The Airedale Terrier is the largest of all terrier breeds. So, if you love big dogs, and you love terriers, it’s bound to be a match made in heaven, right? Probably! But this canine chappy has a few naughty nuances that might not make him the best match for you and your family.
Airdale Terriers are large dogs with plenty of energy. They also have very strong prey drive that takes many owners, and squirrels (!), by surprise. But, for the right family, they can make excellent family companions, and make great watchdogs.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything about the Airedale’s friendly and fun personality, to his sometimes tricky grooming schedule. You’ll also learn about this breed’s nutritional needs, health concerns, and what kind of family he is best suited for. Ready to find out if the Airedale Terrier is your canine soulmate? Let’s get started.
The Airedale Terrier’s history began in the mid-1800s in the Aire Valley, England. Which sits less than 100 miles below the Scottish border. Northern England is a tough terrain and was popular with mill workers and other working-class men. They needed a strong, versatile pup to work on the farms to specialize in hunting ducks for dinner and rats to control vermin levels.
The working men manufactured the Airedale by mixing the Otterhound with the now-extinct English Black and Tan Terrier. It is also believed that the Irish Terrier and the Bedlington Terrier also played a part in this wonderful canine concoction. The Airedale quickly proved himself to be a fantastic all-round farmhand. For this reason, he has earned the nickname the ‘King of Terriers’, despite being a creation of working-class men rather than royalty.
Airedales haven’t always gone by this name. Before, they were known as Waterside Terriers, Broken-Haired Terriers, and Bingley Terriers. But 1886 saw the official crowning of the name ‘Airedale Terriers’, and it has stuck ever since. It is not known when the Airedale made his way to America. But we do know that the Airedale Terrier Club of America was formed in 1900.
Airedales earned their versatile reputation in World War One when they served with the British Armed Forces. He worked as messengers, sentries, guard dogs, carriers of supplies and ammunition, Red Cross casualty dogs, sled dogs, and ratters, and more. An Airedale named Jack famously saved the lives of a British battalion. Despite severe multiple injuries, he dragged his body across the trenches until he delivered the message for backup.
Their versatility meant that they were some of the first Police Dogs in Great Britain and Germany. But they were eventually replaced by German Shepherds because of their more formidable appearance and strength. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Airedale Terrier was the 20th most popular dog in 1949. But now, he consistently finds himself around the 60th most popular dog breed.
The breed is described as the King of Terriers, and not just because he is the largest. He is jam packed with real dog personality. The AKC describes him best as friendly, clever, and courageous. His determined attitude is typical of terriers, but times it by ten, and you might just come close to his unwavering spirit. His do-it-all attitude can sometimes cause a little trouble when it comes to training, but we’ll cover that a bit later on.
He loves humans! This guy is super loyal, and he craves his family’s companionship. He is a reliable watchdog, thanks to his barking tendencies. And he also makes a surprisingly great guard dog, protecting his hearth and home without any second thoughts. But unlike many capable guard dogs, he is pleasant and friendly with strangers and rarely aloof. He has a great skill of working out the baddies from the goodies.
After a hard day’s work protecting his people and property, he’ll settle down on the sofa for some well-deserved cuddles. This guy is a huge snuggle bug, and Airedale lovers claim he is the best canine cuddler! So, if you seek a large affectionate pooch, the Airedale could be the one for you. He also has a soft spot for children, so he’ll usually gravitate towards them for cuddles.
The Airedale is lots of fun and rarely sits still. This means he needs an active family, but they will be rewarded with endless canine entertainment. If he becomes bored, he will become a seriously naughty pup. Barking, digging, and chewing are his top hobbies when restless. It is his energy and restless naughtiness that many families underestimate. It’s fair to say that he is an intense dog who needs constant stimulation. Meaning he is not everyone’s cup of tea.
Another aspect that is worth mentioning to any family considering this guy is his incredibly strong prey drive. Boy, is anything small and furry in trouble if they enter his yard! He is agile and surprisingly fast, and there’s a good chance that he’ll capture whatever catches his eye. This is another personality trait that surprises people, but mainly because they failed to research his ratting and hunting history. Never let this pup off-leash.
Size & Appearance
The Airedale is a large-sized dog who weighs between 50 and 70 pounds. Males measure around 23 inches tall, from paw to shoulder. And females should be slightly shorter than this, but the breed standard does not specify specific measurements for females. Both males and females should be sturdy and well-muscled, with an overall powerful yet agile appearance.
The Airedale is well-known for his long and flat skull. His eyes are small and dark and full of cheeky, intelligent, and keen terrier expression. Ears should be small and triangular-shaped, dropping down towards his cheeks. His keen nose is large and fleshy, and his smile tight, with a mostly friendly but sometimes serious expression. His tail is of medium length, carried gaily but not curled over his back.
Coat & Colors
The Airedale’s coat is one of his most-loved features. His coat is short in length, and it is described as hard, dense, and wiry. It sits close to the body, lying straight. The outer coat is stiff, crinkled, or slightly waved. The Airedale’s undercoat sits at the base of the hard stiff hair, and it is much softer to the touch.
There are two official colors found in the breed standard. These are black and tan, and grizzle and tan. Grizzle is described as slightly off-black. His head and ears should be tan in color, with his ears being a darker shade of tan. The upper parts of his body and sides are black or grizzle in color. Some bloodlines of the Airedale have a small white blaze on the chest, and some have red hairs within the black parts.
Airedales are energetic and tireless. It goes without saying that they need plenty of exercise. At least one hour of intense exercise every day away from home is required. This guy makes a great jogging partner, and humans are usually the first to tire. He also loves to fetch, thanks to his hunting and ratting genes. And he also has an affinity for swimming. Pretty much any activity you can do, this pup can do better!
He is an intelligent dog breed who needs his activities to be varied to keep him stimulated and challenged. Walking around the block every day of the week will bore him to death for sure. Mix things up with walking, jogging, beach frolicking, exploring the forest, and mountain adventures. A great way to expel his energy is to regularly take him to the local doggy park.
And that’s not all! He’ll need interactive playtime at home with his family. Like many terriers, he’ll also need access to dog toys to keep him mentally challenged in between. As we said, he doesn’t sit still for too long. And it’s better to have access to lots of toys than digging up your best flower beds. To sum it up, he needs an active family who can commit to his high-energy needs.
The Airedale Terrier needs a family home that has got ample space for his large bouncy butt. He doesn’t make the best apartment doggo. He’d also really appreciate access to his own private yard that he can sniff and play in every day. If he is lucky enough to have access to a yard, it’ll need to be secure with high fences. This guy can jump surprisingly high when in pursuit of a cat or squirrel!
He is not the kind of pup who can be left home alone for hours on end. His high energy, curious mind, and tenacious ways mean he’ll become bored easily. And in turn, he’ll get up to all kinds of mischief, usually in the form of destruction. Ideally, he needs a family who can be at home with him to keep him company and entertained for most of the day.
He can live with any type of family, be that just adults or a family with kids. He adores kids, but he is also quite a boisterous pup. And combining that with his size might make him unsuitable for families with toddlers. It all comes down to personal preference, and many Airedales make the best canine siblings for little kiddos. He also gets on well with other dogs and would enjoy the canine company. Because of his high prey drive, he isn’t likely to get on well with other animals.
Airedales are intelligent. They are very enthusiastic to please their masters. This means that he is relatively trainable and will become a mostly obedient dog with the right training. But, he is also a headstrong pup who sometimes likes to think that he knows best. This means that his training needs to start young, and you need to commit lots of time and effort to it. Otherwise, you could find a know-it-all pup on your hands.
The best training method to use is the positive reinforcement training method. Find out what motivates him. His prey drive means he is bound to love chasing toys, so be sure to involve these in your training. Yummy treats and praise work wonders too! Make him work for things, and never give anything away for free. Otherwise, he’ll become accustomed to a spoiled way of life.
Airedales should be socialized well from a very young age. Not only will it teach him puppy etiquette and how to interact with other dogs, but it’ll also build his confidence. Make each experience as positive as possible, and it’ll be fun for both of you. Local doggy parks are awesome for this! The optimum window for doggy socialization is 3 to 12 weeks. It’s also important to expose him to his grooming regime as a pup as it can be quite intense.
As we have already said, it is not recommended that you let this guy off-leash because of his high prey drive. But it’s still important to work on recall training. There might come a time when he escapes his yard or slips his lead; accidents happen! We recommend practicing recall training somewhere secure or with a long training lead. But be warned, it might appear as though he has cracked it, but he’ll probably forget it all at the sight of a rat.
The Airedale Terrier is a relatively healthy dog breed. But like all dog breeds, he is prone to certain diseases because of genetics and inheritance. His expected lifespan is 11 to 14 years. To keep him with you for as long as possible, be sure to keep him fit and healthy with regular exercise. Also, keep up to date with regular health checks to detect or prevent health conditions.
Below we have listed the most common health conditions to affect the Airedale Terrier breed. This list is by no means exhaustive, and some Airedales will suffer from all, some, or none of these. But it’s a great place to start your research and understand what symptoms to look out for.
Hip dysplasia is a common health concern in larger dog breeds. It occurs when the hip socket and thigh bone do not meet properly. This can lead to reduced mobility, pain, and hip dislocation. It can be inherited, so be sure to work with a breeder who tests for hip scores. Symptoms include exercise intolerance and struggling to lay down, stand, or climb the stairs.
The Airedale Terrier has a genetic predisposition to heart disease. It can occur throughout his lifetime, not just in the later stages of life. Vets will listen to his heart for murmurs or irregularities which suggest cardiac problems. Symptoms include exercise intolerance, fatigue, coughing, and fainting.
This is essentially kidney failure, and it should be tested for with a DNA test. This occurs when the kidneys can no longer filter nitrogen and other waste products from the blood. Symptoms include increased thirst and urination, blood in urine, diarrhea, and vomiting. It can be life-threatening depending on how quickly it is treated.
Progressive retinal atrophy is the most common eye concern in the Airedale breed. Other concerns include glaucoma and cataracts. All of these can lead to vision loss if not treated. Symptoms include light sensitivity, poor vision, or changes in the appearance of the eye.
The average Airedale will consume between two and three cups of kibble every day. This will depend on what kibble you feed him, his energy levels, age, and size. Airedale’s aren’t prone to easy weight gain because of their high energy, but it’s still important not to overfeed them. One of his most important nutritional needs is to feed him the highest-quality kibble that you can afford.
It’s also important to feed him a kibble that is designed specifically for large breeds. This is particularly important in puppyhood when his body is developing. Large breed puppy kibbles help to control rapid bone growth. Which can decrease the chances of hip dysplasia and other skeletal concerns. If kidney disease runs in his bloodline, or you are concerned about it, be sure to speak to your vet because he might prescribe a particular renal diet.
The Airedale Terrier is a large dog with a deep chest, making him more likely than other canines to experience gastric torsion. It is also known as bloat, and it can be a life-threatening condition. Be sure not to feed your pup close to exercise sessions, and feed him smaller and more frequent meals. Symptoms include drooling, restlessness, swollen abdomen, rapid heart rate, and collapse. It’s important to research it and act quickly if it happens.
The Airedale Terrier’s coat is beautiful. If you plan to show your Airedale, you can expect to spend a lot of time and effort to keep it looking that good. But for family Airedales, he’ll only need brushing two to three times a week with a pin or slicker brush. Because of his curls, he is prone to matting. If you find a mat, break it up with your fingers first, then tease it out with a comb.
Thankfully, he is not a heavy shedder. Instead, he’ll shed lightly across the years and moderately during the shedding seasons. The best way to manage his coat and shedding is to brush him regularly. Many slight-allergy sufferers can live with well-brushed Airedales because they don’t shed as much as most other dogs.
The tricky part of the Airedale’s grooming schedule is the need to bathe and trim his coat. Because it is tricky and time-consuming, many owners choose to take him to the groomers four times a year. But it can be costly. Some groomers will clip a coat with clippers, which is quicker. But it can make the coat softer, which some see as undesirable in the Airedale. Some will suggest traditional hand stripping, which is a skilled and time-consuming technique. Perfecting the traditional Airedale beard, eyebrows, tight-coated body, and longer undercarriage takes time.
Other grooming needs are the same as most other pooches. He’ll need his teeth brushing at least twice a week to keep periodontal diseases at bay. Check his ears weekly for a build-up of wax and dirt, which can lead to ear infections. If you notice any, clean them out with a damp cloth using either water or a specific doggy ear cleaning product. His nails will need trimming once or twice a month to prevent sore pads.
Breeders & Puppy Costs
The Airedale Terrier is not a rare pup, but he isn’t all that common either. So, depending on where you live, you might have to travel a little to find a reputable breeder. But, it’s super important to work with a responsible breeder that produces healthy pups and socializes them.
The average price of an Airedale Terrier ranges from $1,000 to $1,500. The price depends on demand in the area, breeder expertise and experience, and doggy bloodline. If you want a pup from an award-winning lineage, expect to pay much more than this. Good quality breeders will want to meet you in person with the pups and will provide health certificates.
Unfortunately, there are many poor-quality breeders out there who are more concerned with profit over puppy health. If you find a breeder that is cagey about details, will not allow you to meet the pups ‘at home’ or pressures a sale, walk away. Yes, the pups are likely to be initially lower in price. But they are more likely to be ill and unsocialized, which will cost more in the long run.
Then there are ongoing costs to consider too. You’ll need to set up your home with all the things a dog needs. Plus, you’ll need to escape-proof your home and yard. Then there’s also food, medical bills, insurance, and grooming costs to consider. Plus, much more! The Airedale might not be the most expensive dog to care for, unlike a Mastiff. But he isn’t the smallest or cheapest either.
Rescues & Shelters
Buying a young puppy from a breeder is not always the right choice for some families. Instead, rescuing an older dog might be the better option. And what a wonderful thing to do! Sadly, many people invite an Airedale into their life without realizing how much exercise and attention they need. Meaning there are quite a few Airedales who end up being surrendered to rescue shelters.
There are two main choices here. You can head out to your local rescue shelter, where there might be an Airedale waiting for you. Or, many independent organizations dedicate all of their time and effort to rescuing just Airedale Terriers. Check out the Airedale Terrier Club of America’s website, where they list regional rescue shelters.
As Family Pets
- The Airedale Terrier is a large-sized dog that needs a lot of space.
- He is lots of fun and always happy to play with his family.
- Airedales need at least one hour of exercise a day.
- Ideally, his family needs to be active and willing to meet these needs.
- The Airedale Terrier makes a fantastic watchdog and guard dog.
- He’ll protect his family and property with all his might.
- Once settled, this breed enjoys a good cuddle on the sofa.
- Airedales can be friendly with strangers if welcomed by their family.
- He is quick to make a decision about people, and he is usually right.
- The Airedale Terrier has a very high prey drive.
- This means you’ll need to very closely monitor any off-leash time.
- He adores kids and loves to play with other dogs.
- He doesn’t shed all that much, but he can be a little messy with that long beard of his.
- Airdales need brushing several times a week.
- You’ll also need to pay for a professional haircut four times a year.
- With early training, he can be an obedient dog.
- As with other terrier breeds, Airdales can have an independent streak.
As you have learned, the Airedale Terrier is described as the King of Terriers for a good reason. He is large in both size and personality, and there is never a dull moment with him around. Airdales are fun and energetic but bring an affectionate and calm side to the evening. He is friendly and outgoing with strangers, but he also makes a great guard dog if he needs to. This breed isn’t considered versatile for no reason!
But you can also see why the breed isn’t well suited to everyone. He has a high prey drive that you need to be prepared for. He also has high-energy needs, and if they are not met, he will destroy your yard, flower beds, duvets, sofas, and much more. But as long as you can meet his needs, you can be sure that the people’s canine King will take up a lot of space in both your home and heart!