Cairn Terrier Characteristics Temperament Health Care Training

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The Cairn Terrier is a small dog that was originally bred to hunt foxes. Cairns are also suitable for families with children as they are very patient and tolerant around young kids.

Cairns form strong bonds with their owners but rarely make good watchdogs as they lack aggressive tendencies. Cairns are not easily agitated and do not bark without a reason, making them ideal pets for those who live in apartments or small spaces.



Cairn Terriers are playful, loyal companions that thrive on the affection of their owners. Cairns can be very protective of their families and are wary of strangers. Cairns are good with children, especially if they have been raised together from puppyhood. Cairns are energetic and alert, making them excellent watchdogs. Cairns are not yappy or protective little dogs but will bark at an intruder, then go hide under the nearest bed! Cairn Terriers can be reserved with strangers but will warm up if the visitor is calm and quiet. Cairns will protect their families from any threat, including bears! These dogs can be aloof with strangers; they often prefer to stay close to their owners and only approach someone when invited to do so.



Cairns are eager to please and therefore relatively easy to train. Cairns enjoy both an indoor environment as well as the outdoors and do not generally display destructive behaviors. Cairn Terriers typically get along fine with other dogs, although some Cairns may be aggressive with strange dogs of the same sex. Cairns may bark at strangers through a door or window before they allow their owners to let them in, but this is usually just for a few seconds and then they calm down. Cairns are definitely lap dogs and will gladly spend all day sitting on yours if you let them!

Health and Care

Cairn Terriers generally prefer cool climates and heavy-coated Cairns should be brushed regularly. Cairns can live in warm climates but need extra protection from the sun; sunscreen is a must to protect their noses from sunburn. Cairns do not shed, but Cairns with short coats may need a little help keeping their coats clean and free of mats. Cairns should be kept well-exercised, as they are energetic and active dogs that love spending time outdoors. Cairn Terriers have a huge number of natural enemies – both large and small – so Cairns should always be supervised when outside as they will frequently run after anything that moves! Cairn Terriers can be prone to PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy) and hip dysplasia; Cairns need lots of exercise, although care should be taken not to overwork them or cause injury.

Cairns who spend too much time outside in the heat may suffer from heatstroke, and Cairns should not be left outdoors for prolonged periods without shade and plenty of water. Cairns love to dig holes! Cairn Terriers are generally easy to train but can sometimes be stubborn; early training is recommended as Cairns mature more quickly than most other breeds do. Cairn Terriers typically enjoy all types of people and other pets, although Cairns may lack appropriate social skills and engage in destructive behavior with strange dogs or cats that they don’t know.

Caring for a Cairn

Many Cairn owners, particularly those whose Cairns live exclusively indoors, often dress their Cairns in Cairn gowns to protect their coats. Cairns shed throughout the year, although Cairns with thick undercoats may need regular grooming to prevent matting. Cairns shed very little during warm weather but will replace the undercoat in the winter if they are kept outdoors for any length of time. Cairns should not be bathed too frequently because their coats do not naturally repel dirt; Cairn owners typically bathe their dogs three or four times a year unless there is an excessive amount of dirt or mud stuck in the coat that needs to be removed immediately. Cairns should be brushed at least weekly and thoroughly combed every few weeks; Cairns grow new hair four times faster than most breeds do, so Cairns need lots of grooming. Cairns with smooth coats should be brushed daily to prevent tangles and mats from forming. Cairn Terriers also need their nails filed regularly; Cairns who spend time outside on rough surfaces will naturally wear down their nails but Cairns who are kept exclusively indoors may need their nails clipped to keep them from getting too long. Cairns are very popular dogs in the Cairn Terrier Club of America Caring for Cairn Terriers is not difficult, but Cairns can be prone to certain problems that affect many dog breeds.

Cairns are known to suffer frequently from hip dysplasia and eyelid problems Cairns also get CMO Cairns should be fed twice a day to keep their waistlines in check.

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