Cairn Terrier - Breed and Grooming Tips

Best known as "Toto" from the Wizard of Oz, the Cairn Terrier is a small, hardy working terrier. Originally bred to aid Scottish farmers in ridding their properties of pests, Cairns today use their tenacity to excel in obedience, agility, terrier and tracking trials. Alert and active, this breed possesses a harsh, weather-resistant outer coat that can be any color except white. The hair around the head gives him a general foxy expression.

A Look Back

The Cairn originated in the Highlands of Scotland and the Isle of Skye, initially grouped in the "Skye Terrier" class alongside the Scottish and West Highland White Terriers. In the early 1900s, the three breeds began to be bred separately. The name "Cairn" refers to the rock dens that foxes and badgers lived in throughout the countryside. The dog would squirm down into these "cairns" and bark to hold the predator until the farmer killed it.

Right Breed for You?

Cairns love their families, but may try to test their owner’s limits, so obedience training is necessary. Although they learn quickly, the Cairn may always have the instinct to dig and chase small animals, so new owners should be prepared for these behaviors. Regular brushing and exercise are also necessary to keep the breed fit and happy.

Source:  American Kennel Club -


General: The Cairn Terrier has a double coat with hard straight coat above a soft furry short undercoat. As with most terriers, the coat is usually hand stripped or plucked to insure the coat retains its harsh texture, color and does not become soft. All show dogs are kept hand stripped while many pet owners do have their dogs clipped into a skirted pattern.

Ears: Monthly ear cleaning with Ear Care is advised to be sure no ear problems that might need vet attention arise.

Eyes: Terriers are earth dogs and naturally dig holes and very curious. Optisoothe Eye Wash can be used daily to help flush foreign matter.

Bathing: Frequency of bathing your Cairn will depend on what type of grooming you decide is best for your lifestyle and budget. Cairn’s love the outdoors and love to get dirty, if your Cairn is an indoor dog, more frequent bathing will be desired. Cairn’s require 2 baths, The first bath should be a general bath to get off the dirt and grime. The second bath is targeted for the need of your dog to keep your Cairn’s coat the correct texture. If your Cairn has allergies or sensitive skin we would suggest a Hypo-Allergenic Shampoo and follow it with a Oatmeal Baking Soda Shampoo to control the odor. Do not use a heavy conditioner, but choose a light conditioner to keep the coats natural hard texture, Plum Perfect Cream Rinse or Rainforest Conditioner are light and will leave a clean fresh scent.

Common Problems: Cairn’s are prone to seasonal and food allergies, keeping allergies under control will keep the coat and skin at its best. Dead Sea Mineral Mudbath is great to recondition the skin and repair the coat.

Coat Care: Extreme Odor Eliminator can be used between baths to help with keeping your Cairn smelling fresh and clean after an outdoor adventure.

Paws: Paw Balm should be used weekly to keep paw pads soft and pliable. This makes the pads less likely to dry and crack.

Tools: A brush and a comb should be used daily to weekly to keep the coat in good shape and matt free. If your dog is hand stripped a stripping knife or stone will be used. Use stripping powder to help the stripping process.

Show Dog Tips: Freeze! Styling Gel on the eye brows to keep them straight. Add Freeze! Styling Gel while fluffing for that extra volume on the leg furnishings. Spray Quick Finish Styling Spray to keep the hard texture for the ring. Freeze! Styling Gel will keep the hair in place between classes.

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