How to Care for a Cairn Terrier's Coat

Cairn terriers are fierce, feisty dogs noted for their rough, wiry coats. Groom your cairn terrier once a week to prevent mats, and give him a head-to-toe grooming session once a month to maintain that unique coat texture.

Bathe your cairn terrier only when absolutely necessary. Excessive bathing dries out the coat, which leads to breakage and dry skin. Lather the dog with a shampoo specifically designed for hard-coated dogs, and rinse thoroughly to remove all traces of suds from the dog’s thick undercoat.

Brush the dog’s coat with a pin brush. Start at the head and brush against the direction of hair growth to produce the cairn’s distinctive full, fluffy head. Brush the rest of the body against the grain, working carefully against the grain to loosen dead hair from the undercoat. After you’ve brushed the entire coat in the opposite direction, brush with the grain to smooth the coat.

Strip off the long, dead hairs from the outer coat. Start at the base of the beck, and grasp a small section of hair between your thumb and the edge of a stripping blade. Pull the comb quickly through the hair, and discard any loose hair trapped in the blade. Work your way down the dog’s back and neck, and stop at the base of the tail. Stripping removes dead hair and gives the cairn his traditional stiff-coated appearance. Pluck just a few hairs at a time to minimize discomfort.

Spray the coat with a light coat conditioner after stripping. This infuses the coat with moisture and soothes skin irritated by stripping. Rub your hands over the coat to evenly distribute the conditioner.

Items you will need

  • Dog shampoo
  • Pin brush
  • Stripping comb
  • Coat conditioner


  • Work in 15-minute increments if you’ve never stripped your cairn's coat. Give the dog a treat between sessions, and praise him for being a good dog. Stripping the entire coat can make the skin red and inflamed, and working in short sessions makes grooming a positive experience.


  • Never shave a cairn’s coat. Clipping removes the rough outer hair and leaves the dog with a soft, fluffy coat.

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About the Author

Louise Lawson has been a published author and editor for more than 10 years. Lawson specializes in pet and food-related articles, utilizing her 15 years as a sous chef and as a dog breeder, handler and trainer to produce pieces for online and print publications.