If you're looking for a small dog to adopt, the Cairn Terrier dog breed might be your pup. Cairn Terriers are independent, but at the same time, excellent as family companions.

These affectionate dogs do well in large apartments or even in small apartments. However, the Carin Terrier dog breed is full of energy.

If you're planning to adopt one, make sure that you can keep up and keep them active with walks, play sessions, or any other exercises they need.

If you're planning to adopt a cairn terrier puppy, make sure that you never buy from irresponsible breeders or pet stores. Research and look for known breeders who test their dogs.

This is to make sure that the dog you're going to adopt is free of genetic diseases.

Cairn Terrier

Cairn Terrier Dog Breed History

Ladies and gentlemen, from the Isle of Skye in Scotland, we present you, the Cairn Terrier Dog Breed. This dog breed was developed over 200 years ago.

Farmers needed a dog with courage and intelligence to fight off vermins on their property.

However, back in the old days, all terrier breeds in Scotland were categorized as Scotch Terriers. But in 1873, Scotch Terriers were separated into two classes which are Dandie Dinmont Terriers and Skye Terriers.

The Cairn breed was classified as a Skye Terrier. Other breeds included are the Scottish Terriers and the West Highland White Terriers. Also, these breeds were only differentiated by their color.

At the end of the 19th century, the Scottish Terrier breeders started to select for different characteristics, instead of color. After that, the West Highland White Terrier became a separate breed in 1908.

The Carin Terrier became a separate breed in 1912. Its name was taken from the piles of stones that marked ancient Scottish memorial sites. These were hideouts for the vermins that terriers hunt.

In 1913, the first Cairn Terriers were imported to the United States by Mrs. Henry F. Price and Mrs. Byron Rodgers. In addition to that same year, the Cairn Terrier Club of America was granted AKC membership.

Cairn Terrier Dog Breed Physical Characteristics

Height and Weight

The Cairn terrier dog breed has a strongly built body. They have a wide head and short legs. They have a compact body and their tail is carried high.

The size male Cairn terrier stands at 10 inches tall and weighs 14 pounds. On the other hand, females stand at 9.5 inches tall and weigh 13 pounds.


In addition, these dogs are shaggy-coated terriers. Cairn Terriers have a double coat. One wiry outer coat (water-resistant), and a soft undercoat.

Their coats have many different colors. A few of these colors are:

  • Black
  • Brindle
  • Cream
  • Gray
  • Red
  • Silver
  • Sand
  • Wheaten

Cairn Terrier Temperament

Cairn Terriers are intelligent, loyal to the family, and can easily adapt to any environment. This breed is a true terrier. What do I mean by a true Terrier? Terriers are independent, tough, and alert.

But even though they are independent dogs, they are loyal and devoted to their family.

They are in their happiest state when they're a part of their owners' lives. They love to play and follow you around the house.

Unlike other small dogs that can't handle some rough games with children, Cairns loves them. However, you as the owner still need to provide supervision during playtime.

With proper training and socializing, your dog can easily get along with your kids (if you have any) and it'll for sure be a match made in heaven.

However, in some cases, they can be feisty to other dogs, small pets, and rodents. They still instinctively dislike small animals like hamsters and mice. That's because of their ancient roots of fighting off foxes, otters, and other vermins.

A Cairn terrier's temperament will vary on different factors. For instance, it can depend on heredity, training, and socialization.

Cairn terrier puppies with good temperaments will be playful and they are willing to be petted by other people.

However, Cairn Terriers tend to be sensitive. They can easily get upset if you scold them or when you're not happy with them.

Cairn terrier dog posing outside in the park

Cairn Terrier Exercise

Cairn terriers are full of energy, they love digging, barking, and chasing. So if you're the type of person that just wants to cuddle and chill around all day, this might not be the dog for you.

Adopting this type of breed requires a lot of physical and mental activities. Generally, the Cairn terrier is an active breed.

Cairn terriers require moderate levels of activity per day. Plan out a 30-minute or an hour of exercise, which can be in the form of walks and playtime.

They love walks and play sessions with their owner or family members. These are the simple things that you can do for their exercise and mental stimulation to keep them healthy and happy.

Cairn Terrier Training 

On the other hand, Cairns are generally intelligent dogs. However, their independent temperament can mean that they can be a bit stubborn.

Cairn terriers are prone to excessive barking. That's why owners of this breed train against this type of behavior.

Continuous positive reinforcement training is required to keep Cairns at their best behavior. Start with basic obedience lessons, which can start at around eight weeks old.

With the proper training, these clever dogs can excel in dog sports like agility training as a way of burning energy and building the best bond with their owners.

Overall, Cairn terriers have no problem living in a multi-dog household. However, care should be taken seriously if they are living alongside small animals.

Cairn Terrier Black


Generally, the Cairn Terrier is a healthy breed. But just like any other dog breed, they are prone to certain health issues that you should look out for.

That doesn't mean that all Cairns will have these complications, but as the dog owner, you have the responsibility to look out for these issues.

Cairn Terriers have an average lifespan of 12 to 14 years. And in these years, they might suffer from health issues such as:

Globoid Cell Leukodystrophy

Globoid Cell Leukodystrophy is also known as Krabbe's Disease. This health issue is a degenerative disease of the white matter of the brain and spinal cord.

Unfortunately, puppies die early or are even euthanized because of this condition. But there are now test available today that can identify certain carriers of this disease.

That's why it's important to research breeders and make sure that the breeding dogs that they used are regularly tested.


A Cataract is the clouding of the lens of the dog's eye. Think of it as the lenses of an eyeglass or a camera. These lenses are the ones responsible for helping us see clearly.

Cataracts not only can weaken a dog's eyesight, but they can also lead to blindness. This eye issue is caused by Diabetes, Aging, and Eye Trauma, and the most common cause is Aging.

Cataracts in general do not hurt your dog. However, it can lead to inflammation that can cause pain and discomfort to them.

Patellar Luxation

Patellar Luxation is a common issue in small dogs. A luxating patella in dogs is when the kneecap has been dislocated out of its usual location.

The knee can't extend properly and it stays bent. Fortunately, the kneecap can also slip back into place but in some cases, dogs will be needing surgical correction to be able to get the patella back to its proper place.

Monitor your Cairn if there are any changes in their walking. If they seem to be walking uncomfortably or with an unusual posture, it would be best to take them to the vet.

Another sign of a luxating patella could be if the dog is hopping or skipping around unnaturally.

Craniomandibular Osteopathy (CMO)

CMO is the result of the swelling of the bone during the growth of the bones of the skull and jaw in a puppy. In short, CMO affects the skull bones of a growing puppy and this caused their heads to be irregularly enlarged.

Monitor your pup at around four to eight months old because this is where the symptoms usually show.

Notice if your Cairn puppy's jaw and glands have become swollen where he can't open his mouth.

Other symptoms include drooling and fluctuating fever every couple of weeks. In addition, anti-inflammatories and pain relievers can help the dog deal with the pain.

The irregular bone growth will eventually slow down and stop by the time the pup becomes a year old, but unfortunately, some dogs have suffered from permanent jaw problems.

However, jaw surgery is required for severe cases.


Cryptorchidism happens when one or both of the testicles of a dog fail to descend into the scrotum. Usually, a dog's testicle should descend fully by the time the dog is two months old.

Unfortunately, if the testicles don't move, they won't be able to function correctly and can even become cancerous if not removed.

Treatment for this is surgical neutering.


Hypothyroidism is a disorder of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located in the neck and its function is to produce certain thyroid hormones.

It is a common endocrine disorder in dogs and is less common in other species. This disorder causes bodily functions to slow down.

A few symptoms of this condition are lethargy, weight gain, and changes in coat and skin.

Cairn Terrier Close Up


A Cairn terrier's grooming is pretty low-maintenance. This breed doesn't shed excessively. Brushing their coat once a week can keep their coats look clean and at their best.

However, their fur grows fast and it can mess with their vision and tangled easily if kept long. In some cases, owners choose to have their dog's coats hand-stripped to keep them comfortable.

Hand-stripping is a technique that ensures that the coat remains in a good condition and texture.

Also, it's important to brush your Cairn's teeth at least two or three times a week. This is to avoid tartar buildup and to remove any other bacteria that can be lurking inside. Daily tooth brushing is also recommended to prevent gum disease and bad breath.

When it comes to their nails, it is recommended to trim their nails once or twice a month. This is to avoid painful tears and other problems. If you're hearing their nails clicking on the floor, this is an indication that you need to trim them.

But dog nail trimming is not as easy as it looks. If you're inexperienced, it is best advised to ask your vet or groomer for pointers.

Make sure to check for sores, rashes, or any signs of infection when you groom your pup.

Watch out for redness, tenderness, or inflammation on their skin, nose, mouth, feet, and eyes. This can help you spot any potential health issues early on.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a West Highland Terrier and a Cairn Terrier?

The main difference between these two Terrier breeds is that the Cairn is smaller and has a slightly wider head that is not proportionate to their body.

Cairn terriers have a foxy look with their small, erect, and triangular ears.

How much is a Cairn Terrier puppy?

It is still best advised to adopt a dog through a reputable breeder. However, expect that the cost will be a little bit higher than the other routes.

A Cairn Terrier puppy can range from $1,200 to $2,000. And some Cairns with an impressive bloodline (could be a dog contest winner) can cost up to $2,500.

But remember that the financial side of things is not over yet. Keep in mind that you'd have to pay for their first medical needs, food, cage, bed, toys, etc.

Are Cairn Terriers Hypoallergenic Dogs?

Yes! Cairn Terriers are Hypoallergenic and they hardly shed or drool.

If you're new to the dog world, you might be asking, what is hypoallergenic? Hypoallergenic dogs are dog breeds that are less likely to stimulate allergies in people.

But let's get one thing straight. No dog breed is 100% hypoallergenic or allergen-free. Meaning that adopting a hypoallergenic dog will less likely trigger any allergic reactions in your family.

Majestic Pose Cairn Terrier

Cairn Terrier Dog Breed Summary

Cairn Terriers are the perfect dog breed for people who wants small, intelligent, and loving dogs.

They are also independent and can easily adapt to different homes or environments. That means, they'll be fine if you're living in an apartment in the city.

But keep in mind the Cairn terriers are full of energy. You'll need to burn off these energies through exercise and playtime.

These dogs also love to play with kids. However, always be on the lookout and supervise any interactions between your dog and young children to prevent biting and ear or tail pulling.

In addition, it's also recommended to train to socialize cairn terrier puppies. If they have a good temperament, they'll be able to behave properly around other dogs and humans.

Overall, this breed is an elegant and loving dog that you'd be lucky to be friends with.

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Toby loves spending time with his dog and two cats. They are the best stress reliever and affectionate pets, especially his Belgian Malinois, Shawie. Shawie's favorite activity is running or jogging. But their go-to spot is to chill and swim around a nearby river.