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Cairn Terriers Information


The Cairn terrier is unmistakable both in its appearance and its wonderful, intelligent personality. They are a small terrier with very sharp, pointed ears and a highly expressive face. The coat is a typical wiry terrier coat with a softer undercoat and can be found in various colors including brindle, black, brown, gray and red. Cairn terriers cannot be white. The dogs are very athletic and sturdy looking and love to play and romp with the family. The tail is carried rather high and it is very likely to be wagging and constantly in motion.


The Cairn terrier has a wonderful disposition for children and families. They are a very smart and playful breed and are typically very easy to housetrain and to teach a variety of tricks. Since they are naturally very intelligent they will also learn bad habits very quickly, so they do need regular discipline. They are very loyal and protective of their spaces and families and tend to see themselves as much bigger than they really are. In addition Cairn terriers are natural hunters so may not be good companion dogs to other smaller animals, although if raised with cats and other animals they will co-exist very peacefully.

Grooming & Shedding

The Cairn terrier has a double coat which can quickly become matted and tangled without regular grooming. Most dogs, especially those that spend time outside will need regular grooming two to three times per week. Monthly bathing will help keep the hair soft and manageable, and the Cairn can either be trimmed to help with coat care or it can be stripped by a groomer or someone familiar with the process. The Cairn terrier is known for minimal shedding, an important consideration for a house dog.


As with most terrier breeds the Cairn originally was bred in the 1500's for controlling vermin such as rats and mice in the farms and cities. Since this little dog is very athletic plus quiet independent it was often used to hunt among the cairns or stone fences in Scotland. Once the breed became recognizable it was named after the cairns it hunted around.  The modern Cairn terrier is one of the original breeds of terriers in Scotland, and is likely in the lineage of the West Highland White, Skye and Scottish terriers.

Health Issues

Major Concerns: Obesity

Minor Concerns: Flea Allergies, Luxated Pattelae, Cataracts

Occasionally seen: Legg-Perthes, Von Willebrands

Suggested tests: blood, heart, eyes




Males 10-13 inches (25-33 cm)     Females 9-12 inches (23-30 cm)



Males 14-18 pounds (6-8 kg)      

Females 13-17 pounds (6-8 kg)



12-15 years




Yes – with daily exercise



Young Children

Yes – with supervision

Need exercise space


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