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February 22, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Cairn Terrier

By Victoria Swanson More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Purebred Star Blog Series

Have you always wished for a Toto to call your own? Do you desire a small but sturdy, high energy, fun-loving, friendly, and intelligent dog? Find out if a Cairn's personality is the right fit for your lifestyle.

Toto, a Cairn Terrier, is most famously known for her role in the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz film. Her real name was Terry, but was officially changed to Toto in 1942 because of her popularity from the film. Toto's salary was roughly $125 per week during the filming, and she made more money than many of the human actors in the film.

Cairn Terrier Country of Origin

Scotland is the origin of this spunky, spirited breed! Being a Terrier, this breed was bred to hunt vermin with a vengeance! Their ancestors include the Scottish, Sky, Scotch Terrier and West Highland White Terrier before becoming their own distinct breed in the early 1900's. Bred to work in the rocks and cliffs, going into the "Cairns" (manmade rock formations) to hunt, this little breed takes their job very seriously.

Terrier Through and Through

Terrier breeds live up to every part of their heritage. They are lively diggers, barkers, and hunters, but they're also stubborn, curious, loyal, friendly, and so much more! They're easy to train, but can have a stubborn streak, sometimes choosing not to listen to their pet parents. Early training is imperative to help teach your Cairn who's in charge.

Typically the Cairn are extremely kid friendly, but it's important to teach children to be respectful around all dogs.

If raised with a cat, the Cairn will typically be fine. However, if adopting an older Cairn that hasn't been taught to be polite around the household cat, you may want to reconsider this breed.

Being a Terrier, the Cairn has the typical "big-dog" attitude in a small package - meaning they will not back down from another dog if challenged. Pet-parents MUST socialize their fur kid to help build a positive association with all dogs in order to prevent future mishaps.

Small Dog Syndrome

Cairn Terrier's can easily develop "Small Dog Syndrome" if rules and boundaries aren't put in place. They're happy to run the household on their own terms, if allowed. This is a serious behavioral condition that contributes to dog bites, resource guarding, excessive barking, and growling, among other issues.

To help prevent Small Dog Syndrome, setting clear rules (and sticking to them), providing early obedience training, and regular socialization is all that is needed for your Cairn to understand who's boss.

Apartment Living Is Fine

Although the Cairn is a very active breed, they do well in apartments. Their busy personality works both indoors and out. With proper exercise, (a long 45 minute walk once or twice a day and at least a 45 minutes to one hour of playtime) your Cairn will remain happy and well behaved.

The Cairn will be an excellent dog to participate in Doggy Daycare, as long as they have had early, and proper, socialization around other dogs. This is a great opportunity to help your Cairn burn off their rambunctious energy while you're at work.

If the Cairn gets bored, they can be destructive: digging, chewing, and barking excessively. Crate training a Cairn is highly recommended to help prevent any unfortunate destruction while you are away.

Don't trust an off-leash Cairn Terrier, they'll gladly bolt after a rabbit, squirrel, or even the neighborhood cat.

They prefer a fenced in-yard, but they are known to be diggers. If your Cairn is a digger (which is a natural instinct for them to do), providing them with their own digging space, like a sandbox filled with yummy treats and toys, is an excellent way to save your landscape.

Training Tip for a Sandbox:

Simply build a sandbox that will give your dog plenty of space to put their whole body in, as well as kicking up dirt. Place big biscuits and toys half buried in the box. Bring your dog over to their new digging place, show them the items you placed in there, and watch them go to town. These items should be replenished throughout the day to encourage your dog to stay in their new digging area.

When you catch your dog digging in their sandbox, providing them with lots of praise will reinforce their behavior.

High Maintenance Grooming

The Cairn is a non-shedding dog, which is fantastic trait for many allergy sufferers. However, their fur shouldn't be cut with scissors or trimmers. A professional groomer will need to hand-strip their fur (pulling out the dead fur to let the new growth come in) to help keep the Cairn's coat looking beautiful. If the stripping isn't done correctly, this can cause physical pain to the Cairn, making the experience unpleasant.

Their coat comes in many different shades, such as sand, brindle, black, red, or gray (light to dark), with the tail, ears, and muzzle typically being dark. Daily brushings will be needed to help control matting.

Overall Health

The Cairn is an overall healthy breed. They can suffer from flea allergies (use a monthly preventative to prevent fleas and ticks) and will easily gain weight. Providing a strict feeding schedule, with healthy treats like carrots or sweet potatoes and a daily exercise program, will help keep your Cairn fit and trim. Cairns can live to 12-15 years.

Adopt First

As you begin looking for a Cairn Terrier, please check with rescue organizations first. Every year there are millions of dogs being euthanized - not because they are bad dogs, but because there is no home for them and insufficient resources to care for them at rescue agencies. By adopting a dog, you are truly saving a life!

At the very least, NEVER purchase any dog from a pet store. Unfortunately, those puppies almost always come from puppy mills. Instead, look for a reputable breeder to work with.

On a final note, it is important to spay and neuter your puppy by 6 months old to have a healthy and happy pet for many years to come!


Original Dog Bible, 2nd Edition by Kristin Mehus-Roe

Dog Breed Info

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