Cairn Terrier Grooming – How To Groom a Cairn Terrier

These beautiful dogs are remarkable, both because of their soft, shiny coats in grey, red, and light brown, and because of their history as Highland hunting dogs.


How this article can help you

If you do have a lovely Cairn Terrier, you need to know how to groom them. You’re in luck: that’s what this article is about. We’ll discuss the basics of grooming and hand stripping; this process, which involves manually pulling off your dog’s excess hair, is used for double-coated breeds. While a groomer can help you, you should know how to do these things yourself.


Are Cairn Terriers double-coated?

Before we continue, you should know this: Cairns are double-coated, in that their coats have two layers of fur. Breeds of dogs that require hand stripping—which include Cairns—have a soft, dense undercoat, topped by a wiry-haired overcoat. Hand stripping involves removing dead hair from the overcoat.


Matted Hair

Because of their double coats, shaving matted hair is discouraged; it can negatively affect hair growth, and cause temperature dysregulation and skin problems. Instead, slide a pair of scissors between your dog’s body and the matted hair, and trim the hair slowly up toward the matted sections.



Before we discuss grooming proper, let’s talk about bathing. You don’t need to bathe Cairns as often as other another breed might require since it can dry the moisture from their coats. Instead, bathe them every few months. When you do bathe them, use a shampoo meant for any breed with a wire coat.



Do Cairn Terriers need haircuts?

You should trim your dog’s fur every so often so that it remains neat and tidy. For example, when the hair around the eyes is too long, it risks blocking your terrier’s vision. For this reason, trim your dog whenever its fur starts to look overgrown.


The standard grooming 

As with every breed, a Cairn Terrier needs to be groomed often—every two weeks, in this case, so that they can better avoid issues like skin irritation. Check your Cairn’s coat once a week for irritations, and engage in nail clipping regularly.

You can start grooming your terrier by using a pin brush to brush out their coat. Next, repeat the process with a comb. Because Cairns are double-coated, you’ll need to brush them thoroughly to go through both layers. Brush gently, yet evenly; remember that a Cairn’s sides and stomach are more sensitive than their back.

After this, use a slicker brush to remove dead hair from the undercoat. Trim the long hair from the feet and between the footpads.



At this point, you can trim your Cairn’s nails. Clean the wax from the ears with mineral oil on a Q-tip. Use a fine-toothed comb to clean dirt buildup in their eye area.



You can brush your dog’s teeth now; the teeth of a Cairn Terrier must be brushed two or three times a week. As well, once every month, you’ll need to scrape the tartar and plaque from the teeth with a double-headed tooth scaler; disinfect it with alcohol first.


Hand stripping a Cairn Terrier

This is the type of grooming that removes excess fur from the undercoat with one’s hands, and is the more thorough form of grooming terriers. It ensures that their coats remain coarse while maintaining a bright colour. Although it’s done with one’s hands, you might have trouble gripping onto your dog’s hair when hand stripping your Cairn Terrier. You can use rubber fingers or powdered chalk to better grip the hair. Relax your hands and wrist; focus on using your whole arm, and keep an even, steady rhythm. Because part of the process involves trimming the hair, you can also try out various tools to find which ones are most comfortable for your Cairn Terrier.

Hand stripping can be difficult to learn. You can read books and look up videos on YouTube to get familiar with the practice. You can also attend classes and talk to terrier breeders in your area. Consider having a groomer help you at first. You can also use a Cairn Terrier grooming diagram to better groom your dog’s coat.

To begin hand stripping—it must be done roughly every four to six months—do the standard grooming, then brush the coat with a slicker brush. For every section of your dog’s body, lift a small part of their coat in. Using your thumb and first two fingers, pull out a few hairs at a time. Pull off the hair flat against your dog’s body, in the same direction that the hair grows. As you hand strip, comb the hair every so often.

Start by stripping your dog’s neck, back, sides, and hips. From there, move onto the legs—you can start at the elbow of the leg (the hock), then continue down towards the paws—tail, buttocks, head, and ears.


Grooming after hand stripping

Bathe this breed with a texturizing shampoo and no conditioner, then dry their coat with a force dryer. Once most of the water has dried, brush your Cairn’s coat so that the hair lies flat. Wrap your terrier in towels, attaching them with big safety pins, and place your dog under the dryer.

Now, brush through your dog’s dry coat. Strip any hair that didn’t come off earlier. Trim the footpads with a #30 clipper blade. Then, use a #10 clipper to clip their nether regions and rear end. You can strip out the inside of their ears, as well as the outside of the upper third of the ears.

Take your dog’s hind legs in your hands and brush the hair down, toward their footpads. Trim the hair that hangs over their feet, and round off the hair on their foot. Repeat the process with your terrier’s front legs.

Trim your dog’s skirt—that is, the hair that falls on both sides of a dog’s body, between the front and back legs, as is common with terriers—and tail. Trim the hair around their eyes with thinning shears, then use straight shears for the upper third of their ears. Last, comb their hair over the eyes, and thin out a visor to prevent hair from getting into their eyes.




How do you groom a Cairn Terrier mix?

As for mixed Cairns, the grooming method will depend on the breed they’re mixed with. Thus, for example, Toxins—who are mixed with Chihuahuas—have low to moderate grooming needs, whereas Carkies—Cairns mixed with Yorkies—are also relatively low-maintenance. Because of the huge variety of possible mixes, talk to your vet or groomer so that you can find out how to get the best grooming for your Cairn mix. You might need to use a slicker or pin brush—or both!—depending on the mix.


Care for your Cairn Terrier: the right way

By now, you know a little more about grooming your Cairn Terrier. If you’ve never hand stripped or groomed a Cairn Terrier before, hopefully, this article will give you confidence; you won’t need to go to the groomer. Good luck with your pup: they deserve the best.