Cairn Terriers are small dogs that were developed in Scotland to dig into cairns (man-made piles of rocks for graves or landmarks) and dispatch the rodents living within them. And according to the AKC, they even hunted foxes when grouped in packs. So they’re not just cute and cuddly companions, they’re also rugged, fearless little hunters!
How much do they shed? Cairn Terriers have a harsh, wiry and weather-resistant double coat that sheds a low-to-moderate amount. Their coat is also considered to be “hypoallergenic” and, aside from needing to be hand-stripped, they’re fairly low maintenance dogs when it comes to grooming.
Read on to learn more about how much these adorable little earthdogs shed and what’s needed to maintain their coat so that if you do decide to adopt, you know what to expect!
Cairn Terrier Shedding
Cairn Terriers are a low-to-moderate shedding breed.
To put this into perspective, they shed about the same amount of hair as Scottish Terriers, Border Terriers and Norwich Terriers.
So they’re not completely non-shedding, but compared with a large, heavy shedding dog like the Siberian Husky, you’re not going to notice much hair at all around the home. Especially not if you ensure his diet is optimal and that you’re brushing him regularly.
There are a couple of caveats to this though.
The first one is that you may notice an increase in shedding once or twice a year during spring and fall. As with most dogs, they normally shed a little heavier for about two-to-three weeks as they adapt to the change in season. This does depend on the individual dog and the local climate, but if you notice more shedding during certain times of the year, this may be why.
The second is that sometimes excessive shedding can be caused by an underlying health problem, fleas, allergies or poor diet, among others. So if you’re noticing heavier than normal shedding, it may cause for concern and therefore could be worth contacting your vet about.
In most cases, however, shedding is normal and nothing to be concerned about. Almost all dogs molt to some extent. It’s all part of the natural process of hair growing, dying, and being replaced by new hairs. Which is why you can’t stop this from occurring, nor should you try.
It’s normal for dogs to molt. But you can reduce excessive amounts of shedding and manage it in such a way as to keep your home as fur-free as possible.
Related: 13 Ways to Stop Excessive Dog Shedding
As mentioned, Cairn Terriers don’t shed much, so there’s not a lot you need to do to manage it. However, speaking with your vet to select the best, highest quality dog food and instituting a proper grooming regimen may save you some time vacuuming and will likely lead to a home with less hair floating around.
Are They Hypoallergenic?
Let me start by saying that there’s no such thing as a 100% hypoallergenic dog breed. It’s just that some dogs, like the Cairn Terrier, are generally considered to be more suitable for people with pet allergies than others.
The reason why no dog is completely hypoallergenic is because, according to most experts, dog hair isn’t what causes the allergies. It’s the pet dander (or dead skin). And even hairless dogs produce dander as well as other allergens like sweat, saliva and urine, which means that any dog can cause allergic reactions in some people.
Related: Dog Shedding FAQ (What is a Hypoallergenic Dog?)
Also worth mentioning is that the American Kennel Club (AKC) does NOT list Cairn Terriers as a hypoallergenic breed, like they do with breeds like the Poodle for example. So this, to me, is an even bigger reason to exercise caution.
With all that being said, Cairn Terriers are less likely to upset allergy sufferers than a dog like the German Shepherd who is a heavy shedder that produces lots of dander.
Grooming Your Cairn Terrier
Cairn Terriers are a double-coated breed, meaning they have both an outer coat and an undercoat. The outer coat is profuse, harsh and wiry and comes in a variety of colors. While the undercoat is short, soft and dense. Together, this coat is weather-resistant, so helps keep him dry and well insulated from the elements.
What are they like to groom?
Cairns are fairly low maintenance when it comes to grooming. Unlike some terrier breeds, they’re rugged little dogs that don’t need daily brushing or specialty grooming.
For the most part, brushing once or twice a week with a slicker brush or metal comb is enough to maintain their coat, keep the hair mat and tangle free, and remove any dead hairs.
And when it comes to bathing, once every few months with a good quality dog shampoo should be enough. They’re not very smelly and they don’t drool much, so this is really all that is needed. And bathing too often can actually work against you because it can dry out their skin and hair, which in turn can cause excessive shedding.
So, while they’re not as low maintenance as some dogs, they are fairly easy to care for. Weekly brushing, occasional bathing and general care items like nail trimming, teeth and ear cleaning is about all they need.
There is one exception to this though! And that is that if you want to keep their coat looking its absolute best – hand stripping is needed.
What’s hand stripping?
It’s basically a process of plucking out the old, dead hairs by hand or with the aid of a stripping knife. And yes, this is time consuming and tedious work that most people outsource to a professional groomer.
Why would you hand strip his coat? Mostly because hand stripping helps maintain the coat’s beautiful texture and color. And that’s why it is mostly reserved for show dogs and owners who want to keep his coat looking as amazing as possible.
You can learn how to do this yourself, but it’s not easy, so most people outsource it to a professional groomer. Finding a groomer that will do this, however, isn’t easy. And if you do manage to find one, know that it won’t be cheap.
The other option is clipping, but his coat won’t look as good this way and you may notice more hairs around the home. Simply because, with a longer and more wiry coat, the old hairs that drop off tend to get trapped and only come out with brushing. Whereas when you trim, the hairs can drop right out of his coat much easier.
So it’s a trade off really and comes down to personal preference.
Either way, you should never shave his coat right down to the skin unless your vet specifically recommends this for a medical reason. And the reason is because the undercoat actually helps keep him cooler in summer and warmer in winter, and helps protect him from things like sunburn.
Cairn Terriers make excellent companions and are often described as alert, friendly and cheerful. They don’t shed very much either, which is good for those who want the company of a dog, minus the hair gathering around the home.
The main drawback with a wire-coated breed like the Cairn Terrier is that they’re a little more effort to groom than some dogs. Like the Boston Terrier for example, which is both low shedding and easy to groom given how short their coat is. But it does depend on how you keep your Cairn’s coat and, either way, they’re still a fairly low maintenance breed overall.