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Terriers/Neurotic Behavior Cairn Terrier


Meghan McDonald wrote at 2007-09-05 03:51:39
I came across this forum searching for answers on this topic myself, so unfortunately I have nothing to add in way of answers. But I thought Monika might feel a bit better knowing she's not the only owner going through this. My English Cocker Spaniel has done this bolt upright from a dead sleep, run across the room and stare at the spot he came from routine his whole life. It happens once or twice a week.

Interestingly enough he does have allergies, food and environmental, but the behaviour didn't worsen when his allergy symptoms appeared a few years back, nor did it get better when the allergies were brought under control. About 6 months ago, just before turning 7, he added to the odd behaviours with a new sit and stare at the floor for no apparent reason routine. It's like he's in a daze, he's not moving his head like he's watching anything, and he snaps out of it when you call his name.

He's always been a quirky dog, and he's very happy go lucky, and none of this seems to bother him too much. But next time we're at the vet I'm going to ask about both these behaviours.


Sandra wrote at 2009-01-01 23:59:46
My 13 Year old Cairn has been acting the same way,the vet has him on predizone and Benadryn.It seem to subside but it's still present.He's calm for awhile and then suddenly he runs and tries to rub his ears and then twirls around on his backside.He's panting like he's hot and times.

Cairn Lover wrote at 2009-07-27 21:41:03
My 18 mth old Cairn has a milder version of this behaviour - very often jumps and looks around towards his back, or sometimes his front legs as if a fly has landed there or something has irritated him. Nothing there, no allergies, skin problems, biting or scratching. Very strange! Wondering if you have found any answers for this behaviour.

Village Lady wrote at 2011-11-17 14:51:05
My 4 yr old cairn terrier is experiencing the same symptoms. He had had several 2-3 day episodes, but this time it has been going on for a week. He is fine one second, and the next, he is looking behind him, next to him, under him, to see what is "getting him".  There is nothing there but he keeps looking. He has no apparent skin problems, but has also started licking his front paws, and occasionally shaking his head and looking up, as though he hears something. He is eating and drinking regularly, no other symptoms.  Previously two vets have suggested it could be allergies but his symptoms went away. This time it appears they're here to stay.  Help, it seems like he's going crazy with invisible things getting him.

Kristen wrote at 2013-08-14 17:26:32
I have a 4 year old cairn and he acts the exact same way!

It was happening for a long time then went away for a few months and is back. We have brought it up at the last 2 annual vet visits and we are being told it's just the way he is.

He lays in the same chair and has his head turned backward towards the ceiling as if there is something there to get him. He will do this for hours. He will also jump and scurry as if something bit him in the rear end. At time he will shake uncontrollably and put his tail between his legs and we need to put him under the bed covers to calm down. He sleeps in our bed and also stairs into space until the light goes off then he quickly scurries under the covers.

I also checked for fleas and ticks and had the vet check his ears multiple time in case there was a bug in there making a noise.

When he goes in the yard to play he is fine and there are times in the house he will also be fine and play. However at times during play in the house he will stop on a dime and jump into the chair and stare at nothing.

We have a shih Tzu puppy because I also thought he needed a playmate. The Cairn has very little interest in playing with him except for outside.

I personally think he has a neurological disorder but have no vet to confirm this so he isn't being treated for anything.

I hope yours finds relief from this. It is a hard thing to witness.


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Beth Adams


I have 10+ yrs rescuing Cairn terriers. Ask me about rescue work and re-homing rescued terriers. I am also proudly owned by a Jack Russell Terrier rescue. I am also keenly aware that terriers are significantly different from other kinds of dogs, and often not the best choice for some owners. HOWEVER I AM NOT A VET! PLEASE DO NOT ASK ME IN-DEPTH MEDICAL QUESTIONS THAT SHOULD BE DIRECTED ONLY TOWARDS MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS. I WILL BE HAPPY TO ASSIST WITH BASIC MEDICAL QUESTIONS/NEEDS THAT I CAN OFFER MY PERSONAL OPINION ON. If you ask me questions about breeding, please expect me to be direct about my opinion on this topic.


10+ yrs owning and rescuing cairn terriers. Proudly owned by a Jack Russell Terrier rescue. My JRT is active in being a foster brother, and earthdog and agility events and we're having a blast

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