Airedale Terrier against grass backdrop
airedale terrier isolated on white

Airedale Terrier

These bold dogs were prized for their strength, versatility, and intelligence and were used as messenger dogs during WWI and WWII. They fell out of favour in the 1950's, but there are still many who love the Airedale breed for their good-natured and affectionate personalities.

The Airedale Terrier was developed in the 1800's, as miners in northern Great Britain competed to develop a strong, courageous and intelligent hunting dog breed. These large dogs were used to hunt otter, weasel, badger, fox and other small game, but were brave enough to hunt deer and bear as well. The now-extinct English black and tan terrier and otterhound were crossbred over many generations, and the Airedale became a recognised breed in 1879.

Physical Characteristics of the Airedale Terrier

The Airedale is a sturdy, well-muscled dog with a deep chest and level back. The head is long and narrow, with V-shaped ears that fold over, with a moderately long neck that broadens at the shoulders. The tail is often docked, but is not required for show. Adult males stand 23-24" tall and weigh 45 to 70 pounds, with females slightly smaller. The life expectancy is 10 to 12 years.

Colors are tan and black or tan and grizzle, with tan on the lower body and saddle-shaped markings on the back. There may be dark markings on either side of the head. The coat is harsh and wiry with a soft, dense undercoat. The coat requires daily brushing and seasonal stripping, and the beard hairs must be cleaned of food residue each day. Shedding is moderate, and regular grooming will reduce hair in the house.

Behavior and Temperament

Airedales are characteristically energetic, fun-loving dogs. Their above-average intelligence, stamina and strength make them versatile dogs that can be trained to a variety of dog activities. Airedales need mental stimulation, and excel in hunting, tracking, obedience competitions and schutzhund. Not afraid of livestock, they make excellent guarding and herding dogs.

Airedales are affectionate and eager to please their owners, but become bored with repetitive activity. Training must be in short, frequent sessions that change activity when the dog “gets it” and reinforced consistently to keep this large, boisterous dog in line.

Health Conditions

Usually healthy dogs, Airedales have a tendency toward dermatitis. The condition may not be apparent until they develop lick granulomas (bald, inflamed, possibly oozing patches) in their skin. While the causes vary, keeping the coat well-groomed and stripped of dead hair can reduce potential skin problems.

Airedales are also prone to gastric torsion (bloat), which can be fatal. They should not be allowed to overeat, or strenuously exercised soon after eating.

Is the Airedale Terrier Right for My Family?

Airedale Terriers are sweetly mischievous dogs with minds of their own. They need an experienced handler who has the time to commit to the extensive socialization, training and grooming this breed requires. A well-raised Airedale Terrier can be the perfect family companion for active, outdoor families. They generally enjoy swimming, have enough stamina and strength for jogging and hiking, and love to play games.

This breed is not the best choice for homes with very small children. Airedales are fun-loving but strong, and may unintentionally injure young children. High-energy dogs that need a lot of exercise, they will not do well in an apartment. They need at least a moderately-sized yard and one long daily walk.

Airedales are characteristically confident with other dogs and a bit aloof with strangers, but not aggressive unless the situation calls for it. They may get along with family cats but may be a threat to rodent-type pets.


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