The Cairn Terrier is one of the oldest of the terrier breeds. It was originated in the Scottish Highlands and recognized as one of Scotland’s earlier working dogs. The breed is generally used for hunting and burrowing prey among the cairns.
Although the breed had existed long before, the name Cairn Terrier was a compromise over the original name Short-haired Skye terriers. This breed was originally brought to official shows in the United Kingdom in 1909. This name was accepted by The Kennel Club due to opposition from Skye Terrier breeders, and then the name Cairn Terrier was suggested as an alternative. They are usually left-pawed which is often shown in dogs to correlate to superior performance in tasks related to scent. They are ratters.
Cairn originated in the Highlands of Scotland and the Isle of Skye. They were initially grouped in the “Skye Terrier” class alongside the Scottish and West Highland White Terriers. In the early 1900s, the three breeds began to be bred separately. The breed was given the name cairn, because the breed’s function was to chase quarry from the cairns in the Scottish highlands.
The Cairn Terrier has a harsh weather-resistant outer coat that can be pink, blue, wheaten, red, sandy, gray or brindled in any of these colours. Pure black, black and tan, and white are not permitted by many kennel clubs. Earlier the registration of white Cairns was permitted, but after 1917 the American Kennel Club required them to be registered as West Highland White Terriers. A characteristic feature of Cairns is that brindled Cairns frequently change their colour throughout their lifetime. It is not uncommon to them to become more black or silver with age. They are double-coated with a soft, dense undercoat and a harsh outer coat. A well-groomed Cairn is free of artifice or exaggeration and has a rough-and-ready appearance. The Cairn Terrier was registered into the American Kennel Club in 1903.
Cairn Terriers shed very little but should be always hand stripped. Using scissors or shears can ruin the dog’s rugged outer coat after one grooming. Hand stripping involves pulling of the old hair out by the roots. This should be done correctly to avoid any discomfort to the dog, as that may cause the dog to shy away from the future hand stripping. This procedure of removal of dead hair allows new growth to come in, which protects the dog from water and dirt.
Cairn terrier’s ancestors are from Scotland where the wire coat repels water and keeps the dog dry in rainy and damp climates. Keeping its coat in original state will prevent from possible skin irritations. Clipper-cutting must be avoided as it might destroy the protective wire coat unique to this breed.
If Cairn is obtained from unknown sources (like pet stores, rescues, puppy mills, etc) then it should be examined to rule out heritable skin diseases.
These dogs are generally healthy and live on average about 12 to 17 years. Breeders, owners and veterinarians have found several health problems significant for Cairns. Some of these diseases are hereditary while others occur as a result of non-specific factors (like infections, toxins, injuries or advanced age). Some of the common hereditary health problems found in the Cairn are: Cataracts, Corneal dystrophy, Entropion, Hip dysplasia, etc.
They can exist happily in an apartment if it is sufficiently exercised. They are very active indoors and will suffice even without a yard. They should have a fenced-in yard or be leashed. Cairns are particularly stubborn and require obedience school or some other type of training to direct its focus on the owner. Daily walks will help to keep a Cairn happy and healthy.
These are active dogs, and so require a daily walk. Play will take care of a lot of their exercise needs, but will not fulfil their primal instinct to walk. Dogs that do not get to go on daily walks are more likely to display behaviour problems. Obedience school is often a good start to create interactive plays using words or commands for a dog to perform specific actions. Teaching them is also a clever way to direct their active energy into acceptable controlled games.