This section provides general information about Cairn Terriers and how to care for them. Be sure to check out the following topics:
TOTO: The Other Side of the Story
Written by Michele Stadnick
So, "The Wizard of Oz" is your favorite movie, you just LOVE Toto, and have always wanted a dog just like him? A dog who's small, cute, lovable, and doesn't shed all over your couch? You've done your research and learned that Cairn Terriers are (take your pick):
- Good with children
- Loving family dogs
- Adaptable to living in small apartments as well as large homes
Well, YES and NO.
Probably NO ONE ever told you that Cairns will almost INVARIABLY:
- Chase squirrels
- Chase bunnies
- Chase bugs
- Chase bikes
- Chase paper fluttering down the street
- Chase anything that moves
- Chase things that aren't moving, just to GET them moving so they'll have something to chase
- Bark at cars
- Bark at bikes
- Bark at birds
- Bark at trikes
- Bark at trucks
- Bark at the phone
- Bark at fireworks
- Bark at thunder
- Bark at the doorbell
- Bark at the doorbell on TV
- Bark to hear themselves bark
- Bark just to get your goat -- or your attention
- Or both
- Bark sometimes just cause it feels so damned GREAT
- Dig up that mouse hole
- Dig up your tulips
- Dig up your roses
- Dig up your lawn
- Dig under your fence
- Dig under your shed
- Dig up your linoleum
- Dig up your carpeting
- Nip at people's feet if you haven't redirected their intense prey drive
- Nip at your hands too, if not trained properly
- Try to control their universe and everything in it -- INCLUDING YOU
- Will succeed at this unless YOU intervene. And even then, they'll try again. And again. And again and again and again and again.
- Lunge at other dogs on leash
- Lunge at people, unless trained not to
- Lunge cause it feels good and they're in a hurry to get where they're going, and you're the only thing holding them back from experiencing the next exciting adventure around the corner or around the world.
- Bolt out any open door in the blink of an eye
- LET ME REPEAT THAT: THEY WILL BOLT OUT ANY OPEN DOOR IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE
- And won't return until they're good and ready.
- Sometimes not even then
- Refuse to come -- unless they want to
- Refuse to sit -- unless they want to
- Refuse to stay -- unless they're bored silly, and if so, that's the BEST time to move around to stir up the action anyway
- Refuse to stop barking -- unless there's something in it for them...like a fabulous treat
- Refuse to do what you want at the PRECISE moment that it's most important that they do...like when you're trying to show off how obedient and well-trained they are (which is, of course, a grand delusion on your part).
Nor, it seems, has anyone told you:
- A Cairn can never, ever, ever be trusted off-leash, EVER.
- Not even for a second. Regardless of how well-trained you have deluded yourself into believing he is
- That all the dogs you've had before and have trained so well don't matter...if they weren't Cairns.
- Because Cairns are different.
- Very different
- That they're generally NOT the best breed for a home with small children.
- That one bears repeating: Cairns are generally NOT the best breed for a home with small children.
- That Cairns WILL shed a little (or a lot) if you don't groom them properly.
- That they're relatively resistant to housebreaking (don't expect them to be housebroken in a week, or even a month)!
- And even when you think they're housebroken, if they've got something else on their agenda at the moment, they're likely to conveniently "forget."
- That they are affectionate -- on their terms, not yours.
- That they are stubborn and hardheaded, not to mention incredibly independent
- That obedience training is a necessity, not a luxury. And that it's just the FIRST step in the process.
- That you should read the previous sentence again, and forget everything you think you know. If you haven't owned a Cairn, it doesn't apply.
- That they were bred to hunt and kill, and their intense prey drive can NEVER be trained out of them. Toto may not have KILLED those flying monkeys, but that's only because Toto KNEW they were fakes. Otherwise, they'd have been dead, not merely outwitted.
What they SHOULD have told you is:
- They're wonderful for THE RIGHT OWNER
- They're loving -- IF YOU LOVE THEM, TREAT THEM WELL, AND HAVE EARNED THEIR RESPECT
- They're smart -- PROBABLY SMARTER THAN YOU
- They're sweet -- WHEN THEY WANT TO BE
- They're funny -- VIRTUALLY ALL THE TIME, IF YOU ENJOY DEMENTED, DEVIOUS, DEVILISH HUMOR
- They're good with GOOD, WELL-BEHAVED CHILDREN WHO HAVE GOOD, RESPONSIBLE PARENTS. And if they haven't had a bad experience previously with ill-behaved kids. Otherwise, it's a recipe for disaster.
- They're strong
- They're hearty
- They're brave
- They're relentless
- They're devious
- They're insightful
- They're indomitable
- They're energetic beyond description
- They're intelligent beyond belief
- They're the BEST dog you'll ever own
- BUT...they just may be the WORST dog you can imagine.
THAT PART IS ALL UP TO YOU!
Oh, and by the way, Toto was actually a GIRL!
~ Michele Stadnick
Glossary of Conformation Terms
ANGULATION: The angles formed by the meeting of
the bones. Mainly the shoulder, upper arm, stifle and hock.
APRON: Longer hair below the neck on the chest. Frill
BACKSKULL: That portion of the skull between the stop and the ears.
BARRELL: Rounded rib section; thorax.
BRISKET: The forepart of the body below the chest, between the forelegs,
closest to ribs. The lowest part of the body between the forelegs.
CHARACTER: A combination of points of appearance and disposition
contributing to the whole and distinctive of the particular breed of dog.
CHEST: The part of the body or trunk that is enclosed by the ribs;
forepart of the body above the brisket.
CLIPPED: Trimming the coat with clippers or scissors.
CLODDY: Low, thickset, comparatively heavy.
CLOSE COUPLED: Comparatively short from withers to hipbones.
COARSE: Too heavy or overdone with bone.
COBBY: Short-bodied, compact.
COUPLING: The part of the body between the ribs and the pelvis; the
COW-HOCKED: When the hocks turn toward each other; turn inward like
those of a cow.
DORSAL STRIPE: The strip of hair down the center of the back.
DOWN IN PASTERN: Weak or faulty pastern (metacarpus) set at a pronounced
angle from the vertical.
ELBOW: Joint between upper arm and forearm.
EXPRESSION: The general appearance of all features of the head as viewed
from the front and as typical of the breed.
FIDDLE-FRONT: Combination of forelegs out at elbow, in at pasterns, and
feet turned out.
FLANK: The side of the body between the last rib and the hip.
FOREFACE: The front part of the head, before the eyes; the muzzle.
FURNISHINGS: The long softer hair that covers the legs, chest, and
appears on the face to make the halo.
GAIT: The manner in which a dog walks, trots, or runs.
HAW: A third eyelid or membrane in the inside corner of the eye.
HEIGHT: Vertical measurement from the withers to the ground; referred to
as shoulder height.
HOCK: The tarsus or collection of bones of the hind leg forming the
joint between the second thigh and the metatarsals; the dog's true heel.
HAND-STRIPPED: To pluck the hair out with fingers or tool.
LAYBACK: The angle of the shoulder blade as compared with the vertical.
LOIN: The region of the body on either side of the vertebral column
between the last rib and the hindquarters.
MUZZLE: The head in front of the eye - nasal bone, nostril, and jaws.
OCCIPUT: Upper, back point of the skull; between the ears.
PAD: Tough, shock-absorbing projections on the underside of the feet.
PADDLING: The joint between the radius and ulna, and the meracarpals;
the foreleg from knee joint to top of foot.
ROACH BACK: The convex curvature of the back from behind the withers and
carrying over the loins.
SIDEGAITING: Movement where the hind feet do not follow the paths of the
front feet but rather move on one side or the other.
SLOPING SHOULDERS: The shoulder blade set obliquely or "laid
SNIPEY: A pointed, weak muzzle.
SPLAYED FOOT: A flat foot with toes spreading. Openfoot, open-toed.
SPRING of RIB: Curvature of ribs for heart and lung capacity.
STIFLE: The joint of the hind leg below the thigh; the dog's knee.
STOP: The step-up from nose to skull, or the indentation between the
eyes where the nasal bones and skull meet.
STRAIGHT SHOULDERS: Shoulder blades rather straight up and down, as
opposed to sloping or "well laid back."
STRAIGHT STIFLES: Erect, lacking bend or angulation.
SWAY BACK: Concave curvature of the back between the withers and the
THIGH: The hindquarters from the hip joint to the stifle.
WITHERS: The point at the top of the shoulder blades where the neck
joins the body.