Grooming and caring for the Cairn terrier

Grooming and caring for the Cairn terrier

Grooming & Hygiene

The Cairn terrier is a small Scottish dog breed, which was originally called the short haired Skye terrier, but was later re-named to reflect the Cairn’s new status as a breed in its own right. They are lively, cheeky and full of life, and like many small terrier-type breeds, have personalities that belie their small frames! They are bold, plucky and assertive little dogs that can be prone to dominance if poorly managed, but they are also very loving and friendly, and have a true lust for life.

While the Cairn terrier is not classed a one of the most high maintenance of dogs in terms of their coat care and general grooming needs, like all breeds of dog, it is important to have a care and grooming protocol in place for them, in order to keep them looking and feeling good, and in good condition.

In this article, we will share some tips on the grooming and general care and maintenance of the Cairn terrier. Read on to learn more!


All dogs need the occasional bath to keep them from becoming too pongy, and to clean the coat right down to the skin, removing muck and grime. However, the Cairn is not a breed that should be scheduled regular baths without good reason, as their coats are fairly harsh in places and their skin fairly resilient, meaning that they are not among the list of breeds that should be bathed particularly frequently.

Ideally, only bathe your Cairn terrier if they have something in their coat that cannot be brushed out, if you can see grime on the skin, or if they are particularly stinky!

Choose a gentle, mild shampoo that will not be too harsh for their skin or strip the coat of its natural oils, and ensure that you rinse and dry the dog off thoroughly after their bath.


The coat of the Cairn terrier tends to be a mixture of harsh hair and softer hair, and brushing it out regularly is important. While they are not prone to knotting and tangling up like some breeds of dog, regular brushing will remove debris from the coat and also, stimulate the skin’s circulation, which all helps to improve the health of the coat and skin.

Clipping and cutting

Some people have their Cairn terriers partially clipped off in order to keep the dog neat and reduce the amount of maintenance that the coat requires, which may involve trimming off some of the fringing and feathering around the legs and belly.

However, even if you wish to leave your dog in their natural, untrimmed coat, the chances are that you will need to trim the fringe of hair over your dog’s eyebrows, so that it does not obscure their vision. This also gives you the opportunity to check the dog’s eyes and ensure that they are healthy, and you may wish to trim the hair between the dog’s toes too, if this is becoming matted or lumpy with built-up debris.

Nail clipping

Whether or not your Cairn terrier needs to have their nails clipped will largely depend on how active they are, and what sort of surfaces they walk over regularly. If your dog lives an active life and regularly walks on the roads or other hard surfaces, the chances are that their nails will wear down naturally without needing clipping.

However, if your dog generally walks on soft surfaces such as grass, or if their nails otherwise grow overly long, you will need to clip these at home, or schedule them an appointment with a professional to have this done for you. If your dog’s nails are black, this can make it hard to see where the nerve-rich quick of the nails lie, which means that you might be better taking the dog to have their nails clipped by a professional.

Dental care

It is important for owners of dogs of all breeds to take good care of their dog’s teeth, and this is also true for the Cairn terrier. Giving your dog suitable chew toys can help to clean the teeth, and of course, getting your dog used to having their teeth cleaned properly with a brush when they are young can help to prevent dental problems in later life.

It is a good idea to check your dog’s teeth over regularly to ensure that they are not showing signs of tooth decay, excess tartar build up or inflamed gums, as it is much easier to deal with these problems early on or prevent them entirely than it is to resolve an advanced issue!

Cleaning the ears

The Cairn terrier has short, erect ears, which makes them relatively easy to care for, but also, potentially at risk of harbouring debris such as grass seeds and other irritants.

Wiping over the visible surface of the inside of the ear with an ear wipe should help to remove dirt and wax build up, keeping the ears in good condition.

Newsletter icon
Get free tips and resources delivered directly to your inbox.


Pets for StudWanted Pets

Accessories & services


Knowledge Hub


Support & Safety Portal
All Pets for Sale