Dog Breeds Directory:

« Back to Breeds Directory

Cairn Terrier


AKC Height:

9.5-10 inches

AKC Weight:

13-14 pounds


Any color except white.

Life Expectancy:

13-15 years


Terrier Group

Cairn Terrier: The Spirited and Hardy Scottish Breed

Welcome to the comprehensive guide on the Cairn Terrier, a breed celebrated for its tenacity, lively character, and charming appearance. This page explores the Cairn Terrier’s unique qualities, a small yet sturdy breed known for its adventurous spirit and affectionate nature.


AKC Height: 9.5-10 inches

AKC Weight: 13-14 pounds

Colors: Any color except white.

Life Expectancy: 13-15 yearsGroup:

Terrier Group

Physical Characteristics

  • Rugged and Natural Look: Cairn Terriers are small, hardy dogs with a weather-resistant double coat, typically in shades of gray, brindle, red, or sand.
  • Distinctive Features: They possess a strong, compact build with a fox-like expression, enhanced by their shaggy eyebrows and whiskers.

Temperament and Personality Cairn Terriers are known for their alertness, intelligence, and playful demeanor. They are confident, independent, and often have a mischievous streak. Despite their small size, they are robust and enjoy active play, making them great companions for families.

Training and Exercise Needs

  • Training: They respond well to consistent, positive training methods. Their intelligence makes them quick learners, but they can also be willful, so patience is key.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise is important for this energetic breed. Daily walks and opportunities for safe, off-leash play are ideal.
  • Mental Stimulation: Engaging their minds with interactive toys and games is beneficial to keep them mentally stimulated.

Health and Nutrition

  • Diet: A balanced diet suitable for small, active dogs is essential. Regular vet check-ups can help maintain their health.
  • Common Health Issues: Generally a healthy breed, Cairn Terriers can be prone to specific health issues. Regular health screenings and preventive care are recommended.

Grooming and Care

  • Coat Maintenance: Their shaggy coat requires regular grooming to prevent matting and to maintain its natural texture.
  • General Care: Routine health care practices, including dental hygiene, nail trimming, and ear cleaning, are important.

Living with a Cairn Terrier

  • Family Life: They are excellent with families, known for their affectionate nature and good behavior with children.
  • Adaptability: Cairn Terriers adapt well to various living environments, thriving in both rural and urban settings.
  • Companionship: They form strong bonds with their families and enjoy being involved in daily activities.

Responsible Ownership and Adoption

  • Selecting a Breeder: Opt for breeders who prioritize health and temperament and provide health clearances for their puppies.
  • Adoption Options: Adoption from shelters or breed-specific rescues is a great way to provide a home to a Cairn Terrier in need.

Conclusion The Cairn Terrier, with its spirited personality and endearing looks, is an ideal companion for those seeking an energetic and affectionate pet. Their adaptability and playful nature make them a beloved addition to any home.


Cairn Terriers love to chase things, so they should be kept on a leash when outside of the yard. They also like to dig, so fences should be secure at the base to prevent escapes. Weekly brushing and occasional bathing will help to control light shedding. Stripping of the coat should be done every six months. A moderately sized yard is needed.


Cairn Terriers are playful, alert, and good with children.

Cairn Terrier Housebreaking

Housebreaking the Cairn Terrier requires consistency on your part. Dogs are creatures of habit, and knowing the tips and tricks of training will make the process so much easier and less stressful.

Puppy Housebreaking     Adult Marking & Retraining

Find a Puppy: Cairn Terrier

If you are looking for a puppy or adult dog, please read our important information on choosing a puppy from a breeder and adopting a dog from a rescue. There are good dog breeders and good dog rescues and there are bad dog breeders and bad dog rescues. Our information will help you to make an informed decision and will give you tips on what to look for and what to avoid.

Pet shops are not the best place to look for a puppy. Dogs from pet shops often come from puppy mills, and puppy mill dogs are often kept in unhealthy conditions. The best way to end puppy mills is to rescue or buy from reputable sources.


The Cairn Terrier should only be fed high-quality dog food targeted toward the dog’s age, whether puppy, adult, or senior. Avoid cooked bones and food with high fat content. Talk to your veterinarian if you have concerns about your dog’s weight.


The Cairn Terrier is extremely eager to please their owners. At the very least, these dogs can benefit from learning basic commands, like sit, come, and stay. Because this breed is highly intelligent and easily bored, it is important to give them multiple challenging toys to keep this breed occupied.


(Click here for Health Dictionary)
Watch for allergies, Cataracts, Ocular Melanosis, PRA, liver shunt, Craniomandibular Osteopathy, Globoid Cell Leukodystrophy, Heart murmurs, Hypothyroidism, Legg-perthes, Luxated Patellar, seizures, Von Willebrand’s Disease.