A Cairn Terrier: the right dog for me?
The Cairn Terrier is a very old breed of dog that has its merit in small game hunting and as a family dog. They are known for their cheerful, assertive, uncomplicated and active nature and are a perfect partner for active people living in the city. A big advantage of this dog breed is that they hardly shed. Yet they are not suitable for everyone.
- Height at the withers: 28 to 31 centimeters
- Weight: 6 to 7.5 kilograms
- Coat care: average, trim (??)
- Movement: reasonable
- Nutrition: little
- Character: cheerful, fearless, intelligent
The cairn terrier is probably one of the oldest terrier breeds and originated in the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye. They were sent into the typical cairns that demarcated pastures and properties, the ‘cairns’, to hunt small game such as rodents (rabbits, hares, rats, …) and predators (weasels, foxes, martens, badgers, …). .). They were real working dogs that immediately grabbed their prey and did not let go, often resulting in rapid death of the prey. For that reason they were bred with strong tails, so that the owner could pull the dog out of the cairns by the tail with the prey in his grip. They can also be seen in very old paintings as companion dogs of the Scottish and British nobility and wealthy bourgeoisie.
Bloodlines of the cairn terrier gave birth to the West Highland white terrier and the Scottish terrier. The breed existed much earlier than the Sky Terrier, but due to lack of name, the short-haired Sky Terrier was first chosen. However, this name was declined by the Kennel Club due to possible confusion with the Sky Terrier, which had comparisons to the Cairn Terrier but was a different breed nonetheless. It was not until 1912 that Kennel Club permission was granted to breed the cairn terrier as a separate breed of dog.
Well-known individuals with a love of the dog breed included J. Edgar Hoover (FBI’s first director) and HRH Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor (formerly King of the United Kingdom and Emperor of the Indies, stepped down in 1936).
The cairn terrier has a shaggy and water-resistant coat that consists of a rough top coat and a soft undercoat. The colors vary from cream to red and gray to almost black. However, they do not exist in white. By the way, they have a sturdy tail that comes straight up when the dog has drawn its attention to something. The pointed ears on the small head give the cairn terrier a spicy appearance.
The cairn terrier needs to be trimmed on average every 3 to 4 months. Regular grooming ensures that the cairn terrier practically does not shed. If the dog starts to moult more, it is often time for a trim. Old hairs are picked by hand from the root so that new hairs can grow that protect the dog against water and dirt. This must be done by a professional and must therefore be included in the cost. Wrong picking is very uncomfortable, often even painful for the dog and causes stress making it more and more difficult. Cutting or shaving the hair in this breed is out of the question. For example, the outer coat is damaged and the dog is not resistant to cold and rain. In addition, the old hair remains that way, which causes itching, skin irritation and molting. Even after a thorough grooming, the dog’s coat is supposed to look a little messy. Due to their double coat, they sometimes take some sand and dirt inside. A gentle brushing after walking can prevent this.
Temperament and character
Because of his intelligence he is not difficult to educate. The cairn terrier requires a consistent and honest upbringing. A cairn terrier allowed to dominate the household often develops behavioral problems.
The Cairn Terrier is, like most dogs, a social dog and well suited as a family dog. They are generally good with children. They are a tireless companion with a cheerful disposition and an impressively loud bark. However, they may find it a little more difficult with other animals. Congeners are usually not a problem, but smaller animals such as rabbits, chickens, rodents and cats are hunted and if they are not quickly enough killed effectively. Don’t forget that they were bred to be real killers. Once they are on the trail, they no longer listen to their owner’s orders and their instincts take over. They are also lightning fast for their size.
Cairn terriers are happy in a house with a garden as well as in an apartment. In either case, daily walks are essential to keep the dog happy and healthy. They enjoy going shopping as much as going to the beach or the forest. Moreover, they are independent in their behavior and at the same time very affectionate towards people. They keep a good watch, but are more likely to welcome rather than chase strangers away. Because of their independence, they dare if they get the chance to explore the world and meet new people. A fence around the garden and a leash are therefore recommended.
Moreover, they are busy owners. That means that as an owner you have to spend a lot of time on it. Making the dog wait every workday until you come home exhausted will make the dog unhappy and lead to behavioral problems such as separation anxiety and destructiveness.
Cairn terriers are not big eaters. They can get by on little food. That doesn’t mean they won’t accept treats. Too much food will also be eaten. Do not leave a filled food bowl. If they leave food behind, you have given too much. Then take it away too. The finger always points in the direction of the owner as the culprit for his dog’s overweight. For that reason it is better to give small amounts a few times a day. It is important to measure the amount of food correctly based on the size and the amount of movement of the dog. Dog food with grains or rice (often referred to as vegetable by- or residual products on the packaging) is absolutely not suitable for the cairn terrier, and in fact not for any dog. Prefer to choose quality food with a high percentage (minimum 70%) of pure meat. You will usually not find this in the supermarket but in pet stores or on the internet. It is more expensive, but it will keep your cairn terrier at the right weight and healthy. That in turn saves veterinary costs, but especially the lifespan and quality of life of your dog.
Cairn Terriers are active dogs and need daily exercise. Besides nutrition, exercise is the only remedy for obesity. You can see it immediately on the dog if the owner fails. In addition, a dog that gets a lot of exercise is a happy dog. They love to play, such as fetch.
The Cairn Terrier is an uncomplicated and tireless dog with a cheerful disposition. They can live in a house with a garden as well as in an apartment if they get the necessary exercise. Attention to exercise and nutrition ensures that the breed can live very old, sometimes even over 20 years old. It is a great family dog that is sweet to children but less to other animals than dogs. Moreover, they barely shed if they receive the necessary coat care from a professional.
Do you have enough free time to work with the dog on a daily basis and to give it the necessary exercise, through wind and weather? Are you consistent and friendly in parenting? Do you have no animals other than dogs in the house or are they safely away? Are you willing to spend money on proper nutrition and care for your dog? And do you have a warm family, small or large, that likes to see animals? Then the cairn terrier is definitely something for you!