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How to Train a Cairn Terrier

Cairn terriers are lovely pets to have around but they need firm, consistent owners. Learn what training techniques work best with this breed.

Training a dog requires more than just a person equipped with some canine savoir-faire and a dog eager to please. In order to train well, a good trainer will not look at the dog as a whole and use standard cookie-cutter training techniques. Rather, good training requires staying away from generalizations and taking into consideration important factors such as the age, sex, temperament, and, last but not least, the breed of dog.

When it comes to training a Cairn terrier dog, owners must keep in mind that they will likely be dealing with a confident and spirited specimen just as Toto, the famous Cairn Terrier in The Wizard of Oz, was.

How to Train a Cairn Terrier

The Cairn terrier breed may not be a piece of cake in training when compared to other breeds as they have a stubborn and assertive streak. It is important for owners of this breed to step up and engage in no-nonsense training to demonstrate who is in charge.

Spoiling this breed of dog is out of the question unless owners do not mind a pushy dog that may be prone to biting. The ideal Cairn terrier owner should have time to exercise, socialize, and train this impetuous little dog.

How to Train ”Say Please

Because the Cairn terrier may tend to be stubborn and may take advantage of inconsistencies, it is important to rely on well structured clear rules. One of the best methods to prevent “small dog syndrome” in a Cairn terrier is to resort to the “say please” training method. Basically, you will let your Cairn terrier learn to say please for everything from now on, rather than taking certain privileges for granted.

How to Train a Cairn Terrier
How to Train a Cairn Terrier

Therefore, start asking your Cairn terrier a command before giving him anything. That would mean asking him to sit before being pet, sit before being let out the door, lay down before being fed, and so forth. Basically, “do not give your dog what he wants until he does what you want” recommends the Mobile Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Training to say please is a free and safe, non-confrontational way to establish control and good leadership.

Breed Specific Challenges and Tips

While, just as people, there are no two Cairn terriers alike, this breed as a general rule of thumb is prone to being independent and very curious. This makes them fairly easy to train, but they can easily be distracted by the presence of squirrels or other critters. This is due to the breed’s strong prey drive genetically present in their blood since they were specifically bred for aiding Scottish farmers in ridding their properties of vermin.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Despite being stubborn at times, this breed is basically quite sensitive and therefore does best with positive reinforcement training. This involves the use of rewards in the form of tasty treats or a squeaky toy, which most terriers love since they resemble the vermin they used to hunt.

When it comes to training, “harsh punishment is really not necessary nor desirable” explains the Cairn terrier Club of America. They do best with firm, consistent discipline coming from a benevolent leader.

A Cairn terrier generally looks forward to training especially when it is fun and challenging and never over-repetitive. If you are eager to teach a plethora of tricks, this will fulfill this breed’s needs for attention and mental stimulation. Fail to provide this breed with enough training and exercise and you may quickly end up with an unhappy dog that will easily become bored and destructive.

Invest in a Good Leash

A leash or long line is a must at all times, since in the blink of an eye, this breed may be running after squirrels, cats, rabbits, and other small animals. The recall command at these times may be of little help; this breed will be oblivious to your frantic shouting. Cairns will enjoy brisk daily walks, and, when inclement weather prohibits this, they may release pent-up energy with a nice game of ball.

Involve in Activities

Leaving a Cairn terrier in the yard alone will make this breed frustrated as they love to be part of the family activities. Feeling lonely and separated from his pack, Cairn terriers may resort to a digging and barking frenzy to manifest their displeasure. And, as respectable terriers, Cairns are prone to being enthusiastic diggers and, as good watch dogs, will have no problem sounding the alarm for anything unusual.

So, there you have it: a cute, spunky dog with a mischievous temperament all in a small package. It is really ultimately up to you as an owner to provide the best training for your charming little pet.


Author Bio

Adrienne Farricelli brings expertise in canine topics as a former American Animal Hospital Association employee and certified dog trainer.

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