Training a Cairn Terrier to Come

Positive reinforcement can help your Cairn terrier learn to come.

Positive reinforcement can help your Cairn terrier learn to come.

Notorious for their curious nature, Cairn terriers are quick learners with an independent streak that leads some owners to complain these pets only come when they feel like it! However, Cairns love food so incorporate treats into short training sessions to get your pet to respons to the "Come" command.

Begin by having your Cairn in the same room as you, right next to you. Take a couple of steps back from your pet so there is some distance between you.

Say "Come" and your dog's name. For example, say "Fifi, come!" Adding your dog's name in the command gets her attention, which is important for training distractible Cairns.

Incorporate a gesture, such as opening your arms to your dog or clapping your hands. This links the motion with the word "Come."

Wait for your Cairn to come to you. When she does, praise her enthusiastically and give her a treat. Cairns love owner attention so your praise adds extra incentive to obey.

Practice the "Come" command for 10 to 15 minutes. Cairns get bored with long training sessions, so this helps them be productive.

Move farther apart, such as to another room, once your pet grasps the basic command. Again, call your pet to you and reward her with praise or treats when she does. Since Cairns do best with short training sessions due to their distractible nature, you may wish to do this on a separate day.

Take the lesson outside once your Cairn understands and responds to the "Come" command inside the house.

Items you will need

  • Dog treats


  • If your Cairn isn't grasping "Come," try training her on a retractable leash. Give the command, then reel your dog in on the leash and praise her. Work on leash until your pup comes, then go off leash.


  • Avoid punishing your Cairn if she doesn't come. These dogs are quite sensitive and don't do well with punishment.

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