• Cairn Terriers in UK
  • Cairn Terrier Dogs
  • Cairn Terrier Breed
  • Cairn Terrier Dog Breed
  • Cairn Terriers Pets in the UK
  • Cairn Terrier Pet in the UK
  • Cairn Terrier Breed information
  • Cairn Terriers
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Cairn Terrier Dog
Exercise Level:
Barking Level:
Good with Children:
Good with other pets:
Height: 25 - 33cm M | 23 - 30cm F
Weight: 6 - 8kg M | 6 - 8kg F
Life Expectancy: 12 - 15 Years

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The cairn terrier is everything a terrier dog should be—small, hardy, spirited, strong, and gutsy. It weighs 10–14 pounds and stands 23–33 centimetres at the withers. It is adaptable provided that it is given plenty of exercises and mental stimulation. The cairn loves its playtime and daily walks. It is highly intelligent, curious, and quick to learn. No wonder Toto from the famous The Wizard of Oz was played by a female cairn terrier named Terry. A healthy cairn terrier has a lifespan of twelve to fifteen years.

Do you want your own Toto or a cairn terrier at home? Here is a complete background information on this lively and devoted dog breed.

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The cairn terrier’s origins can be traced to the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye more than two hundred years ago. This terrier dog was originally bred to hunt vermin, foxes, and rodents.

The cairn was initially grouped under the Skye terrier class alongside the Scottish terrier and the West Highland white terriers. It was only in the late nineteenth century when breeders began to select different characteristics of the Skye terrier that three variations were recognised as separate breeds.

In 1912, the cairn terrier breed was recognised and registered as a separate breed. In the same year, the breed also received the Championship status. The name cairn was taken from the pile of stones that marked Scottish burial sites, which are often the hideouts of vermins that terrier dogs hunt.

Today, the cairn terrier is known worldwide with over twenty breed clubs of enthusiasts upholding the breed standard. The cairn remains one of the most popular companion dogs and family pets.

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Appearance and Grooming

The cairn terrier is small, solid, and well-muscled that sports a shaggy coat. This breed has a small broad head, a defined stop, and a powerful muzzle. Its jaws are strong with a regular scissor bite and upper teeth slightly overlapping the lower ones. It also boasts of a black and shiny nose that adds to the cairn’s charm. The cairn has dark hazel eyes that are set wide apart, shaggy eyebrows, and small pointed ears. This dog breed's body is well-proportioned with a strong neck, well-boned shoulders, compact and well-sprung ribs, nice level back, and supple loins. The cairn has a short tail that is well furnished and sits high on its body.

The cairn terrier sports a shaggy double coat that comes in shades of red, brindle, black, sand, or grey. The double coat of the cairn consists of a wiry topcoat and a soft and plush undercoat, giving it a shaggy appearance. Its coat should be brushed once a week to remove loose dead hair. Bathing can be done once every few months or as needed. Cairns that are to be show dogs require some trimming using a stripping knife, which can be done twice or thrice a year.

Other than grooming the coat and keeping it clean and tidy, it is important to also do basic care on its ears, nails, and teeth. Weekly tooth brushing is required to maintain oral health and avoid dental issues such as gum disease, tartar build-up, or bad breath. For cleaning the ears, make sure to only use veterinarian-approved solution. If the cairn doesn't wear down its nails naturally, then make sure to trim them on a monthly basis.

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Temperament and Intelligence

Spunky, curious, brave, and loyal—these are outstanding characteristics of a cairn terrier that were widely showcased in its role as Toto from the movie The Wizard of Oz. True to the character, the cairn is precisely that and more. It is also highly intelligent, independent, and alert. Like any terrier, the cairn likes to bark, dig, and chase. Its prey drive is strong, which means chasing small animals is on its list of fun activities. Early socialisation is crucial especially if a cairn is to coexist with other small pets in the house.

The cairn terrier is an excellent companion for all families and is a useful vermin hunter on farms. It is a devoted canine that is happiest when with his family. It likes to play with children. However, playtime with smaller kids must always be supervised because, ironically, this breed doesn't have a lot of patience and is known to bite.

Like all terrier breeds, the cairn can be stubborn. When training this breed, one is required to show consistency and patience. The cairn must be trained when young and must be made to understand who is in charge in the house, or it will take any opportunity to bend the rules and run amok.

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Nutrition and Feeding

A typical serving for an adult cairn terrier is 1/2–1 cup of high-quality dry dog food divided into two meals. You can use a variety of food products such as a diet of kibble and premium-quality canned or raw food.

Here is a typical calorie needs per day of a standard cairn terrier adult weighing 10–14 pounds:

  • Senior and less active: up to 400 calories daily
  • Typical adult: up to 450 calories daily
  • Physically active/working dog: up to 500 calories daily

The amount of food in feeding depends on the size, age, build, and activity level of a cairn. The best diet for this dog breed is one that is natural dry food with meat as a base and without synthetic preservatives, colouring, or flavouring.

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Health and Exercise

The cairn terrier is a small dog that has a lifespan of twelve to fourteen years. For the most part, the cairn is a healthy dog breed, but it might suffer certain medical conditions like eye issues. Other illnesses may include craniomandibular osteopathy, cryptorchidism, globoid cell leukodystrophy, hypothyroidism, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, patellar luxation, ocular melanosis, and portosystemic liver shunt.

The cairn is a high-energy dog that needs to be kept busy, or the lack of activity will likely develop into negative habits such as chewing and digging. Ideally, a cairn must be exercised at least one hour every day. A securely fenced yard is required when a cairn is off lead outdoors, or it will take the opportunity to escape.

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Cost of Ownership

Cairn Terriers may not be the priciest breed but they are not the cheapest either. A Cairn Terrier puppy from a reputable breeder would generally cost between £400 to over £500. Veterinary routine checks and other procedures such as vaccinations, boosters and spaying/neutering will quickly add up to £1,000 a year.

On average, you will likely spend about £65–£100 to raise and care for a Cairn Terrier. This estimate does not include insurance, other medical treatments not covered by the insurance, professional grooming services, and obedience classes or training. If you wish to save on vet bills, purchasing a pet insurance policy is the way to go.  According to the 2017-2018 data, the average annual premium for pet insurance is  £23 per month for a time-limited cover and £40 a month for a lifetime cover. When it comes to food, premium-quality dog food will set you back £35–£50 a month.

Cairn Terrier Breed Highlights

  • The cairn is a small but tough dog and should not be mistaken as a delicate lapdog.
  • It makes a great watchdog as it is quick to alert owners.
  • It doesn't shed much, except in the spring and autumn.
  • The cairn terrier is a highly energetic dog that loves to dig and chase.
  • It has a high prey drive and might show potential aggression towards other animals.
  • It craves company and might suffer from separation anxiety if left alone.
Cairn Terrier

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The information, including measurements, prices and other estimates, on this page is provided for general reference purposes only.

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