Cairn Terrier

Breed Summary

The Cairn Terrier is one of the oldest terrier breeds, with a broad head and small, erect ears. Their body is compact, legs are relatively short, and their tail is natural and carried high. They are active, hardy, a small working terrier of the short-legged class. Cairn Terriers are very free in its movements, standing well forward on its forelegs, deep in the ribs, well coupled with strong hindquarters. They present a well-proportioned build with a medium length of back, having a hard, weather-resistant coat.

Country of Origin: Scotland

AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 69 of 196

AKC Classification: Terrier group

UKC Classification: Terrier

Exercise Requirements: >40 minutes/day

Height: Female: 9 inc.; Male: 10 inc.

Weight: Female: 13-16 lbs.; Male: 13-16 lbs.

Physical traits: Sturdy, Small, Short

Coat: Length: Medium

Characteristics: Hard coat

Colors: All except white

Overall Grooming Needs: Moderate

Personality traits/Temperament: Alert, Cheerful, Busy

Energy Level: High

Tendency to Drool: Low

Tendency to Snore: Low

Tendency to Bark: High

Tendency to Dig: High

Social/Attention Needs: Moderate


Cairn Terriers are a healthy breed. Their life expectancy is 13 to 15 years. Some dogs can develop itchy skin conditions where baths with a high-quality dog shampoo and conditioner is recommended. Flea control is also essential. Responsible breeders needs to test their breeding stock for certain health disorders such as eye problems, cardiac diseases, joint and bone problems, etc. Their ears and teeth need to be checked regularly to avoid complications.


The Cairn Terrier dog depends on high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared. Add a high-quality dog multivitamin to complete the nutritional circle. Provide a diet according to the different stages of a dog (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so monitor your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Don’t give human foods that are not safe for them. Consult with your veterinarian for further advice.


Cairn Terriers are very smart and love their families, but obedience training is necessary from the puppyhood. They learn very quickly and they always have the instinct to dig and chase small animals, so new owners should be prepared for these behaviors. Early socialization and puppy training classes are recommended and help to ensure that the dog grows into a well-adjusted, well-mannered companion.


Cairns requires a moderate amount of exercise and can adapt well to various living situations when given daily outings. They are active dogs, need a daily walk. Use paw balm daily to protect their feet. Dogs that do not get to go on daily walks are more likely to display behavioural problems. They also enjoy a good romp in a safe, open area off-leash, such as a large, fenced yard. They exercise body and mind by participating in obedience, tracking, herding, agility, earth dog events, coursing ability tests, and other activities that dog and owner can enjoy together.

Fun Fact

The cairn terrier has a renowned Hollywood connection. Toto in “The Wizard of Oz” was played by a cairn terrier.


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