Cairn Terrier Breed Profile

Cairn Terrier Dog Breed Profile

KC Group Terrier

Size Small

Weight 9-7.5kg

Height 28-31cm

Average lifespan 13 years

Good with children? Yes

Moulting level Low

Grooming Moderate

Exercise requirement Moderate

Jogging partner Short runs

Temperament Affectionate, loyal and intelligent

Cairn Terrier Breed Profile

The Cairn Terrier is a lively and confident breed, but not aggressive, making them ideal family pets.

They enjoy a good game of rough and tumble so make sure you introduce them to any other pets at home from an early age as later in life, they may give chase. The most famous example of a Cairn Terrier is Dorothy's dog Toto in the Wizard of Oz. 

Cairn Terrier character

Their happy-go-lucky personalities make the Cairn a wonderful family dog. They are a sporting terrier though so can be very inquisitive and are always on the go. Their independence and stubbornness means you must be firm with training. Cairn Terriers are hardy and independent with big personalities although at the same time they are very adaptable and capable of doing lots of things. 

Cairn Terrier size

The Breed Standards say ideally Cairn Terriers should stand between 28-31cm at the withers. Their height should be in proportion to their weight, ideally 6-7.5kg.

Cairn Terrier activity levels

Cairn Terriers need around 30 minutes of exercise a day but are happy to go out for much longer. Being lively terriers, they are not lap dogs and need owners who are physically able to keep up with them. When it comes to training Cairn Terriers are bright dogs who pick things up quickly making them easy to train. Cairns can be free thinkers so training should begin from a young age, they will enjoy many different dog activities. 

Cairn Terrier health

Cairn Terriers are generally healthy and hardy, but the following conditions are known in the breed:

Abnormal Pigment Deposition - APD (ocular melanosis)

In APD, pigment cells are deposited in the eye, which can lead to glaucoma and blindness.

Liver Shunt

Liver Shunt is an abnormal blood vessel which allows blood to bypass the liver. This means the blood is not cleansed of toxins and some vital nutrients are not extracted. The problem can be congenital or can develop later during a dog's life. 

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Cairn Terrier care

Although they're easy to feed, be careful not to let them get overweight.

Cairns Terriers have a double coat - a furry undercoat and a harsher top coat - which needs grooming at least a couple of times a week. The Cairn's coat requires hand-stripping to ensure it stays in top condition. Contact your local breed club which may organise demonstrations on how to strip the coat or will be able to recommend a good groomer. 

Cairn Terriers thrive on company and social interaction. They can be left alone but ideally for a maximum of four hours. 

  • Adaptable to different lifestyles
  • Devoted and sociable dogs
  • Easy to train
  • Above average grooming needs

Cairn Terrier facts

  • Cairn Terriers are able swimmers
  • The Kennel Club first recognised the breed in 1909.
  • The breed is of Scottish descent and was traditionally used to hunt out pests. 

Remember! All breed profiles are general and every dog is an individual.