Cairn Terriers are adventurous, intelligent, strong, and loyal. Like most terriers, they love to dig after real or imagined prey. Cairn Terriers have a strong prey instinct and will need comprehensive training. However, they are intelligent and, although willful, can be trained. Training of the Cairn Terrier has the best results when training as a puppy, as they can become unwillfully stubborn. Although it is often said that they are disobedient, this is not the case provided correct training is applied.
Cairns are working dogs and are still used as such in parts of Scotland. Cairn Terriers generally adapt well to children and are suitable family dogs.