How Not to Let Your Airedale Terrier Own You

Updated on December 10, 2016

So you have decided to get an Airedale Terrier?

You are going to have your hands full.

Having an Airedale around stands much of the conventional dog training advice on its head.

After having had three of them, it is a promise. On the other hand, they are smart, loyal, affectionate, and impish clowns. It is worth the effort to train them, because they are a wonderful breed if you take charge firmly and early.

For all of their wonderful traits, they have others that can drive you to into therapy. They are extremely intelligent, very strong, fearless and stubborn. After all, they were bred to hunt badgers, just about some of the meanest, most aggressive and dangerous animals on the planet. To an Airedale, that is like the ideal game.

They are so tough and courageous, in fact, that in World War I they were used as dispatch carriers to send messages to other neighboring troops because they could sustain an injury and still reach their target.

It is hard to believe that the cute little bundle of wiry black fur could ever be your worst nightmare. Unless you establish control early and firmly, that is exactly what that adorable puppy will become.

Their boundless energy, and curiosity are inevitably guaranteed to give you some interesting memories.

When you talk to reputable breeders expect to be asked if you have ever had ever had an Airedale before. They do not want to place them into the home of the faint hearted. Owning an Airedale is a bit like trying to tame a kangaroo on speed. And training one, without expecting to encounter their headstrong nature, can be quite a shock.

Breeders know that prospective owners are charmed by their seeming amusing temperament, and handsome appearance, only to find that their dog expects to be in charge. That is why so many Airedales end up as rescue dogs. In despair, many less than firm owners simply give up.

What fun to come home from a long day at work to find part of your home ravaged. My second Airedale, even after being fully trained, accidentally managed to lock himself in an interior bathroom with no windows. In panic, he clawed down the bottom half of a solid wood door. It takes a very strong and very determined animal to accomplish that feat, but that is classic Airedale. The telltale “warm spot” on the couch meant that afterwards he calmly and imperiously returned to lounging on the couch once he had gotten free.

I installed a door that could not lock involuntarily.

My third Airedale, in a burst of energy tripped on the cord of a halogen lamp, causing it to set the couch on fire before I returned to the room. Not thinking, I told the 911 dispatcher that my dog set the couch on fire. The five firemen who arrived to be sure the fire was out were quite amused and could not resist asking me “Lady does your dog smoke?” As I explained: “Not yet, he is still underage.”

I moved the lamp.

But since he seemed more exuberant than most, I promptly enrolled him in obedience classes, where he flunked out. Well, not exactly. . . . It was so embarrassing to take him to class, I opted for home schooling. Being around a room full of dogs was more fun than he could stand. Rather than participate in class lessons he would immediately begin leaping wildly with delight, leaving me to weather the cold glances of those with less obviously disobedient beasts.

Even so, I would never have another breed.

For one thing, they don’t shed. Airedales do not have fur, they have hair. And so they really do not shed at all, particularly since they are kept groomed with short hair. They are good watch dogs because they are quite attentive and protective of their family, and their turf.

If you can survive their early years, and train them to accept you as alpha male early on, they are wonderful companions. Once trained, their playfulness can be charming, and they have a sweet and loving disposition, that makes them very appealing.

But to get to that point, there are things that must be done while they are young.

First, is to be consistently firm. No slip in behavior should ever go un-addressed. Some over tolerant dog owners make the mistake of “excusing” unacceptable behavior “just this once.” With an Airedale, that leniency is paid for with years of insubordinate challenges. When house training, if an “accident” happens, show him calmly outside after directing his attention to his “error.” If he chews a favorite shoe, scold, but don’t punish him. And train yourself while you are at it to close the closet doors. Because they are headstrong, training through praise usually works better than punishment.

Go to obedience school (which is actually to train you and not the dog). Even if he can’t cope with the public environment, you will learn enough to train him to follow commands. It does not matter if you never want him to sit, stay, heel or lay down on command, teach him anyway. That lets him know who is boss. And it is also a good way not to get nipped in his enthusiasm to get to that treat in your hand.

Accept that there are some things you probably can’t train out of him. He will always be extremely curious, but if he has been trained not to destroy property, this is not a bad trait.

Force him to learn proper leash behavior, unless you want to learn sidewalk skiing. They are very strong dogs and can easily take a full sized adult human off balance, if allowed to have their way on a leash. Get a prong collar early and use it every time you are out. He will quickly learn that heel means heel. The collar will teach him restraint in a humane manner, unlike choke chains.And in time, you won't need it. He will learn

Once he finally is clear that you call the shots, not him, he will be one of the most wonderful dogs you could hope to have taken into the family. His natural high energy level and clownish behavior are wonderfully amusing, and he will be a dedicated and loyal companion who is usually very good with children.

No matter what else, you can be sure with an Airedale in the house, life is always exciting


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    • profile image

      scottiejd 6 months ago

      Dana, this is usually a sign they need more exercise or possibly more companionship. You might be right about another dog, if so. Usually by age 5 they tone down a bit. But my last one at age 8.5 would play with a friends dog at such a level that it was exhausting to even watch it. But no other behavior problems. He was too tired. Now if you can take him for 2 LONG walks a day, that will sure help. This dog needs to work off a lot more energy. Being an Airedale, he's smart. Guessing you had more time off than usual over Thanksgiving, and he is letting you know he was not properly appreciated with an investment of your time. LOL

    • profile image

      Dana 6 months ago

      I really needed your article this evening! My Airedale, a 5 year old male has been pushing my buttons for the last couple of days, demanding his way or else he will drive me crazy. I finally through him outside just to get a break. He now is enjoying barking, talking to the coyotes and letting the neighbors know he is outside. No matter where I put him it seems he controls the scene. While I work he sleeps, when I come home he is ready to start his day. I am thinking maybe he needs another dog to wear him out.

    • profile image

      Robert Hobbs 7 months ago

      We had many different breeds of dogs when I was growing up at 17 we got an Airedale. I thought we were getting a dog I got a brother. He was king of the neighbourhood. I was described as the kid with that proud dog by those who were yet to meet me.He had play mates 2 little girls 2 who ask if Max could come out and play and 4 who take turns riding him up this very steep hill near our house.

      He was super protective over those kids.

      He could open our garage door stare down a unannounced criminal and was so playful he truly a friend.

      If I left the table he would grab my steak of my plate.

      He was amazing.

    • profile image

      Roy 8 months ago

      Our 15 month old loves to grab my wifes clothes and rip them, also flies in the air with his mouth open and grabs her. He is very smart but very bad boy.

    • profile image

      Jonathan 10 months ago

      This is the most accurate article about Airedales I have ever read. Mine has been to doggie jail probably five times in his first year. Now that he is too he is getting a lot better. But he's the best dog I've ever had in my entire life.

    • profile image

      Ron 2 years ago

      Fantastical content. Just what I ended up being looking around for!

      Best regards,

      Look at our new release with lepsoft.'com

    • profile image

      Debbie 3 years ago

      I have been owned by 4 first 2 were brother and sister and due to some tragic circumstances, I had to say goodbye to both before either had even reached 8. Worst time of my life. Now I have a four year old boy and a 9 month old girl. Zimri, the 4 year old, has matured into a sweet, dependable boy who listens(most of the time) and has just enough mischief to keep me on my toes. About Riley.....lets just say that the past few months have not been easy. But we will continue to persevere....and keep our shoes on high tables...and in about 15 more months it will all be worth it. They seem to really just calm down after 2. To everyone who has an Airedale in those first difficult months....stick to it. It will be THE best thing you ever do. There is nothing like these dogs. The amount of joy they bring is indescribable. Best breed in the world.

    • profile image

      Karen 3 years ago

      Love this piece. After growing up with a Bedlington, when it was time for our family to get a dog I had to have a terrier and my husband wanted big, so we brought our first airedale into our lives when our daughter was 8 months old. We went on to have a son and another Airedale. Such a fun, crazy adventure! Now that the kids are grown, I decided to "downsize" and go back to the breed of my childhood. After all the years with Airedales, I thought something might be wrong with our Bedlington. He is just so easy, LOL. I do miss having a wiry haired clown around the house, but I think I can wait until my son gets his first dog, which he says WILL be an Airedale. The tradition continues :)

    • profile image

      Diane 3 years ago

      LOL Hilarious! (p.s. you do NOT need a prong collar for your Airedale - just a sense of humor and being consistent with training. Very funny. Love the couch being on fire lol.

    • profile image

      VK 3 years ago

      It's funny, my experience with my Airedale was the opposite. He was an absolute terror as a puppy, but he grew up to be a very sweet, composed dog. I have had other dogs before, but the bonding experience with the Airedale is the deepest pet experience I have ever had.

    • profile image

      b.arnold 4 years ago

      positive reinforcement;'calmness; short daily lessons; i do not use pinch collars; use head halters and back up withnylon martingale flat collar. by far the best dogs if you are up to them. must have great sense of humor!

    • profile image

      Bernice 6 years ago

      I adopted Aimie not knowing her back ground, Her owner had died

      and placed her in a SPCA (no putting animals down), so we wanted to

      see how she would get along with our mixed lab. She did fine, she

      and Lilly both live in our house, love the back yard. And I have never

      seen any fights. When and if we need to board, they always stay

      together if the cage is large enough. I have not had any house problems. I enrolled in basic training with her and she passed with

      178/200. I think she did very well, i believe she lost points in her

      heel and when I stop she should sit, that is not going well, Also her

      heeling was not too good. Sit Stay she is excellent. The course was 5 weeks 2 hours at a time. (There were mixed dogs in the class but only 5 other dogs) The fall classes will be much more difficult, the same sit,stay and heel without a leash. I am usingCeasar Milan's illusion collar it is helping alot.

    • profile image

      Wouter 6 years ago

      I have been owned by one for nearly a year now and I have not once regretted my decision to get one. Sure, as the article says, they are a handful and should you ever make a decision to get one, know that he/she will take up A LOT of your time and demands a great deal of patience. It is totally worth it though - there is no dog like them.

      As another poster pointed out, the tennis ball under the couch - I know it too well. Mine also has some weird fetish with socks and it is the one thing I can not stop him from getting. Putting on socks in the morning is not a simple task anymore - I forgot what it is like to not have to battle and say "no" while trying to get them on. He also has this great trick where he would stand on a rug and jump into the air by kicking all fours at the same time with the effect of the carpet turning ball shape under his feet. Funniest thing for him in the world.

      I have managed to talk my girlfriend into getting another one. A female friend. I do not think she realises how much training and effort is waiting for her but I am not going to say one word! Wonderful breed and wonderful article - thank you.

    • profile image

      Rosie 6 years ago

      but they do shed....lots, how do i make it stop?

    • profile image

      Beth 6 years ago

      Loved the article... I just got my first Airedale 4-21-12 and he is a handful very stubborn but I love him so much dearly... Your article helped so much


    • profile image

      Wayne and Theresa 6 years ago

      What a great article! The only thing better than an Airedale - is 2 Airedales. To Christy: Scotty is right on when he says get some professional training for you and your Airehead- it will make all the difference in the world. Patience and consistency is the key. You'll

      never regret it!!

    • profile image

      christy 6 years ago

      Help my airedale is turning one we love him but are losing our strength! About at the end of our rope. Any one care to help?

      I love my airedale and want to keep him!

    • profile image

      Lisa 6 years ago

      Good luck in your hunt for another Airedale. It will be a very fortunate dog as you already understand and appreciate how amazing they are. I'm considering trying the pinch collar. I can barely control mine when he really wants to go.

    • profile image

      ScottieJD 6 years ago

      Hi Lisa,

      I am in between Airedales right now, but eager to get a new rescue 'Dale. Glad you circled back.

    • profile image

      Lisa 6 years ago

      Had one growing up and always swore I'd own another. It took until I was 48 but it's been worth the wait. He has such human emotions and is just so loving and sweet. He was a huge handful but now at 4 it's all paying off.

      I also have a Welsh Terrier. Great dog as well but looking like a mini Airedale is as far as the comparison goes. She is much more intense and the Airdale is a saint to put up with her.

    • profile image

      Max 6 years ago

      Great column, Scotty !

      I have an Airedale girl, and all I can say is that it was a no issue to train her, as she is so smart, .....she replaces many people in my life and all I can say to anyone wanting an airedale- invest in the training ! it pays with big dividends !


    • profile image

      ScottieJD 7 years ago

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for the great comment. You know, if your wife says "too big" you might consider Airedale rescue, the dogs are older, and some are not as large. And, that way you know going in what the maximum size will be.

      But that's me, there is no breed for me but Airedales. Good luck with your lobbying.


    • profile image

      Paul  7 years ago

      Thanks for the article. It brought back memories having grown up with two airedales. Nadia we got as a puppy, and my mother named her after the gymnast. She was a handful for sure, always finding tissue boxes somehow and tearing them up. Obedience school fixed that. When she was two we had her bred and for a few months we had 11 airedales in the house (10 pups no fatalities) We ended up keeping one and naming him Duke. We knew right away to train him. They were great dogs and still got into some mischief mostly involving carelessly misplaced items on the houses human inhabitants. At 14 and a half we had to put nadia down. Duke was never the same and almost 2 years later he too had to be put down.

      sorry for rambling. airedales are great companions, the wife and I are thinking about getting a dog and I keep saying "AIREDALE" and she says "too big!" We might end up getting a Welsh or an Irish terrier. Thanks again for the article, it made me smile!!!

    • profile image

      Cyn 8 years ago

      I am currently owned by an Airedale named Robin, full name Go For Its Sir Robin of Locksley, as in Robin Hood. While reading your article I was summoned by Sir Robin, it seems his tennis ball, one of many was under the couch and needed sorting. Never mind he has dozens, this one was needed now. They are great dogs, just never let them hide your cell phone or car keys.

    • PeterKlibs profile image

      PeterKlibs 8 years ago from United States

      Great article, I can relate to much of it with my Airedale

    • profile image

      scottiejd 9 years ago

      Hi Ida

      Thanks. Like you, Airedales will always be my heart breed too. I don't have a dog right now, but for sure, if I did, it would be another Airedale. While I understand "downsizing" I will hang on with the big guys for as long as I can. 14 is a long time for an Airedale. My last one, Bruiser, decided to challenge a car at 9 and a half, and the car won. As hard as that was, I am not sure I could have had the courage to put him down, like you did Jack.

      Thanks for your great comments.

    • Ida-May profile image

      Ida-May 9 years ago from Yorkshire

      Great Hub Scottie! I don't know whether to laugh or cry. In Dec 07 we had to have our beloved Airedale Jack put to sleep he was 14 which I'm sure you know is a very good age for an Airedale. As a child I grew up with Glen and then Tara and my parents still have an Airedale called Sally. Because of our circumstances we have 'downsized' to a miniature schnauzer he's fantastic and we all love him to bits but Airedales will always be my heart breed

    • Scottie JD profile image

      Scottie JD 9 years ago

      Glad you enjoyed it. Great dogs!

    • profile image

      Aussie Joe 9 years ago

      Great piece.

    • Scottie JD profile image

      Scottie JD 9 years ago

      Sally, but for dealing with some well regarded Airedale breeders, I would have thought the prong collar to be cruel. It really is safe, not painful, and a good start to getting them to obey on a leash. Airedales are big dogs, even the smaller ones are 55 pounds, and can pull you down the street on a regular leash. The important thing is to use verbal commands when she feels the pressure. Then she learns to obey commands, not force.

      As for not taking on an Airedale, I certainly understand. Now that I know the drill, I would have no other, but they are not everyone's dog.

      Thanks though, for the nice comments.

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 9 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      I really enjoyed your words.

      I am not a dog person. I have a nine-year old Goldie whom I rescued a year ago, and she is my first dog. Ever. Almost. Anyway, it's been a real learning experience, and I'm glad I got her as an older dog, sort of. She was never trained beyond house training and a few cute tricks. My challenge has been to keep her from running me over on a leash walk. Actually, my challenge has been to get her to pay attention to me instead of what her nose finds.

      I promise you, I will never take into my house an Airedale pup.

      Oh, and about the pinch collar. Wonderful training tool. It's the only way I can control her when she meets new people on a walk. Little by little, she's learning through the use of it.

      Thumbs up!

    • Scottie JD profile image

      Scottie JD 9 years ago

      Thanks, great dogs, even with all the challenges!

    • Becky2 profile image

      Becky2 9 years ago from Brisbane, Queensland



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