Dog Breed Series – Cairn Terrier

Vital Stats: Dog Breed Group: Terrier Dogs
Height: 9 inches to 10 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight: 13 to 14 pounds
Life Span: 12 to 15 years

The Cairn Terrier dog breed is a small working terrier developed on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Farmers used him to rid their property of vermin, and they needed a dog with courage, tenacity, and intelligence — characteristics still found in today’s Cairn. He is a sensible, independent, and friendly dog who excels as a family companion.

If you’ve seen the movie The Wizard of Oz, you’ve seen one of the most famous Cairn Terriers ever. The dog who played Toto in the film was a female Cairn named Terry. Paid $125 per week for her role as Toto, she was owned by trainer Carl Spitz, and she had appeared in several movies prior to her famous role in Oz. She lived to be 11 years old.

The film character Toto is characteristically Cairn: a small, sturdy, shaggy-coated terrier who’s highly intelligent and confident. The breed is alert and always ready for action.

The Cairn is also curious and quick to learn. And, like all terriers, he’s independent and a bit stubborn. He must know who is in charge, or he will take charge. Early obedience training and socialization are essential.

In spite of his independent nature, the Cairn is a sensitive dog. His feelings are easily hurt, and he doesn’t respond well to scolding or harsh corrections. Kind, positive training is the best method for teaching the Cairn.

There is little this smart dog can’t learn. With proper training, a Cairn can master an unlimited number of tricks and commands. However, it may be downright impossible to stop a Cairn from doing what Terriers love to do: chase (and dig and bark). The Cairn will chase squirrels, cats, rabbits, and other dogs if given a chance. For this reason, he should only be walked in public places on a leash, and he should be given free run only in a securely fenced yard.

The Cairn actively loves kids and will patiently bear their boisterous ways. Of course, children should not be left alone with dogs of any breed, including the Cairn, and responsible adults should always supervise interactions between kids and dogs.

The Cairn Terrier is a family dog, and he needs to live in the house (or apartment or condo) with his family. He thrives on attention from his loved ones, and he’s unhappy if left alone too much. He can become bored at such times, which leads to destructive or annoying behaviors like barking, digging, or chewing.

A Cairn Terrier is a wonderful family companion. He’s fun and entertaining, loves to play with kids, and sounds the alarm when visitors approach. He is able to compete in obedience, agility, or Earthdog trials. A Cairn is a great pet for anyone who wants an independent, alert companion with a take-charge attitude toward life.


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