As well-known, adorable little dogs often seen in Hollywood, many people who have never interacted with a Cairn Terrier in person assume they know a lot about the breed! However, there are a number of common misconceptions about these tiny, energetic terriers, some that can completely hamper what should be a strong relationship between the new pet and his or her owner.

The most frequent misconception regarding Cairn Terriers is that they are toy dogs, grouped with lap dogs like Pomeranians or Chihuahuas. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Though a properly trained and very patient Cairn Terrier can withstand a bit of dressing up or costuming, or being toted around like a fashion accessory, this breed is actually appropriately classified in the working group. Originally bred to flush and kill vermin for farmers in the Scottish Highlands, the Cairn Terrier, despite its small stature, is a little bundle of energy ready to expend it at any opportunity! As a working breed, Cairns need far more exercise and physical activity than any toy breed could handle. Cairn Terriers are by no means a lap dog! While they will provide endless love and affection, they also need constant stimulation and need to live with an owner who leads an active lifestyle, or at the very least, is willing to spend a couple hours a day entertaining and exercising their pet.

Many new pet owners who are shopping for the perfect breed hear that the Cairn Terrier is very intelligent and assume that this means their new pup will be a cinch to train. Unfortunately, while it is true that Cairns are very smart dogs, their intelligence has the exact opposite effect on their trainability. Being that they are very clever, they are more prone to outwit you than to obey you! Those who are experienced with owning Cairn Terriers know that this breed is not quick to learn tricks, nor is it eager to please you unless it is confirmed that he or she will be getting a reward after its performance. This doesn’t mean that Cairn Terriers are impossible to train; it simply means that they will do best with an experienced trainer who knows how to handle them. If you are dead-set on having a Cairn Terrier as a pet but have never worked with the breed before, it is best to seek out professional help. Enrolling your new pup in a basic obedience course will work wonders, helping not only to train your dog, but to train you in how to train your dog! Obedience courses also offer invaluable socialization time with other people and animals, which can help curb various temperament issues that may arise in the future without it.

Another common misconception is that the Cairn Terrier is an all-around docile animal and is too small to be aggressive. This is very untrue! Cairn Terriers, like a number of smaller working breeds such as Corgis or English Bulldogs, have the personalities of giant dogs in tiny bodies. Many owners say that they’re absolutely positive their Cairn Terrier has no idea how small he or she really is! The Cairn Terrier, originally bred as a hunting dog, is perfectly capable of picking – and finishing – a fight with another dog, a skunk in the back yard, or (if improperly socialized) even a human that approaches too quickly for comfort. These dogs are of a very loyal breed, and can often become aggressively defensive of their owners or their property. Proper and consistent training and correction is the only way to correct, curb, or counter this problem.

This article was written by John Jackson and has been contributed by For more information on the Cairn Terrier, please visit our page

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