CAIRN TERRIER INFO
About Cairn Terriers...
Is a Cairn Terrier the right dog for you?
If you are a prospective Cairn Terrier owner, be SURE that you understand the
unique needs and character of this active little working terrier BEFORE you
purchase or adopt!!
The points made in this section have evolved over the years, and represent
the worst case scenario of owning a Cairn Terrier. Many experienced as well as
inexperienced dog owners are overwhelmed by the demands of a Cairn Terrier. This
can lead to the dogs being abandoned, even before they reach adulthood!
... are first and foremost hunting dogs. The traits and skills that make
them excellent hunting dogs (i.e., digging, barking, aggressive nature, ability
to follow scent) are often interpreted as bad habits that cause people to give
... are bred to go underground, following scent to locate and bark at
quarry until they are dug down to or the quarry bolts. If they do not have an
outlet for their natural instincts, they will invent new and fun jobs for
themselves, which frequently include guardian of the world and/or their
possessions and family, chasing cars, hunting birds, bugs or leaves, or
endlessly digging in the soil.
... are a big dog in a little body. They have the same need (or more!)
for exercise as a much larger dog... and the mentality to match -- they think
they are at least 100 pounds, and are fearless, often challenging other dogs
three times their size.
... require regular grooming. They require regular
brushing, stripping or trimming four to six times a year. Regular bathing is NOT
recommended, however, as the skin dries out too easily.
... are often aggressive with other dogs. Same-sex aggression and
aggression towards other breeds of dogs is well documented with this terrier.
... require firm, consistent discipline. They are extremely intelligent,
continue to test their limits throughout their life. More often than not, train
their owners before the owner knows what has happened! This ability to train
their owners can include displays of aggressive behavior. Their assertive nature
must be understood and handled properly!
... can become very possessive of their owner or a favorite member of the
family or of what they consider to be their personal property if allowed to do
so to the point of showing aggressive protective behavior that must be
controlled from an early age.
... are commonly known to harass, injure or kill other small pets, such
as cats, birds, rabbits, mice, rats, etc., simply due to their strong natural
hunting instinct. Raising a puppy with a cat does not guarantee the cat's
... remain active well into their 12-year-plus life span; their need for
activity and desire to hunt continues for their entire lifetime. Untrained,
unsupervised dogs rarely meet their life expectancy.
... require at least basic obedience training. The dog's life may depend
on it! Even well trained dogs will be tempted to chase something interesting, or
even disappear into a hole while you are not looking. Off-lead is always a
dangerous situation for a Cairn Terrier unless in a safe environment with
experienced Terrier owners.
... absolutely need a securely fenced yard! Cairn Terriers will roam due
to their hunting instincts.... even if left in an unsecured area for a few minutes!
You can let them out every day for three years with no trouble....but one day
they will disappear and may never come back. Many Cairn Terriers have been
killed by cars by darting into the road in pursuit of a squirrel, cat, etc. They
can also dig under, climb or jump over fences; some can climb any height chain
... can be very destructive if left unattended and unemployed! Most
behavioral problems are due to a lack of companionship, discipline, activity and
exercise. If you've only seen perfect, well-behaved Cairn Terriers, they are
ones that were lucky enough to be exercised, well socialized, and trained.
... are country dogs. When made to live in a city or suburban-type
environment, their needs and instincts do not change. It would be unreasonable
to expect them to be anything other than what they are genetically bred to be --
a serious hunting dog. Your lifestyle must be adjusted to meet their needs; they
must have jobs to perform -- an outlet for their considerable energy and
... are NOT recommended as apartment or condo dogs. They need a great
deal of exercise and outdoor activity, and are usually too loud for such
high-density living. They need room to run; leash walking does not satisfy their
boundless energy. Unless your schedule permits many hours at home and a lot of
outdoor activity, with a safe place the terrier can run, this is not the dog for
you. MANY rescues come from apartments, condos, or homes where the owners work
away from the home for long periods of time.
... will NOT TOLERATE even unintended mistreatment from a child. They
will not put up with typical child handling such as pulling of ears, tails,
etc., or taking or "sharing" of the dog's bones, food, toys, etc. They are very
assertive and demanding, and never still... jumping all over whoever will allow
it. Cairn Terriers are not recommended for households with children under the
age of six unless you are previously experienced with this feisty little bundle
... are NOT as they are portrayed in the movies, on TV, or other forms of
media. Those dogs are professionally trained and handled, and are very obedient
only for VERY short periods of time. Celebrity dogs have their needs met by the
trainer, and perform their jobs accordingly.
... require a long-term commitment to obedience, activity, exercise and
entertainment... their unique character, intelligence and high energy level
can frustrate you, will undoubtedly entertain you, and can bring you great joy
(when they're happy!) or great grief (when they're not!). If this type of
relationship does not appeal to you, then consider another breed. Cairn Terriers
are always a work in progress!
Please remember... Southwest Cairn Rescue is very
busy with displaced terriers because
MANY PEOPLE UNDERESTIMATE LIFE
WITH A CAIRN TERRIER!