Cairn Terriers are small dogs from the Scottish Highlands, where they were working dogs, but now they are popular as family dogs across the world. They may look like scruffy little fur balls, but these feisty and bold dogs pack quite a punch. They make excellent family pets for households with children.
Cairn Terrier dog breed is known to be around from the 15th century onwards. They were mainly employed as ratters and hunters of small game such as badgers, but they could hunt otter and fox too. Their area of operation was mainly the Scottish cairns, from which they got their official name.
They were originally considered just Scotch Terriers along with a number of other breeds that have acquired separate identities today. These Scotch Terriers later came to be known as two distinct breeds; the Dandie Dinmont and the Skye Terrier. Further delineation resulted in there being one group which remained as the Skye Terrier breed and another as Hard-haired Terriers which later got subdivided into the Scotch, the West Highland White and the Cairn.
The official recognition of this breed as Cairn Terriers came in the early 20th century, at which time their popularity soared in England. They soon found their way into the hearts and homes of the American dog lovers. The American Kennel Club accepted the Cairn Terrier dog breed in1903.
Cairn Terrier has most of the typical terrier features. Their double coat consists of a tough, wiry outer coat that comes in different colors and brindle patterns, and a softer undercoat. The coat color has a wide range, with many shades of red, pink, grey, sandy or wheaten tan, and blue finding representation in various degrees. Solid white, solid black and tan and black coats too occur, but they don’t meet the breed standards. The coat color may change as the dog grows, especially in brindle coats.
The Cairn Terrier dog breed typically measures one foot tall or less, and weighs just 10 to 15 pounds. The dog has a long body compared to its height. The small ears stand erect; the short tail too, accentuating the naturally alert expression of the dog.
The Cairn Terrier is as terrier-like as any other terrier breed, but they are more affectionate and sensitive. They are bold and inquisitive, and very perky and alert at all times. They do have a stubborn streak, but they generally try to please, and respond well to the commands given by the owners.
These dogs are extremely good with children because they find a match in them both in size and temperament. They don’t mind a little rough play and unintentional abuse by young children. In spite of their small size, these bold dogs will stand up to dogs double their size if need be. This makes them reliable guard dogs. They do not take easily to strangers too, and barely tolerate other family pets.
Grooming and exercise
The shaggy coat of Cairn Terrier dog breed obviously requires regular grooming. It has an outer wiry coat which is water resistant. Hand stripping is the ideal way to keep the coat in best condition, but a thorough brushing once or twice a week should serve the purpose if you cannot hand strip properly. They need a light trimming once a year.
Cairn Terriers may be small in size but they are high in their energy level. Being very active, these dogs constantly run around in the house, getting as much exercise as possible, but it is ideal to give them daily exercise in the yard, in addition to long walks on the leash. Even though they can be kept in apartments, they can become restless and destructive if they are not taken out regularly and given some exercise in the form of performing tricks or playing games.
These dogs can spend time outside in both cool and warm weather, but exposure to extreme temperatures should be avoided. If they can spend the day in a fenced in yard and stay with the family during the night, it would be the ideal situation for these dogs.
Common health issues of Cairn Terrier dog breed
Cairn Terrier dog breed is generally free of major health issues as they have been around for a long time. However, some dogs are affected by a painful skeletal disorder known as Craniomandibular Osteopathy, which is an inherited condition, commonly affecting several breeds of terriers including the Cairn Terrier. Other congenital and inherited disorders found in Cairn Terriers include Portacaval shunt and, in rare instances, a metabolic disorder known as GCL. The dogs should be tested for GCL and checked for other potential diseases, including glaucoma. They have an average life expectancy of 12-15 years.