Brindle Cairn Terrier: What to Know About This Breed in 2022

If you’re on the hunt for a small dog breed, people have probably suggested terriers more than once. Different types of terriers can vary wildly from one another and stand out for their own unique reasons. They can be different sizes, as well. It’s important to look at information on each type before deciding which terrier to get.

Cairn Terriers are a sweet, hardy breed that’s quite versatile and requires less maintenance than most other small dog breeds.

All they ask for in life is a full tummy and a lot of love. Some have a brindle coat color that’s remarkably beautiful on their long fur.

Keep reading to learn more about the Brindle Cairn Terrier and whether this tiny dog is the best choice for you.

What Is a Brindle Cairn Terrier?

Brindle Cairn Terrier
The Brindle Cairn Terrier is small and adorable.

A Brindle Cairn Terrier is one of the smaller types of terrier dogs. They usually weigh in at a whopping 13 to 15 pounds, yet have a personality ten times their size. They were originally bred on the Isle of Skye in Scotland primarily to catch vermin.

They have very flexible personalities and can adapt to many different types of situations. So long as they are in a loving environment and aren’t often alone, they’ll be happy. 

Lifespan12 to 15 years
Weight13 to 15 pounds
Height9 to 10 inches at shoulders
Suitable forFamilies, children, elderly
Grooming concernsRequires moderate grooming for longer hair
Health concernsGenerally healthy, but does have some predisposition to skeletal and organ conditions
TemperamentLarger than life personality, gentle, feisty, sometimes barks excessively

Their coats can come in a variety of colors and a lot of them have very unique markings.

Some of their coat colors include:

  • Brindle
  • Black
  • Cream
  • Gray
  • Wheaten
  • Red

There are about 15 different possible colors, though the above are the most popular. 

For more information on the brindle coat amongst dog breeds, stop by our Best Brindle Dog Breeds Guide. You’ll discover which breeds the brindle coat is often seen in and their traits!

Common Brindle Cairn Terrier Traits

Brindle Cairn Terriers have a little bit of everything. They can be calm, yet spunky, and are suited to most types of life. They’re even accomplished show dogs! If you have a lifestyle that makes it hard to find a compatible dog, the Brindle Cairn Terrier could be just the ticket.

Brindle Cairn Terriers can also be incredibly stubborn and will not easily abandon something they’re trying to do. Whether they’re searching for something or trying to accomplish a task, they’ll keep at it for far longer than most dogs. 

This can serve them well in training, but it can be a frustration to you when trying to break a bad habit your dog might have developed.

While they’re versatile, each dog’s personality is different. There will be things that your dog hates and won’t tolerate. It can be easy to forget that when they usually so often go with the flow.

Personality Traits

The Brindle Cairn Terrier has a larger-than-life personality, to the point where we could easily write an entire book on their antics! The two traits that best sum up their personalities would be loving and feisty. 

They absolutely love time with their humans and can even suffer greatly if left alone for long periods of time. They’re prone to abandonment fears, separation anxiety, and destructiveness if this happens. While that can seem like a lot to handle, it’s well worth the effort because they become so loving and attached to your entire family.

They also have a wild, playful streak and do well with high levels of activity. They’ll follow you around all day on a farm or keep the kids occupied with hours of silly play. When it’s time to settle down, they prefer curling up close to you.

Cairn Terriers are also wonderful support animals for anxiety and depression since they can easily provide both loving companionship and comic relief.

If you’re in need of a support dog, we wrote a complete overview of the Best Dogs for Anxiety.

Intelligence and Training

You may not have heard of a Cairn Terrier, but you’ve almost definitely seen one! Dorothy’s dog, Toto, in The Wizard of Oz was played by a purebred Cairn named Terry.

This is because Cairn Terriers are excellent at learning a variety of jobs, such as the following:

  • Farm work
  • Hunting vermin
  • Fetch and carry tasks
  • Herding

With these little guys, the sky’s the limit. They’re so smart that they can comfortably learn hundreds of different tricks and cues, which is why Terry did such a great job as Toto on set.

However, Cairn Terriers respond extremely poorly to discipline and may become either scared or aggressive. Instead, positive reinforcement should be used, as well as rewards. 

Not only will they respond and train much better when the proper training style is implemented, but you’ll build a wonderful bond with your little dog.

Emotional Needs

Emotionally speaking, Cairn Terriers need to feel loved. If they don’t have that, both their mental and physical health can decline. If you’re considering a Brindle Cairn Terrier, you should make sure that you can handle the commitment that they need. 

A Brindle Cairn Terrier tends to use yips and barks to communicate with people, so you should pay attention to these cues. They could be calling your attention to the fact that their food bowl is perilously close to half empty or something that’s actually serious. 

The upside is that they make great alert dogs!

The Brindle Cairn Terrier and Children

Cairn Terriers do exceptionally well with children. They absolutely adore playing and snuggling with them. Children and Cairns can keep each other entertained for hours with silly play. 

A Brindle Cairn Terrier will become extremely devoted to the children in their family unit, often viewing them as a puppy to be protected and cherished.

Since these dogs are so small, you should be taking extra care to make sure that small children don’t accidentally hurt them. They should always be supervised when together. It doesn’t take much to seriously injure a tiny dog.

Physical Needs

Cairns are very versatile, physically. As long as they get a bit of exercise every day, have a soft place to sleep, and food in their bellies, they’re good. If a Cairn is complaining, there’s usually a good reason for it and they should be properly examined.

Their physical needs can be divided up into several categories.

These include:

  • Exercise
  • Grooming and shedding
  • Home environment
  • Medical care

Most of these are just common sense, but there are some breed-specific considerations to be aware of.


Since Cairns are so little, they don’t need huge spaces to get adequate exercise. As a matter of fact, these dogs are a great choice for someone who lives in an apartment because size isn’t much of an issue.

Even so, you should make sure to give them exercise every day, whether it’s some tug-of-war, a rousing game of fetch, or a walk around the block. Daily exercise will help keep them healthy, reduce the chances of obesity, and keep their muscles and joints in shape.

Even though Cairns don’t need excessive amounts of exercise, they still do very well in fast-paced environments. 

When they were first bred, they would work the farms all day hunting vermin or helping their humans with different tasks. They have retained that seemingly limitless energy.

Read our related article, Do Terriers Like to Swim? See if swimming is something the Cairn Terrier would enjoy and how to stay safe on the water!

Grooming and Shedding

Cairn Terriers have moderately long hair, so they do require regular brushing. Many Cairn owners also choose to get them regular haircuts to help manage it better. If they show dogs, these haircuts can get pretty intricate.

While many Cairn owners choose to let a groomer handle their grooming, it’s simple and easy enough to do at home. Just make sure your pooch gets a good brushing at least once a week and baths as necessary. 

Keep their nails trimmed and provide them with good dental chews to keep their teeth healthy.

Home Environment Needs

These dogs are extraordinarily versatile when it comes to the home environment they live in. They can adapt to almost any lifestyle and fit in comfortably.

If you live in a smaller home or apartment, the Cairn will do well. They need minimal exercise and are content to simply sit and enjoy companionship with their humans. Whether your house is calm and quiet or very rowdy, your Brindle Cairn Terrier will get used to it and thrive.

They also do well on ranches and farms. Better yet, they can make themselves useful by catching vermin and helping out with various different tasks.

Medical Care and Common Medical Conditions

Most tiny dogs come with a host of medical problems that can be daunting. Cairn Terriers have surprisingly few medical needs, comparatively. They’re considered a very healthy, hardy breed.

Even so, they do have some conditions that they’re predisposed to. This doesn’t mean that your Cairn will be diagnosed with any of them, just that it’s something to watch out for so that you can address it as necessary.

Some of these conditions include:

  • Glaucoma
  • Portacaval shunt
  • Globoid cell leukodystrophy
  • Craniomandibular osteopathy
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Liver conditions
  • Obesity

If your Cairn starts showing symptoms associated with these, they should see a vet to determine the proper care going forward.

As with all dogs, a Cairn should be microchipped, up to date on their shots, and see the vet once a year for a checkup. These preventative measures will help keep your dog healthy for as long as possible.

How to Get a Brindle Cairn Terrier

When getting a new dog, there are two obvious options that you probably already know about: breeders or rescue. Both of these options have their advantages and drawbacks.

Finding a reputable breeder for terriers is pretty easy, especially if you use the AKC Marketplace. The tricky part is making sure that they’re good, reputable breeders who are doing it the right way. You should avoid backyard breeders and puppy mills at all costs. A reputable breeder almost always means a healthier dog.

When getting your dog from a breeder, you can expect to pay about $1,200 to $5,000. This amount usually depends on the quality of the dog and its lineage, along with the reputation of the breeder.

If you choose to rescue a dog, terriers are found quite often in shelters. You can use a tool such as PetFinder to search for a specific breed near you. 

If you find a Cairn Terrier at a shelter, you’ll only have to pay an adoption fee which is much cheaper than a breeder. However, you sacrifice knowing anything about their lineage and breeding conditions.

The Brindle Cairn Terrier and First-Time Dog Owners

Cairn dogs are a great option for first-time owners because of their versatility. 

As long as you have the time to give them, you shouldn’t have many problems as you learn how to share your life and home with a dog. Cairns are quite forgiving, so mistakes won’t set you too far back.

One thing that might give a first-time owner some trouble would be getting the hang of their grooming. If you’ve never groomed a dog, it could prove to be tricky. The best option may be to let a groomer do the job for you until you get the hang of it.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 5 / 5. Vote count: 1

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

You can read more about me in our about us page

Connect with me:

Leave a Comment