Cairn Terrier: What You Should Know About This Lovely Breed

If you are looking for a rescue dog to bring home and make a part of your family, the Cairn terrier might be one of the breeds on your list to learn more about.

Such as information about their history, temperament, and different care needs that they require. This little pup has a rich history that may intrigue you, and a fun and playful personality that is hard to resist by any means. 


The Cairn terrier is one of many varieties of terrier who roamed and hunted the Highlands of Scotland many centuries ago. Some of these terrier breeds, including the Cairn are still living among us today. While others have since become extinct. 

Up until sometime in the late 1800’s all of these terrier breeds were classified together as one big group of Scotch terriers. They have since been distinguished and identified as unique breeds of terrier. This was brought about by breeders who were paying attention to traits of these terriers as they were going about their breeding business with cairn terrier puppies as well as cairn terrier mix dogs that they had only just identified.

The dog that is known as the “Cairn” terrier did not get its name until sometime around 1887, but had been running around the Highlands, on the hunt for various prey, since some time in the 1600’s. Eventually the AKC recognized the Cairn terrier as a breed in 1913.


The moment you arrive at the Cairn terrier rescue, you will immediately notice that the personality of the Cairn terrier can be described as “busy” and “cheerful”. By nature, terriers are independent with a sort of “tough guy” persona. They will love their family fiercely but can warm up to strangers after some time interacting with them.

Regardless of their independent personality, there is nothing they love more than to interact with their owners as they go about their daily business. Whether that’s hanging out in the kitchen with them while they cook and clean or relaxing on the couch at the end of a busy day. They also love children and will play and run around with them for hours on end. 

Their temperament really depends on their breeding as well as their training. When adopting a Cairn terrier from a breeder it's important that you meet at least one of the dogs’ parents. This will give you a good idea of what they will look like as they get older, in addition to what you might expect from their personality. 

Nutritional Needs

One of the more important things to keep in mind about any dog breed in terms of nutrition, is that you should be feeding them food that is appropriate for their age. Most brands of high-quality dog food will have a variety of food that is specially formulated for puppies, adults, and senior dogs. 

The Cairn terrier will do well with any high-quality dog food, but keep in mind how small they are when deciding on portion size. Most dog food will have a serving size of sorts on their packaging to refer to. But you can always ask your dog vet if you are still unsure. 


Cairn terriers aren’t very high maintenance when it comes to their grooming needs. They shed minimally so there isn’t much in terms of extravagant grooming that needs to be done. A once-a-week brush through should do the trick. And the occasional hand-striping to get rid of dead hairs is also recommended. Their nails should also be trimmed regularly to prevent discomfort. 


The Cairn terrier is a rather healthy dog by nature. Responsible breeders will have made sure to do all the necessary health screenings before allowing any pups to be adopted. Hip dysplasia is one of the more common conditions that a Cairn terrier may face, just as it is for many other breeds of dogs in the world. Elbow dysplasia and hypothyroidism are also conditions that have been found to afflict the Cairn terrier on occasion. 

These conditions can be detected and treated early by bringing your dog for their annual visit to the vet. Your veterinarian will easily be able to detect if your Cairn terrier is facing any of these problems and will tell you what needs to be done to treat them. Your vet can also inform you of different signs and symptoms you need to watch out for with any of these conditions. 


The Cairn terrier is a wonderful choice of family dog, as they will love their family with every ounce of their being. This includes any children who live in the same home as them. Shedding may not be much of an issue with the Cairn terrier, but barking may be.

They will do everything in their power to protect their humans but can be trained to not bark at every stranger who comes near their home. Early socialization also will help with this.

This breeds who once roamed the Scottish Highlands has really evolved into one of the best small family dogs someone could have. 

What is a cairn terrier?

The Cairn terrier is one of the earliest known working dogs of the Scottish Highlands. Its name originates from its number one job, which was to hunt and chase animals through areas called “cairn” located on the Scottish Highlands.

Do cairn terriers shed?

Yes, cairn terriers do shed, but it's very minimal. Their breed does require what is called “hand-stripping”. This is a process of pulling out their dead hairs by the roots. It helps to prevent shedding and skin irritation.

How long do cairn terriers live?

On average, Cairn terriers can live a good 12 to 15 years of life. Of course, this is when they are well taken care of and live in a happy, loving home. Taking good care of your Cairn terrier will help it to live into those 12 to 15 years of life.

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