Breed Review: Cairn Terrier puppies and dogs

Posted by Cyril. December 16th 2014.

Tough little dogs with roots in the farming communities of Scotland, the Cairn Terrier is a reliable friend so long as it knows who’s boss! With a fun claim to fame as the breed which played Dorothy’s dog Toto in The Wizard of Oz, this cute little pooch is undoubtedly a loveable breed.


Cairn Terrier puppies and dogs were the ‘right-hand man’ of famers in the 19th century when it wormed its way into the rock dens of foxes and badgers and paralysed them with the sound of its barking until its master came for his prey.

It was originally part of the ‘Skye Terrier;’ group which consisted of the Scottish and West Highland White Terriers until they started to follow separate breeding programmes and it later found its place in the American Kennel Club in 1903.


The Cairn Terrier is double-coated with a thick and downy under coat and a wiry outer coat. The underside keeps it toasty warm while the wiry outer coat protects it from rain and damp.

When it looks its best, its coat should have a rugged, rough-and-ready appearance. This tough little dog comes in a stunning rainbow of colours with pinks, blues, wheat and sandy colours, reds and grays all common. They can also come in a brindled look with any combination of these colours and brindled cairns tend to change colour throughout their lives and become progressively blacker or more silvery as they grow older.

This intelligent pet has a cute foxy-looking face with pointy ears and short tail. Males are a little larger than females and the life span is 12-15 years.

Cairn Terrier’s Character

Cairn Terrier owners be warned! Firm discipline and training is needed with these intelligent dogs otherwise they will tend to test who is in charge. This can present a challenge but it can also be very rewarding as owners gain an intelligent and capable dog.

Cairn Terrier puppies and dogs are quick learners but they have a habit of digging and going after small animals owing to their pasts amongst farmers so it is important to bear this in mind when introducing them to your home.

Very energetic, they need regular exercise in order to be happy and they are also very loyal and loving dogs which make cheerful companions for families and people living alone.

Grooming and Health

It may be a good idea to get your Cairn Terrier groomed professionally as its coat requires special treatment. They don’t shed much fur but have to go through something called “hand-stripping”. This means pulling old dead hair out at the roots. Understandably, this can be uncomfortable for the dog and could put it off grooming for life so an expert touch or training from a pro is probably the best route rather than attempting to do it yourself.

As far as health goes, there are some serious health issues that Cairn Terriers face – some of which are genetic and other which are environmental and therefore avoidable. These include loose knees, cataracts and even lung cancer.

Advice from a vet and breeder is advisable in order to ensure the best healthcare for your dog.

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