The sturdy Airedale is the largest of all terriers. Males stand about 23 inches at the shoulder; females are a bit smaller. The wire coat is tan with dark markings. Rangy but muscular legs give Airedales a regal lift in their bearing, and the long head—with its sporty beard and mustache, expressive eyes, and neatly folded ears—conveys a keen intelligence. Airedales are the picture of an alert and willing terrier—and then some.
- Personality: Clever, confident, proud; friendly but courageous
- Energy Level: Very Active; A spirited do-it-all breed, Airedales thrive on physical challenges and mental stimulation
- Good with Children: Better with Supervision
- Good with other Dogs: With Supervision
- Shedding: Seasonal
- Grooming: Weekly
- Trainability: Eager To Please
- Height: 23 inches
- Weight: 50-70 pounds
- Life Expectancy: 11-14 years
- Barking Level: Barks When Necessary
The Airedale Terrier is thought to have originated in the Aire River valley in England and developed by crossing a Terrier with an Otter Hound in the mid-1800s. Historians of the breed say it’s likely that the now extinct black and tan Terrier and English Bullterrier were used in the mix. The breed was used by Yorkshiremen to hunt large rats that dwelled on the banks of the Aire River and its tributaries. Rat hunt competitions drew many spectators who watched competitors send ferrets into rat holes to flush out the rats, which were then chased by the Airedales across the banks and into the river.
The Airedale Terrier was initially called the Working Terrier or the Waterside Terrier. The name Bingley Terrier was considered, but many breeders opposed bestowing such an honor of the village of Bingley, where some felt the breed originated. In 1864, they were exhibited for the first time at a championship dog show sponsored by the Airedale Agricultural Society. In 1879, breed fanciers decided to call the breed the Airedale Terrier, and in 1886, the Kennel Club of England formally recognized the Airedale Terrier breed. The breed’s popularity soared during World War I, when they were used as Red Cross rescue dogs. They were also deployed on the front lines of battlefields to warn troops of any approach by the enemy. British Colonel Edwin Hautenville Richardson trained Airedales and a few other breeds for the War Dog Program. The dogs were even trained to wear gas masks to navigate the battlefields.
Intelligent and determined, Airedales were often used as couriers to carry messages from commanding officers to troops in the trenches. One such Airedale, named Jack, helped summon reinforcements for a battalion that had been cut off by the enemy. A piece of shrapnel smashed his jaw, another shell cut into his back and a forepaw was smashed, but Jack delivered his message and saved the battalion. Minutes later, he died of his wounds. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery.
Eventually, the Airedale became known as a dog that could do it all, The breed was used on big-game hunts in Africa and India. They were among the first breeds used for police duty in Germany and Great Britain. Today, the Airedale is enjoying resurgence in popularity. Disney’s 1996 live action version of “101 Dalmatians” featured a shaggy Airedale in a prominent role. The original story, as well as the animated film featured an Old English Sheepdog in that role, but producers reportedly wanted an Airedale because of their trainability and their intelligence.
TRAINING AND TEMPERAMENT
They are deceptively strong, requiring regular exercise for optimal health and mental well-being. A brisk walk in the morning and evening will help him burn those unwanted calories. Playing frisbee, flyball or working agility courses will keep both of you ready for whatever game comes your way. Airedale Terriers are eager to learn, and remember their lessons well. The trick is to stay on your toes and know what you are about to ask your Airedale Terrier. Many times the Airedale Terrier will learn a task on the first or second try only to be bored when asked to do the same task repetitiously. In whatever venue you choose to train and exercise your Airedale Terrier – conformation, hunting/working, obedience, agility or search and rescue – the trainer must remain calm, in control and keep a positive outlook. Positive reinforcement training will give you an Airedale Terrier who is not only anxious to learn but ready to meet whatever challenge you place before him.
NUTRITION AND FEEDING
Depending on the size of your dog as an adult you are going to want to feed them a formula that will cater to their unique digestive needs through the various phases of their life. Many dog food companies have breed-specific formulas for small, medium, large and giant breeds. Airedale Terriers are a medium breed and have a lifespan of 12 to 15 years. What you feed your dog is an individual choice, but working with your veterinarian and/or breeder will be the best way to determine frequency of meals as a puppy and the best adult diet to increase his longevity. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
COAT AND GROOMING
Brushing the coat several times a week keeps the Airedale Terrier in good condition. Regular grooming reduces shedding. They should be thoroughly groomed and stripped about three to four times per year. Many pet owners prefer to have their dogs clipped versus hand stripping the coat. Grooming an Airedale can be time-consuming if you do it yourself. Many pet owners prefer to take their dog to a professional groomer to maintain the texture of the broken coat. Their nails should be trimmed regularly. Ears should be checked regularly to avoid a buildup of wax and debris which can result in an infection. Teeth should be brushed regularly.
Obedience training is important for these quick learners, but make sure to keep it interesting – they can get bored easily! They also thrive with daily exercise.
It not only keeps them physically fit, but keeps their intelligent minds active. A bored dog can be destructive if not properly challenged. Responsible breeders make sure their dogs have been tested for hip dysplasia to reduce the incidence of this disease in their breeding programs. They also participate in health surveys and promote scientific research to eradicate disease. Working with a breeder, a veterinarian and through canine health education, Airedale Terrier owners can ensure a long life for their dogs.