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Your Pet, Our Passion.

Cairn Terrier

Short-legged and strongly built, Cairn Terriers have a foxy expression, hard coats and small, pointy ears. Whilst not heavily built, they are well muscled, workman-like little dogs, with hard, profuse outer coats and short, soft, close undercoats.

The need-to-know
  • Dog suitable for owners with some experience
  • Basic training required
  • Generally healthy breed
  • Enjoys active walks
  • Enjoys one to two hours of walking a day
  • Small dog
  • Minimum drool
  • Requires grooming every other day
  • Chatty and vocal dog
  • Barks and alerts to visitors/anything unusual
  • Could have issues with unknown dogs but gets along with known dogs
  • May need additional training to live with other pets
  • May need additional supervision to live with children
  • Needs a small garden
  • Can happily live in the city
  • Can be left occasionally with training
Generally healthy breed

The Cairn Terrier breed can suffer from:
- Patellar luxation
- Legg-Perthes disease
- Portosystemic shunts, which is a condition where the blood does not pass through the liver normally, which leads to toxin build-up.
- Glaucoma
- Atopy where the skin reacts to allergens in the environment and becomes sore and itchy.
- Von Willebrand's disease¹ which is where a dog produces insufficient or faulty clotting factors which can result in uncontrolled bleeding.
Priority Kennel Club health schemes and testing: 
- None but there are several recommended schemes that the Kennel Club recommends which can be found here.

¹J. Donner, 'Frequency and distribution of 152 genetic disease variants in over 100,000 mixed breed and purebred dogs', 2018, PLOS Genetics

Key Facts

Lifespan: 12–15 years
Weight: 6-7.5kg
Height: 28-31cm
Colours: Cream, wheaten, red, grey or nearly black with brindling in all colours
Size: Small
Kennel Club group: Terriers


Family-friendly: 5/5
Exercise needs: 4/5
Easy to train: 2/5
Tolerates being alone: 1/5
Likes other pets: 4/5
Energy level: 5/5
Grooming needs: 3/5
Shedding: 3/5
cairn terrier standing on the hill


Cairn Terriers are a cheerful, alert, lively and extrovert breed that can be trained to happily live with children and, thanks to their history as a pack terrier, with other dogs too. Like most terriers however they may not be safe with small furry animals or strange cats. They are affectionate, bonded to their owners and enjoy being a part of everything they do.

cairn terrier in a field of flowers

History and Origins

Country of Origin: Scotland

Scotland has always had a variety of vermin-killing terriers and the ancestors of the Cairn have been known in the Western Highlands since the 17th century.

By 1887, the Cairn Terrier was first being mentioned as a specific breed with their job being to hunt the rodents that infested the cairns (piles of stones) that were found on the bleak game moors and that threatened the game there. They were also used in packs to rout out otters, foxes and even badgers - which they were more than happy to do despite being the smallest of the working Scottish terriers. Their thick shaggy coat that protected them from the harsh elements and their plucky nature meant that they were perfectly suited for their role. The Cairn Terrier breed has changed little over the years.

did you know?

Did you know?

  • Probably one of the most iconic Cairn Terrier is Toto in the film The Wizard of Oz. It may be interesting to note that if Dorothy had just kept him on a lead, she’d have had far less trouble. But then also far fewer adventures!