Say Hello to the Airedale Terrier (With Photos)

Updated January 5, 2022
Mother And Daughter With Dog Working In The Garden together

If you enjoy a dog that's fearless, friendly, and intelligent, the Airedale Terrier is definitely a breed to consider. These dogs epitomize the outgoing, confident spirit of the terrier group.

Origin and History

The Airedale was developed in Yorkshire, England, in the middle of the 1800s in order to reduce the rat and otter populations in the Valley of the Aire River. The Otterhound and various terrier breeds came together to create the "King of Terriers." Additional breeds may have been utilized in the past to help shape the current Airedale's appearance and personality.

The American Kennel Club placed the Airedale Terrier 20th in popularity in 1949, although it has since fallen in popularity. German Shepards are increasingly being used in positions historically held by Airedales, which has contributed to the decline of the breed.

The Airedale Terrier was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1888, and the Airedale Terrier Club of America was founded shortly following in 1900.

Breed Characteristics

The Airedale is a loyal guard dog who takes great pride in keeping their family safe. Although they are known to be excellent guardians, they are affectionate and gentle around their loved ones.

Airedale terrier in forest

Appearance

The Airedale Terrier is the largest breed within the terrier group. They are often called "the King of Terriers" and weigh about 40 to 70 pounds with males larger than females. On average, they live 10 to 13 years. Their bodies are muscular with a tail that stands up almost straight. The long head features a telltale beard and mustache.

Airedale's fur is thick, wiry, and hard. They are a double-coat breed with a soft undercoat. There are two color combinations: tan and black and tan and grizzle. They don't require a lot of grooming, but their coat should be stripped or trimmed regularly to keep their fur from getting tangled and messy and to remove dead hair. A good thorough brushing once a week is recommended.

Miniature Varieties

If you see a dog that looks like an Airedale but smaller, there are actually a few breeds that look like "miniature" Airedale Terriers.

Terrier on an autumn day
  • Welsh Terriers are about 18-25 pounds and have the same coloring as an Airedale.
  • Lakeland Terriers weigh around 17 pounds and can come in similar coat colors.
  • Wire Fox Terriers are about 18 pounds and have a similar build and fur to an Airedale, but with different coloring including white.

Temperament

Like all terriers, Airedales are independent dogs that enjoy working and being with people but require training and socialization starting at puppyhood. They can be challenging dogs for first-time dog owners because of their smart, active minds. They can have a clownish personality and their exuberance can be entertaining, although it may also result in destructive behavior.

Curious dog playing with bubbles

Airedales can do well with other animals in their home if socialized properly, but they may not do well with other animals outside the household. They are affectionate and loving with their families and make excellent companions.

Exercise

Airedales are high-energy dogs that were bred to work. As such, they need a lot of daily exercise and mental stimulation. This makes them a great choice for dog sports enthusiasts who enjoy a smart, active dog that can perform well in a variety of situations. If you're a runner, Airedales make the perfect running companion and will keep up with your pace joyfully.

Young Airedale dog on a beach

Airedales should also be provided with outlets for their mental needs, such as training, tricks, games, and interactive dog toys. Otherwise, they can easily become destructive out of boredom.

Training

All terriers were bred to "go to ground" and hunt other animals in one way or another and Airedales are no different, having been originally bred by English farmers to hunt rats, foxes, and other burrowing small animals. As a result, they have a very strong prey drive and training is required to make sure your Airedale doesn't take off after a squirrel or bunny in your yard.

Black and tan Airedale Terrier puppies

Training should begin as soon as your Airedale puppy is old enough to attend puppy class. Socialization from a young age is important as adult Airedales can be less friendly around strangers if they have not had much positive experience with many people from an early age.

Airedales are extremely versatile dogs who can excel at a variety of training activities. They have been used in the military and police forces in Europe and can be found doing agility, hunting, and all number of other popular dog sports.

Health

Airedales are at risk of a few serious medical conditions:

  • Colonic disease is an inflammation of the colon and large intestines, which can lead to diarrhea, lethargy, poor appetite, and associated weight loss.
  • Hip dysplasia is a disorder of the musculoskeletal system causing pain, lameness, and even loss of the use of the hind legs.
  • Gastric torsion, also known as bloat, is a condition where a dog's stomach fills with gas and fluid and twists, which can quickly lead to death if not treated immediately.
  • Hypothyroidism tends to affect older dogs and causes symptoms such as lethargy, weight gain, and hair loss.

Lifespan

The average lifespan of Airedale Terrier is 10-13 years with some living up to 15 years old.

Airedale Terrier sitting amidst flowering plants

Grooming

They don't require a lot of grooming, but their coat should be stripped or trimmed regularly to keep their fur from getting tangled and messy and to remove dead hair. A good thorough brushing once a week is recommended.

Famous Member of the Breed

When the Airedale breed is discussed as a whole, there's one particular Airedale Terrier that comes to mind for many fans that is used to describe the breed. His name was Jack and he was a war dog in World War I who was responsible for running through the battlefields to deliver a message to British headquarters.

He ran through about a half-mile of the swamp while being continuously fired at. While on his mission, he had a broken leg and a broken jaw. He accomplished his mission but passed away shortly after. The message he was carrying was of the utmost importance and saved the battalion. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for Gallantry in the Field.

Purchasing or Adopting an Airedale

If you want to bring home a purebred Airedale puppy, you can visit the American Kennel Club and the Airedale Terrier Club of America websites to find a breeder near you. Expect to pay around $900 to $1,500, although higher-end show dogs from champion lines can cost as much as $6,000.

Airedale terrier sitting on tree trunk in forest

Rescue Organizations

To rescue an Airedale, contact National Airedale Rescue, which maintains a regional network of breed rescuers around the country. Airedale Terrier Rescue and Adoption serves the U.S. Midwest and Ontario, Canada. You can also do a breed search at Petfinder or Save-a-Rescue to see if your local shelter or rescue group has one available.

Airedale Terriers rearing up on fence

Is This the Right Breed for You?

Airedales are bold, smart, and enthusiastic dogs that do best in a home that will match their physical, mental, and training needs. If you are looking for a dog that can do just about any dog sport, loves training, and enjoys physical activities like hiking and running, the Airedale is a perfect match.

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