Known as “the Scottie Dog”…
These little dogs have a well-earned reputation for being a hard working, “scrappy” dog breed that isn’t afraid of anything (think Wizard of Oz and the wicked witch!)
They’re also a highly intelligent dog breed, who will quickly become a loyal family member soon after being adopted and brought into the home.
For these reasons…
We here at IndulgeYourPet think that they’ll make a perfect addition to just about any home. However, we do need to warn you that we’re also guilty of having a particular “sweet spot” for these amazing little guys which is why our following review may seem a bit “biased”!
But don’t fret…
Because the last thing that we would want to have happen is for one of these little “rock stars” to end up going to the wrong home.
And by a “wrong home”, we mean a home that isn’t best suited for their needs.
While the Cairn Terrier is a fantastic dog breed, they may not be right for everyone. This is why in this article, we’re going to try to cover both the pros and cons of owning a Cairn Terrier so that ultimately you can decide for yourself if getting one is the right choice for you.
Origin of the Cairn Terrier
The Cairn Terrier is an old dog breed dating back to the 15th century on the Isle of Skye just off the West coast of Scotland. For this reason, you’re likely to encounter folks calling Cairn Terriers by all sorts of names. Names such as:
- Sky Terriers,
- Short haired Sky Terrier
- And/or Scottish Terriers as well.
It wasn’t until 1912 that the Cairn Terrier actually received it’s official title by the American Kennel Club.
Now the good news is…
That when a dog has such a long history, we can use this history to get a better idea about what “kind” of dog they will be for you when and if you decide to adopt a Cairn Terrier puppy.
These dogs where bred for 100’s of years for a very specific purpose, and in the case of the Cairn Terrier, that purpose was to hunt small game and vermin in the Highlands of Scotland.
Cairn Terrier Mix
Cairn Terriers, as well as their close cousins the White West Highland Terriers, commonly known as the Westy, were both bred in northern Scotland to have high prey drives and to keep vermin off farms.
Both breeds are small, no more than thirty-three centimeters high, have a dense clump of wiry hair with a fine underbelly, and have the naturally bred instinct to chase everything, regardless of how many legs it has.
The Cairn can come in black or ‘Highland’ white, brindle, tan or grey – the West Highland Terrier is always white, having been bred to be that way.
Perhaps the most famous Cairn Terrier Mix was the brindle who played Toto in the Wizard of Oz… real name: Terry (until 1942, when they changed it officially to Toto after the success of the film!)
Cairn Terrier Temperament
The Cairn Terrier is quick witted and has an intelligence level akin to a four year old toddler. Their ability to remember and retain information is rivaled only by the Collie, which is why they make excellent dogs to train.
Cairn Terriers are also…
Extremely loyal and are often a perfect addition to any household. Plus, as an added bonus, Cairn Terriers are great dogs for those who have younger children in the household as well so you typically won’t need to worry about them getting along with any youngsters already running around the house.
That said however…
You should be warned, Cairn Terriers do tend to like to bark. Which means that the Cairn Terrier might not be the best dog to keep around other dogs.
Now they do tend to be alright with animals their own size or smaller, but put them in front of a larger dog, you may find yourself dealing with a dog that is barking itself INSANE!
If you live in an apartment or a house with nearby neighbors just remember, that they may not find your Cairn Terrier as cute as you do particularly if its barking all day at everyone and everything that passes in front of your door.
Taking care of your Cairn Terrier
As we’ve mentioned already, your Cairn will likely be a loving, attentive ball of fluff that is eternally by your side (or under your feet) so… it is important to know how to give your new Cairn terrier puppy or rescued Cairn Terrier the best treatment you can.
First of all, you’re going to need to particular attention paid to their coat. The outer coat of your Cairn Terrier puppy is going to be rough and wiry, while the undercoat will be soft and fluffy.
This results in tangling…
As new hair, old hair, and the two different textures of hair collide. This is why with Cairns, you’ll need to remove the dead hair from the coat at least once a week, otherwise your wee doggy will suffer.
Because this breed hails from a wet and windy land, the coat is designed to keep it warm even when wet, and grooming this breed as one might a poodle, for example, will ruin your dogs coat.
Don’t take the clippers or scissors to your Cairn Terrier. Instead, you must use a process called ‘hand-stripping’, whereby the old, dead hair is pulled straight out of the skin. While this sounds painful (and can be if done incorrectly) this is the best way for a Cairn Terrier to retain a healthy coat.
The best advice we can give you…Is to have the hand-stripping done professionally at first, until you learn the technique properly for yourself and are sure you won’t hurt your pup!
Also…It’s important to remember that you Scotch Terriers AKA Cairn Terrier is also going to require daily walks. While this is true of most dogs, bear in mind that these dogs are a highly intelligent breed.
Which means that…
These are the kind of dogs that will chew up your shoes if left alone all day or ignored, so make sure you commit to daily walks. With the Cairn Terrier the need for walking is less about exercise and more about boredom. The more intelligent the dog, the more likely it is to need exercise to keep it entertained.
We here at IndulgeYourPet have also found…
That if you really want to keep you’re Cairn from getting too bored, you may also want to try and buy him or her a “puzzle ball” for its treats or provide a fresh supply of dog toys to keep him or her entertained.
Apartment Living and Cairns.
While it’s true that Cairns can live just about anywhere, and a small apartment is no bother due to their small size. we would advise you to have a fenced yard wherein your puppy can run free. If not, please commit to regular leash walks so your dog can get the best out of life.
Cairn Terrier Mix Health Concerns
Like many heavily bred dogs, the Cairn Terrier does have its share of potential health problems.
Health Problems such as:
- Ocular Melanosis, a disease of the eye that causes fluid to build up and can cause Glaucoma.
- Craniomandibular Osteopathy; a disease that strikes typically between 3 and 8 months, and causes the new bone growth and old bone growth to gnarl together.
- Globoid Cell Leukodykstrophy, a horrible degenerative disease that affects the nervous system and can lead to death.
- Patellar Luxation is another common disease in the Cairn breed, and is a fancy term for a loose or ‘floating’ knee cap.
- Elbow and hip dysplasia.
Now at this point…
You may be saying to yourself:
- “Wow, Cairn Terriers can suffer from a lot of health issues!”
And to be honest with you, you’re right!
But the fact is that just like every other dog breed, your pet will run the risk of getting sick or injured.
This is why we here at IndulgeYourPet like to discuss what potential issues your new loved one may have later on in his or her life because we want to drive home just how serious of a commitment it is to decide to adopt a new pet!
You should also remember…
There are steps that you can take to avoid some of the common issues that tend to plague Cairn terriers.
First you can remember to avoid any and all puppy farmers of “dodgy” dog breeders. When buying, approach the American Kennel Club or the Cairn Terrier Club of America; both of which will be able to provide you with a list of vetted (excuse the pun) and reputable breeders.
If you are buying your dog at a pet shop, ensure that the shop does not stock more than two or three breeds. A pet shop filled with differing breeds is a hint that they may not be sourcing their dogs responsibly.
You can take the additional step of protecting yourself and your loved one by deciding to purchase a pet insurance policy so that if your Cairn Terrier does get sick or injured in the future, you can rely on your pet insurance policy to help you pay for the care that he or she may need!
For more information about how pet insurance works and who we here at IndulgeYourPet offers the best pet insurance policies, please feel free to check out our article Best Pet Insurance Companies.
Very informative article. Thank you.
I was very interested in your article because you didn’t pull any punches re the possible illnesses.
Two years ago I lost my West Highland White terrierafter a good life, at age 13. I would like either a Cairn or a Westy, about two – three years old. A mixed breed may be ok.
your article is was very enlightening.do you have any suggestions for me..?
Thanks for your input on our West Highland White Terrier article, we try to be as hope and honest with each article we write and we’re happy that you aprreciated that.
As for our recomendation on where to find a recue terrier, our suggestion woudl be to first check your local shelter and see if they might be able to contact you if one becomes avaiable (though you may fall in love with another breed while there) and then try seeing if there is a local West Highland Terrier Facebook group in your area that may be able to help you.