Larry Slawson received his Master's Degree from UNC Charlotte. He has 15+ years of experience with dogs and various pets.
Throughout the world, there exists only a handful of dog breeds that can be consistently described as lively, intelligent, and reliable. One of these dogs is the Airedale Terrier.
Originally bred in the 1800s for the purpose of hunting and retrieving, this breed is now favored for its guardianship, courageousness, and companionship qualities, making it an ideal choice for police work and family-based environments.
This work examines the Airedale Terrier and provides an in-depth analysis of the animal’s behavioral patterns, temperament, and general traits. This includes a discussion of the dog’s health concerns, grooming and exercise requirements, as well as water and nutritional needs.
It is the author’s hope that a better understanding (and appreciation) of this remarkable dog breed will accompany readers following their completion of this work.
“No matter how little money and how few possessions you own, having a dog makes you feel rich.”
— Louis Sabin
- Common Name: Airedale Terrier
- Binomial Name: Canis Lupus Familiaris
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Canidae
- Genus: Canis
- Species: Canis Lupus
- Subspecies: Canis Lupus Familiaris
- Other Name(s): Waterside Terrier; Bingley Terrier; Airedale
History and Origins of the Airedale Terrier
- Life Span: 10 to 13 years
- Group: Terrier
- Area of Origin: England
- Date of Origin: 1800s
- Original Function: Hunting; Bird Flushing; Retrieving
- Family: Terrier
The Airedale Terrier is believed to have originated in the 1850s when breeders crossed English Black and Tan Terriers with Otterhounds for the purpose of hunting, bird flushing, and retrieving. The end result was a dog that possessed excellent hearing and eyesight, along with an incredible sense of smell, power, and swimming capabilities (making it a perfect choice for hunters). Although originally known as the Waterside, Bingley, Working Terrier, and Warfedale, the breed was officially recognized as the Airedale Terrier in 1879.
Until the Second World War, Airedale Terriers were extremely popular in Great Britain but experienced a rapid decline in popularity due to their tremendous size. War and poverty further diminished their popularity at the turn of the Twentieth Century, as the Airedale’s numbers dropped considerably until the late 1940s. Following the Second World War, the dog experienced a favorable comeback among individuals in Germany, the United States, and Canada.
In regard to the Airedale Terrier’s function and purpose, this particular breed was originally developed for the purpose of hunting, retrieving, and bird flushing. In the modern era, the Airedale Terrier continues to fulfill this role and is a favorite of hunters, outdoorsmen, and various sportsmen. Due to their friendly and affectionate nature, however, the primary role of the Airedale has shifted dramatically in recent decades as the dog is now favored for its remarkable companionship qualities (making it an ideal choice for family-based environments). As hunting continues to experience a decline in popularity, it is likely that the Airedale’s role as a companion dog will continue to grow in the years that lie ahead.
Appearance and Characteristics
- Weight: 55+ pounds (male and female)
- Height: 23+ inches (male and female)
The Airedale Terrier is a medium-sized breed known for their muscular and athletic appearance. Considered the “King of Terriers” by dog experts, the Airedale is currently the largest terrier in the world. On average, most dogs within this breed reach upward of 55 pounds, or 23 inches in total height (an impressive feat by terrier-based standards).
Generally speaking, the Airedale Terrier maintains a relatively tall height that is proportionate to its overall weight. As such, their bodies are highly-symmetrical and follow a well-balanced appearance. Backs on this breed are typically strong and straight, and are accentuated by prominent ribs, and long shoulders that slope to the back.
Heads on the Airedale Terrier are relatively long and flat, with minimal distance between the two ears. Muzzles are generally elongated in their overall shape, and are accentuated by flat cheeks, tight lips, and muscular jaws. Eyes on the Airedale are small and dark, whereas the ears take on a small V-shaped appearance as they droop forward.
The Airedale possesses long and straight legs that maintain a well-muscled look. Elbows sit relatively close to the body, whereas the shoulders are long and slope downward into the back (akc.org). Shoulder blades should lie somewhat flat, whereas the Airedale’s chest is deep and level with the elbows. Completing the forequarters is a pair of well-padded feet that are both small and rounded in their appearance. Toes on the feet should be moderately arched.
The hindquarters follow many of the same characteristics as the front, with the legs being long and muscular in their overall appearance. Hocks sit low when viewed from behind, while stifles maintain a well-bent look. Completing the legs is a series of small, rounded, and compact feet that are accentuated by arched toes and thick padding (to protect the Airedale from difficult terrain).
Tails on the Airedale should be set high and maintain a relatively long length. Tails should also be carried gaily, but should never curve over the back as this is considered a serious fault (akc.org).
Coat and Coloration
Coats are generally described as stiff, wiry, and dense on the Airedale, and lie relatively close to the body. The Airedale also possesses a short and softer undercoat to protect the dog from environmental hazards and temperature fluctuations (a trait that derives from early breeders and their desire to create an all-around “hunting dog” suitable for outdoor conditions).
In regard to color, the Airedale usually comes in a black or dark grizzle coloration. Tan (and darker markings) often highlight the head, ears and feet, with darker markings along either side of the skull being permissible in most cases. Whereas the underside of the Airedale’s terrier is generally light brown in coloration, the sides and upper body should maintain a black or grizzle coloration.
Faults on the Airedale Terrier
Soft or curly coats are considered serious faults with this breed, along with hound-like ears, white feet, and poor biting ability. Yellow eyes, as well as poor movement, are also major faults with the Airedale and should be evaluated by a veterinarian upon discovery (akc.org).
Is the Airedale Terrier Right for My Home?
- Energy Level: 4/5
- Exercise Needs: 3/5
- Playfulness: 4/5
- Affection Towards Owners: 3/5
- Friendliness Towards Other Animals: 2/5
- Training Difficulty: 2/5
- Grooming Level: 4/5
Note: Scale of 1 to 5 (1=Lowest, 5=Highest)
Airedale Terrier Temperament
The Airedale is often described by experts as a highly-alert, inquisitive, and protective breed that is both courageous and bold. They are hard-working, athletic, and possess tireless energy. As can be expected, they also possess a number of basic “terrier” traits, including a stubborn personality, and a propensity for chasing, barking, and digging. These traits are especially common when they are left alone for long periods of time, as boredom can lead to destructive behaviors when the dog is forced to “entertain” themselves.
In spite of these issues, few dogs in the canine world are as comical, active, or fun-loving as the Airedale Terrier. For these reasons, this breed makes for an excellent addition to a number of household environments and living situations.
Is the Airedale Terrier Good With Children?
Yes! The Airedale makes for a great family pet due to its fun-loving nature, high energy level, and affectionate demeanor. They are also known to be quite protective over kids, ensuring that their loved ones are protected at all times. In spite of these marvelous traits, the Airedale is generally not recommended for households with smaller children (toddler age) as their larger size and rambunctious behavior can prove to be intense for smaller kids.
As with all dogs, parents should always supervise their children when in the presence of an Airedale. This helps to ensure that roughhousing is avoided, and that mishandling (such as the grabbing and pulling of tails) does not occur. Such behaviors can lead to unpleasant interactions that, in turn, can be detrimental to the well-being of both your Airedale and children if not prevented.
Parents should also teach their children at an early age the proper ways to feed and approach dogs. This includes avoidance of Airedale Terriers that are eating or sleeping, as encroachment during these times can lead to aggressive behavior.
How Smart and Intelligent is the Airedale Terrier?
The Airedale Terrier is a smart breed renowned for their intellect and learning capabilities. As of 2021, this breed is ranked #29 amongst the world’s smartest dogs. This places the Airedale Terrier side by side with the Giant Schnauzer, Portuguese Water Dog, Bouvier des Flandres, and Border Terrier in terms of its overall intelligence level (Coren, 182).
As such, owners can expect their Airedale Terrier to be exceptionally bright and capable of learning a variety of tricks and commands throughout their lifetime. As a terrier breed, however, it is crucial to understand that the Airedale is an exceptionally stubborn dog that requires a great deal of patience during training sessions. This, in no way, should be interpreted as a lack of intelligence on behalf of the Airedale. It simply means that their learning style is different than other breeds, and will require additional effort to fully train.
Brushing and Bathing
As a relatively long-haired breed, the Airedale Terrier requires regular grooming to maintain its handsome and luxurious coat. Owners should plan to brush their Airedale with a comb at least 1 to 2 times a week in order to remove excess hair and dirt from their coat. Due to the wiry nature of their hair, it is crucial that you are gentle during the brushing process, as curly hairs have a tendency to become snagged in the brush (particularly when the hair is longer).
If matting is spotted during this process, owners can gently pull them apart with their fingers. Nevertheless, if matting starts to become a major issue over time (due to the length of your Airedale’s hair), it may be time to trim your pet’s coat. And while this can be done at home, it is generally recommended that owners consult with a professional groomer, as trimming requires specific tools (and skill) to perform the process smoothly.
Periodic bathing should also be followed in order to maintain a clean and tidy appearance (once every 6 to 8 weeks). Regular baths should be avoided, however, as the water and shampoo can soften the Airedale’s coarse coat over time. Owners should also use a dog-specific shampoo for the bathing process, and ensure that the product is rinsed out thoroughly. Failure to do so can result in the development of dry skin (or other dermatological issues) which the Airedale is especially prone to.
In addition to brushing and bathing, owners should pay particular attention to their Airedale Terrier’s ears. Ears should be checked regularly for excessive earwax buildup, dirt, and other debris (such as the regular accumulation of tiny hairs that result from shedding over time). Owners should promptly remove these substances from the Airedale Terrier’s ears in order to prevent sores and infection from occurring in the ear canal. Unfortunately, infections of the ear are a relatively common problem for this particular breed. This is due, in part, to the fact that the Airedale possesses “droopy ears” which help to trap heat and moisture within the ear canal. This, in turn, provides a perfect breeding ground and environment for bacteria to grow rapidly. As such, owners should regularly inspect their Airedale’s ears to ensure they are clean and free of problems.
The following list details 5 signs and symptoms of ear problems with the Airedale Terrier.
In addition to checking your Airedale Terrier’s ears, mails should also be trimmed on a regular basis to prevent painful injuries to your terrier’s paws. This procedure can be performed at home, or at a local veterinarian’s office if the owner is uncomfortable with the trimming process. Professional groomers also provide this service; however, they are generally more expensive than the aforementioned options.
When trimming, nails should be filed short with a smooth, rounded shape being ideal. Failure to take care of longer nails can result in serious issues for your Airedale Terrier as a torn nail is extremely painful. Moreover, longer nails can result in bone and joint problems over time, and can even grow into your Airedale’s padding (resulting in infection).
Finally, and crucially, owners should always pay close attention to their Airedale’s dental hygiene. Oral health is an area of grooming that is often overlooked by owners but is also one of the most important areas of your dog’s health. As such, owners should (ideally) brush their Airedale’s teeth daily in order to remove food-based substances, tartar buildup, and other debris. To accomplish this, always use toothbrushes and toothpaste that are specifically designed for dogs. When brushing, ensure that you brush gently along your Airedale Terrier’s gumline, removing tiny food-based particles in a sweeping motion.
Failure to promptly remove these substances will almost certainly result in the development of gum disease, gingivitis, and tooth decay for your dog over time. Each of these issues is known to be detrimental to your dog’s overall health, and can severely impact their overall life expectancy if not corrected.
Exercise and Training Needs
How Much Exercise Should an Airedale Terrier Receive Daily?
Due to its original purpose as a working dog and hunting companion, the Airedale Terrier was bred with both energy and stamina in mind. As such, this particular breed requires a great deal of exercise on a daily basis to live a happy and fulfilling lifestyle.
According to most experts, two long walks a day (one in the morning and one in the evening) are usually enough to satisfy the Airedale’s energy needs. This should include various off-leash activities such as retrieving, swimming, and playtime with family or loved ones. Even with these daily routines, however, most owners will discover (sometimes to their dismay) that the Airedale is a seemingly tireless companion.
As with all exercise routines, it is crucial to watch your Airedale Terrier closely for signs of overexertion or dehydration. Ensure that you take plenty of water breaks (especially during hot days), and avoid “pushing” your dog too hard. Failure to heed this warning can result in serious health issues and concerns that can become life-threatening for your pet.
How Difficult is an Airedale Terrier to Train?
As a dog that regularly ranks in the #29 spot for the world’s smartest dogs, the Airedale Terrier is an exceptionally intelligent breed with a propensity for learning new commands and tricks. Due to the dog’s natural terrier instincts, however, they are also quite stubborn (to a fault) and can be extremely difficult to train at times. As a sensitive breed, it is also vital that prospective owners approach training with a positive and upbeat attitude (avoiding the use of shouting). Failure to heed this warning can result in the development of social anxiety and shyness in your Airedale that is difficult to correct.
As with most dogs, positive reinforcement remains one of the best methods for training. Praises coupled with treats (rewards) will go a long way in ensuring that your pet is happy (and eager) to learn. When possible, training regimens should begin as soon as possible with the Airedale, as puppies are far easier to train than adults. Likewise, early training should focus on socialization skills (with both animals and people), along with obedience training.
As with most breeds, a high-quality dog food should always be the number one priority for your pet. These meals can be prepared by a manufacturer, or at home following the guidance and supervision of your dog’s veterinarian. And while it is certainly tempting to provide your Airedale Terrier with human-based foods (such as table scraps and leftovers), experts warn that these substances can be extremely detrimental to your dog’s overall health and well-being. This is particularly true for foods that contain bones, preservatives, and fatty substances as they can cause serious damage to the Airedale’s digestive system and esophagus following ingestion. The following list details 10 foods you should avoid giving to dogs:
How Much Food Should an Airedale Terrier Eat Per Day?
As with all dog breeds, feeding requirements vary significantly with every pet and depend greatly on your dog’s weight, energy level, and age. For this reason, owners should work actively with their veterinarian to establish a feeding cycle that fits their dog’s specific needs.
Generally speaking, however, the Airedale Terrier requires approximately 1.5 to 2.5 cups of dry dog food on a daily basis. This should be divided into two separate meals of 0.75 to 1.25 cups, respectively. More active dogs will require slightly more food each day (in order to replace lost calories), whereas less-active animals will require only the minimum recommendations stated above.
When in doubt about nutritional guidelines, your local veterinarian can provide you with specific recommendations as well as dietary considerations for your Airedale Terrier.
How Much Water Should an Airedale Terrier Drink Daily?
Maintaining proper hydration is also extremely important for the Airedale Terrier. Nearly 70-percent of a dog’s body is comprised of water (similar to human beings). Therefore, owners should pay active attention to their dog’s water needs throughout the day as their requirements can change in response to both outside temperatures and their daily activity levels. This is particularly true for hotter weather conditions and environments.
As with most breeds, standard water requirements are usually determined by your dog’s weight. For every seven pounds of weight, an Airedale Terrier should consume approximately 6 ounces of water per day.
For example, a 56-pound dog would require 48 ounces of water in a day’s time. As with food, more active dogs will require slightly more water (in the vicinity of 70 to 95 ounces per day), whereas less active animals will require only the minimum suggested intake (mentioned above). Likewise, hotter weather will warrant additional water throughout the day, whereas colder conditions will be far less taxing to your Airedale Terrier’s hydration levels. When in doubt, always check with your veterinarian to ensure you a providing your Airedale with appropriate water amounts throughout the day.
What Type of Home Is Good for an Airedale Terrier?
The decision to adopt an Airedale Terrier is a major life-decision that should never be taken lightly. In fact, spur of the moment decisions to adopt are one of the leading causes of puppy abandonment in the world. This is due to the fact that owners quickly find themselves either unprepared or ill-equipped for a dog in their current home, or are unable to adapt to the rambunctious behavior of a puppy. The following details some of the basic needs of the Airedale, as well as recommendations (and concerns) that prospective owners should consider when adopting this particular breed.
Due to their larger size and energy levels, prospective owners should note that the Airedale is usually best-suited for rural-based environments. As such, they are a perfect choice for farms and homes in the countryside as these areas are better-suited to provide the Airedale with wide open space to run and play. And while it is true that the Airedale can certainly prosper in urban-based environments (such as apartments, townhomes, and condominiums), this is generally not recommended as this breed possesses tireless energy and innate desire to work. This will, in turn, require prospective owners to create an environment that is conducive and healthy for the Airedale; a feat that is impractical for most city-based homes.
As a final word of advice for individuals interested in adopting an Airedale, it should be noted that this breed possesses a strong “wanderlust” and “chase” potential that is difficult (if not impossible) to break. To remedy this, owners will need to properly fence in their yard to prevent these behaviors from occurring. As a terrier breed, the Airedale is also prone to excessive barking and destructive behaviors (such as digging and chewing) if left alone for long periods of time. For this reason, they are generally not recommended for individuals with busy schedules that keep them away from home for long periods of time.
Is the Airedale Terrier Good With Other Pets?
Yes and no. Generally speaking, the Airedale Terrier often does exceptionally well with other dogs in his/her household. Nevertheless, early socialization is key for establishing good relationships between your Airedale and fellow pets. Due to the Airedale’s original function as a hunting dog, however, this breed is usually not recommended for families with cats, rabbits, gerbils, birds, and other small animals (including some dogs).
To the Airedale, smaller pets resemble “prey” that needs to be caught, killed, and retrieved. As a result, they should always be kept away from smaller animals for safety reasons. Failure to do so can result in serious injuries to other animals (including death).
Is the Airedale Terrier a Good Guard Dog?
Yes and no. Due to their sensitive nature, the Airedale Terrier makes for an exceptional watchdog that will actively alert family members to the slightest sound or disturbance around the home. They can also become quite aggressive towards would-be burglars or intruders. This is especially true when the Airedale senses that their family is in imminent danger. Due to their “welcoming” and “playful” sides, however, other breeds (such as the German Shepherd) are better suited for the role of “guardian” within the home.
Selecting an Airedale Terrier Puppy
As mentioned above, deciding to adopt an Airedale Terrier is a major life-decision that should never be taken lightly. This also applies to the selection of puppies, as great care should be taken when adopting a new dog from a breeder. When examining litters, potential owners should evaluate Airedale Terrier puppies with several things in mind. Is the puppy you are interested in social? Do they cower when you move your hand close to them, or are they friendly and eager to sniff? Does the puppy play well with its siblings? Are they more bold or submissive? Finally, does the prospective puppy appear healthy in both its appearance and temperament?
A final piece of advice is to always ask breeders for health clearances which prove that each Airedale puppy has been cleared for various health conditions. This includes a certificate from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) which clears the dog’s parents of eye diseases, as well as certificates clearing the puppy of heart, hip, and thyroid issues. Clearances help to ensure you are getting a healthy puppy, while simultaneously proving that the seller is a responsible breeder who cares for the health and safety of their Airedale Terriers.
How Much Does a Puppy Cost?
Overall costs for an Airedale Terrier vary significantly and depend heavily on the dog’s age, location, and availability (i.e. public demand at the time of purchase). In addition, the source of the dog is also critical for price determination, as private individuals, sellers, and breeders will charge additional money, whereas adoption sites will charge significantly less (if anything at all). As of March 2021, an individual can expect to pay approximately $800 to $1,500 for an Airedale Terrier (on average). On the lower end of the spectrum, a prospective owner might be able to purchase an Airedale for $500, whereas reputable breeders have been known to charge upwards of $1,900 to $7,000 for a single Airedale puppy. First-year expenses for this particular breed are also important to consider, as most conservative estimates place the overall cost at nearly $4,115.
For those interested in older dogs, expect to pay slightly less with the average Airedale Terrier going for approximately $500 or more.
Owners should actively work with a qualified veterinarian in their area to develop a nutritional and preventive-care plan for their Airedale Terrier. Proper diet, nutrition, and early detection of health issues can go a long way in helping your dog achieve a happy and healthy life.
Recommended Medical Tests and Evaluations:
- Hip and Elbow Evaluation
- Cardiac Exam
- Allergy Evaluation
- Thyroid Function Test
- Eye Exam
Generally speaking, the Airedale Terrier is a relatively healthy breed. Nevertheless, they are prone to a variety of health issues and diseases that can dramatically affect their life expectancy and well-being. These issues include hip and elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), as well as von Willebrand’s Disease (a clotting disorder within the blood). Other common issues for the Airedale include hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, umbilical hernia (present at birth), cancer, and severe allergies. Fortunately, many of these conditions can be effectively treated when discovered early. As such, it is crucial that prospective owners play an active role in ensuring their Airedale Terrier receives regular checkups.
With proper care, owners can expect their Airedale Terrier to live between 10 to 13 years, though it is common for this breed to live several years beyond this.
Pros and Cons of Owning This Breed
- Extremely sturdy and athletic breed with a tireless spirit.
- Intelligent dog that is capable of learning a wide array of tricks and commands in their lifetime.
- Makes for a great watchdog due to their sensitive nature.
- Highly-adaptable breed.
- Does great with children and family-based environments.
- Requires a great deal of exercise on a daily basis to live a happy and fulfilling lifestyle.
- Prone to excessive jumping, roughhousing, and destructive behavior when left alone for long periods of time.
- Known to be aggressive towards other pets and animals, with a strong inclination to chase.
- Extremely stubborn (to a fault).
- Requires a great deal of grooming on a weekly basis to maintain its wiry coat.
In closing, the Airedale Terrier is a remarkable pet renowned for its playfulness, intelligence, and companionship qualities. Although considered bold, stubborn, and occasionally domineering (particularly towards other pets and animals), the Airedale is generally a wonderful dog breed that makes for an excellent addition to nearly any household situation.
In fact, owners will be hard-pressed to find another dog that is as intelligent, confident, and fun-loving as the Airedale. For these reasons, the Airedale Terrier will likely remain a favorite of dog lovers and breeders for the foreseeable future.
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2021 Larry Slawson
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on March 11, 2021:
Well presented. Thanks.
Ann Carr from SW England on March 11, 2021:
I love Airedales. There was a family close to where I lived as a child, who bred Airedales and I spent some time round there each time they had pups. They were adorable, intelligent dogs with a great personality and a soft coat to stroke. We never had one but if I had to choose a dog now, this is the one I would have. Such distinguished looks too.
Beautiful! Thanks for all the details on these lovely dogs, Larry.