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What do you wish you'd known before you got your Cairn?


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So I'm considering getting a Cairn Puppy. I have two other dogs, and this would be #3. My other dogs are a JRT mix who is about 10 and a Lab/Springer mix who is about 6 (who's about 75lbs). I never raised a puppy and I would like to at least once. I fully prepared that it will be a ton of work, and really frustrating at times. But, I was hoping for experienced Cairn owners if they had any advice someone who was contemplating getting a Cairn?

I have read a lot of the posts, but, I was wondering if anyone had introduced a Cairn when they had other dogs of other breeds who were larger? I'm not sure how large puppies are usually when they come home 4-5lbs? And I would crate train, not only for the benefits of housetraining, but because I'm a little afraid that my two other dogs (particularly my lab mix) will be a little rough with a puppy that small (he's more than fine with my 20lb JRT mix, but a much smaller dog, particularly at first would take him time to get used to) Both of them are well socialized and neither are dog agressive, but I'd hate for them to accidently hurt a growing puppy.

I was also wondering how trainable the breed is in general? My JRT mix, will bolt if she see's an opening (my lab mix on the other hand, will stand around unless there is a squirrel to tempt him), and she's about the most stubborn dog I've ever met. Will a Cairn be just as stubborn if not more? Does it depend on the dog?

I have a lot of questions, and I'm hoping that I can ask them before I bring a puppy into my home.

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This is my first Cairn. He's are only dog right now. I will tell you this breed is something unto it's own, as far as I'm concerned. I've raised GSDs, beagles, and heelers. All of which have their own "maintenance" issues. Raising Digger has been an incredible journey, and I relied on this forum alot to get me through varying stages.

Digger, as I think most Cairns are, is very smart, stubborn, and hyper. However, once you understand that you can see that they are just absolute joys! Digger is 8-1/2 months old, and we haven't had an accident in the house in 2 months. And we are gone for 8-9 hours a day. We have him confined to our laundry room with a baby gate, and he has food, water, toys, etc. available to him all day. He has quickly adapted to our routines. He still needs some obedience training.

The most important thing we have learned as that we now what the "faults" (if you can call them that) are of the breed, and we do not set him up for failure. For example: He is not allowed off-lead outside of the backyard....we do not leave him around expensive clothes, furniture, etc. unattended. We reward him with every success no matter how big or small. We praise him with love and scratches, but he also knows who runs the show.

There are many challenges in raising a terrier pup....but the happiness and unconditional love see you through them all. I know every dog in every situation adapts and learns at different paces....but I think they nearly all can be successful.

Best of luck


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Thanks for the feedback. My current JRT mix is a little devil. I adore her, but she's definately not for the faint of heart...anytime she's annoyed at me she finds something to tear up. I've lost many good shoes because I hadn't put them away appropriate and she decided to use them as a chew toy. And she's 10!

I realize that the word mellow & terrier really don't belong in the same sentence, but it seems based on many of the posts that males tend to me slighly more easy going than the females? Or I am reading that wrong?

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Emma - I'm not sure that male Cairns are more easy going - I'm sure you could ask Barney's mom who's going to say he's been a loveable challenge... I think any sex has the potential to be a puppy monster. I have two girls that are almost 10 months old and one is an absoulte angel and the other one is my little monster... we're raising them the same, they have the same boundaries and rules but they are just two different souls - and it's so hard to really know a dog's temperment when you pick them out - Hollie was the quite one until she arrived home - we had no idea she'd be as strong willed as she is. This is our first puppy experience too and I can tell you I wasn't as prepared for it as I thought. I had no idea actually how hard it was - mine in the past all came into our home as rescues - but overall I think Cairns are a fantastic breed and we're so happy with our choice.

Hollie Edelbrock & Brystal Sonoma
Chris, Stacy and Little Noah
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I LOVE having a Cairn but I can honestly say that I don't think a Cairn is for everyone. I think every dog has it's faults though. Some Cairns dig, bark, chew, etc. Savannah barks but she has never been a digger or a chewer (except when she was teething). Some liked to be loved on all the time and others prefer it on their terms. Savannah is a lap dog but many are not. I LOVE the Cairn personality but if it weren't for me, I honestly think that my husband would have given up on her long before she was potty trained. Now, she is an AWESOME dog that both of us love dearly.

As far as training, Savannah is really one of the smartest dogs I have ever seen. She is in the process of training right now and she learns SO quickly! Cairns are easily trained BUT you have to be willing to put the time and effort into training them. They will not learn the first day and do it forevermore. The downside to being so smart is that sometimes they outsmart us! Savannah can be very stubborn and strong willed. She was a nightmare to potty train (9 months before she was reliable) but once she got it, she got it. She is now 2 and the only complaint that I have is that she often barks at nothing. We are working on that with training and I have already seen an improvement. One thing that I think everyone would agree with is that Cairns are funny little dogs. They really have a personality and character. They are not the type of dog that sits around and does nothing all day. If you already have a JRT, then you probably already know a lot about the terrier personality so you probably have a good idea about what to expect from a terrier.

So, I guess to try and answer your questions, it really depends on the Cairn that you get. They all have different personalities and different faults. If there is something particular that you do or don't want from your dog, I would ask the breeder specific questions and hopefully they can help to pair you up with a good match.

One thing I would recommend is to keep the pup seperated from the bigger dogs while not supervised until the pup is big enough to fend for him or her self. They are very tiny when they first come home and could easily be hurt. Good luck and please let us know what you decide.

We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It's the best deal man has ever made.

-M. Acklam

Savannah's Dogster Page

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This is my first Cairn too. He is really really good, I must have gotten really lucky (after reading some of the stories on the forum) I got him at 10 wks old, he was sooo cute. He peed on the floor the first day I brought him home that was on a Saturday and he did #2 on Monday at lunch time (I come home from work at lunch to let him out) - that was about it for accidents!!! I took him out probably every 15 - 20 minutes which helped and the crate really helps! If I had a fenced in yard, which I am considering, I would get another one..he is such a joy!

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Greta is my first cairn, she is 3 1/2 months old, just a pup. I also have 5 year old German Wiredhair Pointer that is about 72-75 pounds. All she wants to do right now is run after him. He barks at her but she doesn't stop and he ends up jumping on the bed to get away from her. Lately I have been holding Greta while I sit on the floor and he will come up and get a few sniffs of her bottom. Of course when he is doing this, his tail is wagging and he gets tons of praise. If she starts to move, he steps back. It's a slow process for us, but I think we are headed on the right road.

There is no faith which has never yet been broken except that of a truly faithful dog. -- Konard Lorenz
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When I got married at age 29 we bought our first Cairn. Missy was a little devil girl, we had our share of tearing carpet and bolting any chance she could get (Never got away) Missy was the joy of my life for 17 years. She passed away at age 17 November 9th 2004. Missy had lots of puppy mill issues but was a loveable little girl to humans. Missy disliked any animal no matter what. She was very dominate and very protective of me. Alot of her was just the terrier breed.

Now we have little Kramer who is 2 years old. From having one girl and now one boy I can say with my experiances Kramer is a love machine, he can sit on your lap and kiss you until you have to say enough becasue your face is all wet!

He is a cuddler, loves all animals & people. Missy was not a lap dog Kramer is. Kramer has ot be close to someone when he has a toy or chew bone. He will bring his toy to you and sit on you and play. He is the most loveable dog I ever had.

Missy was my pride and joy but I understood her moods and her temperment that was just Missy, she was loveable in her own way but no means a lap dog she was very independant and had a mind of her own but I loved her to death. When she passed away I never thought I could ever get another but I love the breed so much ever since I was a child I read about Cairns and always admired Toto from the wizard of Oz so this breed is a wonderful breed, family pet and the list goes on but it is not for everyone. Missy was a terror when a baby Kramer was not, he never chewed up anything or on furniture and potty trained early on, Cairns are very smart but can be stubborn as long as they know you are boss (yeah right) LOL...

Good luck you will get excellent advice here. I never had more than one dog at a time but I am now thinking of rescuing a Cairn for Kramer to have a pal.

Rhonda,Kramer & Angel Missy "Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog". "It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are" Missy Rainbow Bridge Memorial

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You have had some really good advice from folks who have raised Cairn puppies. My two dogs, a Cairn and a Westie, are rescues and were past puppy age when I got them. I have raised Scottie and Westie puppies, but never had a Cairn puppy.

Just from general reading of posts on the Forum regarding puppy experiences, some Cairn puppies appear to require a triple dose of patience. I don't think I would try to raise a Cairn pup right now, but sure applaud all the Cairn "parents" who share their experiences with everyone.

I do love my Cairn terrier Pepper and his buddy Henry very much; they are both pretty mellow little guys, except for barking at anyone who dares walk past our house. :P


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For the right person, Cairns are adictive....I'm hooked. My Cairn lives with 3 other dogs all in the 85 to 105 lb range. When he was small, he was only allowed with the big boys while supervised. Now he has free run of the house with the other 3. His favorite wrestling buddy is my 105lb mix. Those two are inseprable. Cairns are very intellegent and can be trained but it takes a lot of patience and consistancy. At 14 months Dusty earned his Wilderness Search and Rescue certification. He also is working on water, cadavier, and article certifications now. But even with all Dusty's training I will never trust him off lead; his prey drive is too strong. As my older dogs retire I will likely get another Cairn to work (and spoil rotten). Just don't skimp on the obedience training and socialization.

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how much fun they are! I would have gotten one (or 2 or 3) a long time ago!

Amen. I love having a Cairn. They are definitely addictive. I don't think I'll ever own another breed.

I have a male, and I think he's pretty mellow given the right circumstances. Probably depends mostly on the dog and somewhat on the environment, training, etc.

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I love your question because it requires some soul searching. Goforette is correct, and very gracious I might add, when she said that Barney has been a loveable challenge! He came to us very unsocialized but strong and healthy from the breeder. When I got him home it only took me a few days to start wondering if I had made a terrible mistake. He was bratty, aggressive, and after raising a laid back and docile lab puppy, I was wondering what planet he came from!! That's where this forum saved my sanity! I had a million questions, and all were answered with compassion and kindness and concern. My only regret is that my husband is still not 100% sold on Barney, but he is coming around. Barney is maturing into a sweet, loveable boy. My husband's problem is Barney's loud barking at anything he hears. It comes out of nowhere and it's so loud for such a little dog! Barney is tied up in the house, so when we are with him and leave the room, he barks his shrill, Memorex-wine-glass-breaking commercial bark that literally rings your ears! What makes this a problem is I have 100% more patience with barking than my hubby. Barney barks once and my husband loses it. I guess I had to raise a colicy baby, so loud noise doesn't bother me!

Barney is a few days shy of 10 months old, and if you would have told me 7 months ago that he would become a LAP DOG, I would have laughed out loud! He has become this sweet, needy cuddle bug who will lay in my lap for literally hours. Now I must say he can still be very destructive, but most of the time, it is because he is not being watched or he is bored. Yesterday I thought he would enjoy being on a longer lead outside because it was such a nice day. I thought he would like looking down the driveway at the people passing by. Well, he took the long lead privilege into his own hands....uh, paws..... and proceeded to dig up my carefully installed weed barrier in an area of landscaping that I put in last summer! I get this feeling of "to the moon with you, dog!" But then I have to remember that he is not doing this to make me mad. He is just exploring. My husband is not as forgiving, but he is getting better.....really!

Bottom line is, Cairns are fiesty, stubborn and you have to stay a step ahead of them all the time because they are so incredibly smart! But the flip side of their personalities is that they are always happy, they become wonderful companions if you are diligent with training, and they are just so much fun! They are unique and special, but it takes a lot of patience, perseverence and faithfulness on the owner's part. If you are determined in these areas, you are in for a wonderful friend.

I love Barney very, very much....He's my snuggle bug and my friend. Those warm brown eyes looking up at me always warm my heart, even when he's been naughty. I know, as many have told me, that the more mature he becomes, the better it will get. Cairn puppyhood takes patience, but the fruits of our labors are worth it all.

Good luck! :)

All creatures great and small, the Lord God, He made them all!

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Since we had had a cairn in the past, I had no questions about getting another one this time around. Cooper is three, and when he was a year old, we added Yoda, the schnoodle to the mix. They became fast friends, are about the same weight, although Yoda is a bit taller than Cooper is. Well, I don't what came over us, other than me feeling sorry for my husband who has longed to have a dachshund for more years than I care to remember, but in October, we added Oscar to the mix. OMG....there are days I just want to :surrender: ! He is as cute as the other two, and his personality is really starting to come out. He has also been more than stubborn about house training issues. Since I've had him strapped to my side while I've been on vacation it's been better. We also got him a much smaller crate, which I hated to do, but him using his bedroom as a bathroom was getting to be too much for us. Now if I could only get him to quit catching Cooper's poop before it hits the grass :sick: I would be EXTREMELY happy! And also, if I had known the other two older dogs would now think it's okay to go to the bathroom in the kitchen since the puppy occasionally does, we never ever ever would have gotten the puppy. I'm sure that is 99% Cooper, as he is the one who skulks quickly into his crate when we find it.

Have fun with whatever you decide and remember he/she will love you back 10x more than you love it!


Children don't care how much you know...they want to know how much you care.
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Some very good posts on this thread, and almost all of them hit home!

If I knew what I know now, I would have insisted that they yard be fully privacy fenced, with with land scaping block laid at the base in the entire yard. Until the boys were about 5 months old, if you could fit your fist through the opening- they could wiggle through it! It's amazing how small they are- which brings me to #2 that i'd do over.

I thought that I got my boys from a 'good' breeder- She wasn't. I've since gotten to know an excellent breeder.

I brought Mett & Bratt home at 8 weeks old and 4 lbs each, which is too young for Cairns. 12 weeks is the accepted placement age and they'd about double the size (at least weight wise).

I remember the day I picked the boys up, it was a 2 hour drive north of where I live. I had them in a small vari-Kennel seat belted in the passanger side next to me.

The entire drive home, Bratt was at the front of the kennel just looking at me. He eyes were very blue and I saw such intellgence in them. I was amazed that a puppy would take such interest in something so boring as a human driving. Mett slept in back. For some reason, that drive is all it took for Bratt to become 'very bonded' to me, until of course my husband started to teach them the ways of the country.... Field walks, the joys of the hamburger.... rides in the pick-up truck.....LOL... Now they are very much 'His Boys'- but they still Love Mommy.

Edited by Mysticsol8
Tracy, Brattwrust & Mettwurst a.k.a The Gremlins
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You've gotten some great advice. I can tell you my experience introducing a Cairn pup to larger family dogs. I'm the proud mom of 3 female Cairns. We had an Austialian Shepherd and 2 Labs when we brought home our first female Cairn, Kiara. I had to be extrememly careful w/ her due to their size. My older Lab acted like he was walking on egg shells around her. He was my gentleman and is dearly missed. :( My Aussie and young Lab were total clutzes and couldn't be trusted around Kiara until she got bigger. They all loved her and wanted to play w/ her, but I was afraid of them stepping on her. She loved my oldest Lab the most and I still have the memories of watching him stand in the yard while she jumped up to his face for kisses. By the time we added a 2nd Cairn, Abbey to the family, we only had the Aussie and younger Lab. Both of them had settled down more and welcomed little Abbey w/ open paws. :lol: My Aussie took the new position of being her bodyguard.

When the Cairns were small pups, using playpens worked well for us. Here's Shiloh watching over Abbey, sorry it's a little blurry from being scanned.


If you can, take a blanket and rub down your pup before bringing him/her home. For one pup, I had to mail a blanket to my breeder and enclosed a self-address envelope for her to return it. I time it so that the blanket arrives a few days before the pup. I place the blanket w/ the pup's scent on it in the crate w/ the door shut. This gives my other dogs a chance to check out the new smell. Here's my Lab, Thor checking out Hannah after he stood over her crate as if waiting for her to come home.


He loved keeping an eye on her. This is a hamster playpen that works for the first couple of weeks.


The dog playpens are great, but run around $70. For $40, I use a rabbit playpen until they're big enough to run w/ the others. My newest pup can't wait until he's big enough to rub w/ the others.


Although Hannah and Abbey simply loved their "big brother", Hannah would not leave him alone and she'd get rolled over by him if he wasn't careful. She was close to 10 lbs before I was comfortable letting her run w/ the big dogs.


Kiara and Abbey ran w/ Shiloh much sooner because they didn't pester him to death and played by themselves more. Again, I had to scan this one and it's a little blurry. Kiara's giving Shiloh a quick kiss as her and Abbey play w/ a ball.


As far as Thor, he loves everybody and sometimes acts like he's a big Cairn.


Thor and Hannah seem to have a special bond.


Sorry this got so long, just wanted to say that bringing a Cairn pup into a family w/ larger dogs can work and is also very rewarding.

<img src=&quot;http://img.photobucket.com/albums/1003/maiwag/terriersiggy.jpg" border="0" class="linked-sig-image" />

Beth, mom to Ninja (5), Hannah (7), Abbey (7 1/2), Kiara (10)

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Just wanted to add that I've had great success using a playpen in our family room to give the pup downtime. I also crate train and put the pup in the crate at night or if I run an errand. Until he/she is able to be w/ the others, this playpen works for me. My little Westie makes the 4th puppy to use this playpen. Once he outgrows being in this, I'll take it down and clean it and ask my dh the same question I have in the past about giving it away or keeping it. :whistle: We've reached our capacity w/ pets right now, but I think I'll still put the playpen back in the closet. :w00t:


Those big plastic buckets you can buy at Wal-Mart work out great for keeping your pup close by. I use this when I'm working on the computer.


Hannah used this bucket too and now wants to be everywhere I am.


As far as easygoing, Hannah is simply my dream dog. I forgot how easy she was until I brought this Westie pup home. I can't imagine any dog more affectionate than Hannah. Even Abbey is extremely affectionate. Kiara will give kisses, but she's not a lap dog like the others.

<img src=&quot;http://img.photobucket.com/albums/1003/maiwag/terriersiggy.jpg" border="0" class="linked-sig-image" />

Beth, mom to Ninja (5), Hannah (7), Abbey (7 1/2), Kiara (10)

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What did I wish I had known???? Maybe that getting one little stinker butt :vampire: would want me to have two!!! I now have two that are totally different from each other, but described in the above posts to a "T." I wouldn't trade one moment with either ... I might go for a third but not sure if the "balance" - cause IF dogs could be inlove, these 2 are for sure. I KNOW THAT's INSANE -- but, that's the truth.

Baxter was the barker, barker, did I say barker?

Gracie was the digger, is the digger ... a was the digger, chewer and all. BUT, Baxter would correct some of her issues ... really wierd for sure.

I have an electric fence and am always within hearing range so I know if something else is in the yard. Each only tried to cross it once, and never tested it again. I did lots of training with Baxter, but Gracie just took the first 2 levels of obedience.

My son would visit with his 60 lbs hound puppy, and my 12 lb Gracie could glare him down across the room ...

I am anxious to hear your decision.

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I wish I new how stubborn and aggressive Cairns can be. Max guards things and growls. When you try to take the object away (shoe, pillow, etc.) he bites into it and growls loudly. As for trainability, Max has learned commands such as "go to your crate", play dead, leave it, etc. I believe he could learn dozens of commands if I had the time to teach him.

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Our cairn, Ellie-Whiney, has a German Shepherd and a Lab for sister and brother. At first I was worried about Ellie getting stepped on or used as a chew toy. In fact, it ended up being the other way around...Ellie chases them and wants to play constantly. Her best friend is my sister mastiff. Even though her dog Koya is 100 times bigger than Ellie, Ellie still chases HER around and even takes her down! It's pretty funny. If you have a dog that seems to get agressive while playing, I would be careful. I don't think Ellie realizes she is small and will just pester the bigger dogs and just a little bite from a big dog could do some huge damage!

Good luck!!!

Amber and the zoo


We're the Cairns of America

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Brody loves big dogs (though he does not live with any). His first friend was a Newfoundland that he met at the dog park. I just read that dogs cannot recognize themselves in the mirror (apparenly only a few animals can) so perhaps they really don't know how big or little they are.

In my opinion, training is the most important thing you can do for your Cairn and yourself. Start early and do at least 2 full classes (meaning beginner and advanced beginner about 12 weeks total). Cairns are really smart and that makes them a bit more difficult to train, but they are still very trainable.

We are lucky, neither Brody or Mia is a destructive chewer nor does either bark excessively, however, both would bolt for a squirrel or a bird in an instant. Brody is nearly 100 percent on recall (Mia is about 90 percent), but I'd never purposefully test him outside a fenced area! They are very prey driven.

BYW, the westie in the coat (in a prior post) is adorable!

Edited by Brody'sMom
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I just read that dogs cannot recognize themselves in the mirror (apparenly only a few animals can) so perhaps they really don't know how big or little they are.

That's really interesting- Waylon (rainbow bridge) my German Shepherd Loved ice cubes, and would sit in front of the fridge ice dispenser begging.

When you would walk into the kitchen his tail would start wagging, but he woulnd't move from his spot. One day, I caught him looking at me off the reflection on the black fridge and his tail started wagging, we made eye contact via the reflection. I soon realized that he was using the reflection of the room off the Fridge to scope out who might give him an ice cube, I dont' know if he understood his own reflection- but he understood the humans.

Thankfully he never tried to operate the ice maker on his own...

Tracy, Brattwrust & Mettwurst a.k.a The Gremlins
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For me the question isn't what I wish I'd known before we got a Cairn, but rather, why did I not know about Cairns before?!

Some things Cairns have taught me:

  • I need to be more persistent than they are
  • I should be smarter than they are (here, I often fail)
  • My dogs want a calm leader they can respect, not just a bossy boss
  • I need to have a sense of humor equal to theirs
  • I've learned to find mischief charming, not frustrating
  • A terrier allowed to be a terrier is a life-affirming thing

CAIRNTALK: Vote! |  Questions? Need help? → Support Forum Please do not use PMs for tech support
CRCTC: Columbia River Cairn Terrier Club | 🗓️ 2023 Cairn Calendar



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I need to have a sense of humor equal to theirs

I've learned to find mischief charming, not frustrating

A terrier allowed to be a terrier is a life-affirming thing

Damn -- that made me tear-up, but you have it so right! :thumbsup:

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What I did not know about cairns...

1) I need to celebrate my cairn's individualism and not wish he were more affectionate or less aloof.

2) I need to continue to work with him on his training and re-call (but he can and will learn).

3) Even though he is small - lots of exercise keeps him well balanced and, therefore, we are both happy.

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