A lot of people don’t know what a Cairn Terrier is, but mention the name Toto, and a picture of the breed forms in their mind immediately. The little terrier who went over the rainbow is a movie legend and indisputably one of the most famous dogs of all time. That’s why so many people, even if they don’t necessarily know the breed name, want a cute and spunky little Toto of their very own.
But how accurate is The Wizard of Oz in its portrayal of Cairns? If you’ll recall, Toto is a bit of a troublemaker, running afoul of Miss Gulch early in the movie. Sounds about right. On the other hand, the dog stays on the Yellow Brick Road without a leash. And as any Cairn owner knows, you can never trust one of these dogs off a leash. Cairn Terriers were bred to hunt, and have a powerful instinct to chase, dig, and explore.
The Cairn Terrier personality is curious, active, passionate, independent, confident, and very intelligent. Like other terrier breeds, they can be difficult to train simply because they have their own priorities. They seem to have a built-in affinity for children, and when socialized early on, are gregarious with people in general. On the other hand, because of their assertiveness, they don’t always get along with other dogs.
Health Problems & Life Expectancy
The life expectancy of a Cairn Terrier is generally 12-15 years. These dogs are healthy compared to many breeds, and don’t have a laundry list of serious health problems to worry about. That said, some things to be concerned about include allergies, general skin problems, and cataracts. These dogs are also quite prone to obesity, which is probably the most common and potentially severe heath problem of all.Another issue is that a Cairn – despite its sturdiness – can easily get hurt due to its aggressive nature. These guys won’t hesitate to take on a much larger dog. They also tend to be escape artists, and will take advantage of their freedom to wander far from home, hunt animals, and/or chase cars. In short, they need to be watched closely.
Cairn Terrier Mixes
Cairns were originally bred in Scotland, and are closely related to Scottish Terriers and West Highland White Terriers (which are often described as white Cairns). With the trend toward designer dogs, they’re also sometimes mixed with other breeds to form new and interesting hybrids. If you’re looking for a unique dog (or just can’t decide on a single breed), some popular mixes include the Cairn/Chihuahua and the Cairn/Shih Tzu.
Owning a Cairn
Cairn Terriers are wonderful family dogs that have the temperament and toughness to play with children all day long. They also adapt well to apartments, though like all terriers, they need daily exercise and interaction. Here are some other points about Cairns to consider before bringing one into your life:Shedding. Cairns shed less than you might expect given their bushy coats. The dog’s hair tends to mat rather than fall out. To remove loose hair, you need to brush the dog regularly and take it in to be stripped a few times a year.
Not a Lap Dog. Cairns give kisses freely, and are perhaps one of the licking-est breeds around. However, they tend to resist anything they see as containment, which includes sitting on a lap or being held.
Hard-Headedness. It’s worth repeating that these dogs are not the most obedient pooches. They can be difficult to control, and they will get in trouble if given the opportunity.
If you think you can handle a Cairn Terrier, make sure to do some research and pick a reputable breeder. Better yet, consider adopting from one of the many Cairn Terrier rescue organizations out there. Just because a dog has been surrendered does not mean there’s something wrong with it. In most cases, it’s the dog’s previous owner who made the mistake in thinking they could care for an active and strong-willed dog like this.