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Cairn weight


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I was curious about the body type of your Cairn's or Cairn's in general. It seems a lot I see, in real life and googling images, are a tad on the chubby side? Is this "normal" ... or simply the way their body shape is? Sometimes the hair covers the belly area, so it's hard to tell.

But I definitely prefer to keep my dogs lean, and like to see a nice "tuck up".

Here is my Silky/Yorkie, Jackson, for example.

(excuse his kind of messed up facial cut here)



He's in fantastic shape.

But it seems Cairns and Westies tend to be more "square" if that makes sense? Just wondering... I know a lot of show dogs are often kept on the heavier side (IMO), and did not know if this was the case with Cairns.

Edited by JacksonsMom
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The rule of thumb is that you should be able to feel your Cairn's ribs, but not see them. Plus, grooming does alter the appearance a LOT. After I got Gavin groomed, I could finally see his shape!

When I got Gavin, he was 7 years old and 15 lbs. He seemed really wiry to me, like he didn't have an ounce of body fat on him. Nowadays, he's more on the "square" side, tipping the scales at 23 lbs. I think his ideal weight should probably be 20 lbs. Both of my dogs free-feed. Zekey (17 lbs) has gained some weight, but still is fine. Gavin might be a stress eater, or maybe just has a different metabolism.

I think Cairns and Westies can easily become overweight, and it should be guarded against. I have to figure out how to regulate Gavin's food now.

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Here is the AKC description which is, as you can see, vague as to weight except for poundage which is specified.


Well-muscled, strong, active body with well-sprung, deep ribs, coupled to strong hindquarters, with a level back of medium length, giving an impression of strength and activity without heaviness.

Shoulders, Legs and Feet

A sloping shoulder, medium length of leg, good but not too heavy bone; forelegs should not be out at elbows, and be perfectly straight, but forefeet may be slightly turned out. Forefeet larger than hind feet. Legs must be covered with hard hair. Pads should be thick and strong and dog should stand well up on its feet.


Hard and weather-resistant. Must be double-coated with profuse harsh outer coat and short, soft, close furry undercoat.


May be of any color except white. Dark ears, muzzle and tail tip are desirable.

Ideal Size

Involves the weight, the height at the withers and the length of body. Weight for bitches, 13 pounds; for dogs, 14 pounds. Height at the withers-bitches, 9½ inches; dogs, 10 inches. Length of body from 14¼ to 15 inches from the front of the chest to back of hindquarters. The dog must be of balanced proportions and appear neither leggy nor too low to ground; and neither too short nor too long in body. Weight and measurements are for matured dogs at two years of age. Older dogs may weigh slightly in excess and growing dogs may be under these weights and measurements.


Dogs should be shown in good hard flesh, well muscled and neither too fat or thin. Should be in full good coat with plenty of head furnishings, be clean, combed, brushed and tidied up on ears, tail, feet and general outline. Should move freely and easily on a loose lead, should not cringe on being handled, should stand up on their toes and show with marked terrier characteristics.

Cairns do vary and, obviously those that meet the standard are usually show dogs. In my experience Cairns are never shown in a "full good coat with plenty of head furnishing"--current preference seems to be almost a smooth coat with meager head furnishing.

Comparing a Silky Terrier to a Cairn is apples to oranges--Silkies are wispy, light, not blocky unlike Cairns. I'm sure most pet quality Cairns are overweight these little guys like their rest and food but a "fit" Cairn will still look like a tank upside of a Silky Terrier--particularly a shaved Silky because they are much stouter built.

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Molly (a Cairn) is 4 years old and 14.5 lbs. She has been this weight since she was one year old. She is very muscular. When her hair is long, she looks a bit more "boxy" I guess you could say. Lola (a Westie, since you mentioned them too) is 3 years old and 20lbs. She too, is trim but not as muscular as Molly. To me a Cairn or Westie's frame is "solid". Both Molly and Lola have the "tuck up". Molly's is more pronounced than Lola's.

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I meet a lot of Yorkies on our walks that vary from miniature to larger than Holly. However, when they are larger than Holly, it is their height/lenght but not their width! They all appear to be slimmer than Holly - even the large Yorkie/Poodle cross who in size is like a Parson jack Russell. Think Cairns are "square" shaped in comparison.


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We've had both (females) a Westie and currently a Cairn. Our Westie was a much smaller bitch weighing in at @ 15 pounds. Layla is heavier at 20 pounds and is much sturdier and solid build. Of course, when groomed, they appear smaller than when they are in full coat.

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When we showed both Echo and Dundee I had to keep more weight on them than I would like (maybe an extra pound). That said, a good Cairn should have plenty of "bone" (not be weedy or birdlike -- yet neither should it be heavy and cloddy) -- this variation in inherent bone density by dog and is one of the reasons appearance rather than actual weight is more important to keep an eye on. Dundee is quite compact but for his size he feels like a bag of cement. Stella at a roughly similar size is light as a feather.

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A tank and a bag of cement is how I would describe Kelly. She is small weighed a 13.8 lbs. 1 1/2 months ago. She is what I would call stocky, and unbelievably strong for her size. I have to be careful when walking her as she can pull me off my feet. She could get away from me if she saw something interesting enough. She almost pulled my arm out of socket a couple of weeks ago and it still hurts a little. Idaho described them great when he said tank. Kelly is like a little tank and can run over you with ease to be so small. My Mother-In-Law has a pomeranian that is bigger than Kelly but no where near as strong. Brad had a good description of picking up a bag of concrete, that's what Kelly feels like when you pick her up compared to the Pomeranian who weighs 1 pound more but has a completely different feel when you pick her up. You would swear Kelly weighs more than the pom but she weighs less.

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Sorry, this is OT, but these descriptions (stocky, solid, strong boned). remind me of how I heard adults describe me as a child. :( My grandmother would look at me and say, "Good bless her!", which I think was Italian for "wow, she's chunky!"

I was the Cairn of little girls. :D

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I think cairns look a lot different according to how much coat they have. Stripped they look slim. With full coat they look chunky. As long as you can feel the ribs and see a 'waist' from above then I wouldn't worry.

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Jock is a very solid 20 pounds and not fat. Just enough padding to make him healthy. I know a lot of vets like dogs and for that matter also horses lean with ribs easily felt...that's not for me. As in humans my thought process is that a little bit of padding is always a good thing especially during winter (horses) and if an illness occurs there is a reserve.

Oh, and I feel the same way about my own figure...and I am sticking with that theory. It's cold here in Alberta! :)

Edited by Terrier lover

Until one has loved an animal, a part of  one's soul remains unawakened.  - Anatole France

Adventures with Sam &Rosie


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Fearghus always looks solid when his hair is nice and full but we got him stripped a few days ago and now he looks like a lean, mean fighting machine. LOL Actually he's closer to the old standards for a cairn at 14 1/2 lbs. But wow, he's super solid and strong at that weight. I measure out his kibble for him twice a day and don't worry about the treats. I did have to curb them a bit a little after we brought Fiona home because I thought that he was gaining weight. I think it's more likely that suddenly his 14 1/2 lbs felt heavier when compared to a little 5 lb pup. Now that she's 7.3 lbs he doesn't feel super heavy anymore. Go figure.

Now what I haven't figured out is how to be equally strict with myself. :confused1:



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I think Bailey is muscular. He weighs 15 lbs and is not fat, but still is solid. They can appear heavier than they actually are because of their double coat. Radar weighs 14 lbs and is very lean right now.

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Tanner has been a pretty consistent 17lbs since he turned 2 (he's 4 now). He looks a bit "chunky" when he needs groomed, but if I pet him, I can feel his ribs, so he's good. He's not very heavy to pick up, but is solid and is strong as an ox. People who've not realized it are somewhat surprised when they see his size and then experience his strength (it took 4 people at the vet to give him a nasal vaccination!).

Becky & Tanner
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Our old cairn was very solid and weighed about 18 pounds. He had more of a boxy build. Bear, our current Cairn is much more slender and petite. He weights a bit over 16 pounds but is very strong.

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I joined Weight Watchers at the beginning of the year and in the time it's taken me to lose 30 pounds, Addie has gained 3!

I checked with my vet (her Grandpa) and he says she is a very healthy 18.5 pounds. You can feel her ribs easily, even with her thick coat.

I love that "tank and a bag of cement" - describes Addie perfectly! She looks small and then I go to pick her up and am reminded she's more than twice the size of my previous dog (a Maltese).

"as far as i am concerned cairns are the original spirit from which all terriers spring, and all terriers are cairns very deep down inside." pkcrossley

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