Cairn Terrier Information & Dog Breed Facts

Collection of all the general dog breed info about Cairn Terrier so you can get to know the breed more.

Group Hunting Dogs
Popularity Rank69
User Ratings
Compare the Cairn Terrier With Other Dogs
Select at least one dog breed to make the comparsion.
Cairn Terrier dog profile picture
OriginScotland flagScotland
Other Names
What other names does the Cairn Terrier have?
Toto DogCairn
Breed Type
What type of dog breed is it?

Cairn Terrier Price and Availability

How much does the Cairn Terrier puppy cost? What is the price range of this puppy? What is the average price of this dog in the United States? How much money is a Cairn Terrier?
If you choose to purchase the Cairn Terrier, you should know that the mentioned amount of money is an average of the collected data from breeders’ sites and puppy finder places. If you have a Cairn Terrier for sale, please advertise it on a reliable website to make sure the Cairn Terrier gets to a happy place.
How easy is it to get a Cairn Terrier? How many Cairn Terrier are there in the world?
Very frequent: The Cairn Terrier is quite easy to get. There is a risk of overbreeding, as it is an extremely popular breed.

Inbreeding is common because of its popularity. A new study suggests that inbreeding contributes to the incidence of disease and health problems.

So be careful, buy from a trustworthy place or kennel and seek the help of an experienced person, a professional, to make the right decision.

Cairn Terrier Size

Is a Cairn Terrier small, medium or large dog?

How big do Cairn Terrier get?

How much does the Cairn Terrier weigh? How much should the Cairn Terrier breed weight? What is the normal weight of a Cairn Terrier?
Male: 14-18 pounds (6-8 kg), Female: 13-17 pounds (6-8 kg)
Average Weight
What is the average weight of a Cairn Terrier?
Male: 16 pounds (7 kg), Female: 15 pounds (7 kg)
How tall is the Cairn Terrier? Cairn Terrier height:
Male: 10-13 inches (25-33 cm), Female: 9-12 inches (23-30 cm)
Average Height
What is the average height of a Cairn Terrier?
Male: 11.5 inches (29 cm), Female: 10.5 inches (26.5 cm)

Cairn Terrier Grooming, Hair and Care

Coat / Hair Types
What type of coat does the Cairn Terrier have? What does this canine coat/fur look like?
What color is the breed's coat? What color is a proper Cairn Terrier's coat?
How to groom the Cairn Terrier and how often?
Average: The Cairn Terrier requires average grooming effort. Cutting the dog's hair by a professional groomer isn't essential.

Brushing the dog's coat is useful to reduce shedding. Ears and eyes should be cleaned regularly to avoid infections.

Don't skip the seasonal flea treatment too. Dog nail trimming and dog bath can be helpful sometimes.

Check the local pet store for dog grooming supplies and find the best dog shampoo to keep its coat healthy and give your dog a pleasant experience of a dog bath.

If you don't have the time, skill, or money to take care of your Cairn Terrier, search for a dog groomer or clipping service in your area and book an appointment.

Maybe you're lucky to have a dog boarding service that includes grooming or walk-in dog bath places nearby.

Shedding Level
How much do Cairn Terrier dogs shed? How to control, reduce and prevent the shedding of the Toto Dog?
Cairn Terriers shed moderately. It's a natural process of the hair growth cycle. Regular brushing reduces the amount of hair that sheds. It mostly depends on their health status and breed type.
Bath Time / Bathing Frequency
How often does the Cairn Terrier need a bath? How often should bathe this dog? Can I bathe my Cairn Terrier every day?
3-4 weeks
More often than average. These dog coats tend to be longer, softer, and oilier than short-haired breeds. While a good bath every now and then is a great way to keep your buddy from becoming overly smelly, be mindful about overbathing.

Bathing will wash away your dog’s natural oils, while a simple brushing every few days should keep them clean.

Cairn Terrier Personality / Temperament

What kind of personality does the Cairn Terrier have? What characteristics or traits does the breed have?
Intelligent Rank
How smart is the Cairn Terrier? Is the Cairn Terrier breed dumb or smart?
Smart: Cairn Terrier's has great intelligence. They understand and memorize new commands in 15-25 repetitions.

The Cairn Terrier is among the smartest dogs in the intelligence ranking.

Are Cairn Terrier dogs easy to train? Do they go well on dog training?
Cairn Terriers are easy to train. They find out the association between commands and actions quite quickly.
How playful is this breed?
The Cairn Terrier is a playful breed. Excited barking and sometimes nipping will alert you to play.
Sensitivity Level
How sensitive are they? Cairn Terrier sensitivity:
Cairn Terriers have an average emotional level and are not the most sensitive dog breed. Sometimes it's okay to change the daily routine, have guests and listen to loud music.

Some dogs handle moderate punishment very well, while others crumble apart at a dirty look. This breed is not affected emotionally by moderate punishment.

Affection Level
How affectionate are they? Is a Cairn Terrier a good family dog?
High: Cairn Terriers are genuinely loyal, soft and gentle, loving and affectionate dogs toward their handlers. They enjoy quality time with their owners despite the activity and are considered great therapy dog for those in need. This breed responds strongly to their handler's emotions because they bond closely. Their happiness is your happiness.
Social Needs
How much social interaction does the Toto Dog need? Cairn Terrier social needs:
Cairn Terriers need a lot of social interaction. They desire to always be with someone or around people. This breed hates being left alone.
Do Cairn Terrier dogs bark a lot? Are they barkers/noisy? Why does my Toto Dog bark?
A lot: Cairn Terrier is a particularly loud breed. They often enjoy barking and howling loudly. If you want a quiet dog, not the best choice.

The main triggers for barking are fear, attention, alarm, boredom, greeting, separation anxiety, compulsive barking, and defense.

Watchdog Ability
Is Cairn Terrier good as a watchdog? Are they alert at night?
Cairn Terriers are good watchdogs. Their main job is to observe and they're consistent in their effort. Good vocal cords and a sense of hearing belong to them. Usually, they're territorial and protective about their property, so the Cairn Terriers will alert you if they sense something different.
Guarding Behavior / Territorial
Do Cairn Terrier dogs have aggressive behavior to protect their home/house/territory? Do they have guarding instincts?
Cairn Terriers are average defenders. Some dogs are very protective of their territory, while others easily let a stranger to trespass. This breed is not sure to defend its territory in every situation.
Biting Potential
Do Cairn Terrier bite humans? How likely are you to get bitten from the Toto Dog? What are the odds of getting bitten by a Cairn Terrier? Why do dog bites happen?

Low 🔽

The Cairn Terrier has a low chance of biting somebody. Top reasons for dog bite: protection, pain, excitement, herding instinct, being provoked. (Data based on the available online bite statistics.)
Bite Force
Does the Cairn Terrier has a hard bite? What is the bite force of a Cairn Terrier? How much bite force does a Cairn Terrier have?

Between 100 and 200 PSI 🔽

Cairn Terrier bite force: Weak. Dogs that have the weakest bite force below 200 PSI.

However, it is important to note that despite the fact that their bite force is considered the “weakest” it can still be very dangerous as all dog bites are.

They are usually not aggressive and very friendly towards children and other animals.

How much mouthing/nipping/play biting does the Cairn Terrier do?
Cairn Terriers have an average tendency to nip, chew, play-bite, or herd people. It's a common habit during puppyhood, not aggressive behavior. These "bites" don't hurt, but Cairn Terriers need to be taught for a good attitude.
Impulse to Wander or Roam
How likely is the Cairn Terrier to run away? Does this breed explore or wander a lot? Does Cairn Terrier roam?
Cairn Terriers have average wanderlust potential. Sometimes they like to explore the world and they might escape once or twice, but usually, they prefer staying safely at home. Safer to teach them how to get back to you on command.
Prey Drive
Do this canine have a strong prey drive? Does Cairn Terrier have high prey drive?
Cairn Terriers have a higher impulse to chase and catch something than other dog breeds. Cats or any other small animals might be in danger. It's a natural instinct, doesn't necessarily mean that Cairn Terriers are aggressive. Better to keep this breed on a leash.
Apartment Friendly
Is Cairn Terrier good as an apartment dog? Can they live in a flat?
It is not the best choice if you want to keep them indoors, however, with careful exercise and several walks a day, they will tolerate the indoor environment, so it is possible to keep Cairn Terrier indoors.
Are they adaptable and easy-going?
Average: Cairn Terriers adapt to lifestyle changes and different living environments quite okay usually.
Tolerates Being Left Alone
How long can a Cairn Terrier be left alone?
Cairn Terriers tend to have separation anxiety when their owners left them alone at home because they bond very closely with them.

Cairn Terrier Good With

Stranger Friendly
Are they aggressive or friendly towards/with strangers? Cairn Terrier temperament with other people:
Cairn Terriers are average friendly towards strangers.
Pet Friendly
Are they pet-friendly dogs? How well do Cairn Terrier dogs get along with other pets? Are Cairn Terrier dogs good with pets? What is this canine temperament with other pets?
Cairn Terriers are generally with other pets.
Child Friendly
Are Cairn Terrier dogs kid-friendly? Are they good with young children? Cairn Terrier temperament with children:
Cairn Terriers are kid-friendly dogs. This breed is a good choice if you have children.
Cat Friendly
How well do Cairn Terrier dogs get along with cats? Are they good with kittens? What is this fido's temperament with cats? Can they be good with cats? Can the Cairn Terrier breed live with a cat?
Cairn Terriers are average friendly towards cats.
Dog Friendly
Is Cairn Terrier good with other dogs? Are they dog-friendly dogs? How well do Cairn Terrier dogs get along with other dogs?
Cairn Terriers are average friendly towards other dogs.
Good For First Time Owners
Is Cairn Terrier breed good for first-time owners? Do they make a good dog for novice owners? Is Cairn Terrier breed suitable for first-time owners?
Cairn Terriers are good for novice owners, due to their easy-going personality.
Office Friendly
Are Cairn Terriers good office dogs? Do Cairn Terriers make good office friendly dogs? Can Cairn Terriers be office dogs?
Cairn Terrier is one of the best dog breeds for office environment
Senior Citizens Friendly
Are they senior citizens friendly dogs? How well do Cairn Terrier dogs get along with the elderly people? What is the Toto Dog temperament with senior people? Are Cairn Terrier dogs good for elderly owners?
Cairn Terriers are usually recommended for elderly people.

Cairn Terrier Health

Health Issues
Is it a healthy or unhealthy breed? Do Cairn Terrier dogs have health problems or genetic diseases?
Cairn Terriers tend to have more frequent health issues than other breeds. Regular vet check-ups are needed.
Health Problems
What genetic/health problems does the Cairn Terrier breed have? What are the health issues and concerns of the Cairn Terrier breed? Most common health risks of Cairn Terrier:
CataractsCraniomandibular OsteopathyCryptorchidismGlaucomaGloboid Cell LeukodystrophyHypothyroidismLegg-perthes DiseaseLuxating PatellaMicrovascular DysplasiaPortosystemic Vascular Anomaly (PSVA)Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
Veterinarian Visits
How often does the Cairn Terrier breed need to go to the vet? How often should you take your dog to the vet? How often should the Cairn Terrier see the vet?
The Cairn Terrier should have a complete physical check-up at least once (but preferably twice) per year. If your dog shows any symptoms, call your veterinarian.
Life Expectancy
How long do Cairn Terrier dogs live? How old can a Cairn Terrier be? What is the age limit of the Cairn Terrier? How many years can the oldest Cairn Terrier live?

What is the average life expectancy / lifespan of a Cairn Terrier?

11-15 years
The average lifespan of Cairn Terrier: 13 years
Is the Cairn Terrier breed hypoallergenic?
Cairn Terriers do well with allergy sufferers by causing fewer allergic reaction. However there are no 100% hypoallergenic dogs in the world, there are a variety of breeds that are considered to reduce or minimize the possibility of an allergic response. Coat type isn't necessarily relevant, because most people are allergic to dander (flakes on the dog's skin) or saliva, not actually to dog hair.
Energy Level
How much energy does the Cairn Terrier have? What is the activity level of the Cairn Terrier?
Cairn Terriers are high-energy dogs. An active lifestyle makes them happy.
Activity Requirement / Exercise Need
How much exercise does a Cairn Terrier need? How much exercise do Cairn Terrier dogs require per day?
Cairn Terriers need quite a lot of exercise. Daily walks should be on schedule. If you live an active life, this breed can be a good choice for you.
Sleeping Need
How much sleep does the Cairn Terrier breed need?
Cairn Terriers don't need too much sleep. They are energetic and desire to live an active life. If you think naps are overrated, this breed can be the best choice for you.
Average daily food consumption
How much food does a Cairn Terrier need? What dog products should I buy? How much food does a Cairn Terrier breed eat per day? What is good dog food for Cairn Terrier? How much food should I feed my Cairn Terrier?
0.5 to 1.5 cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.
Weight Gain Potential / Prone to Obesity
How easy to gain weight for this dog? Cairn Terrier risk for obesity:
Average: The Cairn Terrier has an average risk for obesity. Daily walks should be on schedule. To make your dog happy and fit, feed him with quality dry dog food and live an active life together. Try to find the happy medium between exercise and feeding.

If you notice any weight gain, consult your veterinarian and make a diet plan. Reduce unhealthy food and snacks, and measure the Cairn Terrier's weight regularly.

Weather and Climate
Which weather condition is preferred by this dog? Can they tolerate hot or cold weather and climate?
Prefers average to cold weather conditions
The Cairn Terrier can adapt to well to cold weather conditions, some dogs even can be a good mountain dog.
How stinky is this dog? Why does it smell bad and how to get rid of the smell?


The Cairn Terrier has an average chance of bad smell. Top reasons for dog stinkiness: infection of bad tooth/ear/skin folds, gas attacks.
Drooling Tendency
Does the Cairn Terrier drool?
The Cairn Terrier is a perfect example of a very low drooling tendency. If you're disgusted by slobber spots on your clothes, the Cairn Terrier could be a perfect choice for you. Drooling is the unintentional saliva flowing outside of the mouth. It can be completely normal or a sign of a health problem. Certain dog breeds drool minimum compared to others, just like the Cairn Terrier.

If you notice any change in your dog's drooling habit, you should contact a vet as soon as possible.

Cairn Terrier As a Working Dog

Service Dog
Are they good as service dogs? Can Cairn Terrier be a guide dog? Are they used as seeing-eye dogs?

Not really

This breed generally not used as a service dog. A service dog is a term used in the USA to refer to any type of assistance dog specifically trained to help people who have disabilities, such as visual impairment, hearing impairments, mental disorders, seizures, mobility impairment, and diabetes. Service dogs are protected under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).

Cairn Terrier is not the best breed for service purposes.

Therapy Dog
Are they good as therapy dogs? Can Cairn Terrier be a therapy dog? Are they good anxiety dogs? Can a Cairn Terrier be an emotional support animal?

Not really

This breed is generally not used as a therapy dog. A therapy dog is a dog that might be trained to provide affection, comfort, and love to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas, and people with anxiety disorders or autism.

Cairn Terrier is not the best breed for therapeutic purposes.

Detection Dog or Sniffer Dog
Are they good as detection dogs? Can Cairn Terrier be a sniffer dog?

Not really

They are not typically employed for this type of work, but there may be exceptional cases. A detection dog or sniffer dog is a dog that is trained to use its senses (mostly its smell) to detect substances such as explosives, illegal drugs, wildlife scat, currency, blood, and contraband electronics such as illicit mobile phones.

Cairn Terrier is not the best breed for detection purposes.

Search and Rescue Dog (SAR)
Are they good as SAR dogs? Can Cairn Terrier be a search and rescue dog?

Not really

This dog breed is not typically used as a search and rescue dog. The use of dogs in search and rescue (SAR) is a valuable component in wilderness tracking, natural disasters, mass casualty events, and locating missing people.

The Cairn Terrier is not the best breed for SAR purposes.

Boat and Sailor Dog
Are they good as boat dogs? Can Cairn Terrier be a boat dog?

Not really

Cairn Terrier breed usually doesn't like being on a boat.

Boat dogs were typically bred for their strength, stamina, and water resistance, as they were often required to perform tasks such as pulling in fishing nets, and jumping into the water to retrieve ropes or lines, or helping to move cargo.

Sailor dog is a type of dog that was bred to accompany sailors on their voyages. They were typically used for three purposes: as a working dog, a watchdog, and as a companion. A boat dog is a term used to describe a type of dog that was traditionally bred and used as a working dog on boats.

Cart Pulling or Drafting Dog
Are they good as cart pulling dogs? Can Cairn Terrier be a drafting dog?

Not really

A drafting dog or draft dog is a dog bred and used for cart pulling. Dogs bred for this work have strong builds and qualities that are needed, strength and determination.

Cairn Terrier is not the best breed for drafting purposes.

Fighting Dog / Military Dog
Where Cairn Terrier dogs used as fighting / military dogs in history?

Not really

In history, this breed was not really used for combat dog.

Cairn Terrier Reproducibility

Gestation Length
How long is a Cairn Terrier pregnant?How long does it take to have puppies? How to tell if the Cairn Terrier breed is pregnant?

60-64 days

Reproductive cycle of the female Cairn Terrier: The first period called Proestrus lasts for about 9 days.

During this time the females start to attract males. You can notice by swelling vulva and bloody discharge.

The second part is the Estrus when the female is receptive for the male. It lasts for about 3 to 11 days.

The sign of the proestrus part is the soft and enlarged vulva. The discharge decreases and lightens in color.

The third part is the Diestrus. Normally, it occurs around day 14. In this period the female’s discharge changes for vivid red and coming to its end. The vulva returns to average, and she will no longer permit mating.

The fourth part called the Anestrus. The time frame between heat periods normally lasts about six months.

Litter Frequency

Once a year.

More frequent breeding is not healthy. It is very important not to buy a dog from a puppy mill, where the needs of the pups and their mothers are ignored. It's an inhumane high-volume dog breeding facility, where puppies born several times a year.
Litter Size
How many puppies can the Cairn Terrier have in a litter? How many puppies can the Cairn Terrier breed have for the first time? How many puppies does a Cairn Terrier have? How many puppies can a Cairn Terrier give birth to?
2-10 puppies

Cairn Terrier Recognition

AKC Group
Is Cairn Terrier recognized by the American Kennel Club?
Recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1913 as a Terrier breed.
FCI Group
Is Cairn Terrier recognized by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI)?
Recognized by FCI in the Terriers group, in the Small sized Terriers section.
Breed Recognition
What kennel clubs and organizations recognize or register the Cairn Terrier breed?
American Canine RegistryAmerican Kennel ClubAmerica's Pet RegistryCanadian Kennel ClubDog Registry of America Inc.Federation Cynologique InternationaleKennel Club of Great BritainNorth American Purebred Registry, Inc.American Canine Association, Inc.Australian National Kennel CouncilContinental Kennel ClubNational Kennel ClubNew Zealand Kennel ClubUnited Kennel ClubClub Espanol De Terriers

Cairn Terrier Pros and Cons

  • Intelligent Rank: Smart: Cairn Terrier's has great intelligence.
  • Trainability: Cairn Terriers are easy to train.
  • Hypoallergenic: Cairn Terriers do well with allergy sufferers by causing fewer allergic reaction.
  • Drooling Tendency: The Cairn Terrier is a perfect example of a very low drooling tendency.
  • Watchdog Ability: Cairn Terriers are good watchdogs.
  • Child Friendly: Cairn Terriers are kid-friendly dogs.
  • Office Friendly: Cairn Terrier is one of the best dog breeds for office environment
  • Senior Citizens Friendly: Cairn Terriers are usually recommended for elderly people.
  • Good For First Time Owners: Cairn Terriers are good for novice owners, due to their easy-going personality.
  • Health Issues: Cairn Terriers tend to have more frequent health issues than other breeds.
  • Tolerates Being Left Alone: Cairn Terriers tend to have separation anxiety when their owners left them alone at home because they bond very closely with them.

Cairn Terrier History

For almost 200 years, dogs with the physical look of today’s Cairn Terriers have been recognized in Scotland’s Highlands and the Isle of Skye. The first reference of what we're most likely forerunners of today’s Cairn Terriers dates back to 1625 when King James I sent treasured examples of “Earth Dogges” to King Louis XIV of France. These dogs were so valuable that they had to be dispatched on many ships to avoid losing them all if one went down at sea.

Furthermore, prior to 1873, all terriers in Scotland were considered ‘Scottish Terriers’. In 1873, terriers were divided into two distinct varieties, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier and the Skye Terrier. In the early years, what are now called Cairn Terriers and their predecessors went by a variety of other names such as Highland Terriers, Skye Otter Terriers, and Todhunter's (fox hunters). Instead of a unique physical look and structure, these brave small terriers were appreciated and bred for their working instincts to control vermin. Moreover, Skye Terriers began to develop along numerous separate physical lines in the early 1900s, eventually separating into Cain Terriers, West Highland White Terriers, and Scottish Terriers.

Moreover, it is important to highlight a woman called Mrs. Alastair Campbell who was an early breed enthusiast who helped to establish the Cairn Terrier as a breed. She was the first to register dogs that would subsequently become Cairn Terriers and to show her dogs under the designation Prick Eared or Short-haired Skye Terriers. This caused great controversy with the Skye Terrier Club, however, the disagreement was eventually settled by granting breed recognition to the Cairn Terrier, which was accepted in 1910. A year later, the first Cairns Terrier Club was formed, and breed standards were created. Cairn Terriers get their name from the rock piles (cairns) that are a common feature of the landscape in northern Scotland and the Isle of Skye, and where they commonly find their prey.

Cairn Terriers are often regarded as the first “short-legged terriers” and the forerunners of both Scottish and West Highland White Terriers. Breeding white Cairns Terriers and interbreeding Cairns and West Highland White Terriers were once considered acceptable. Since 1925 there has been a strict separation between the West Highland White Terriers and the Cairn Terriers. Registration and showing of Cairn Terriers grew quickly in popularity until World War I put a brief end to dog shows. However, following the war, the popularity of the breed began to grow again, not only in Scotland and the UK but also in North America. Although World War II again put a pause to the world of dog shows and breeding, which greatly decreased the number of Cairn Terriers being awarded Championships in the late ’40s.

Furthermore, it is interesting to mention that in the 1939 movie version of Wizard of Oz, ‘Terry’, a female Cairn Terrier played the role of Toto. Terry was owned and trained by Carl Spitz after she was abandoned by her original family. The original book by L. Frank Baum described Toto as ‘a little black dog with long silky hair and small black eyes that twinkled merrily on either side of his funny, wee nose’. Many experts believe that the described dog could actually be a Cairn Terrier. Moreover, Terry starred in more than 16 films. Altogether, Cairn Terriers have played in at least 73 different movies and films over the years.

Over the last three decades, the popularity of purebred dogs, in general, has diminished. Many things had impacts on the breeding of pure breed dogs, for example; the popularity of designer breeds, the vigorous marketing efforts of rescue organizations, and the wholesale importation of dogs to supply a retail rescue market, as well as restrictive anti-breeding and dog ownership legislation. The number of Cairn Terriers shown at dog shows, as well as the number of litter registrations and poppy registrations has decreased. As a breed, Cairn Terriers are at risk of disappearing altogether if action is not taken. In 2019, the Cairn Terrier Club of Canada introduced the Certificate of Breeding Quality Program as one strategy to help sustain and promote breeding.

While today, most Cairn terriers are no longer fulfilling their historic purpose, they remain independent, tenacious little dogs that love to hunt and dog. The breed became recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1913.

Rate The Cairn Terrier Breed

Cairn Terrier Comments, Reviews and Questions

  • Sofia

    Feb 23, 2021, 10:54:22 PM:

    Got three myself. Absolutely amazing dogs, all three have completely different natures. The boys are a lot more affectionate than the females. Nevertheless, a pal for life. One of the most underrated terriers out there

  • Sofia

    Feb 23, 2021, 10:51:43 PM:

  • Cheryle

    Nov 28, 2020, 7:40:25 PM:

    Highly intelligent dogs. A beautiful personality. Gets along great with strangers and dogs way more than most dogs do. Very playful and affectionate. They are great with kids and any age group.