With children

Good to Excellent

Cairns generally do very well with children but supervision is always important, as with all breeds.

With frail elderly

Good to Excellent

Cairns are generally very good with frail elderly providing they receive appropriate exercise and stimulation. They may pose a tripping hazard especially when young as they tend to move quickly and unpredictably at times.

With small house pets: rodents, rabbits etc.

Not Suitable

Cairns are hardwired to chase and kill vermin. Small household pets are vermin to your Cairn. If cohabiting, there must be absolutely reliable barriers to prevent contact.

With cats

Not suitable to good

If introduced to cats at a young age, Cairns can become great pals with household cats. Bringing a young kitten into the home with an older Cairn not familiar with cats may be more of a challenge.

As therapy dogs

Good to Excellent

Cairns make excellent Therapy Dogs for adults and children. While they may not be as snuggly as other breeds they do seem to sense when comfort is needed and are always ready to entertain.

As watch dogs

That depends!

Cairns miss nothing and they are quick to tell you about anything new with loud barking. Alert barking is fairly easy to deal with by acknowledging the alert. On the other hand, Cairns are very social with strangers so while telling you about a stranger lurking, they are also likely to welcome them in with ‘open paws’.

For travel


Cairns are very ‘portable’ and generally quite happy travellers. They can easily come along on family trips if dog friendly accommodations are available.

For performance sports


Even though not the quickest and easiest of breeds to train, Cairns are great partners in a wide range of dog performance sports from obedience competitions to agility, flyball, rally obedience and others. They particularly excel at Barn Hunt and Earthdog, which replicate the jobs for which they were bred.

For unfenced yards / off leash

NOT Suitable

Their prey drive and independence make Cairns unsuitable for homes without securely fenced yards. Vigilance needs to be maintained to prevent digging under and climbing over.

Allergy sufferers


Although Cairn terriers sometimes show up on lists of hypoallergenic breeds, there are NO truly hypoallergenic breeds. If allergies are an issue, you will need to spend some quality time with several Cairns to see how you are affected.