Cairn Terriers are those big surprises that come in small packages. The gutsy little dogs need a lot of care and attention.
Ancestry, Appearance, and Temperament
The ancestral roots of the Cairn Terriers can be traced back to Scottish uplands, where since time immemorial, they have been companions of men; burrowing and chasing rats, rabbits, and foxes very happily. They use their small size and agility to the fullest extent in chasing their quarry, under and above the ground.
They were known as working dogs, 'dogs on duty' in those days, because they chased away the small animals and rodents off estates and farmlands. Hence the name Terrier which refers to 'terra', that is the 'Earth'. The name 'Cairn' comes from the same name given to piles of stones, erected by people in these uplands, through which these dogs chased small animals. Although, in modern times, they are mostly bred as household pets, they still perform their ancestral duty by chasing rats around the house, relieving cats of their jobs.
They are generally southpaws, weighing around 13 to 14 pounds and around 24 to 33 cm in length. Their coats vary in color from creamy, sandy, reddish, to wheaten or brindled, that is patchy, with streaks of different colors. They don't shed hair a lot. The little beard and the innocent eyes add to their 'cute quotient'. They are a little goofy and in some cases, notoriously independent creatures.
Cairn Terriers are energetic creatures, with an adventurous spirit. They simply love chasing. They can be very headstrong as they grow up and, therefore, it's essential to train and mold them in their 'pup' stage. They make great companions and can really make you feel alive with their enthusiasm.
Cairn Terriers have a high hair growth rate and if the hair is not trimmed and cut, you can have a hairy, albeit lovable monster on your hands. So, it is absolutely essential that you trim the matted hair and dead coat very carefully and regularly.
The grooming needs to do be done very carefully. Most owners advise, delicately pulling out the dead hair, right from the skin as this promotes the growth of new skin and hair. This is called hand stripping and it is not painful for the dog as essentially what you pull out, are dead hair.
Another reason why hair trimming is important is for maintaining the health of a dog's skin. Otherwise, it may develop fungal or bacterial problems. This may be prevented by regular trimming, which lets the skin breathe. Also, occasional sprinkling of antifungal powder can help.
You may not need to bathe them regularly. Bathing them thrice or four times a year is good enough, provided you comb their coat regularly, in fact, every week. Use a good brush that reaches the roots and disentangles matted hair.
The areas that need special attention are the arm pits and the hair around the genitals. You need to be careful while trimming these areas as they are delicate, but must be trimmed for hygiene, as they are most prone to infections. Also, ear hair needs to be trimmed and ears need to be checked for infections. Visiting a vet, once in a while, is a good idea. Make the hairdo session an enjoyable one for the dog and start early so that it becomes a habit later.
That concludes the physical hygiene and trimming part. The more essential part is teaching good habits. One thing which needs discipline is the dog's eating habits.
In order to refine the breed, early breeders let the Cairn Terrier mate very selectively, so as to enhance specific traits in the next generation. The intentions of the breeders were good but they went against natural selection. Due to this, modern Cairn Terriers are vulnerable to various diseases due to low inbuilt resistance. Therefore, vaccinating them is essential and care needs to be taken about what they eat.
At the 'pup' stage, the diet needs to be rich in proteins. Milk is a good option at this stage but serve it in limited amounts, otherwise it may cause indigestion. Later as the dog grows up, a balanced diet, rich in proteins,carbohydrates, fats, calcium, and phosphorus is essential. Feeding chicken and lambs is a good idea but also include pulses. Care needs to be taken that you do not overfeed the dog. Obese dogs have heart problems and are generally very inactive. Make it a point not to feed the dog, scraps and leftover titbits from your food, as it becomes a habit for them later.
Disciplining the dog for his toilet habits is essential, right from the puppy stage. Take your terrier for a walk regularly, to places where it can safely explore things. They absolutely love that. Teaching your dog to play games and interacting with it is a nice idea, as it is not only a lot of fun but makes your bonding with your pet even stronger.
Lastly, let the dog be. Give him space, lots of love, and let him develop his own personality. Enjoy having a little bit of wildness around you.