An Introduction to the Cairn Terrier (2006)

......with a few enhancements since then (2007,2008,2009,2010, 2011, 2012, 2015)

........and a 2015 Note:  In June of this year,  Rufus passed on after a very brief, short bout with Liver Cancer.  Over a weekend,  Rufus went from being his typical obnoxious self to seeming out of sorts - kind of looked hung over.  That was a bad sign so on Monday we took him to the vet and a blood test revealed some numbers  forty times greater than what they should normally be.  The vet said he could gove Rufus some pills to increase his appetite but that was about all he could do, absent a recommendation to make a very expensive trip to U.C. Davis for further analysis.

The pills did work and Rufus seemed comfortable enough and on a Thursday morning going out to let the dogs out in the yard,  Rufus did not wake up.

He had a good run and no,  I have no desire to repeat the experience.  One Cairn Terrier is enough for me and that is more than enough to last a lifetime. 

RIP,  Rufus.

Family Crest 
The Official Cairn Terrier Family Crest

Breed Motto

                          1. "It's all about me! "           
                          2. "It's all about the ball!"          
                          3. "I adore everyone! ...... present company excluded, of course."

Theme Song - (See Breed Motto #1)    'It's Hard to be Humble'


Vital Statistics

1.  Longevity:  14+ years, unfortunately.

2.  Intelligence:  37 on the Canine Scale, 100 being the highest.  Let that be your first clue.

3.  Disposition:  Pig Headed, Independent, Occasionally Affectionate,  Fixated (see Breed Motto #2).

4.  Sociability:  Sickeningly Social (see Breed Motto #3).

5.  Bravery or Grandiose Stupidity depending on the circumstance:  Total.

6.  Territorial Instincts: None. The grass is always greener anywhere else.

7.  Guard Dog:  What?  You've got to be kidding.

8.  Fickleness:  100%

9.  Lap Dog:  Not

10. Number of AKC Best in Show Championships:  Heh, Heh, Heh

Breed Motto #2

Comments From Around the Neighborhood

"Honey, where's the dog?"

"Pardon me sir (holding your dog at arms length), would this happen to belong to you?"

"Why am I so angry this morning honey?  
Because the $#^*#% dog next door spent all night barking at a plastic bag stuck on a  tree branch."

"I swear, the only thing worse than having one of those #@$%! dogs in the neighborhood would be two of them.
They're not breeding, are they?"

"Oh look honey, isn't he sooooooo cute?  (You choke back a natural gag reflex)"

"Oh God, it's loose again!"

"Is that dog deaf?  He never seems to come when  they call."

"No honey, the sparkle in that dogs eye can't be intelligence.  Looks to me more like evil intent."  

How did we end up with a Cairn Terrier?

Some years ago we picked up a pound puppy slated for the gas chamber.

The hair was incredibly matted. 

It looked like a little ragamuffin of a dog and we felt sorry for it.

Brought it home and named him Sparky.

We shaved all the hair off and the dog looked like a poodle cross of some sort.

Several people thought there was some Cairn terrier in him.

First time we'd ever heard of a Cairn.

Sparky seemed to be a very affectionate dog, always rubbing his head against your pant leg.

Turned out to be rubbing his head because he had a severe ear infection in both ears.

We had him for seven or eight years.  He died one Christmas season from kidney failure.

After several months we decided to get another dog.  Neither of us particularly cared for poodles, clingy lap dogs or yappy
football dogs.

Not knowing much about Cairns, we started to do some reading.

Cairns it seemed, fit the bill.  They were portrayed as independent, not a real shedding dog, reasonably intelligent and

Where to find one of these dogs...

I was working in and out of Kansas at the time and  thought locating a Cairn breeder would be easy.

Toto was a Cairn and  Cairn memorabilia was very popular at the KCI  airport and in the local souvenir  shops.

Think I could find one in Kansas?  Not likely.

I finally found a reputable breeder in Arkansas.  I told her I was only interested in two things. 

I wanted a puppy with a good personality and I wanted the dog to conform reasonably close to the breed standard.

Personality was highest on the priority list.

The dog was shipped at eight weeks of age. 

An eight week old cairn only weighs a pound or two and neither of us had any experience with really small dogs.

I thought as a minimum I should get a water bottle and a tick-tock clock to simulate mom
because the puppy would doubtlessly be homesick, taken away from the litter at such a young age.

Fat Chance

We drove out to the airport and were about to ask where air freight was located but that proved unnecessary.

The loud caterwauling  at the end of the building provided the vital clue we needed.

We presented the claim ticket to the counter agent, who was grateful to hand over the crate. 

She asked us to kindly remove said crate from the  premises   as quickly as possible because
several people had already came down concerned about the possibility of animal abuse.

I decided I'd better open the crate right there on the floor in case something really was wrong. 

The noise coming out of the crate was incredible.

Out bounced a little gray puppy and it proceeded to bounce straight down the aisle to the passenger terminal. 

Fifty feet later I finally caught up with it, grabbed it and deposited it into the hands of my wife.

Then the smell caught up with us

When pups are shipped, they are usually given doggie downers.

 The downers wore off prematurely. The inside of the the kennel was coated with doggy doo-doo, as was the dog. 

I took the pup to the men's room and washed him down.

The kennel went in the trunk and the dog was wrapped in a towel.

We got the puppy home and I washed out the kennel.  

I put in a nice, fluffy towel, a hot water bottle and a clock,  stuck in the pup and went to bed.

Around four in the morning I awoke to a racket out in the garage.

Turned out Junior used the water bottle as a teething ring and flooded out the kennel.

I cleaned  the kennel again, put in a fresh towel and inserted the dog.

I then covered kennel with a blanket and went back to sleep.

We got up the next morning, had coffee and finally remembered there was a new puppy in the garage.

I set the kennel out on the back porch and opened the door. 

The pup ran straight out off the porch and into a cactus.

More squalling and neighbors looking out windows to see what in the world was going on next door.

This of course also set the two big dogs in a tither, not knowing what to make of the rat-sized object making all the noise.

The small rat-sized object spent several months in an outdoor puppy pen until it got big enough that slipping through
the neighbor's fence was more of a hassle than what it was worth.

At six months of age the pup now named Rufus became a major source of aggravation for the two older dogs. 

Rufus chased them, the female in particular, non-stop.  He'd try to grab ears, cheeks and tails.

A Typical Day in Paradise

Every once in a while the big dogs would have enough and roll Rufus on his back, threatening him with imminent death. 

If you have never seen really Po'd Louisiana Catahoula Leopard dogs,  it is quite the sight to behold.

Not knowing you only weigh ten pounds, have an IQ of 37 and possess absolutely no common sense can be an advantage....I guess. 

Ten seconds after being at Death's door, Rufus was up and back and chasing the dogs around the yard again.

And on it went.

The new dog was rapidly becoming a little four-legged demon from hell.

So, what do you do in a situation like this?

Training, of course.

Training Phase I

After the first day of training, my wife swore she would never take him anywhere again. 

Rufus was beside himself with all the new people, new dogs, and new smells. 

His attention was everywhere but on his owner.

Compounding the problem was all the other dog owners who just had to come over and say,
 'How Cute!'  and 'Isn't he adorable?' about a thousand times.

It got real sickening real fast.

After three months, how did training go?

Well, the dog comes ...  occasionally ...  and usually to anyone other than the owner.

Rufus sits when he feels like it, lays down when he feels like it and in general minds only when he feels like it....
unless of course you happen to have a hand full of Snausages.

Walking a CairnOn His Own Terms

Oh, I almost forgot:

Training Phase II

We heard Cairns do particularly well at agility training and  there just happened to be some agility course training classes
starting up.

He went once.

Seeing the look on my wife's face after the first day of training,  I didn't bother to ask what happened. 

I heard all about it in colorful detail after a few glasses of wine.

A thing about Cairns.........there are dire warnings about what happens if you let a Cairn off lead.

Warnings like 'Never, Ever, under any Circumstances let a Cairn off Lead.'

- Those kinds of warnings.

There are several types of agility training and the trainer thought Rufus would take well to going through tunnels.

Rufus was led to the front of one of those flexible tubes dogs go through  while my wife walked to the other end.

Rufus was supposed to be taken off lead and then my wife would call him,  encouraging him to go through the tunnel to  her.

Well, Rufus was far more interested in the person holding the leash, the other dogs, the smells, everything except the owner.

 It  took several minutes to get his attention.

The leash was removed Rufus was set in front of the tube. 

My wife called him through the other end and to everyone's amazement  he went right in. 

The tube was about twenty feet long.

He never came out the other end. My wife and the helper called him. No Rufus.

After several minutes of exasperation, a boy walked over and offered to go in the tube and retrieve the dog - which he did.

What was Rufus doing? 

The Tube

He decided he liked it in the shade and settled in for a nap.

The boy emerged with Rufus, hanging onto the collar.

My wife walked over to put the leash back on the dog and Rufus jumped up, broke the boy's hold and ran back in the tube.

So after a hot, embarrassing half hour in front of many amused spectators trying to get the *&$% dog out of the tube,  
I am afraid that was it for agility training.

Trying to Play the Sympathy Card

Cairn Terriers one to two years of age

My wife seems to forget this stage of life. Every week or so, I would hear in no particular order:

'The Damn Thing got loose again today.'
'The Damn Thing won't come.
'I can't find the Damn Thing.'
'The Damn Thing barked at God knows what all day.'
'I hope the Damn Thing doesn't come back.'
'How long did you say these Damn Things live?'
'Send the Damn Thing to the pound. I can't take it anymore.'

Who, Me?

And then came the final straw

I came home one evening to find my wife on the couch, glass of wine in one hand,  bottle in the other,  staring at Oprah.

She had one of those looks on her face that suggested I keep my mouth shut until she felt like talking.

After an hour or so she said, "Well, aren't you going to ask me how my night went?"

It felt like one of those loaded questions where no matter how you respond, it's the wrong answer. 

Kind of like, "Honey, notice anything different about me today?" .....  and damned if you can see anything different
but you assume it must be the hair (the safest bet), which of course it isn't.

With no small amount of trepidation I said, "How did your night go?"

And she said (paraphrasing):

How did my night go?  Well, let me tell you.

7:00  - I put the big dogs in their kennel and called Rufus. 

No Rufus.

I walked around the yard calling the little *&^*#$ and still no Rufus.

I said fine, let the little &$^%$ stay out all night.

8:00  - I went out back and called Rufus again. No Rufus.

I looked out front.  No Rufus. 

Fine.  I hope the little %*$# stays lost!

9:00  -  I am actually starting to get a little worried, call the  neighbors and ask them if they have seen the dog.

No one has seen the dog.

I drove around the neighborhood even though it was late to see if I could spot him.  No Rufus.

10:00  -  I decided to try one last time and walked out on the deck and  called Rufus again, bouncing his favorite ball at the same time
(Cairns have an obsession with balls).

I called for a good five minutes.

No Rufus.

I lost control of the ball and it bounced off the deck out into the grass.. 

It was dark and I couldn't see where the ball went so I went back in the kitchen and turned on the deck light.

I found the ball and walked back up the porch steps.

I happened to look left and guess who I saw lounging on the most comfortable deck chair?


And he was looking at me with an expression that said, "What! What are you so upset about?".

Rufus!  That *$*$&$# little dog was sitting there the entire time, never came when I called and never made a sound. 

I looked at him, bounced the ball on the deck and said sweetly,

"Rufus, look at what I got! Do you want your ball?"   I rolled it into the kitchen expecting Rufus to follow me in. 

The #!#^)# dog never got off the deck chair!

I walked out and grabbed the little %*(#%& and threw him, the ball and the blankey into the kennel, locked it and put it in the

Tomorrow, unless I am feeling any better than I am tonight,  my good buddy Rufus is going on a permanent vacation!

In the interest of family harmony, I made a few calls.

Small dogs take a year or so longer to mature than large dogs,  meaning puppyhood is about twice as long.

Neutering might prevent the roaming instinct.

So, off to the vet for a gender change.

This I think may have ended up being a mistake because the dog really is a good, conforming representative of his breed.

The reason for roaming wasn't so much because that is what male dogs do in his case. 

It was because there wasn't enough action going on in the back yard. 

Cairns love to stir the pot, jack things up, get things going.

If the action is not  at home, why there is a whole neighborhood to explore!

For this reason and due the gregariousness (is that a word?) of these dogs and  the fact that they have absolutely no loyalty,
it cannot be emphasized enough to

NEVER,  And I Mean NEVER,  Let The Dog Off Lead.  

Ever owned a ferret or know someone who owns (or more likely owned) a ferret?  One opening and they are gone.  
Cairns, like Ferrets  assume since they love everything except for rodents, that everything loves them as well.

Off lead their little brains work  something like this:

'Oh look down the block!  Another dog!  I've got to make friends!
 No, wait!  There's a person across the street. Another best friend!

A Visitor

 No, wait!  This person is nice but someone is getting into the Schwan's Truck.  I love him too!
No, wait!   What's that chatter in the background?  Someone calling me?  Can't think of anyone important.............

No, wait! ' 

....................You  get my drift.

And this brings me to the Cairn Terrier alternate theme song:

A Ramblin Man

Three Years Later:

Rufus the Obnoxious is now Rufus the Marginally Tolerable.

The ball obsession is still there but he isn't as persistent.

The dog still has absolutely no loyalty.

He is as  full of spirit as ever.


Rufus is still  even tempered, which is a good thing. 
He has a mouth full of teeth a Pirahana would envy.
He could do some real damage with little effort.

Rough Day

After a particularly trying day at the hair dresser's.

Even Cairns need to take a break sometime, or the other dogs need a break from Cairns:'

I guess you could call this video - 
'Bedtime for Bonzo' or 'Blankey or Ball'

Would we ever get another one?

I kind of think going through the experience of puppyhood is analogous  to that of child birth in
that you tend to forget all the grief you went through at the time, or so I hear.


Or maybe we might just go for something a bit more exotic - like a bowl of goldfish.

Wine & Dog

....and just in case you thought I was kidding........

 If you have a cairn story, pics or a video you'd like to pass along, feel free.

Pup versus  Adult Coat Colors:

A number of people have asked if I have pics of coat colors as a pup  and then coat colors as an adult.  

I don't have many.

If you have a couple pics to spare of pup and then adult coat colors, I'd like to start showing the comparisons.


For Emails, please include the word 'cairn' or 'terrier; in the subject header.

Also, some of you folks take great pictures but you send them along in sizes too small for me to work with.  
If you would be so kind as to send at least 400x 400 pix, that would be very helpful.
Sizes up to one mb work fine for me.

2012 Shameless Plug

The Standard Parti Poodle

If you have been thoroughly impressed with this Cairn Terrier Soliloquy and wish to further broaden your horizons,
or maybe I plain scared you off................

You may wish to check out my soon-to-be  award winning,

  An Introduction to the Standard Parti-Poodle

...commentary on another challenging breed that I think deserves more attention than the canned pap you see everywhere else.