Owning a Cairn
The Cairn is one of the original terrier breeds of Scotland developed in the Western Highlands and the Island of Skye to hunt fox or otter in a pack, on foot, with a crofter. The work for which the breed was developed very largely determined both its physical and temperamental characteristics …very much a case of form following function. Whilst most Cairns today are never likely to be in a position to pursue their hunting heritage breeders try to stick to the Breed Standard as closely as possible which describes a terrier best suited to the task.
Should impress as a small, alert, active terrier with its tail (which is undocked) and ears up, bright eyes full of intelligence and ready for anything.
The breed is suitable for most people who are willing to spend time with them, exercise them regularly and put a little effort in to maintaining the coat. Obviously a young energetic puppy might not be as suitable for an elderly person where an older and more settled dog might fit the bill. Often a breeder can be persuaded to part with an older one when their show and stud career is over if they are certain that the new home is going to be very special!!
No two Cairns are exactly alike each has their own individual personality.
In the days when bitches were not routinely neutered the demand was for dog puppies but this has changed and now there is a far greater demand for bitch puppies. Since most are neutered it must be said there is little difference between the two sexes. A castrated male will not generally mark its territory and in terms of temperament is not really significantly different to a bitch. Indeed many would say that Cairn bitches can be rather more independent than their male counterparts.
The breed is a coated one and therefore there is certainly some work required but done regularly it should not be too onerous. They should be brushed once or twice a week with a good stiff bristle brush and combed through with a steel toothed comb to ensure there are no knots. As a double coated breed at the onset of summer the topcoat is best removed to keep the dog comfortable during the hotter months. The coat is best removed by hand stripping and your breeder is the best person to speak to as to who may be able to help. It is not a particularly difficult skill to master and with a little tuition most pet owners should easily pick it up. Most grooming parlours will clip your Cairn and whilst this will certainly make the dog tidier and cooler it will generally result in a loss of coat quality and colour.
If your dog is walked on a hard surface it should keep its nails well worn down. It is still wise to check the feet regularly to ensure the nails are no too long. Not all dogs step evenly on each foot and the odd nail may, even in a dog exercised regularly, make insufficient contact with the surface to be effectively worn down. If the dew claws have not been removed they too should be checked. Not making contact with the ground if left unchecked they can continue to grow and cause significant problems. There a number of nail clippers, files etc available and you should use whichever is most suitable for you and the dog. The secret is regular gentle use introduced when the puppy is young so that he becomes used to it.
Regular exercise is essential for the wellbeing of any Cairn and a daily walk does much to keep dog and owner fit as well as contributing to the development of a strong bond between the two. Teaching them to retrieve a ball is handy as a vigorous session of ball chasing and retrieving can do much to keep the dog well muscled.
In this country dogs need to be vaccinated against distemper, hepatitis and parvo virus. There is also a vaccine which will deal with most strains of kennel cough. If there is any chance that you will need to board your Cairn most commercial boarding kennels will insist on them being vaccinated against kennel cough.
Most Cairns live in the house with their owners as much loved family pets. Even in those circumstances it’s important that your Cairn has his “own” space be it a bed or dog crate. Getting the Cairn used to using an open plastic crate as his space is a very good thing as then if you have a need to lock him up for any reason, even if only to take him to the vet, he won’t resent the experience.
As a relatively small dog they don’t require substantial amounts of food so that whether you mix your own diet or rely on a commercially prepared one it’s important that the food be of good quality. They are normally very good “doers” so care needs to be taken that, whatever they eat, they don’t get overweight particularly if they have been neutered.
Bored dogs are generally unhappy dogs and either destructive or noisy...or both! There are many products on the market today designed to be left with your dog when you are not there to keep him amused. Most work well and it’s really just a question of finding those that most appeal to your particular dog. However remember the most effective are not necessarily the most expensive. A large marrow bone will keep him amused for hours as well as keep his teeth clean. A sealed tin can with gravel in it which he can push around the yard is another favourite. There are many things around the average household which can be adapted to make toys for you Cairn and as long as you make sure that it can’t break up into pieces small enough to swallow or splinter the choice is only limited by your imagination.