How to Brush a Cairn Terrier

Brush your Cairn outside only when the weather is warm.

Brush your Cairn outside only when the weather is warm.

Your adorably shaggy Cairn terrier might not be the worst shedder, but weekly brushing of this double-coated pup will distribute his coat's natural oils and give him an overall neater appearance. To do this, you must brush his coarse, hard outer coat and his dense, but ultra-soft undercoat.

Brush your Cair terrier's entire coat with a pin brush. Start at his rear and work frontward so you brush his chest and head last. This first brushing removes major tangles and dead hair from the outer coat. Brush in the direction of hair growth and apply enough pressure so the pins reach through his double coat to stimulate the skin. If you encounter a tangle, use a spray bottle and lightly mist the hair with an even mixture of dog conditioner and water. Then, use short, gentle strokes to remove the snarl.

Repeat step one, but this time brush against the direction of hair growth. Brushing against the grain fluffs up your Cairn's soft, dense undercoat, exposing it more fully to your brush strokes. Having his coat standing straight off his body makes it easier to loosen and remove dead hair from his undercoat. When finished, return his hair to its original position by brushing his entire coat again, going in the direction of hair growth.

Comb through his entire coat again, this time using a fine-toothed metal comb. Move in the direction of hair growth, starting at his hindquarters and finishing with his head. The comb should flow smoothly through his coat, removing the dead hairs you previously loosened with the pin brush. The fine teeth of the comb also catch any small tangles missed by the pin brush. Move slowly over his underarms and genitals, as these areas are particularly good at hiding small mats and tangles.

Items you will need

  • Spray bottle
  • Pin brush
  • Fine-toothed metal comb


  • Offer lots of praise and treats throughout the entire brushing process.
  • If your Cairn isn't used to being brushed, start out with short brushing sessions of a few minutes or less and gradually increase the length of his brushing until he becomes more comfortable.
  • Since water intensifies existing tangles, it's important to thoroughly brush your Cairn before his bath.
  • Your Cairn terrier's coat doesn't need or respond well to frequent baths. If you must bathe your pooch more often, use dog shampoo that's specifically formulated for coarse-coated dogs. Regular dog shampoo can strip your Cairn's glossy, hard outer coat of its nature oils, making less effective at protecting him from the elements.


  • Do not attempt to strip your Cairn's coat. Leave this advanced grooming technique to a professional groomer. Attempting to strip your pup's coat incorrectly, or at the wrong time, can be painful for him.

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About the Author

Christina Bednarz Schnell began writing full-time in 2010. Her areas of expertise include child development and behavior, medical conditions and pet health. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international relations.

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