side of the head.

The hard, weather-resistant coat consists of a profuse harsh outer coat and shorter and softer undercoat. Any color except white is allowed. Dark tail tip, ears, and muzzle are desirable.

    Height Weight
  Male 10 inches * 14 pounds *
  Female 9.5 inches * 13 pounds *

* Ideal size. Some may be smaller or larger. European Cairns tend to be larger than American Cairns.


Cairn Terriers are daring, smart, strong, and faithful. They are extremely lively and love to be active. They can be taught many fun tricks if you reserve some time to do so.

Since the Cairn Terrier was originally a working dog that caught vermin, it still loves to run after small creatures. They enjoy digging for dead or live prey. They can also be territorial.

This terrier finds the most pleasure in being involved in their owner's daily lives. Although they can be very independent, they truly love the company of other dogs and people.

Around adults, the Cairn is very loving, energetic, and compassionate. Around kids, they have even more energy and love to play with them until their little legs can't take it any more.

Although they can at times be disobedient, they love to serve their masters and enjoy pleasing others. If you scold this terrier, it will become very upset. When you're happy, your dog will be happy.

The Cairn Terrier thrives on attention and training, and will develop behavioral problems from lack of it. Be sure to keep your dog very active, unless you want a hyper pet running around your home.

While they are independent and can be stubborn, they will listen to you if they sense you are stronger minded then themselves. Cairns often push the limits of your patience and will-power, but because they don't respond well to harsh treatment, keep your training sessions gentle but firm.

Best Owner / Living Conditions

Despite being very active indoors, the Cairn can adjust to an apartment lifestyle as long as it gets sufficient exercise.

It will do best with an active family. Some of the qualities a potential owner should posses include patience and assertiveness.

Some Cairn Terrier breeders may interview prospective owners to make sure this is the right breed for them.

Activity and Exercise

Cairns are very active little dogs! But unless they get sufficient exercise, they are prone to developing behavioral problems and putting on extra weight.

Some of their exercise could consist of playing with their toys indoors, playing ball, or throwing a toy and asking your pet to bring it back to you.

They can also get plenty of exercise by running and playing of leash, but only in a secure area -- like other terriers, Cairns can't resist the urge to chase small animals such as cats, rabbits, and squirrels.

At a minimum, take your pet for several walks every day.


The Cairn Terrier sheds little to no hair. Despite that, he needs to be brushed at least several times a week. 

Cairns are supposed to be hand stripped at least once a year. Hand stripping involves pulling out old hair. It promotes the growth of a new coat and doesn't hurt the dog.

Trim the hair around the eyes and ears. Just like any other dog, the Cairn Terrier requires nail clipping and tooth brushing (visit dog teeth cleaning to learn how to brush your dog's teeth).

Bathe every three months or so.

Health Concerns

Like all dog breeds, Cairn Terriers are susceptible to complications caused by internal and external parasites such as ticks, fleas, and worms.

Other health concerns include cataracts, liver shunt, and hip dysplasia. But the most common health problem is flea allergies. For more information about dog diseases and health, visit dog health problems.

Buy only from reputable Cairn Terrier breeders to reduce the risk of the above and many other health problems (visit dog breeders to learn how to identify responsible dog breeders).

No matter how small the risk of health problems is, any puppy may get sick or injured. Many health problems will require an immediate attention from your Vet, but there are many others that will not, and you may handle them on your own.

To save time and money, learn how to diagnose and treat dog health problems that don't require your Vet's attention.

Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy for Cairn Terrier puppies is between 12 and 15 years.

Did you ever consider adopting your next pet?

If this is the breed you are interested in, and adoption appeals to you, consider contacting your local Cairn Terrier rescue. There are thousands of pets waiting for a loving home and, yes, it's possible to adopt a purebred dog.

Puppy Training

Not happy with your pet's behavior? Need help with training your dog for obedience? Then check this Cairn Terrier Behavior and Obedience Training Guide.

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