cairn terrier in field, wagging tail

The Cairn Terrier: thinking about getting a Cairn Terrier? reading-time-icon 2 min read

Life won’t be boring for a Cairn Terrier owner! They’re bold, fearless and entertaining companions that know their own minds (if perhaps a little too well).

Let’s look a little closer at the Cairn Terrier.

Place of origin: Scottish Highlands

How big do Cairn Terriers get? 23 – 33cm

How heavy are Cairn Terriers? 4 – 7kg

Life Expectancy: 12 – 15 years

Colour: Black, Brindle, Cream, Grey, Wheaten, Red


Please note: A dog’s exercise, training/stimulation and grooming requirements can depend on several factors such as age and health. The same goes for ongoing costs of ownership. For advice on one specific dog, we always advise chatting with a vet.


How much exercise does a Cairn Terrier need?

To stay in a good health and good shape, a Cairn Terrier will need a sizeable walk every day. Thanks to their working background, Cairn Terriers are heavily inclined to chase and to dig when they’re out and about, particularly when unsupervised. Keep them on the lead until it’s safe to let them off and try to keep one eye on them at all times in public.

Training: how to train a Cairn Terrier

Cairn Terriers were originally bred as hunting dogs and were designed to have a high level of independence. Modern-day Cairn Terriers have retained their independence, meaning that although they’ll pick up simple tasks like going outside for the toilet quickly enough, they may not be the easiest dogs to train.

They are also characteristically more strong-willed than other dogs and usually gun for the alpha role of their household.

It may take more persistence and positive reinforcement than it does with other breeds, but training a Cairn Terrier is very much achievable – especially if training begins when the dog is young.

dark cairn terrier in flowers

Grooming: do Cairn Terriers shed?

Cairn Terriers are characterised by their dishevelled appearance and wiry fur. Luckily, their coats naturally repel dirt so they’ll only need bathing in exceptional circumstances.

On the flipside, Cairn Terriers are frequent moulters. You’ll need to brush them a minimum of once a week and it’s a good idea to have their coat clipped professionally every so often (2-3 times a year.)

Complete your Cairn Terrier’s grooming routine with regular tooth brushingnail clips and ear checks.

Cairn Terrier temperament, socialising and ideal home environment

Their hunter’s instincts may make Cairn Terriers easily distracted by small animals and birds, but they’re usually friendly enough with cats and other dogs, particularly if they’re exposed to them while young.

Cairn Terriers are good-tempered, affectionate dogs that make for good family pets. They’re full of energy and are highly tolerant of young children – as always, children should be taught to approach and touch dogs with care and all interactions between them should be supervised.

Cost of owning a Cairn Terrier

When considering the lifetime cost of owning a Cairn Terrier, remember to take into account:

Need more info?

For more info on finding the best dog breed for you and your lifestyle, have a chat with your vet.

Find your nearest vet using our Find a Vet page, or speak to a vet online using Online Vets.

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