Cairn Terrier

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Cairn Terrier


cairn-terrierRecommended for:  Families

Maintenance level:  Low – medium

Lifespan:  13-14 years

Temperament:  Active, friendly

Health Risk:  This breed is in the lower risk category for developing health issues, hence it is one of the most affordable breeds to insure.



The Cairn Terrier is one of the oldest Terrier breeds.  This little terrier is originally from the Scottish Islands where it was originally used as a working dog.  The Cairn terrier has a huge personality and he is definitely a bundle of energy.

The Cairn Terrier has a scruffy looking double coat which is wiry on the outside with a soft undercoat.  This terrier comes in a variety of colours including red, black, brindle, grey and sand.

While the dog’s coat looks pretty scruffy it does not shed very much and loose hair can be removed with a good brushing.  The Cairn Terrier is the little dog that starred in The Wizard of Oz with Judy Garland.
The Cairn Terrier loves being part of the family and prefers to live inside.

The average height of a male Cairn Terrier is between 25 to 33 cm and females stand between 23 and 30 cm tall.  The average weight of the Cairn Terrier is 6 to 8 kg for males and the same for females.

The average lifespan of the Cairn Terrier is 13 to 14 years.



Cairn TerrierThe Cairn Terrier is a descendent of the working dogs of the Scottish Highlands and Islands.  The dogs were originally used from the 16th century to control pests including rabbits, foxes, rates and rabbits.  They were also used for badger and otter hunting in the nineteenth century.

Their fierce hunting instinct enabled them carry on regardless of injury and keepers controlled packs of Cairn Terriers in the early 20th Century.

During the 20th Century there were also attempts to have the Cairn Terrier acknowledged by the Kennel Club but there was confusion about what to call them.  There were a number of breeders that preserved to have the breed recognised.  One was Mrs Campbell from Ardishaig.  She originally called the dogs short-coated Skyes or prick-eared Skyes causing issues with Skye Terrier breeders whose breed has been recognised by the Kennel Club for over 30 years.

In 1910 the Kennel Club eventually accepted these prick-eared short-coated Skyes and called them Cairn Terriers.  The Cairn Club was also formed in 1910 and Mrs Campbell was the first Secretary with 54 members from Scotland and the Western Isles.  The club has grown over the years and it now has international members in over twenty countries.  The original stated aim of the club was to ‘protect and advance the interest of the old working terrier of the Highlands now known as the Cairn terrier’.




The Cairn Terrier is an intelligent breed of dog.  The Cairn is a great family dog but it makes sense to keep an eye on young children around the dog because he can nip if annoyed.  He seems to thrive on the energy of busy family life and fits in well with whatever is going on.  He can be a bit wary of strangers and may be included to bark but he is also an excellent watchdog.

It is a good idea to socialise the Cairn Terrier with other dogs when he is young and to let him know his place within the home.

Terrier breeds can be a bit stubborn to train but with consistency and patience basic training will be successful.

The Cairn Terrier loves to be busy and that means a daily walk and exercise.  Regular exercise will ensure that the dog doesn’t become bored and destructive.  This little dogs also enjoy a good run so a trip to an off leash park is highly recommended.

Cairn Terrier Lying Down



  • Cataracts

Cataracts can occur in Cairn Terriers, causing them to develop poor vision and a cloudy appearance in the eyes.  They usually occur in older dogs and may be removed surgically if necessary.

  • Progressive retinal atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy refers to a family of eye diseases which gradually result in the deterioration of the retina, causing first night blindness then full blindness. There is no cure, but most dogs adapt very easily to the vision loss, provided their environment does not change too much.

  • Cryptorchidism

Cryptorchidism is an illness which one or both of the testicles do not descend into the scrotum. This can be fixed through surgical removal of the retained testicle.

  • Diabetes

Diabetes occurs when the body cannot regulate blood levels. Affected dogs do not lose their appetite, but will often lose weight, urinate a lot and get thirsty often. It is treated with a special diet and insulin.

  • Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that cause the optic nerve damage, causing black spots in the eye and causing vision to decrease over time.

It’s difficult to determine whether your Cairn Terrier is affected by glaucoma until the later stages where the condition is more severe.

Symptoms are not easily visible or noticeable for the owner. If the eye is affected with glaucoma, it may be red, swollen, sore, or become particularly cloudy in appearance. See your vet if you suspect your Cairn Terrier may require treatment.

  • Patella Luxation

Patella Luxation is caused either by a deformity or trauma, which results in frequent dislocation of the patella in the knee, locking the leg. It causes pain and can be crippling, but many dogs lead relatively normal lives.




  • The Cairn Terrier is an intelligent dog but he also has a mind of his own. He will challenge your authority so establishing your role as pack leader is key.
  • Maybe it has something to do with her mother starring in the Wizard of Oz with a Cairn Terrier, but Liza Minelli owned a red coated Cairn Terrier named Lily.
  • Cairn Terriers love to dig so it’s best not to leave them in the back yard with freshly planted flowers.
  • This little dog works well for apartment living but they do need plenty of exercise to stop them from becoming bored and destructive.




The Cairn Terrier Club of NSW:

The Cairn Terrier Club of Victoria:

Cairn Terrier Pet Insurance Quote

Getting pet insurance for your Cairn Terrier will help ensure you can always afford the best vet care for them. Bow Wow Meow offers a range of flexible pet insurance options including cover for accidental injury, illness and routine care.

Wondering how much it would cost to insure your Cairn Terrier if you got one? It’s quick and easy to get a pet insurance quote.
(Note: dogs must be over 8 weeks old to take out insurance, so please enter a birth date to reflect this when getting an indicative quote.)

November 23, 2017
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