The Cairn Terrier is probably best known for its appearance in the classic blockbuster movie from the 1930s, The Wizard of Oz, where he played Toto, Dorothy's little dog. The Cairn Terrier weighs around 10-12 inches, and is about 13-16 pounds in weight. He has a small but sturdy build, and an alert and intelligent expression. The coat of the Cairn Terrier is weather resistant. The outer coat is longer and quite harsh, and these dogs also have a softer undercoat, which is quite dense. The coloring of the Cairn Terrier can vary and includes wheaten, red, gray, brindle, and charcoal gray.
Cairn Terrier Temperament
A hardy, intelligent, and alert little dog, the Cairn Terrier is a delightful pet and companion. This is a bold and inquisitive dog, but has a very gentle disposition. The Cairn Terrier is energetic and playful and loves to get involved in activity and fun. His tendency to bark and raise the alarm makes him an effective watchdog. These dogs have plenty of spirit and get-up-and-go, and are keen, enthusiastic, eager, and intelligent. The Cairn Terrier can also have a very assertive and stubborn nature, and may be best suited to a dog owner with some level of experience in dog ownership.
The Cairn Terrier gets along well with children, especially those that are older and considerate, and will enjoy playing and joining in with family activities. He will usually get along well with other pets too, although they can be a little bossy. With other males of the same breed they can tend to be a little aggressive. With strangers the reaction can depend upon the personality of the individual Cairn Terrier, and some will be reserved whereas others will be friendly. The Cairn Terrier loves to dig, so if your garden is your pride and joy be prepared for some shocks.
The Cairn Terrier requires a moderate amount of grooming in order to keep his coat looking good. You should brush and comb his coat on a twice weekly basis, and you can also rub down with a damp towel when necessary. He is a low shedder, but this can increase on a seasonal basis. Also, keep a check on the nails and the teeth of the Cairn Terrier. You may want to get the coat clipped every so often, and for show dogs the dead coat is stripped every few months.
The Cairn Terrier was originally used as a ratting dog, hunting throughout farmlands in the areas around the Isle of Skye in Scotland in the 1500's. There are many terrier breeds that came out of this area, but the modern Cairn Terrier is considered to be the closest in appearance and personality to the actual ancestors of these terrier breeds. The Cairn Terrier received its name though its ability to push itself through the rocks that formed the cairns or stone fences after rodents and vermin that were problematic in the area. They were experts at driving the larger rodents or animals such as otters and badgers out of the cairns as well as hunting and killing the smaller animals. Although independent and prized for its ability to hunt, the Cairn Terrier was also valued as a watchdog and companion.
The breed became increasingly popular through the 1900's as more people in large cities looked for active and energetic smaller dogs for city living conditions. The Cairn Terrier today is primarily used as a companion dog although they are also used in earthdog trials, in obedience and agility competitions as well as for watchdogs.
Training a terrier breed requires both consistency and creativity and the Cairn Terrier certainly requires both. Since they are somewhat independent and stubborn they need to be challenged in training as well as rewarded with lots of positives and praise. They do not do well in highly repetitive training methods and need changes in routine and limited repetitions to avoid becoming bored and non-compliant. In is important to have the Cairn understand that you are the boss and often an obedience class or puppy class is a great idea to get the basic training and commands mastered as well as integrate socialization.
The breed is very sensitive to correct and simply ignoring bad behavior and withdrawing attention for a few minutes is usually all the correction the dog will need. They are extremely quick to pick up on new tricks and commands, and often seem to understand what the owner wants them to do. They will also learn what brings them attention, and will quickly learn tricks like ringing a bell for water or bringing the leash to encourage owners to go for a walk. They are excellent candidates for both obedience and agility classes and seem to love to perform for audiences of any size.
One aspect of training that must be addressed is possessiveness. Terrier breeds, Cairns as well, will tend to snap and protect their food and toys. Teaching the dogs as puppies to relinquish food dishes, bones and toys is critical to prevent negative behaviors from forming as the dog gets older. They can also be problematic barkers to teaching them to stop barking on command is a very important part of a Cairn Terriers early training. A Cairn Terrier left to his or her own devices will find something to do to entertain themselves. They are powerful diggers and love to spend time digging in soft dirt, often to the dismay of a gardener. Cairn's can be taught to dig in selected areas rather than all through the yard, which is a great option to prevent unexpected landscaping changes.
Socialization is also key aspect of training, especially at an early age. With proper socialization chasing and aggressive behavior can be minimized however it is often not completely eliminated. If you plan to have other pets including dogs in the house start the socialization when the Cairn is a puppy.
The Cairn Terrier has a life expectancy of around 13-16 years. A number of health problems are linked to this breed, and some of these include cataracts, glaucoma, Legg-Perthes, luxating patella, blood disorders, kidney disorders, PRA, CMO, seizures, allergies, and thyroid problems. The parents of the Cairn Terrier should have OFA and CERF certificates, as well as GDC certificates.