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Cairn Terriers: the most honest dog breed review you'll ever find about Cairn Terrier temperament, personality, and behavior.

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Cairn Terrier dog breed

Cairn Terrier Temperament
What's Good About 'Em,
What's Bad About 'Em

Cairn Terrier Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2013

When most people hear the word terrier, they picture Toto, the Cairn Terrier in The Wizard of Oz -- and rightfully so, because this sturdy little dog breed is everything a terrier was designed to be: strong, hardy, up on his toes, confident, plucky, and spirited.

The Cairn Terrier loves to play and needs his daily walks, but is adaptable to any home in which he can be a full participant and busybody and where his bold terrier traits are kept under control.

Adult Cairn Terriers may be friendly or reserved with strangers, but are always alert and quick to announce guests.

This breed can be scrappy and bossy with other pets, but will co-exist with them more readily than some other terriers. However, strange animals may be a different story, as the Cairn Terrier was bred to hunt and will chase anything that moves.

He is inquisitive, so a leash or fenced yard is essential at all times.

Assertive but cheerful, with typical terrier stubbornness, the Cairn Terrier must be shown that you are in charge. He does respond well to consistent discipline and to obedience training that focuses on treats and praise.

Cairn Terriers can be possessive of their food and toys. And being respectable terriers, they are enthusiastic diggers and barkers.


If you want a dog who...

  • Is small, yet sturdy and tough -- not a delicate lapdog
  • Has a natural appearance
  • Needs only moderate exercise
  • Makes a keen watchdog
  • Doesn't shed too much
  • Co-exists with other pets more willingly than some other terriers

A Cairn Terrier may be right for you.


If you don't want to deal with...

  • The dynamic terrier temperament (see full description below)
  • Potential aggression toward other animals -- strong chasing instincts
  • Stubbornness
  • Digging holes
  • Barking
  • Regular brushing and clipping
  • A considerable number of potential health problems

A Cairn Terrier may not be right for you.

But you can avoid or minimize some negative traits by
  1. choosing the RIGHT breeder and the RIGHT puppy
  2. or choosing an ADULT dog from your animal shelter or rescue group – a dog who has already proven that he doesn't have negative traits
  3. training your dog to respect you
  4. avoiding health problems by following my daily care program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy


More traits and characteristics of the Cairn Terrier

If I was considering a Cairn Terrier, I would be most concerned about...

  1. The dynamic terrier temperament. Most terrier breeds are remarkably similar. The same words are used over and over -- quick to bark, quick to chase, lively, bossy, feisty, scrappy, clever, independent, stubborn, persistent, impulsive, intense. Terriers cannot be trusted off-leash -- they are too likely to "take off", oblivious to your frantic shouts, after anything that runs.
  2. Possible animal aggression. Cairn Terriers are often more tolerant toward other dogs and cats than many other terriers are, especially dogs and cats who belong to their own family. However, many Cairn Terriers are still dominant or aggressive toward strange dogs and have strong instincts to chase and seize small fleeing creatures.
  3. Barking. Terriers are often too quick to sound the alarm at every new sight and sound. You have to be equally quick to stop them.
  4. Mind of their own. Cairn Terriers must be taught at an early age that they are not the rulers of the world. The toughness that makes them suited to killing vermin can frustrate you when you try to teach them anything. Cairn Terriers can be stubborn and dominant (they want to be the boss) and will make you prove that you can make them do things. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.
  5. I do NOT recommend Cairn Terriers if you have small children. Many terriers will not tolerate any nonsense from little life forms whom they consider to be below themselves in importance. Many terriers are quick to react to teasing, and even to the normal clumsiness that comes with small children (accidental squeezing of their ears or pulling of whiskers or stepping on their paw). Many terriers are possessive of their food and toys and will defend these from all comers, including children.



    book cover To learn more about training Cairn Terriers to be calm and well-behaved, consider my dog training book,
    Teach Your Dog 100 English Words.

    It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will make your Cairn Terrier the smartest, most well-behaved companion you've ever had.

    Teaches your dog to listen to you, to pay attention to you, and to do whatever you ask him to do.



  6. Cairn Terrier dog breedGrooming. Without regular brushing, combing, and trimming/clipping, Cairn Terriers become a matted mess. On the plus side, their shedding is on the low side of average. (They are NOT hypoallergenic or light-shedding, however.)

  7. Finding a healthy one. Cairn Terriers can suffer from joint problems, cataracts, epilepsy, skin problems, a degenerative disease of the central nervous system, and more.




  8. book cover My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a healthy Cairn Terrier puppy. Health problems have become so widespread in dogs today that this book is required reading for ANYONE who is thinking of getting a purebred, crossbred, or mixed breed dog.

    If you'd like to consult with me personally about whether a Cairn Terrier might be a good dog breed for your family, I offer a Dog Breed Consulting Service.


    book cover Once you have your Cairn Terrier home, you need to KEEP him healthy -- or if he's having any current health problems, you need to get him back on the road to good health.

    My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy is the book you need. Raise your dog the right way and you will be helping him live a longer, healthier life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.




Please consider adopting an ADULT Cairn Terrier...

When you're acquiring a Cairn Terrier PUPPY, you're acquiring potential -- what he one day will be. So "typical breed characteristics" are very important.

But when you acquire an adult dog, you're acquiring what he already IS and you can decide whether he is the right dog for you based on that reality. There are plenty of adult Cairn Terriers who have already proven themselves NOT to have negative characteristics that are "typical" for their breed. If you find such an adult dog, don't let "typical breed negatives" worry you. Just be happy that you found an atypical individual -- and enjoy!

Save a life. Adopt a dog.

Adopting a Dog From a Dog Breed Rescue Group

Adopting a Dog From the Animal Shelter

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