Cairn Terrier Mix – Full Dog Breed Information

cairn terrier

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The Cairn Terrier dog is a small working terrier which was developed on the “Isle of Skye” in Scotland. Farmers relied on this breed to help them get rid of vermin on their property, to get rid of vermin, farmers needed a dog that was intelligent, strong and courageous….. characteristics which a Cairn possesses. The Cairn Terrier is a pure breed dog.

History of the Cairn Terrier

The Cairn Terrier has developed over 200 years ago on the Isle of Skye where Captain Martin MacLeod is associated with developing one of the earliest dogs of the breed. All breeds of the Terrier in Scotland were originally identified as Scotch Terriers. In 1873, a new system came to be and the Scotch Terriers were separated into two classes: Skye Terriers and Dandie Dinmont Terriers.

Classifications of the Skye Terrier includes Cairns as well as the dog that are now known as White Terriers, West Highland and Scottish Terriers. These breeds were differentiated only by color as all three came from the same litter. A club for Hard Haired Scotch Terrier was created for the three breeds in 1881, a standard for these breeds became approved in 1882.

At the end of the 19th century, breeders of the Scotch began to select for different colors and characteristics among them, The West Highland White Terrier became a separate breed in 1908. In 1912, the Cairn Terrier chosen as a breed, it derived its name from the stone piles that marked ancient Scottish memorial sites or burial sites. These piles of stones were hideouts for the vermin sought out by the terriers.

The first Cairn Terrier in the United States was imported by Mrs. Byron Rodgers and Mrs. Henry F. Price in 1913. In England and in the US, the West Highland White and the Cairn were crossbred until 1917 when the American Kennel Club (AKC) barred the registration of any dog from such interbreeding, in that same year, the Cairn Terrier Club of America was granted AKC membership.

The Cairn Terrier came into the spotlight when a dog of this breed was in one of the greatest movies of all time, “The Wizard of Oz”. If you’ve ever seen this movie, you have most definitely seen the most popular Cairn Terrier in history. The dog who plays the character of “Toto” was played by a female Cairn by the name of Terry.

Terry was paid $125 each week for her role as Toto, Terry was owned by trainer Carl Splitz and she featured in several movies prior to her hit role in the Wizard of Oz. Terry lived to be 11 years old.

Appearance and size

Male Cairn Terriers are 10 inches tall and weigh in about 14 pounds, Female Cairn Terrier are 9.5 inches tall and weigh in about 13 pounds. The Cairn has a double coat: a soft undercoat and a wiry outer coat. Their coats come in colors like gray, brindle, black, red and sand. Cairns have broad heads with small, erect ears.

Their body is compact and their legs are relatively short. The tails are carried high. This breed have soft under coats but due to their shaggy outer coat which is water-resistant, they have a jaunty appearance


The coats of this breed is easy to groom, brushing it once weekly would do the trick. Bath them periodically, every three months or as needed however do not bathe them frequently because it will soften their coarse Terrier coat which changes their physical appearance. You can trim their coats to make it look tidy.

Brush their teeth at least two times a week to eliminate tartar and bacteria buildup, daily brushing is also a good idea to prevent bad breath and gum disease. Check his ears weekly for redness or foul odor which could point towards an infection, wipe the outer ears with a cotton ball dampened with a ph balanced ear cleaner.

Trim his nails once or twice a month, do not cut too far into the nail as you might accidentally cut a blood vessel which will lead to bleeding.

While you groom them, check for sores, signs of infections, inflammation on the skin, nose, mouth, eyes and feet tenderness, redness or rashes. Their eyes should be clear without discharge or redness


Cairn Terriers are independent, affectionate, friendly, compact and sensible dogs who make excellent family companions. They adapt well to apartments and large homes, they are a good fit for novice dog owners or experienced pet owners.

Terriers have high energy levels and need to be kept active. Terriers can’t stand being left alone for long hours especially during the day. They need lots of love and attention for their well being. Terries are small, sturdy and shaggy coated with high levels of confidence and intelligent.

This breed is always alert and always ready for action. Their intelligence makes them curious and quick learners. As a character trait for all Terriers, the Cairn is also independent and a little bit stubborn. Despite being independent, the Cairn is a sensitive dog which means it’s feelings get hurt very easily.

This breed loves children and can be quite patient with children and can keep up with the spirited active behavior, however as with all dog, their play sessions and interactions with children should be monitored by responsible adults.

The Cairn is a dog that is very devoted to his family, he loves living in the house with the family members regardless the size of the building they love being included in the day to day activities of the household. They enjoy being the center of attention and will get sad if left alone for long periods of time.

If left alone too much, the Cairn can become bored and in such moments, boredom leads to annoying and destructive behaviors such as chewing, barking or digging. This breed makes for wonderful companions, the love having fun, playing with the children and can be quite entertaining.

They are good watchdogs and sound the alarm when strange people or pets approach the house. The temperament of a Cairn is affected by a number of factors including socialization, training and hereditary.


Generally, Cairns are healthy dogs but like all dogs, they are prone to certain health conditions. Even though not all Cairns will get any or all of these diseases. It is important to be familiarized with these diseases if you’re considering making this breed a member of your family.

Some health conditions affecting the Cairn Terrier include the following:

Craniomandibular Osteopathy: This is a condition that affects the bones of the skull of a growing puppy causing the bones to become irregularly enlarged. Symptoms of this condition appear in dogs between four to eight months of age. The cause of this condition is believed to be hereditary. Oftentimes, the jaws and glands of puppies suffering from this condition become swollen and the puppy would not be able to open his mouth.

The puppy would drool and would have a fluctuating fever that recurs every few weeks, in some cases, his chewing muscles will weaken. Pain relievers and Anti-inflammatories can aid the dog in dealing with such a painful condition. Irregular bone growth slows down and should have stopped by the time the puppy becomes a year old, the wound may revert but can cause a few dogs to have permanent jaw problems which leads to troubles eating. A severe case of this calls for jaw surgery.

Globoid Cell Leukodystrophy: This disease is a degenerative disease of the white matter of the brain and the spinal cord. Puppies affected by this die at a very early age or are put down. Fortunately, a test is now available to identify carriers of this disease. This condition is also known as Krabbe’s disease.

Cryptorchidism: Cryptorchidism is the failure or nonperformance of one or both of the testicles to descend into the scrotum. By the time the puppy is two months old, the testicles should have descended fully. If a testicle doesn’t descend, it is nonfunctional and can become cancerous. Treatment for this is surgical neutering.

Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is a disorder of the thyroid gland, hypothyroidism is believed to be responsible for conditions such as alopecia (hair loss), pyoderma, epilepsy, lethargy, hyperpigmentation and other skin conditions. It can be treated with a diet and medication.

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease: This is a condition involving the hip joint. If your Cairn has this, the supply of blood to the head of the femur— the large rear leg bone, is reduced and the head of the femur which connects to the pelvis begins to fall apart. The first symptom is limping and shrivel, it occurs in puppies who are four to six months of age. Surgery can be used to correct this condition.

Patellar Luxation: This is a common problem for small dogs, the patella is the kneecap, luxation means the dislocation of an anatomical part such as a bone at a joint. Therefore, Patellar luxation is when the kneecap, most likely of a hind leg, slides in and out of place which is painful. This condition can be crippling but it is very possible for dogs with this condition to live relatively normal lives.

Portosystemic Liver Shunt: This is an inherited abnormality which the blood vessels does not allow for blood to bypass the liver. As a result, blood isn’t cleaned by the liver in the way it should be. Surgery is the best option for this.

Secondary Glaucoma: This is a painful inherited condition which occurs in Cairns between seven to twelve years old, it affects both eyes. Watch both eyes of the pup for small patches of dark pigmentation in the white part of the eye. The pigment gathers and reduces the ability of fluids to drain out of the anterior chamber which leads to increased pressure. If diagnosed early, it can be controlled with medication.

They require half to a full cup of high-quality dry food daily, divided into two meals. Pay attention to their diet and the amount of treats you feed them so they do no become overweight. They have a lifespan of 12-15 years

Training and exercise

They have high energy levels and require a lot of activities to be active through walks and play sessions. You can purchase an interactive puzzle toy to keep your terrier active indoors.

Cairns are a bit stubborn and need to know who is in charge and maintain your role as leader of the pack from a young age else they will want to have the upper hand, take charge and challenge your authority. Early socialization and obedience training is vital in this breed, expose them to different experiences, sounds, sights and people of course, to ensure that your Cairn puppy grows into being a well-rounded dog.

They are sensitive and get hurt easily, they do not respond well to shouting, harsh corrections or scolding. Kindness, positive reinforcement is the best way to achieve proper training and teaching in this breed.

With proper training, they can master a whole lot of tricks and commands. Being a Terrier, it is the natural instinct of this breed to chase, dig and bark, this behavior can be minimized with training but it is practically impossible to stop a Cairn from following his natural instinct.

They will chase down rabbits, cats, squirrels and other dogs if they get the chance to do so, due to this reason, you should only walk your Cairn in public places with a properly fastened leash and they should only run freely in a fenced and secure yard. This breed oftentimes thinks he’s bigger than his actual size and may stand up for himself against larger dogs, animals and strangers.

Enrolling your puppy in a puppy kindergarten class is a step in the right direction, you can take him to busy parts, public places that allow dogs, go on leisurely strolls and invite visitors over regularly to help him smoothen his social skills. They require 20 to 30 minutes of exercise daily.

Why you should get a Cairn Terrier

Cairn Terriers are compact dogs, they can travel with you from place to place and be your companion always, they adapt well to apartment living. This breed is a perfect fit for novice dog owners. The Cairn is capable of competing in earth dog, obedience and agility trials. They are also great pets for anyone who wants an alert, dependable, lovable dog

Where to get a Cairn Terrier and price

Even though the Cairn Terrier is a pure breed, some of them still end up in shelters or rescues. To get a healthy Cairn, never buy from an irresponsible breeder, pet store or puppy mill.

It is best to buy from a reputable breeder who ensures to test his or her breeding dogs to be sure they are free of genetic diseases which may be passed on to the puppy, a breeder who observes the right breeding practices.

Always meet at least of of the parents of the pup before buying, preferably the mother of the litter. The breeder should be able to show you health clearances for the puppy and the parents before the purchase of the pup, health clearances are proof that the dogs have been tested for and cleared of some or all health conditions.

In this breed, you should expect to see health clearances from
Aubum University for Thrombopathia for Von Willebrand’s doses, hypothyroidism and elbow dysplasia. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia with a score of either fair or better
The Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that the eyes are normal. You can verify health clearances given to you by the breeder by checking the OFA website ( They cost between $1000-$2000

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