The cairn terrier is small, solid, and well-muscled that sports a shaggy coat. This breed has a small broad head, a defined stop, and a powerful muzzle. Its jaws are strong with a regular scissor bite and upper teeth slightly overlapping the lower ones. It also boasts of a black and shiny nose that adds to the cairn’s charm. The cairn has dark hazel eyes that are set wide apart, shaggy eyebrows, and small pointed ears. This dog breed's body is well-proportioned with a strong neck, well-boned shoulders, compact and well-sprung ribs, nice level back, and supple loins. The cairn has a short tail that is well furnished and sits high on its body.
The cairn terrier sports a shaggy double coat that comes in shades of red, brindle, black, sand, or grey. The double coat of the cairn consists of a wiry topcoat and a soft and plush undercoat, giving it a shaggy appearance. Its coat should be brushed once a week to remove loose dead hair. Bathing can be done once every few months or as needed. Cairns that are to be show dogs require some trimming using a stripping knife, which can be done twice or thrice a year.
Other than grooming the coat and keeping it clean and tidy, it is important to also do basic care on its ears, nails, and teeth. Weekly tooth brushing is required to maintain oral health and avoid dental issues such as gum disease, tartar build-up, or bad breath. For cleaning the ears, make sure to only use veterinarian-approved solution. If the cairn doesn't wear down its nails naturally, then make sure to trim them on a monthly basis.