Small Dog Breeds > Cairn Terrier

Click on photos to enlarge

Cairn Terrier

The Cairn Terrier, originally called the Skye Terrier, hails from the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye and is one of the oldest terrier breeds in existence today. This small dog breed is also one of Scotland’s first working dogs. Cairns have traditionally been used for hunting. Perhaps the most famous Cairn of the 20th century is Toto from the movie The Wizard of Oz.


Cairn Terriers are very active both indoors and outdoors but will do well in apartments if sufficiently exercised. Homeowners should have a fenced-in yard to house the dog for safety. If this is not possible, the dog should be kept on a leash when outside. Cairn Terriers do best when walked daily. Play, while helpful, is not sufficient to take care of their daily exercise needs. Behavior problems may occur without daily walks.

The dogs can be very stubborn, so early obedience training is recommended. Without early proper training, behavior problems that can only be solved with a professional dog trainer may develop.

Dogs from this breed weight 10 to 15 pounds and stand 9 to 13 inches at the withers. A typical life span is 12 to 17 years.

Coat and Color

These dogs have a harsh weather-resistant outer coat and a dense soft undercoat with a rough and ready appearance. The coat can be blue, pink, red, wheaten, sandy, or gray. Or, it can be brindled in any of these colors. Brindled Cairns are known to change color over time. Oftentimes, they become more sliver or black as they age.

Shedding is minimal but the dogs should be hand stripped (i.e., pulling out dead hair by the roots) regardless. This is done to keep the skin and coat healthy.
Height 9-13" at the withers
Weight 10-15 lbs
Life Span 12-17 years
Temperament Happy, cheerful
Hypoallergenic No
This is a typically healthy breed. However, there are some health problems that owners should be on the lookout for. Namely: entropion, luxating patella, hip dysplasia, cataracts, corneal dystrophy, progressive retinal atrophy, Krabbe disease, Soft Tissue Sarcoma, Von Willebrand disease, and legg-Calve-Perthes syndrome.

Related Dogs