Cairn Terrier

The Cairn Terrier is a Scottish dog breed that was developed with a specific goal in mind - vermin control. These dogs are incredibly brave, tenacious, and smart. They are able to work independently and are great at the task they were created to do. The modern-day breed still has the characteristics of the original Cairn Terriers and is still used in Scottish farms and fields to control pests and other vermin.

These dogs can work independently and that is one of their main general characteristics. They are also friendly, sensible, and can easily adapt to any sort of living conditions. The modern Cairn Terrier is mostly a pet and that is a lifestyle they have accepted graciously. Their energy levels stay intact and even though they are not working, they need vigorous playing sessions or some other constructive energy outlets in order to prevent destructive behavior. They don’t like to be left alone and can suffer from separation anxiety if they are away from their family for too long.

Cairn Terrier Height


9,5–10 in (24–25 cm)

Cairn Terrier Weight


13–14 lb (6–6,5 kg)

Cairn Terrier Origin


Great Britain

Cairn Terrier Life Expectancy

Life Expectancy:

13-15 years

Breed History

Cairn Terrier dogs were developed on the Isle of Skye and Captain Martin MacLeod is credited for the development of this breed. These dogs were recognized as a breed in 1912. And the first dogs were imported in the US in 1913.

Dog Breed Characteristics

Energy Level
Grooming Needs
Exercise Needs
Kid Friendly
Dog Friendly
General Health

FCI standard

This is considered as an old breed, maybe one of the oldest Terrier breeds in the world, so it is not a big surprise that these dogs are accepted by most of the major cynology associations in the world. The one we will be focusing on is the FCI. FCI or Federation Cynologique Internationale is a union of 98 national cynology associations. All of these associations have the same standard for these dogs and the standard describes them as being alert and very agile. The standard also mentioned that these dogs have a great work ethic and have a very natural appearance. The FCI placed these dogs in Group 3 (Terriers) Section 2 (Small-sized Terriers). The FCI does not require these dogs to undergo a working trial. The required size for these dogs according to this standard is 11 - 12 in (28 - 31 cm) for both male and female dogs. Their weight should be proportioned to their height and should be between 14-16 lbs (6-7,5 kg).

The Carin Terrier was registered by the FCI on the 6th of April 1963.

AKC standard

The American Kennel Club is a governing cynology association of the United States of America. They are not a part of the FCI so the standard for this breed slightly differs. The AKC standard describes them as being strong but not heavily built with a hard, weather resisting coat. The AKC says the required size for this breed is 10 in (25 cm) for male dogs and 9,5 in (24 cm) for female dogs. Their weight should be on average 13 lbs (6 kg) for females and 14 lbs (6,5 kg) for males.

This breed was accepted by the AKC in 1913.

cairn terrier dog


Cairn Terrier dogs have a wiry outer coat and a soft undercoat. They are fairly easy to groom and weekly brushing is required to keep these dogs looking good. Frequent baths are not recommended because they can soften the coarse coat.

Cairn Terrier coat colors:

  • Any color except white

They will also need other basic care; brush their teeth at least three times a week. Check their ears for signs of infection and redness, and trim their nails if they don’t wear them down naturally.


Cairn Terrier dogs are medium active and they will need a proper amount of daily activities to be happy. Playing with his owner in the house, chasing the ball, or just long walks can all do the trick and keep this dog satisfied. If you provide him with enough daily activities you don’t have to worry that your dog will miss behaving.


Like any other dog breed, the Cairn Terrier should start the socialization process as soon as possible. Dogs that are not well socialized are prone to behavioral problems and might react badly to situations they are not familiar with. 

There are many ways you can socialize your Cairn Terrier, and the most important thing to do is to get your dog familiar with different situations they can find themselves in. Take your dog to dog parks where they can meet other dogs and people. They can learn to react accordingly and understand that they don’t need to be scared of strangers and other dogs.

Cairn Terrier and kids

Cairn Terriers are excellent family dogs that will get along with every family member including children. Take note that kids need to be taught how to properly play and interact with a dog so Cairn Terrier can enjoy their company. If they are raised together from an early age they will be playing parting and they will enjoy spending time together.

Children should never be left alone with any dog, no matter what breed it might be. You should make sure that your children understand how to approach dogs of this breed and understand how to interact and play with them properly.

Cairn Terrier and other animals

These dogs can get along well with other dogs and can enjoy their company especially if they are raised together from an n early age. they will most likely try and catch smaller animals such as gerbils, hamsters, squirrels, or rabbits. They can learn to get along with pets they are raised with, but our advice would be never to leave them unattended.

Health problems

Like any other dog breed, the Cairn Terrier can potentially develop health problems. If you are buying a dog, make sure the breeder can provide you with the necessary health tests and guarantees. Always ask to see the results of tests from the puppy’s parents. The health problems these dogs are associated with are: 

  • Hypothyroidism - A health problem caused by the hyperproduction of hormones from the thyroid gland.
  • Patellar luxation
  • Legg-Calve_perthes disease
  • Glaucoma

The Cairn Terrier is generally considered a very healthy breed that can live 13-15 years.

Cairn Terrier breeders

Before you start looking for a Cairn Terrier breeder, try and make an informed decision whether this breed is the right breed for you. These dogs are quite active and friendly which means they will need a lot of activity with you by their side. All puppies require time and energy on your part in order to develop into well-balanced and well-behaved dogs. If this is a great fit for you, we are sure that you will get the best possible companion breed in the world.

When getting a dog, the most important thing is to get it from a responsible and reputable Cairn Terrier breeder. Responsible breeders will breed dogs that don’t only look good but have great characters as well. You must find a good Cairn Terrier breeder that can help you learn about this breed and make an informed choice about getting a dog with these characteristics. 

Buying a dog from a responsible breeder will cost you more money, but you can be sure that you will get a healthy puppy. If you are unable to buy a dog, we advise you to search for local animal shelters because there is a chance you can find a Cairn Terrier dog in it.


World Dog Finder team


Updated at24.06.2020.