Cairn Terrier – Mixed Dog Breed Characteristics & Facts


A small working terrier, the Cairn Terrier Mixed Dog Breed was created on the Scottish island of Skye. Farmers needed a dog with courage, tenacity, and intelligence-qualities still present in the Cairn today-to rid their property of vermin. Despite the fact that these dogs are purebred, some may still wind up in shelters or rescues.

If this breed is the one for you, think about adoption. Cairn Terriers are intelligent, independent, and sociable dogs that make excellent family pets. Compact and loving, these dogs adapt well to small spaces and big homes with both inexperienced dog owners and seasoned dog lovers. They do, however, have a lot of energy, so their owners will need to take them on walks and engage in playtime to keep them entertained.

If you decide that a Cairn Terrier is the breed for you, make sure you can give them plenty of love and attention for their wellbeing as they don’t enjoy being left home alone for extended periods of time during the day.

When taking your small Cairn Terrier on the road, Petscaretip suggests using this carrier. In order to keep your dog active indoors, you should also buy this interactive puzzle toy! For a complete list of Cairn Terrier traits, see below!

Cairn Terrier Mixed Dog Breed Picrure

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Cairn Terrier – Mixed Dog Breed Characteristics

Adapts Well To Apartment Living*****
Good For Novice Owners****
Sensitivity Level***
Tolerates Being Alone*
Tolerates Cold Weather****
Tolerates Hot Weather****
All Around Friendliness*****
Affectionate With Family*****
Dog Friendly****
Friendly Toward Strangers****
Health And Grooming Needs***
Amount Of Shedding***
Drooling Potential*
Easy To Groom*****
General Health****
Potential For Weight Gain***
Easy To Train**
Potential For Mouthiness***
Prey Drive****
Tendency To Bark Or Howl****
Wanderlust Potential***
Physical Needs*****
Energy Level*****
Exercise Needs****
Potential For Playfulness*****

Vital Stats:

Dog Breed Group:Terrier Dogs
Height:9 to 10 inches
Weight:13 to 14 pounds
Life Span:12 to 15 years

One of the most well-known Cairn Terriers ever can be found in the film The Wizard of Oz. Terry, a female Cairn, was the canine Toto in the movie. She was owned by trainer Carl Spitz and received $125 per week for her role as Toto. Prior to her well-known role in The Wizard of Oz, she had appeared in a number of films.

She lived for eleven years. Toto, a small, strong, shaggy-coated terrier who is extremely intelligent and self-assured, is a typical Cairn. The breed is vigilant and ever-ready to take charge. The Cairn is also inquisitive and perceptive. He is also independent and a little bit stubborn, like all terriers. He must be aware of who is in charge in order to avoid taking over. Socialization and early obedience training are crucial.

The Cairn is a sensitive dog despite his independence. He is sensitive and doesn’t take kindly to reprimands or harsh corrections. The best way to teach the Cairn is through kind, encouraging training. There is not much this intelligent dog cannot learn. A Cairn can learn an infinite number of skills and commands with the right training.

However, a Cairn Terrier may be utterly unstoppable from engaging in what Terriers enjoy doing: chasing (and dig and bark). If given the chance, the Cairn will chase cats, rabbits, squirrels, and other dogs. Because of this, he should only be allowed to run free in a yard that is completely fenced in and only be walked on a leash in public areas.

The Cairn actively enjoys children and will tolerantly put up with their antics. Of course, responsible adults should always oversee interactions between kids and dogs. Children should never be left alone with any breed of dog, including the Cairn. The Cairn Terrier must reside in the home (or apartment or condo) with his family because he is a family dog.

He enjoys receiving attention from his loved ones and gets depressed if he spends too much time alone. When he is bored, he may engage in destructive or bothersome behaviors like chewing, digging, or barking. A Cairn Terrier makes a great family pet. He loves to play with children, is amusing, and sounds the alarm when guests are nearby. He can participate in agility, obedience, or Earthdog trials.

Anyone looking for an independent, perceptive pet with a take-charge outlook on life should consider a Cairn.


  • Being a Terrier, the Cairn’s innate tendencies are to bark, dig, and chase. With training, these behaviors can be reduced but not entirely. Consider another breed if you don’t like the typical terrier temperament.
  • The Cairn is a wise and inquisitive creature. He also thinks for himself. He will politely challenge your authority, but you must be able to establish and uphold your position as pack leader or he will gain the upper hand.
  • The Cairn enjoys receiving praise from his family. He might turn violent if you leave him alone for an extended period of time.
  • The Cairn Terrier frequently perceives himself as larger than he really is. Be prepared for him to defend himself from large dogs or other animals.
  • Never purchase a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, a puppy mill, or a pet shop if you want a healthy dog. Find a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to ensure that they are healthy and free of genetic diseases that they could pass on to the puppies.


On the Isle of Skye, where Captain Martin MacLeod is credited with creating one of the breed’s earliest strains, the Cairn Terrier was created more than 200 years ago. Scotch Terriers were the first terrier breeds to be recognized in Scotland. Scotch Terriers were divided into two classes in 1873 under a new system: Dandie Dinmont Terriers and Skye Terriers.

Dogs that are now known as Scottish Terriers and West Highland White Terriers were included in the Skye Terrier classification along with Cairns. All three of these breeds were genetically interchangeable, so the only way to distinguish them was by color. For the three breeds, a club was established in 1881, and a standard was accepted the following year.

Breeders of Scottish Terriers started to select for various traits, including color, toward the end of the 19th century. In 1908, the West Highland White Terrier was recognized as a distinct breed. The Cairn Terrier, named after the mounds of stones that marked historic Scottish grave or memorial sites, was recognized as a breed in 1912.

The terriers’ prey frequently sought refuge in these stone piles. Mrs. Henry F. Price and Mrs. Byron Rodgers brought the first Cairn Terriers to the country in 1913. The Cairn and the West Highland White were crossed in both the U.S. and England up until 1917, when the American Kennel Club forbade the registration of any dog that had undergone such cross-breeding. The Cairn Terrier Club of America received AKC membership that same year.


Males are 14 pounds in weight and 10 inches tall. Females weigh 13 pounds and are 9.5 inches tall.


The Cairn Terrier is an exceptionally amiable canine. He appears to genuinely enjoy meeting new people and is happy and upbeat. He is also a typical terrier: independent, hardy, and watchful. He prioritizes digging, barking, and chasing, just like any other dog of the breed does. If given the chance, he’ll chase any small animal, even the neighbor’s cat. He is a good watchdog as well, alerting you to any visitors.

Despite their independence, Cairns are loyal to their families and are happiest when included in their daily routines. He enjoys being around the house, playing with the kids, following you around the house, and coming to the front door to greet visitors. He is renowned for being sensitive as well. He dislikes being reprimanded and gets upset when you express displeasure with him.

Numerous elements, including training, socialization, and heredity, have an impact on temperament. Puppies with good dispositions are curious and playful, approachable, and eager to be cuddled. Select a puppy that is in the middle of the pack rather than one that is bullying its littermates or hiding in a corner. Always meet at least one parent to make sure they are pleasant and comfortable around you.

Usually, the mother is the one who is available. It’s also beneficial to meet the parents’ siblings or other family members to get a sense of what the puppy will be like as an adult. The Cairn needs early socialization, or exposure to a wide variety of people, sights, sounds, and experiences, when they are young, just like every other breed of dog.

In order to ensure that your Cairn puppy develops into a well-rounded dog, socialization is important. He should start by enrolling in a kindergarten class for puppies. Regularly hosting guests, taking him to crowded parks, dog-friendly shops, and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors will all help him hone his social skills.


Although Cairns are generally in good health, they are susceptible to some health issues like all breeds. Not every Cairn will contract one or more of these illnesses, but if you’re thinking about getting one, you should be aware of them. Find a reputable breeder who will provide you with the health clearances for both of your puppy’s parents if you are purchasing a puppy.

Health certifications attest to a dog’s having undergone testing and being declared free of a specific ailment. Expect to see health certificates from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand’s disease in Cairns, as well as certificates for thrombopathia from Auburn University and normal eyes from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF). You can check the OFA website to confirm health clearances (

  • Craniomandibular Osteopathy: This condition affects growing puppies and results in abnormally enlarged skull bones. Between the ages of four and eight months, symptoms typically start to show. Although the cause is unknown, it is thought to be inherited. Frequently, the puppy’s jaw and glands will swell, making it impossible for him to open his mouth. He may drool, experience a cyclical fever that flares up every few weeks, and in some cases, his chewing muscles may atrophy. The dog can cope with the painful condition with the aid of anti-inflammatories and painkillers. By the time the puppy reaches the age of a year, the irregular bone growth usually slows and eventually stops. Although the lesions can heal, some dogs develop permanent jaw issues that make eating difficult. Sometimes a case is severe enough to require jaw surgery.
  • One or both testicles failing to descend into the scrotum is known as cryptorchidism. By the time the puppy is two months old, the testicles should have fully descended. Retained testicles are typically inactive and, if left untreated, can develop cancer. The procedure of neutering is surgical.
  • Krabbe’s disease, also referred to as globoid cell leukodystrophy, is a degenerative condition that affects the white matter of the brain and spinal cord. Affected puppies either pass away at a young age or are put down. A test that can now detect this disease’s carriers is readily available. Breeding dogs ought to be examined.
  • Hypothyroidism: This is a thyroid gland disorder. Epilepsy, alopecia (hair loss), obesity, lethargy, hyperpigmentation, pyoderma, and other skin conditions are thought to be caused by it. Diet and medication are used to treat it.
  • Hip joint pain is caused by the condition known as Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. The blood supply to the head of the femur, which is the big back leg bone, is reduced if your Cairn has Legg-Perthes, and the part of the femur that attaches to the pelvis starts to disintegrate. Typically, the first signs—a limp and muscle atrophy—appear when puppies are four to six months old. Surgery can treat the issue, usually leaving the puppy pain-free.
  • Patellar Luxation, also referred to as slipped stifles, is a problem that frequently affects small dogs. The kneecap is the patella. Anatomical part dislocation is referred to as luxation (as a bone at a joint). Patellar luxation is a painful condition in which the knee joint (often of the back leg) slides in and out of place. Although many dogs with this condition live relatively normal lives, it can be crippling.
  • Formerly known as pigmentary glaucoma, ocular melanosis/secondary glaucoma is a relatively new phenomenon in the United States (since 1984). It is a painful inherited condition that mainly affects children in Cairns between the ages of seven and twelve. Both eyes are typically affected by the condition. Keep an eye out for any tiny spots or areas of extremely dark pigmentation in the sclera of both eyes (white part of the eye). The pigment deposits build up and reduce the anterior chamber’s capacity to drain fluid. Secondary glaucoma is the result, which raises the pressure. The condition can be managed with medication if detected early.
  • A congenital anomaly known as a portosystemic liver shunt causes blood vessels to allow the liver to be bypassed. As a result, the liver does not properly cleanse the blood. Typically, surgery is your best bet.


A Cairn Terrier is easy to care for. He’s a good dog for apartment dwellers because of his small size, but he’s also tough enough to enjoy life on a ranch. But he needs to be active and exercise enough. He will stay healthy and alert with a daily long walk or vigorous play for 20 to 30 minutes. Although the Cairn is a quick learner, keep in mind that he also has a stubborn side.

He must undergo regular obedience training (starting with puppy classes) in order to learn respect for your authority and good manners. If he challenges you, don’t be shocked; just keep working out. Be upbeat, considerate, and reliable. One of your Cairn’s fundamentals should be the “quiet” command.

In public spaces, keep him on a leash because he might succumb to any chasing urges. Additionally, don’t let him spend unsupervised time in the yard. He will dig, regardless of whether he excavates your lovely new flower garden or a private area by the fence.


Half to one cup of premium dry food should be consumed every day, split between two meals. NOTE: The amount of food your adult dog consumes is influenced by his size, age, build, metabolism, and level of activity. Like people, each dog is unique, so they don’t all require the same amount of food. A highly active dog will require more than a couch potato dog, which should almost go without saying.

The kind of dog food you purchase also matters; the better the food, the more effectively it will nourish your dog and the less you will need to shake into the bowl. Rather than leaving food out all the time, keep your Cairn in good shape by feeding him twice a day and measuring his food. Give him the hands-on and eye tests if you’re not sure if he’s obese. Look down at him first.

There should be a waist visible. After that, lay your hands on his back with your thumbs along his spine and your fingers spread outward. Without exerting much pressure, you should be able to feel his ribs but not see them. He needs less food and more exercise if you can’t. See our recommendations for selecting the best food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog for more information on feeding your Cairn.

Coat Design and Maintenance

The unkempt-looking Cairn Terrier has two coats: a soft undercoat and a wiry outer coat. The coat is available in a variety of hues, such as red, brindle, black, sand, and gray. This coat is simple to maintain. Once a week thorough brushing and occasional bathing are sufficient (every three months or so, or as needed). Since frequent bathing softens the terrier’s rough coat, it is not advised.

Even though a soft coat is fine for a pet and is not harmful to any dogs, it lessens the show Cairn’s physical appeal. The Cairn requires some trimming, mainly to tidy up his appearance rather than drastically style his hair. If he’s going to be a show dog, his coat won’t be clipped (like the coat of a poodle, for example), but rather shaped or shorted with a stripping knife.

A professional trim with clippers two to three times per year is sufficient for a family pet instead of stripping, though you should be aware that this practice will soften the breed’s naturally coarse coat. To get rid of tartar accumulation and the bacteria that live inside it, brush your Cairn’s teeth at least twice or three times per week. Even better than twice-daily brushing is prevention of bad breath and gum disease.

If your dog doesn’t wear his nails down naturally, trim them once or twice a month to avoid painful tears and other issues. They are too long if you can hear them clicking on the floor. Because dog toenails contain blood vessels, cutting them too short can result in bleeding, which may make your dog uncooperative the next time the nail clippers are pulled out.

Therefore, seek advice from a veterinarian or groomer if you are unfamiliar with trimming dog nails. Every week, you should check his ears for redness or an unpleasant smell that could be an infection. To help prevent infections, clean your dog’s ears when you check them with a cotton ball dampened with a mild, pH-balanced ear cleaner. Simply clean the outer ear; avoid inserting anything into the ear canal.

As soon as your Cairn is a puppy, start preparing him for being brushed and looked at. Dogs are sensitive when it comes to their feet, so handle his paws frequently and examine his mouth. Lay the groundwork for simple veterinary exams and other handling when he’s an adult by making grooming a rewarding experience filled with praise and rewards.

Check your pet’s feet, nose, mouth, eyes, and skin for sores, rashes, or infection-related symptoms like redness, tenderness, or inflammation as you groom them. Clear eyes without any redness or discharge are ideal. You can identify potential health issues early on thanks to your thorough weekly exam.

Kids and other animals

The Cairn Terrier is very tolerant of children and loves them. In fact, he relishes the commotion and noise that come with kids. A properly socialized and trained Cairn tends to get along with and respect people in the home as well as other pets. However, he has a tendency to chase any other animal that enters his yard.

In order to prevent biting or ear or tail pulling on either party, you should always teach kids how to approach and touch dogs. You should also always supervise any interactions between young children and dogs. Teach your child to never try to steal a dog’s food or approach a dog while he or she is eating or sleeping. Regardless of how friendly they are, dogs and children should never be left unattended.

Rescue Teams

Cairns are frequently bought by people who have no real idea what goes into owning one. There are numerous Cairns who could use fostering or adoption. We have not included all of the rescues that have occurred. Contact the national breed club or a local breed club to find a Cairn rescue if you can’t find one listed for your region.

  • Contacts for the Cairn Terrier Club of America’s Rescue

Breeding businesses

You can learn more about the Cairns by visiting the breed clubs, associations, and groups listed below.

  • American Cairn Terrier Club

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