Cairn Terrier Breed Caring and Family, Social Life, Physical Traits, Diet Info

Cairn Terrier Breed Caring and Family, Social Life, Physical Traits, Diet Info

Cairn Terriers have their roots in Scotland, and they are often called Cairns for short. Traditionally, they served as vermin hunters keeping rockpiles, or cairns, rats and mouse free. However, their affectionate, cheerful and curious dispositions made them sought-after house pets and companion dogs. 

Cairn Terriers are short-legged, foxy-eared terriers with a big-dog personality and an endearingly scraggy coat. Their furry, cheeky faces with their bright eyes and black button noses were cute enough to win the breed the role of Toto in The Wizard of Oz! These spicy little pups are full of curiosity and energy, and they love to play with their people. 

Despite the fact that they have a lot of the traits commonly associated with terriers (a high prey drive, frequent barking, digging, and the inability to be trusted off-leash), they are easier to train than most terriers. Even so, they’re not the best choice for houses with small kids.

These dogs don’t require a lot of grooming and their coat should never be trimmed, but they do need to be hand stripped to remove dead hair. They are known to suffer a variety of health issues, but many of them can be avoided or lessened by proper lifestyle choices, and by selecting the puppy from a good breeder.

Cairn Terriers are classified as a small-sized dog breed of the terrier group, with an average weight of 16 pounds and typically around 11 inches high at the withers. They have between two and ten puppies per litter after about 60 days of pregnancy, and their lifespan is 12 to 15 years. Cairns have tough weatherproof coats. They are also known as Toto Dogs since the breed featured in The Wizard of Oz.

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What are the Breed Traits and Characteristics of Cairn Terriers?

The Cairn Terrier is a small dog, which is part of the appeal for owners in apartments or smaller homes. There are no significant differences between the size of females and males, both ranging from 10 to 11 inches tall as adults, and they weigh between 13 and 18 lbs. when fully grown.

Toto Dogs are known for their loving demeanors. However, when it comes to children, they are not comfortable with young kids who have not yet learned how to interact and respect a dog. They won’t appreciate the unsolicited hugs, and they don’t like to stay in someone’s lap unless they decide to. More of the Cairn breed’s traits and characteristics are listed in the table below.

Cairn Terrier Dog Breed Features

Cairn Terrier Dog Breed information


Males 10 to 13 inches 

Females 9 to 12 inches


Males 14 to 18 pounds

Females 13 to 17 pounds

Relation with family


Relation with children

Loveable – older children

Wary – young children

Relation with other dogs

Good, often too brave

Shedding level


Drooling level


Coat type 

Hard, weather-resistant double-coat with profuse harsh outer coat and short, soft, close furry undercoat

Coat length

Average – clipped or hand-stripped

Coat grooming frequency

Combing once or twice weekly.

Hand plucking 6-monthly

Relation with strangers


Playfulness level


Adaptability level

High – to different living environments

Openness to strangers


Trainability level

High –  but stubborn

Energy level

High – very energetic

Barking level

High – training can stop excessive barking

Mental stimulation needs level

High – to ease anxiety and sensitivity


12-15 years 

How Does the Cairn Terrier Interact with Family?

The Cairn Terrier is a breed that tends to remain puppy-like through life and into its golden years. Cairns are playful and love the interaction with older children, and they are wary of young children who are not yet aware of the do’s and don’ts of handling canines.

 The Toto Dog is great fun and will happily accompany your family on all your outdoor activities. However, Cairns are not fans of unsolicited cuddles, and they will only snuggle up in your lap when it is their wish, not yours. Instead, your Cairn will always be ready to be on the move with their family members because they never run out of energy. 

As with all Terriers, Cairns can be independent and stubborn, wanting to be the pack leader. Therefore, the dog owner must be firm enough to show the Cairn who is in charge. If you let him think he thinks he rules your home, then he will take the opportunity to do so. Early and regular training throughout his life is the key to a happy relationship with a well-behaved Cairn Terrier.

How Does the Cairn Terrier Interact with Other Dogs?

Cairns Terriers are typically very friendly when they encounter other dogs. However, their urge to be dominant could make them snappy with other dogs. Monitoring them during such encounters is key, but early training and socialization can prevent aggressive reactions to other dogs.

How are Cairn Terriers with Older People?

Cairn Terriers are good companion dog choices for senior persons. Toto dogs are very intelligent with more energy than most people would accept. They are extremely attentive and loyal, and when taken care of by a firm owner, they do extremely well. Even better, Cairn Terriers are amenable both to seniors and children, which makes them a big plus and reason for the grandkids to regularly visit with their grandparents.

How are Cairn Terriers with Children?

Although the natural instincts of Toto Dogs are to be wary of young children but be playful with older children, it is not set in stone. What determines how Cairn Terriers interact with young children is whether the puppy and the kids were raised together and whether early age socialization occurred. 

Opinions underscore the importance of early socialization. Some people say Cairn Terriers shouldn’t be in homes with small children, while others say Cairn Terriers naturally love little children. If young children learn to respect dogs, family dogs will usually be well behaved.

However, even if young kids and dogs were socialized, for the safety of your children and the Cairn pup, it is best never to leave them alone together. You don’t want to have to rescue your child from your Cairn or your Cairn from your child. Overall, Cairn Terriers make excellent family pets.

How are Cairn Terriers with Neighbors or Guests?

Despite their small size, Cairn Terriers are alert and effective watchdogs. Approaching or arriving guests will likely be announced by a lot of barking. Once guests are invited in, the Toto Dog might be shy and choose to withdraw. However, if the guests are neighbors or others with whom the Cairn is familiar, it would show excitement and jump up and down onto the lap of a favorite guest.  

What are the Physical Traits of the Cairn Terrier?

The Cairn Terrier is a rugged little dog with a shaggy coat, sharply pointed ears, large teeth, and dark eyes. He’s a bit longer than tall and has a natural tail, meaning it isn’t docked for length. His coat can be cream, deep red, brindle, light gray, or black.

Cairns appear hard-working and hardy. They have shaggy eyebrows above expressive, wide-set eyes. Cairn Terriers show a keen expression, and the small ears are held erect. The tail is carried high and erect but never curled over the back. Toto’s little body is muscular and strong, with sloped shoulders and strong legs and feet. The weather-resistant coat must include a hard, wiry outer coat and soft undercoat in any color except white. More of the Cairn Terrier’s physical traits are summarized in the table below:  


Trait information


Small Breed – Terrier Group Companion Type


Males 14 to 18 pounds

Females 13 to 17 pounds


Males 10 to 13 inches 

Females 9 to 12 inches

Skull/ Head

Broad in proportion to length with a decided stop with hair on the top of the head


Set wide apart, rather sunken, with shaggy eyebrows, medium in size, hazel or dark hazel in color


Small, pointed, well carried erectly, set wide apart on the side of the head. Free from long hairs.


Strong but not too long or heavy.




Teeth-Large, mouth neither overshot nor undershot


Requires plenty of exercises


12 to 15 years


Hard, weather-resistant double-coat with profuse harsh outer coat and short, soft, close furry undercoat

Coat color

Any color except white. Dark ears, muzzle and tail tip are desirable


The tail is set high carried erect


Straight with out-turned front feet, slightly larger than hind feet 

How to Feed a Cairn Terrier?

Your dog’s adult size determines its dietary needs through all life stages. Thus, base your Cairn Terrier’s diet on a small breed’s unique nutritional and digestive needs throughout its different life stages. Cairn Terriers fall in the small breed class, and most dog food companies have breed-specific formulas for small, medium, large, giant, and even toy breeds. 

It is always a good idea to discuss your dog’s dietary needs with your vet to ensure you are prepared to deal with age-related issues as your Toto Dog grows. A veterinarian can advise on diets, portion sizes, meal frequencies and all nutrition matters to ensure your furry friend lives a long life with optimal health. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times, and some of the essential nutrients are listed below:

  • Protein
  • Fatty acids
  • Carbohydrates
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins

Avoid feeding your Cairn from the table; all it does is add weight; instead, follow the advice below to ensure your furry friend’s optimal health.

Despite the Toto Dog’s small size, it is an active, athletic breed type, needing food that contains animal proteins and carbohydrates for energy, vitamins and minerals for digestive and immune health, and omega fatty acids for coat and skin wellness. A dog of this size, activity level, and demeanor will thrive best on premium dry food because this food type contains balanced portions of the above-listed ingredients.

Your Cairn Terrier’s portion depends on life stage, health, metabolism, activity level, and of course, the brand and formula of food it eats. For example, if your adult Cairn Terrier weighs about 17 to 18 pounds, you will need to feed it somewhere around 830 calories per day. 

Feed your Boykin Spaniel a food formulated for active and medium to large working dog breeds, recipes for puppies, adults and seniors, or look for a brand developed for all life stages. Feeding Boykin Spaniels several meals instead of one meal per day can prevent life-threatening bloat. However, fresh drinking water must always be available for your furry friend. When in doubt, consult your veterinarian.

 An example of premium food for Cairns and its benefits are listed below:

The best dog food for Cairn Terriers is Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet Small-Breed Adult Grain-Free Dry Dog Food.

Why Feed a Limited Ingredient Diet? Sometimes what’s NOT in your dog’s food is just as important as what is. Natural Balance realizes feeding your dog a simpler premium dry dog food diet with fewer ingredients gives you control of exactly which ingredients your dog eats. When you want to keep it simple, Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets provides a dog food option to help you feed your dog’s greatness. These Small Breed Bites are designed for smaller jaws and formulated to meet the unique nutritional needs of your dog. Every bite is packed with flavor and rich in nutrients, and the crunchy texture of this premium dry dog food helps promote clean teeth and healthy gum.

Below is a list of the benefits offered by the 25 Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet Recipes.

  • Protein-Packed: With responsibly sourced real meat as the first ingredient, these recipes are packed with animal protein for strong, lean muscles in small breed dogs.
  • Omegas 3 and 6: Naturally occurring omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids support skin and coat health.
  • Taurine: An important amino acid associated with heart muscle’s healthy function

When Cairn Terriers are healthy and active, every day is an adventure. That’s why Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet is crafted with everything dogs need to thrive, starting with real protein as the first ingredient.

How Much Should a Cairn Terrier Puppy Eat? 

Puppy Cairns need more calories than adults. The Cairn Terrier is a small breed whose puppies up to 6 pounds should get about a ¾-cup of food per day. It is essential not to feed puppies all their food at once, and they should have it spread throughout the day. When Toto Dog puppies become three months old, owners can provide them with three meals per day until they reach six months, reducing the food intake to 2 meals per day. Only high-quality and branded puppy food is acceptable. Guidance for feeding puppies is listed below.

  • Cairn Terrier puppies need slow, sustained growth to help prevent orthopedic problems, such as hip dysplasia. Raise them on a diet designed for small-breed puppies. Whatever diet you choose shouldn’t overemphasize protein, fat, and calorie levels.
  • Cairn Terrier should be fed according to a schedule, spreading meal times two or three times per day. Getting the puppy accustomed to meals at specific times is better than leaving food out to allow feeding throughout the day.
  • The exceptions are Cairn Terriers with medical conditions like hypoglycemia or low blood sugar because they need to nibble bits of food throughout the day.
  • Never feed your puppy from the table. It only encourages begging. Everyone in the family must follow this rule.

What are the Health Tests that a Cairn Terrier Should Take?

Cairn Terrier breeders should have the following health tests done:

DNA Tests covering 7 main categories

  • Musculoskeletal and Dental

  • Haemolymphatic

  • Skin and Immune

  • Urogenital

  • Metabolic and Endocrine

  • Ophthalmological

  • Neurological

  • Other tests and Xrays: Hip and Elbow Evaluation, Patella Check

  • General Health Check, including Heart, Vaccines, Fleas and Worms.

What are the common health problems of Cairn Terriers?

Cairn Terriers are widely recognized as a healthy and hardy breed. However, even healthy Toto Dog should have regular veterinarian checkups. Although the list of potential diseases is extensive, reputable, responsible breeders typically breed selectively to limit genetic diseases passed onto new puppies. Owners should ensure the following list of health conditions are monitored throughout the dog’s life.

  • Diabetes occurs when your dog’s body makes too little insulin, stops producing it completely, or has an abnormal response to insulin.
  • Hip dysplasia is a deformation that occurs and develops as Cairn Terrier puppies grow. It results from joints that prevent the ball part of one bone from sliding smoothly in the socket of the other joint bone. Instead, it grinds and rubs in the joint, causing painful wear and tear damage as the Toto Dog grows and becomes heavier. Although it could start in puppyhood, it usually only becomes evident in adult dogs, making annual medical examinations crucial.
  • Elbow Dysplasia When the growth of the elbow is disturbed, a condition called elbow dysplasia may ensue. While this condition is generally inherited, other factors, such as nutrition and exercise, also play a role in its development. Most dogs will display symptoms before the age of one – though some may not show any signs until they are several years old.
  • Patellar luxation occurs when the dog patella (kneecap), which normally sits on the groove of the femur (thighbone), shifts out of alignment. When luxation of the patella occurs, your dog may experience intermittent hind limb “skipping,” lameness, or a locking up of the limb at an odd angle.
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease: This relates to an abnormal formation of the hip joint. It usually shows early in the dog’s life, and corrective surgery can have good results.
  • Hypothyroidism: Insufficient production of thyroid hormone, causing hair loss, dry skin and coat, and susceptibility to other skin diseases in Cairn Terriers.
  • Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) or Gastric Torsion, also known as bloat, is a life-threatening disorder when a dog’s stomach fills with gas and becomes twisted. This is an emergency and requires urgent veterinary attention.
  • Liver shunts in dogs affect specific veins that usually carry blood to the liver, causing them to bypass the liver through an abnormal vessel, allowing blood to enter the body without undergoing this organ’s usual process to remove toxins.
  • Cryptorchidism is the medical term that refers to the failure of one or both testicles (testes) to descend into the scrotum. The testes develop near the kidneys within the abdomen and normally descend into the scrotum by two months of age. In certain dogs, it may occur later, but rarely after six months of age.

You can minimize serious health concerns in a Cairn Terrier by purchasing her from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices and screening for common diseases and conditions.

  • Various other eye conditions, including 
    • Lens Luxation (dislocation) In patients suffering from lens luxation (dislocation), the lens shifts out of position and moves either into the front or into the back of the eye. This condition can lead to Glaucoma and blindness.
    • Corneal ulceration– Ulcers caused by eye laceration may result from blunt trauma, such as a dog rubbing its eye on the carpet.
    • Distichiasis, or the presence of extra eyelashes, in dogs is a condition where hairs grow in an unusual area on the eyelid. The hairs will generally grow out of the meibomian glands at the lid of the eyelid.
    • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a progressive degenerative disease affecting the retina, leading to blindness.
    • Cataracts cause the eye(s) of the dog to have a cloudy appearance. Cataracts usually occur in old age and can be treated by surgically removing the cataract.

Are Cairn Terriers Hypoallergenic?

Yes, Cairn Terriers are hypoallergenic. These small dogs are exceptionally low on a dander-producing skin scale. All mammals shed dead skin cells, but Toto Dogs have few dermatological issues. With a coat that imprisons wayward flakes, they’re unlikely to drop onto your furniture and spark an allergic reaction.

Furthermore, your Cairn won’t be dropping allergy-inducing hair around your home. All dogs lose a little hair, especially when the seasons change. However, compared to many equally-sized pups, Cairn Terriers’ coats are impressively non-shedding. Like most terriers, these guys don’t require as much grooming as other types of dogs.

However, you will need to hand strip their coat. Hand stripping is a process by which the old, dead hair is pulled out from the rest of the coat, and dogs should be introduced to it at an early age. It’s important to learn how to hand strip a dog’s coat correctly to avoid discomfort because a bad experience can lead to negative associations that will make future grooming difficult. Never use clippers or shears on this breed, as it can damage their coat.

What are the Exercise Needs of a Cairn Terrier?

Cairn Terriers need lots of exercises to fit their active lives.  For Cairn Terriers, exercise is vital. These doggies are inherently playful, and if they’re deprived of sufficient activity, they become bored, listless, and destructive. Your Cairn needs about 30-40 minutes of daily walking. For best results, you should break it into two excursions, at the beginning and end of the day, which are the times they have boundless energy.

Unlike larger companion dogs, Toto Dog’s legs are not designed for jogging, so walkies would have to do the trick. Sufficient exercise keeps them mentally and physically healthy and it is a must if you want to keep your Cairn Terrier healthy. This breed is naturally curious so keep your pup on a leash. They still have their vermin chasing instincts, and anything small and moving can trigger the chase. 

If not, Cairns run off to explore. Only take the leash off in enclosed areas where they can’t escape. Playing catch, going for runs, and long/short walks are all excellent ways to keep your Cairn Terrier active. Overall, try to mix up your exercise regimen to give your pup new challenges.

What are the nutritional needs of Cairn Terriers?

The nutritional needs of a Cairn Terrier include high levels of specific nutrients. The essential nutrients for the Toto Dog are listed below.

  • Protein: Cairn Terriers need natural animal protein, valuable for the amino acids essential for Cairn’s health. Equally important is the fact that protein builds lean muscles and provides energy.
  • Fat: Animal protein provides adequate fat, an additional energy source that boosts the Cairn Terrier’s metabolism. However, there is a fine line between enough and too much. Excessive fat levels in the dog’s daily diet could result in weight gain and, ultimately, obesity. Most importantly, adults and senior Cairn Terriers need lower fat levels than puppies.
  • Carbohydrates: Although carbs are not essential nutrients, they are crucial energy sources. Giving the Cairn Terrier sufficient carbs will provide energy, encouraging the body’s protein absorption to build lean muscle. Beware, though, too much carbohydrate can lead to obesity.
  • DHA: DHA is one of the components of omega-3 fatty acids. It promotes proper eye and brain development in Cairn Terrier puppies, and DHA develops cognitive development in puppies and slows cognitive decline in older dogs. Furthermore, omega fatty acids benefit aging Toto Dogs by treating chronic kidney disease and canine arthritis. Omega-3 oils improve the coat health of the Cairn Terrier.
  • Micronutrient: Taurine is one micronutrient that aids heart health, and other valuable micronutrients for promoting strong joints in Cairn Terriers are chondroitin and glucosamine.
  • Minerals: Beneficial minerals for a Cairn Terrier’s growth include a healthy balance of phosphorus and calcium. Pre- and probiotics and chelated minerals provide additional health to the diets of Toto Dogs.

What is the Shedding Level of Cairn Terriers?

Luckily, Cairn Terriers shed very little, making them highly hypoallergenic. The wiry-coated types hardly drop any hairs at all. Although still low shedders, the smoother varieties will lose some hair in spring and fall.

What is the Coat Grooming Frequency of Cairn Terriers?

Cairn Terriers don’t require as much grooming as most other dog types. Deep combing through the outer coat and into the inner layer of dense fur against the skin is necessary two or three times per week. 

However, you will need to hand strip their long coarse outer coat hairs at least every six months. Hand stripping is a process by which the old, dead hair is pulled out from the rest of the coat, and dogs should be introduced to it at an early age. It’s essential to learn how to hand strip a dog’s coat correctly to avoid discomfort because a bad experience can lead to negative associations that will make future grooming difficult. Never use clippers or shears on this breed, as it can damage their coat. Shaping the coat by plucking out dead hairs every six months is required to keep it tidy.

Clipper cutting a Cairn Terrier typically leaves the dog looking ‘too groomed’ and destroys the texture of the coat. Hand stripping is the correct grooming method for this breed because it maintains the color and texture of the coat. It’s been done for ages, way before electric clippers became available. However, for those Toto parents who do not necessarily want their furry friends’ hair to look authentic, clipping them is perfectly acceptable.

Coat grooming is essential for various reasons, as listed below.

  • Grooming gives your dog a healthy look and promotes hygiene. 
  • Proper grooming lowers the risks of matting.
  • Your Cairn Terrier smells nice through grooming, thus raising the hygiene conditions.
  • Grooming promotes the growth and development of a lustrous and shiny coat that makes your dog attractive.
  • Grooming allows you to check for fleas and take early preventive and treatment measures.
  • Proper grooming lowers the risks of ear infections since you can check the ears and wipe them dry after grooming regularly.
  • While grooming, you can check for any skin problems and alert the vet before they worsen.
  • Grooming boosts the bond between you and your Cairn Terrier Dog.

To lower the grooming frequencies, you should keep your dog’s surroundings clean and the coat short. Your dog should be calm during grooming. Short walks will calm your dog, thus ensuring they remain still during the grooming process. You can also give your Cairn Terrier their favorite treat to munch on while you groom them. Grooming must be enjoyable and a stress-free process for your Cairn Terrier.

What is the Drooling Level of Cairn Terriers?

The drooling level of Cairn Terriers is low, and they are not slobbery dogs at all. Just a quick heads-up. Cairn Terriers tend to show their love by licking, aimed mainly at their primary pet parent. However, early training can discourage them from overwhelming you with doggie kisses if this is an issue.

However, drooling is a natural process, and if your canine companion drools more than usual, it might indicate a health problem to report to your vet. The primary triggers of drooling are listed below:

  • The thought of delicious meals like a favorite treat or meat
  • Mouth and throat problems like fractures in the mouth, throat, or esophagus. Plaque build-up can also irritate the mouth and cause excessive saliva. Moreover, a foreign object stuck in the throat prevents swallowing, thus causing drooling. Growth in the mouth also stimulates drooling.
  • Stomach upsets.
  • Excessive heat, especially during summer
  • The main symptom of diseases like kidney disease, liver problems, seizures, botulism, and rabies is drooling.
  • Motion sickness and anxiety. Dogs who do not like traveling will get anxious whenever they board a car. Stress makes dogs pant and breathe with their mouths open, thus causing drooling.
  • Excitement and agitation make dogs drool.
  • Sexual excitement, like when a male Cairn spots a female Toto Dog in heat, causes drooling. Likewise, a female in her heat cycle might drool if she picks up the scent of a male.

What is the Coat Type of the Cairn Terrier?

Cairn Terriers have a unique double coat. The coat is insulating, water-shedding and dirt repellent. An ungroomed Cairn has a long, shaggy coat that ‘drops’ if grabbed. This was a useful method for working terriers, but most Cairns today are no longer working dogs needing that shaggy look and are easiest to care for if kept groomed. Regular grooming helps prevent skin irritation and matting. Grooming can be by stripping or clipping.

What are the Social Traits of the Cairn Terrier Breed?

The social traits of the Cairn Terrier are affection, playfulness, friendliness, and possessive nature. The Cairn Terriers are intelligent and learn fast, but they can be bored with long training sessions. Toto Dogs are fun-loving and have the charm to lighten you up when you are not in a happy mood. Their playfulness and desire to please make them fun to be with. You can enjoy their antics wherever you go as they are small and easy to carry around. Clowns used Cairn Terrier Dogs to entertain people, and they still possess the ability to make people laugh. Other social traits of Cairn Terriers are listed below.

  • Elderly-friendly: Cairn Terriers love playing with the elderly. However, they are highly energetic and may exhaust the seniors if playtime is long. In addition, Toto Dogs enjoy playing rough and can easily overwhelm older people with mobility problems.
  • Children-friendly: Cairn Terriers enjoy running around or chasing after children. Caution should be taken for younger children as Toto Dogs play rough and injure younger children. In addition, Cairn Terriers are fragile, and younger children might easily hurt them as they may not know how to handle them gently, and your Toto Dog might bite to protect itself.
  • Family-friendly: Cairns are friendly and easygoing. Cairn Terriers can make a good match for a household with children if both dog and kids are appropriately supervised. They’re lively dogs who love to play, but if games become too rough may bite or injure a child. The Cairn is possessive when it comes to their family or owners. They love getting involved in everything the family members are doing. Their intense loyalty to family and possessive nature makes it easy for owners to command them.
  • Cat-friendly: Cairn Terriers get along great with other animals, including cats. Of course, each dog and cat has its own preferences and temperament. Still, you can feel reasonably confident your Cairn and other pets will get on just fine, especially if they were all raised together or socialized at a young age. However, even domesticated Toto Dogs have an innate trait to chase anything that moves, so hamsters and other small critters won’t be safe.
  • Cautious with strangers: Cairn Terriers are usually as friendly to strangers as their own families. They are good watchdogs only because they will bark to warn their owners as soon as any strangers approach. However, their barking will not be aggressive enough to threaten anyone. After initial barking, your Cairn Terrier might welcome the strangers with a wagging tail. 

How Do Cairn Terriers Interact with Strangers?

Cairn Terriers are wary and standoffish when they encounter strangers. Toto Dogs typically bark excessively upon noticing strangers, but if their owners invite those strangers into their homes, Cairns would likely welcome them with wagging tails.

Is the Cairn Terrier Playful?

Yes, Cairns are playful, and if there are no human playmates, they will be quite pleased playing with other dogs in the family or toys. When a Cairn is happy, though, he loves to romp and play and will amuse his family by tearing through the house or running in circles around the yard for the sheer joy of it. Toto Dogs usually get along well with other pets.

Are Cairn Terriers Protective?

Yes, Cairn Terriers are highly protective of their property and human family members. They make excellent watchdogs, but they make poor guard dogs. They can bark excessively if not properly trained. Regardless of the size discrepancy, they can show aggression if threatened by a stranger or another dog and are fearless.

What is the Adaptability Level of Cairn Terriers?

Cairn Terriers are highly adaptable. Even if they are relocated from a farm or a ranch to an apartment in the city, they will quickly adapt if the move does not separate them from their human families. 

Apartments are suitable accommodation for Cairns because they can make their own playground indoors. If you take your Toto Dog out for a couple of 30-minute walks per day, it would be sufficient to keep your furry friend stimulated, in shape, and happy. Part of the exercise time could be spent playing indoor games or taking the play to a nearby park.

What are the Personality Traits of Cairn Terrier?

Alert and intelligent Cairn Terriers are loyal little dogs with a true Terrier temperament. The attention-loving Cairn’s personality is often bigger than her body. Usually cheerful and affectionate, Cairns are happiest when included in the day-to-day activities of the home. They’re assertive and prefer to make their own choices but are responsive to gentle correction and praise.

Can Cairn Terriers be Aggressive?

Yes, Cairn Terriers can be aggressive, but the one facing their wrath would likely not be a person, but it could be a cat, hamster or a similar fluff ball. Toto Dogs are less scrappy than some other terrier breeds, but they are still a determined force to reckon with if they decide to initiate or accept a challenge to fight. Most terriers have strong instincts to chase and seize small fleeing creatures, but again Cairns are often less intense about this. For example, they’re usually fine with your cat. But don’t push your luck with a hamster.

Can Cairn Terriers be Dangerous?

No, the Cairn Terrier is not a dangerous dog, and they are friendly dogs but are not suitable for inexperienced owners owing to their obstinate nature.

Do Cairn Terriers Ever Attack?

Toto Dogs often display small-dog syndrome. They are not shy to show aggression toward other dogs, even several times their size. However, it would be mostly a show of teeth and lots of barking, but they are not likely to attack.

Can Cairn Terriers Kill Humans?

No, Cairn Terriers are not likely to kill humans. Although their innate skills are to hunt, the most significant kill would likely be a fat rat or mouse. However, parents should never allow very young children to play with Cairns without supervision. Small dogs will typically fear injuries caused by young kids who are too small to know that ear, tail, or hair-pulling is disrespectful. If no one is around to save the puppy from being hurt, the Toto Dog might launch a fear attack.

Do Cairn Terriers cope with being left alone?

Cairn Terriers form strong bonds with their human families, and their happiness depends on the presence of their humans. If a Toto Dog favors one family member and that person has to run an errand, leaving the pup with other family members at home would be okay.  

Can Cairn Terriers be left alone for 8 hours?

Cairns Terriers thrive on their interaction with their human families. Therefore, leaving them alone for extended periods could be traumatizing, and they can become bored at such times, which leads to destructive or annoying behaviors like barking, digging, or chewing.

How to Train a Cairn Terrier?

While intelligent, the Cairn Terrier is manipulative and stubborn. It has a mind of its own and isn’t afraid to use it. Positive reinforcement methods are ideal for this sensitive breed. Though they pick up on basic training quickly, they aren’t often willing to perform for you unless it was their idea. They can be dramatic when leash training, so start early. Toto Dogs may be slow to housebreak like most small breeds because they can’t hold it as long as larger breeds can. Crate training may help with housetraining. Socialization should be a top priority to help curb extreme shyness.

How Frequently does a Cairn Terrier Bark?

Cairn Terriers are vocal dogs and bark whenever they see unfamiliar people or pets. Their barking levels are, however, moderate. For many dogs, the triggers for barking include loneliness, threats, excitement, being territorial, attention-seeking, and even frustrations. There are different bark types based on the situation.

Below is a list of bark types that owners will learn to recognize. 

  • Cairn Terriers hate being left alone, and one way of coping with loneliness is barking. 
  • A lack of exercise and anxiety can also trigger barking.
  • Alarm barking is when your Cairn is barking as a way of alerting you of approaching danger. Alarm barking can save you from danger; however, Cairns may bark before ascertaining that there is a real danger.  
  • Another type of barking is demand barking, where a Cairn feels entitled to something or your attention and would bark as a way of demanding their rights. This type can be lowered through proper training and ignoring the barking.
  • The Cairn Terrier uses arousal barking to show their frustrations.
  • Boredom barking signals that your Cairn Terrier is tired or bored due to being left alone or infrequent exercises. 
  • Frequent barking can be a nuisance to both the owner and neighbors. Some types of barking tend to be monotonous and continuous. 

You can train your Cairn to stop barking by using positive and negative motivators.

  • Whenever Cairns start barking, command them to be quiet and if they obey, reward them with their favorite treat or toy. If they disobey your command, you can withdraw some benefits like not giving them their best toy.
  • Engage your dog in their favorite activity or exercise. Tired Toto Dogs might sleep while you are away.
  • Look for attractive toys that would keep your Cairn Terrier busy while you are away.
  • Continuous barking might call for a visit to the vet.

What is the need for Mental Stimulation of a Cairn Terrier?

The need for mental stimulation of a Cairn Terrier is essential as it lowers the risks of destructive behaviors resulting from boredom. Cairns are smart and learn fast, and they need regular mental stimulation. The playful and intelligent nature of Cairns further calls for frequent mental activity. There are different ways of mentally stimulating your Cairn, and some of them are listed below.

  • Playing with interactive games or toys, including dog puzzles and canine board games.
  • Encourage sniffing during regular evening walks.
  • Provide healthy chews like dehydrated sweet potato strips. Chewing for more extended periods calms the brain, thus lowering stress levels.
  • Hide and seek games
  • Drop and fetch games
  • Regular walks

These mental stimulation techniques should start at an early stage. Cairn Terriers who are eight years and older tend to have problems with their thinking ability. The primary signs of mental disorientation are listed below.

  • Excessive anxiety.
  • Frequent accidents.
  • Failure to recall previously learned commands.
  • Changes in sleep and wake patterns.
  • Low interest in physical activities.
  • Poor social skills.

What are the Breed Standards of Cairn Terrier?

In an article first printed in the Cairn Terrier Association Yearbook in 1966, Mrs. Drummond, who owned the 1952 Cairn Terrier Champions, Blencathra Clivegreen Timothy and Blencathra Pipit.

Described the breed as follows:” It must be said that our breed is first a ‘ Cairn, ‘ he has a characteristic head with a wide skull, deep but not long muzzle, straight front, thick pads, and strong pasterns. And should move with power in his hindquarters. His special charm is his character and expression, keen, enquiring, understanding, but with the faraway look, as though seeing across the hills of his “ AIN COUNTREE. “ He gives loyalty to his friends who love him wherever they are.”

Some of the breed standards of Cairn Terriers are given in the table below.

Breed Standards 

Cairn Terrier Breed Information 


Any color except white


Cairn Terriers are classified as a small breed

Eye Color 

The color of the Cairn Terriers’ eyes is hazel or dark hazel, set wide apart and prominent with long black eyelashes.

Average Weight 

Males 14 to 18 pounds

Females 13 to 17 pounds

Average Height

Males 10 to 13 inches 

Females 9 to 12 inches

Average lifespan 

Cairn Terrier Dogs have a lifespan of 12 to15 years

What is the General Information about Cairn Terrier?

Looking at famous Cairn Terriers, the most notable Cairn is Terry, who played Toto in the Wizard of Oz. Liza Minelli may be the most famous person to own a Cairn. Growing up,  Liza had a Cairn Terrier named Lily, and her love for her dog came from Judy Garland, her mother. Remember Terry played Toto and Judy Garland played Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. 

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the tough Cairn Terrier in 1913, but her ancestors were the terrier types developed in Scotland centuries ago. The Cairn Terrier was bred to be a sturdy, hardworking dog with plenty of drive and stamina, and its primary duty was to rid farms of foxes and rodents.

These rugged little terriers are named after the piles of stones or cairns used to mark memorials and pathways. The Cairn Terrier was used to go into these stacked stone formations to catch mice, rats, and other critters. The wiry, thick coat is weather-resistant, perfect for working in Scotland’s harsh, wet conditions. This energetic, playful breed exhibits the dutiful nature of its predecessors and is known to chase critters, bark, and dig, so leashed walks and fences are recommended.

For those who consider bringing a Cairn Terrier home, first ensure your backyard is secure. Toto Dogs are Houdini-like escape artists, and Cairns can climb and dig better than most dogs, so you should be sure your fence is high and deep. If you need to expel any additional energy, dog sports and agility competitions are well suited to this small breed.

As a breed, Cairn Terriers are at risk of disappearing altogether if action is not taken. In 2019, the Cairn Terrier Club of Canada introduced the Certificate of Breeding Quality Program as one strategy to help sustain and promote breeding.

Where to Buy or Adopt a Cairn Terrier?

If you are looking to bring a Cairn Terrier, you should not be in a rush. The only “purebreds” available upon request are bred on puppy farms. The more realistic way is to put your name on a waiting list, and while you’re waiting, learn as much as you can about this giant dog in the cutest little body.

Finding a reputable breeder or rescue facility is crucial. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy and will, without question, have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. They are more interested in placing pups in suitable homes than making big bucks. 

Be wary of breeders who only tell you the good things about the breed. Before buying a Cairn Terrier puppy, it would be wise to review the information listed below.

  • Learn as much as you can about how the breeder raises puppies.
  • Look for red flags indicating poor breeding practices and the risk of poor-quality puppies.
  • Avoid impulse buys and quick decisions.
  • Know the indicators of puppy scams like continuously available puppies and two-for-the-price-of-one offers.

Cairn Terrier puppies are adorable, and it’s one of the reasons they are so popular. Cute puppies sell, and that makes the Cairn a favorite of puppy mills and greedy, irresponsible breeders. Do your homework before buying one of these little dogs, and you’ll be well rewarded with a wonderful companion dog.

The best way to ensure you get a healthy Cairn Terrier puppy from a breeder or a rescue organization is to reach out to the registered organizations for the specific breed, if available. Although this breed is reasonably rare, the Cairn Terrier is recognized by the AKC, UKC, and FIC, listed below, along with other registered kennel clubs that might put potential Cairn owners in touch with reputable breeders 

  • Fédération Cynologique Internationale (International)
  • United Kennel Club (International)
  • The Kennel Club (United Kingdom)
  • American Kennel Club
  • American Cairn Terrier Association
  • Australian National Kennel Council
  • New Zealand Kennel Club
  • Club Espanol De Terriers
  • Europetnet
  • Cairn Terrier Club of Canada
  • Canadian Kennel Club
  • Continental Kennel Club
  • United All Breed Registry
  • International Canine Association

If you manage to track down Cairn Terrier breeders, make sure you go to the facility and insist on meeting both the puppies’ parents so that you can get a feel for their temperament. Cairn Terrier puppies are often peppy and playful—all should have cheery expressions and kind eyes.

It might take some time to find a legitimate breeder, and travel may very well be in the cards. Steer clear of backyard breeding by avoiding sales sites and ad pages. When you select a breeder, make sure they have proof of successful, healthy litters with any documentation necessary.

Although you might find a Cairn Terrier puppy or a rescued adult to adopt or buy from abroad, not all countries allow importing adopted dogs. Those whose countries will enable the importation of Cairn Terriers may find the logistics challenging. 

Procedures include obtaining certification from a vet to prove the Cairn Terrier is fully vaccinated and providing all the additional required veterinary documents before the travel. Furthermore, your country must approve the veterinarian to authorize the importation, and it will be your responsibility to ensure you use the services of a certified vet.

What are the Rescue Clubs for Cairn Terriers?

There are millions of homeless dogs worldwide; many are purebreds needing homes. Adopting a Cairn Terrier can be life-changing, not only for the dog but also for the adopter. 

If you prefer adoption over purchasing a pup from a breeder, then your first stop should be the National Cairn Terrier Rescue website. A Cairn Terrier rescue group is an excellent idea if you want to adopt an older dog or even a Cairn Terrier mix.

If you are looking for a purebred (or almost purebred) Cairn Terrier, try a dedicated Cairn Terrier rescue instead because they will, hands down, have the most varied selection.

You can also reach out to your local rescue organization or animal shelter and ask if they have any Cairn Terriers or related mixes available for adoption. If not, you can always put your name on a list so that when one comes in, you’re the first one they call.

Below is a list of registered rescue centers and kennel clubs

  • Canada Guide To Dogs (National Cairn Terrier Rescue, Inc.)
  • Canada Cairn Terrier Dog Rescue Group
  • Cairn Terrier Rescue Scotland
  • American Cairn Terrier Association

What is the History of the Cairn Terrier?

The Cairn Terrier was developed as early as the 1600s from a terrier type in Scotland known as the Scotch Terrier. These terriers were used to dig into cairns, or man-made rock formations, to rid them of rodents.

Eventually, the Scotch Terrier split into two classes, Dandie Dinmont Terrier and Skye Terrier, and the Cairn was considered the Skye Terrier type. It wasn’t until 1912 that the Cairn Terrier was designated as a separate breed—the name ‘Short-Coated Skye Terrier’ was considered, though Skye Terrier breeders took issue with the name as they felt it would cause confusion.

The American Kennel Club recognized the Cairn Terrier in 1913.

What is the Average Maintenance Cost for Cairn Terriers?

Cairn Terriers are reasonably rare, even in their home country. The prices of Cairn Terriers range between $800 to $2,000. The cost of a puppy from a registered breeder could vary, depending on the breeder you select, the location, the sex of the puppy, and, of course, the demand for the breed at the time. 

The bloodline of the puppy and its parents could also affect the price. You will be hard-pressed to find this breed in a shelter, but if you do, the price could be $300 to $400, based on the cost of care provided while keeping the Cairn Terrier.

It is always best to consider annual expenses related to maintaining your Cairn Terrier and its wellbeing before making the purchase. The first year will be the most expensive, as puppies require extra vet care and more one-time purchases like microchips, spaying or neutering, etc. You can expect to spend about $4,500 for your dog’s first year. After that, the price will go down to about $1,300 a year.  

The typical annual costs of having a medium-sized canine such as a Cairn Terrier will not necessarily be much less than a larger dog. In fact, medical expenses throughout the Cairn’s life could be more than average because the breed is predisposed to many health problems. 

Except for the lower food volumes, vaccinations, microchips, and other expenses are the same, regardless of the dog’s size. Food and medical only, excluding toys, food and water bowls, cages, doggy blankets, beds, etc., could cost an average of $650. The most regular annual expenses for dogs similar to the Cairn Terrier are listed below.

  • Food items
  • Veterinary care
  • Vaccinations
  • Preventive medicine
  • Toys
  • Pet insurance
  • Pet Supplies

Other potential expenses include training, socializing, doggy daycare, dog sitters, dog walkers, etc. Grooming would only affect the maintenance costs of Cairn Terriers because the weekly grooming is minimal. The Cairn Terrier does not tend to drool excessively; in fact, the breed hardly ever drools. Drooling is the unintentional saliva flowing outside of the mouth. The Cairn Terrier has a moderate risk of obesity, especially if working dogs become house pets with insufficient exercise. Daily walks should be on schedule. To make your dog happy and fit, feed him with premium quality dry dog food and live an active life together.

How to Name a Cairn Terrier?

Choosing a name for your Cairn Terrier involves essential building blocks, including the significance of the sound. The Cairn’s name will mean something to the humans in the dog’s life, but as far as your canine companion goes, only the sound matters. Cairn Terriers respond best to two-syllable names that are not short enough to be confused with single-syllable command words like “sit,” stay,” “come,” and “down.” However, the names should not be long enough to become puzzling.

It is always a good idea not to rush into choosing a name. Spend a week or so with your new Cairn pup, and its character traits might be all the inspiration you need. Call out any name ideas, using different tones and sounds for the two syllables, and watch your puppy’s reaction to the sound. Remember, you must compose a sound that your Cairn will recognize from a distance, among many other sounds. 

Choose a name that could sound different in regular interaction and yelling or calling your Cairn Terrier. Below is a list of names inspired by the breed’s road to fame.

Cairn Terrier Breed Names

Inspired by the Cairn’s Wizard of Oz fame

Cairn Terrier  Boy Names

Cairn Terrier Girl Names


Honor the Cairn’s road to fame


Honor the star in Wizard of Oz


Honor the lead male Jack Haley, who played the role of the Wizard


The real-life name of Toto


Frank Morgan was the Gatekeeper in Wizard of Oz


Toto’s owner in Wizard of Oz


Charley Grapewin was Uncle Henry in Wizard of Oz


Judy Garland played Dorothy


Buster Brodie was the Winged Monkey in Wizard of Oz


Liza Minelli, Judy’s daughter, owned a Cairn Terrier pet as a child


Mickey Carroll was a Munchkin Fiddler in Wizard of Oz


Name of Liza Minelli’s childhood pet Cairn

What are the Different Types of Cairn Terriers?

At one time, all the terriers from the Scottish Isle of Skye were considered the same breed, so when they began to be shown in dog shows in the 1870s, the Cairn and several others were grouped together as Scotch terriers. 

In 1881 the Scotch terriers were divided into Dandie Dinmont and Skye terriers, with Cairns in the Skye terrier group. By the end of that year, the Skye terrier group was subdivided into Skye and hard-haired terriers, with Cairns in the latter.

Eventually, the Hard-haired Terriers were again divided into three breeds, which would become the Scottish, West Highland White, and Cairn Terriers.

What Dog Breeds are Similar to the Cairn Terrier?

Cairn Terriers are not easy to find and purebreds are expensive and involve long waiting lists. Finding a Toto Dog at a rescue center might be an equally challenging process. However, below is a list of similar breeds that might be a good match for your family.

  • Bedlington Terrier: Like Cairn Terriers, Bedlington Terriers have a bold and confident temperament. Due to them being hyperactive, train your pet at an early age. These dogs are highly active and intelligent.
  • Bolognese Dog: Like Cairn Terriers, Bolognese Dogs are small in size. They’re typically ten to twelve inches tall and weigh between five and a half and nine pounds. They’re hypoallergenic and make great family dogs.
  • Chihuahua: Besides being a small dog, the Chihuahua has similar characteristics to a Cairn Terrier. They both share huge personalities, and the Chihuahua loves being around its family and loved ones. They’re very loyal and feisty like Cairns.

Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady is an animal lover and the proud dog-mom of a Golden Retriever named Brody and an Italian Greyhound named Jessup. Unfortunately, Jessup developed serious allergies to many different types of dog foods and ingredients when she was just a puppy. Meanwhile, Brody could eat seemingly anything and carry on as healthy as could be. Sarah spent hours of time researching and testing different foods and brands before finding something that worked for little Jessup. She wants Dog Food Care to simplify this experience for future dog-parents who face food allergy or tolerance issues of their own.