Cairn Terrier

The Cairn Terrier is one of the oldest terrier breeds in Scotland, where it was used as a companion dog and rat hunter. Find out everything about the behavior, character, activity and exercise needs, training and care of the Cairn Terrier dog breed in the profile.

The Cairn Terrier is one of the oldest terrier breeds in Scotland, where it was used as a companion dog and rat hunter. Said to be among the ancestors of the Scottish and West Highland White Terriers, it was formerly known as the Skye Terrier before the two breeds were named separately. The Kennel Club gave it its new name in 1910.

General Appearance

This is how the breed standard describes a perfect Cairn Terrier: agile, attentive, willing to work and natural in appearance with a weatherproof coat. It is typical for him that he stands on his front paws and shows a clear tilt forward in his posture. A cairn can show its color in its fur: everything is allowed except for black and white.

Behavior and character

The cairn is characterized by the joy of movement. He is described in the latest breed standard as agile, attentive and willing to work. Being part of the lives of its people is the most important thing for the Cairn. He wants to accompany and not wait at home. Although he is independent, he is also affectionate and at times very cuddly, also child-friendly and alert without being a barker: overall an ideal family dog, which is also particularly intelligent and alert. Lust and happiness are also typical features of his character.

Need for employment and physical activity

An agile dog that appreciates leisurely walks as well as fast forest runs and agility games. Doing dog sports with him is also a good idea because you can redirect his hunting instinct to other tasks and objects. And of course an “exhausted” dog doesn’t come up with stupid ideas so quickly. He doesn’t need as much exercise as a large hunting dog or terrier, but more than other four-legged friends of this size.


The upbringing and training of a Cairn does not present any major difficulties if it is carried out with particular consistency and patience – typical for terriers – otherwise this dog will only react stubbornly. Like other terriers, this one also has a pronounced hunting instinct, which requires special attention during training.


Caring for the coat and paws (clipping the claws!) is not particularly time-consuming, but must not be neglected. Since a Cairn Terrier does not shed, the dead coat must be removed every few months.

Disease Susceptibility / Common Diseases

Stairs, steps, steep climbs are not for a cairn, it could damage its bone structure and joints. In isolated cases, cranio-mandibular osteopathy, a bone disease of the skull, can occur in young animals.

Did you know?

The Cairn Terrier’s name derives from the English word “carn” which means pile of stones. The Kennel Club gave the breed this unusual name because the dogs’ coats come in a variety of “stone colors.” In addition, the standard weight of the breed was given as 14 pounds for a long time, and this unit of measurement is also called “stone” in its homeland.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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