Cairn Terrier


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Cairn terriers have a lot to recommend them. They are entertaining, tough and sociable. They are the breed that is closest to the ancestor of Scotties and Westies, and, as a 'natural' dog, are relatively healthy.

They were bred to be ratters, and love digging. A dog sandpit is one solution to their wanting to help in the garden. They can be territorial with other dogs, and don't want to back down from challenges when they meet dogs on walks, but they generally get on well with other dogs they live with, and can get on well with other dogs if socialized carefully. They like to chew, so should have their own supply of permitted chewing objects. Cairns aren't especially bad as barkers, but do like to communicate. They chew and bark less if taken on regular walks.

Like most terriers, they should only be let off the lead in safe areas, well away from traffic, since their recall is often non-existent if they are following prey. One Cairn of my acquaintance spent 36 hours trapped by her lead wrapped round a bush, after taking off in pursuit of a rabbit with the lead still attached to her. A barkier dog would have advertised its presence, but she stayed quiet all the time. She recovered well after her ordeal.

Cairns don't shed much, nor do they need much grooming, but they benefit from a regular trim. They love attention, and usually get on well with children, though both need to respect each other. All terriers need special care taken with teaching them bite inhibition, and small children need to learn not to be rough with little dogs like Cairn Terriers.

This breed is generally healthy, but there are a number of inherited health problems which can affect the breed, so it's especially important to ask about the longevity of the ancestors of any pup you are interested in. Eye, liver, and heart problems can affect the breed, as can hypothyroidism, blood disorders and allergies, including flea allergies.

Robert Jamieson's book is an excellent guide to Cairn terriers. He deals with the history and origins of the breed, and gives good advice on general care, such as house training and dealing with and preventing flea problems. There is also a lot of good advice on bringing up Cairn Terrier puppies.