When it comes to terriers, some breeds are easier to train than others. The first cairn terrier trained well enough to receive worldwide recognition was the dog who played Dorothy’s pet Toto in The Wizard of Oz.
Since then, this breed has gone on to worm its way into the hearts of dog owners all over the country. While each individual cairn terrier is different in temperament and personality, they are generally trainable.
Basics of Training Cairn Terriers
Your mood is just as important as your dog’s when it comes to training. If you start the process in a bad mood, they will sense that. Never begin training your terrier when you aren’t able to be happy and positive. You can motivate them to obey your commands by rewarding them when they do.
While verbal praise is effective, your dog will more likely appreciate a tasty (but healthy) treat for all of their good work. It also helps to spend some time playing with them afterward. As they come to associate training with play, treats, and praise, they will be more likely to respond positively to it.
A Natural Timeline
If you can, it is best to start training your cairn terrier when he or she is a puppy. They are more open to learning new behaviors and establishing regular patterns. As soon as you bring your terrier home, you’ll want to take them out a few times every day.
Every time they go to the bathroom outside, reward them for it. This will reinforce their behavior and prevent them from dirtying the floors in your house. This is also the time to start training them to come to you when called. Once they are familiar with their name, use it every time you call them over. Quickly give them a reward if they do.
Everyone in your household should be on the same page when it comes to training your terrier. He or she must hear the same commands, no matter who is giving them. Otherwise, you will confuse your dog and then won’t know who to listen to.
Each command should also be simple and ideally only include one or two words. It is crucial that everyone who comes in contact with your dog at home follows through on the same rules. For example, your terrier is either allowed on the furniture or not allowed on it. Consistency is the key to successfully training a cairn terrier.
Cairn terriers love to test boundaries. Given a chance, they will try to exploit any weaknesses they sense in your discipline them. The best way to counteract this is to establish dominance from the day you bring them home.
Once they learn that the rules are always the same, remaining firm will condition them to follow those rules. Make sure you don’t give in to any undesirable behavior because doing so one time will convince your terrier that the behavior is acceptable.
It is natural for cairn terriers to stand their ground. In some ways, they can be just as stubborn as young children and just as defiant as a teenager. The best way to counteract this is to be firm but patient at the same time.
Cairn terriers can become skittish if you don’t treat them right. This is especially true in the event that you scare them. Never let establishing dominance over them lead you to hurt them in any way. Doing so will make your cairn terrier afraid to trust you, which halts the training process quickly.
Avoid Distractions During Training
Housebreaking is a task your dog needs to be able to focus on at all times. As a puppy, they need to go to the bathroom frequently because of the small size of their bladder.
Taking them out every couple of hours gives them the chance to relieve themselves outside. Ideally, you want to take them to a quiet location because sudden noises often frighten cairn terriers. If they are frightened during training, they are less likely to adopt the behaviors you want them to.
Since this breed is so high strung, training sessions should be as short as possible, providing another good reason to avoid distractions. Cairn terries get bored easily and will quickly find their own distractions if a training session goes on for too long. The most effective way to teach them is to do it in short but frequent spurts.
Combining Training & Exercise
Cairn terriers crave lots of physical activity in their lives. This makes it important to combine training with exercising. The best way to keep them active and happy is to take them out for daily walks. While this activity shouldn’t last more than 20 to 30 minutes, it is an important part of their day. This breed of terrier is particularly social, so the more they are around other people and dogs, the better their behavior will be in the long run.
Keep in mind that they need to be on a leash when you have them away from home. By nature, cairn terriers are curious creatures. If you don’t keep them secured on a leash, they may break away from you in their quest to explore their surroundings.
You can avoid this by letting them lead their walks. Or you could avoid it by taking them someplace where they can participate in agility training. You can check with your vet’s office or local pet shops to see if they can help you with this.
Agility training will greatly contribute to their physical and mental well being. However, before you begin this process, help your terrier master the art of obedience.
A Roadmap To Agility Training
Most agility training sessions start with a tunnel your dog will learn to navigate. If they hesitate when it is time to enter the tunnel, place yourself on the other side of it and offer them a treat. Gently call out to them to encourage them to come toward you.
Hopefully, they will do what you asked. But if fear keeps them from going into the tunnel, chances are they will walk around the tunnel to where you are waiting with their treat. If this happens, all you can do is shorten the tunnel and try again. This time they may be more inclined to cooperate.
The second step in this type of training jumps. If you’ve ever watched American Kennel Club competitions, you’ve seen this in action. For cairn terriers, the bar they have to jump over is placed only eight inches off the ground, but you should start out with it even lower to the ground than that.
Your dog may jump over the pole right away, or they may hesitate. If they hesitate, use the same approach you used to get them through the tunnel.
The next step in the process is weave poles, which are difficult for most cairn terriers. Your dog should be able to run between them. Ideally, you want them to run between six poles in order to complete this part of the training.
Once they’ve mastered this, they move on to the dog walk obstacle. Your dog must successfully be able to cross three wooden planks measuring one foot wide and 12 feet long.
This is followed by the seesaw, which can take months for your cairn terrier to learn. The first goal is to get them to sit in the middle of the seesaw without fear of falling.
The second and final goal is to get them to walk the length of the seesaw, causing one side of it to drop to the ground. Completing this part of agility training requires a lot of patience from you and your cairn terrier.
Controlling Hole Diggings
Some breeds of dogs are conditioned to dig holes, and, because of their history, cairn terriers are one of them. To avoid fighting a losing battle with your dog, give up on the idea of them never digging holes in your yard.
You’ll be a lot happier, and so will they. The key to letting them dig holes without destroying your yard is to designate a certain spot in the yard where they won’t get in trouble for digging. Try to block them from the parts of your yard where they don’t like digging a hole.
Cairn terriers don’t like having their activities restricted, so the best thing you can do is distract them from where they can’t go by letting them dig where they can.
To attract your dog to the part of the yard, you’ll let them dig in, place some of their favorite treats or toys there. And when they’ve dug their first hole, praise them for doing it.
Cairn terriers feed off this praise, so the more you give, the fewer holes you’ll have in your yard, and the happier you and your dog will be. But digging holes isn’t just something they do for fun. Since they are hunters by nature, they will be even more focused on digging holes if there are small rodents in your yard.
To discourage frequent digging, do your best to rid your yard of pesky rodents; otherwise, your yard may end up with more holes than a golf course.