Training a Cairn Terrier breed requires both consistency and creativity and the Cairn Terrier certainly requires both. Since they are somewhat independent and stubborn they need to be challenged in training as well as rewarded with lots of positives and praise. They do not do well in highly repetitive training methods and need changes in routine and limited repetitions to avoid becoming bored and non-compliant. In is important to have the Cairn understand that you are the boss and often an obedience class or puppy class is a great idea to get the basic training and commands mastered as well as integrate socialization.
The breed is very sensitive to correct and simply ignoring bad behavior and withdrawing attention for a few minutes is usually all the correction the dog will need. They are extremely quick to pick up on new tricks and commands, and often seem to understand what the owner wants them to do. They will also learn what brings them attention, and will quickly learn tricks like ringing a bell for water or bringing the leash to encourage owners to go for a walk. They are excellent candidates for both obedience and agility classes and seem to love to perform for audiences of any size. One way to help them keep entertained is by using kong dog toys.
One aspect of training that must be addressed is possessiveness. Terrier breeds, Cairns as well, will tend to snap and protect their food and toys. Teaching the dogs as puppies to relinquish food dishes, bones and toys is critical to prevent negative behaviors from forming as the dog gets older. They can also be problematic barkers to teaching them to stop barking on command is a very important part of a Cairn Terriers early training. A Cairn Terrier left to his or her own devices will find something to do to entertain themselves. They are powerful diggers and love to spend time digging in soft dirt, often to the dismay of a gardener. Cairn’s can be taught to dig in selected areas rather than all through the yard, which is a great option to prevent unexpected landscaping changes.
Socialization is also key aspect of training, especially at an early age. With proper socialization chasing and aggressive behavior can be minimized however it is often not completely eliminated. If you plan to have other pets including dogs in the house start the socialization when the Cairn is a puppy.
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