8 Facts About Cairn Terriers

cairn terrier sitting in flowers

The Cairn Terrier is a small, adventurous, and playful dog breed that is great with children and makes a great family dog. Here are a few facts about Cairn Terriers:

1. They Were Bred for Pest Control

Although they are now more well-known for their work in movies, like many famous dogs, the Cairn Terrier was originally bred in Scotland to work in pest control during the 1600s. These small dogs were prized for their skills as vermin hunters.

Not only could they find and dig out small game on a hunt, but they were excellent at pest control on farms. It’s said that a farmer wouldn’t need the help of a barn cat around the farm if they had a Cairn Terrier to keep pests under control. Similar to the history of Dachshunds, these sturdy little dogs could also band together and work as a pack to bring down larger game on hunts like foxes.

2. Cairn Terriers Were Named After a Pile of Rocks

The word “cairn” can refer to a stack of stones. This can either be man-made or naturally made and is usually used as a road or land marker. These stacks can be a haven for insects and other small pests, which the Cairn Terrier was trained to go after. This is what helped earn them the name of Cairn Terrier.

3. They are Known for Their Tenacity

Cairn Terriers are truly unmatched in their tenacity to get a job done. Legend has it that a working Cairn Terrier in Britain had the job of clearing otters from the rocky seaside. After catching an otter, this particular dog did not let go, even after the otter dove beneath the surface of the water. The owner had to dive in after his dog, and found the otter still tightly in the terrier’s mouth!

This breed also is incredibly assertive. Cairn owners tend to say, “If you give a Cairn an inch, he won’t take a mile, he’ll take 100 miles.” Cairn Terriers are lovable and sweet, but they need very well-established boundaries in training.

4. Toto from the Wizard of Oz Was a Cairn Terrier

Terry, a Cairn Terrier owned by famous dog trainer Carl Spitz, was the lucky dog to be cast in the Wizard of Oz. Because the breed of Toto was not specified in the book, the movie executives were open to any breed. Terry was cast, and the rest of the story is history.

5. They Have Unique Feet

Cairn Terriers have southpaws, which means they favor and lead with their left foot. However, this isn’t the only unique trait of their feet. They also tend to have larger front paws with more padding than their rear paws.

This trait helps them when digging for pests or vermin. So, if you have a garden or care about your lawn, keep in mind that this breed just has to dig!

6. Cairn Terriers Are Great for Families

Although they are known for their courage and have the standard terrier stubborn streak, they tend to make a great family pet. They tend to be great with children. This sturdy little dog is loyal, devoted, and affectionate. They also thrive on affection and attention.

This, paired with their cheerful disposition and playful, energetic personality, can make them a great playmate for kids who know how to properly interact with dogs. It also tends to make them a fantastic family companion.

They still have a high prey drive with an instinct to hunt and chase. But, they tend to be more tolerant of other pets than most terriers. It’s still a good idea to do some extra socialization with other smaller pets in the household.

7. They Are Relatively Easy to Train

Cairn Terriers are highly intelligent dogs that are eager to please and pick up on things quickly. In general, this makes them a good fit for owners of all experience levels. First-time dog owners may want to consider puppy training classes because this little dog can be stubborn and have an independent streak.

They tend to be sensitive to their owners and don’t tend to respond well to scolding. They respond best to consistent training that is focused on positivity and reward. Cairn Terriers will attempt to test limits and push boundaries during training, so clear expectations and consistency are essential.

This can be difficult for first-time owners to handle alone and puppy training classes can be a big help. Plus, they offer opportunities to socialize a puppy while also strengthening your bond with them.

8. They Are Energetic, But Not High-Energy

Their energetic, bouncy personality and bursts of energy may make them seem like a high-energy dog breed at times, but the Cairn Terrier tends to sit in a more moderate range. Daily walks plus some more rigorous playtime or activity are usually enough to keep this dog happy.

Granted, they love to spend time with you, so they will likely be up for more activity if you are. Although they are small, they also tend to be sturdy and may surprise you with what they can do.

They’re a great candidate for dog sports like tracking, obedience, and agility. They also tend to love playing fetch, as long as the area is fenced and you can train them to bring it back, and might even enjoy going swimming or hiking with you.

Because of their high prey drive, they should only be let off-leash in secure areas. Even if they are trained to walk off-leash, they are likely to ignore your recall commands if they find something interesting to chase. Because of this, trips to a fenced dog park can be a great outlet for them to run.

These are just a few facts about Cairn Terriers. If this sounds like the right dog breed for you, learn more about them, and then check out the available Cairn Terrier puppies. You could end up finding your new furry best friend!