Cairn Terrier

  • Overview

    The rock piles where Cairn Terriers executed most of their tenacious hunting expeditions gave these tiny terriers their names. Cairns are dens made from rock piles where foxes and badgers made their homes in the Scottish countryside. Cairn Terriers used their strong front paws and long, compact bodies to squirm and burrow down into the rock piles, where they barked at the larger animal until the predator wandered outside, where the Cairn Terrier's owner killed it.

    Cairn Terriers make festive, involved companions for families looking for an amusingly spirited dog to liven up their daily activities. They refuse to be ignored and they will require some firm training to learn who's boss, but they quickly learn polite manners and become enthusiastic participants in their families' lives.

  • Personality

    The most famous Cairn Terrier is Toto from The Wizard of Oz, who displayed the characteristics of this lively little breed. Toto was intelligent, persistent and confident. He also got along well with all the new friends he met and was sturdy and active enough to hold up throughout plenty of outrageous adventures. That's just like the Cairn. They're hard-working and friendly, but they won't give up on a task once they've started. Cairn Terriers are cheerful and extroverted. Although they can be mischievous, their supporters note that they lack the terrier tendency to be "bratty." These spunky terriers enjoy the commotion and liveliness of an active home with children — in fact, they prefer to be caught up in the chaos.

    These little dogs have slightly longer legs and larger paws than other dogs of their size, which gives them a humorous bouncy gait. Their personalities are vivacious too. They enthusiastically greet strangers and other dogs, but they will have to be socialized to learn polite manners around larger dogs, who won't always know how to tolerate their exuberance. Cairn Terriers will require some firm training as puppies, because they know they're smart. They can develop their own ideas about proper behavior and exciting activities, so they will need a consistent set of rules to follow.

  • Coat Care

    Cairn Terriers are never white. Their coat comes in brindle, sand, red, black and gray shades. Dark ears, muzzle and tail tips are preferred, especially in lighter dogs. The scruffy-looking coat consists of a coarse, wiry outer coat and a soft, close-fitting under coat. Cairn Terriers have a busy topknot and eyebrows.

Cairn Terrier
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Brush your little dog consistently with a small slicker brush and a metal comb. This will help remove dead hair and maintain the wiry texture of his dense coat.

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With preparation, perseverance and a positive attitude, bathing can become a fun and fulfilling part of the regular grooming cycle, while helping your dog avoid many diseases and infections.

The general rule of thumb for dog bathing is every three months but wire-coated dogs can be done with greater frequency, often within a four-to-six week range. The coat should end up fresh smelling, shiny, with no loose or shedding hair. First give the dog a good brushing to remove dead hair and mats. Place a rubber mat in the tub to provide secure footing and fill the tub with three to four inches of lukewarm water. Use a spray hose, pitcher or unbreakable cup to wet the dog, taking caution to avoid getting water in the eyes, ears and nose. Massage in pet shampoo, saving the head for last. Immediately rinse thoroughly, starting with the head to prevent soap from dripping into the eyes. Towel dry. The coat should be fresh smelling, with no loose or shedding hair.

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Hair Clipping

If your Cairn Terrier is strictly a family companion, trim the hair around his feet and paws, underneath his belly and around his face periodically throughout the year. If you hope to show your dog, you'll have to hand strip the coat to remove dead hair and maintain a healthy growing pattern. Either way, grooming the Cairn Terrier and maintaining their characteristic terrier shape is not as difficult as it is on larger dogs because of the Cairn's smaller size.

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Many dog owners are apprehensive about trimming their dog’s nails because they are nervous about cutting into the quick. But with the right conditioning and careful cutting, nail clipping can be a simple, stress-free activity for you and your dog.

Provide your dog with plenty of positive reinforcement and even treats to help associate nail clipping with a positive experience.  As you start to clip, gently press on your dog’s paws to help him become accustomed to the feeling of having his nails clipped. Then, work gradually, shaving down just a thin portion of the nail at first to make sure you don’t reach the quick. Clip one nail, reward your dog with a treat, and stop to give him some positive reinforcement before moving on. Gradually increase the number of nails you clip in one sitting to help your dog get used to the process. Never trim extremely long nails down to a short nail in one sitting, because this is an excellent way to accidently quick the dog’s nail. Instead, work gradually, shaving small portions of your dog’s nails off each time.

You can tell if you’re getting close to the quick by the texture of your dog’s nail. The nail is hard closer to the surface and becomes softer as you get closer to the quick. If your dog’s nail starts to feel softer, that’s a good indication that you’re getting close to the quick.

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Eyes / Ears

Not all breeds and coat styles require routine trimming in and around the eyes and ears but all should undergo regular inspection and cleaning around these sensitive areas. Doing so will help prevent the development of infections that could seriously damage these amazing organs.

It is always important to routinely clean your dog's eyes and ears, and examine for potential infections. Wire coated dogs have sensitive ears covered in hair that  need to be checked weekly for infection and cleaned with a cotton ball. Gently wipe a cotton ball moistened with mineral oil, olive oil or witch hazel in your dog's ear, being careful to avoid the ear canal. Never use a Q-Tip, which could cause damage to the inner ear if your dog suddenly shakes or jerks his head. Bushy hair growth within the ear can be thinned with tweezers or blunt scissors. Use a small trimmer to trim excess hair around the eyes, ears and face. West Highland Terriers and other small terriers with white coats are prone to developing tear stains around the eyes, so clean around their eyes with a cotton ball or soft cloth and use a small trimmer to trim excess hair around their eyes.

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Many owners do not realize how important it is to brush your pet’s teeth on a regular basis. Some dogs are prone to dental problems and sensitive teeth, especially small dogs with tiny teeth and dogs with special diets. These problems can be easily combatted with frequent brushing.

Cavities are rare with dogs but gum disease caused by tartar buildup is not, which is why they require regular brushing with toothpaste and a toothbrush formulated specifically for dogs. While daily brushing is ideal, doing so on a weekly basis will be a big help in avoiding the need to bring your dog to a veterinarian for a cleaning, which usually has to be done under sedation.