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Airedale Terrier

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The Airedale Terrier is a medium to large purebred who is today talented in various areas of working and sporting which includes guarding, agility, police work and hunting. It is often referred to as the King of Terriers being the largest terrier breed. While originally bred to hunt otters in Britain over the years it has also been used in military work and as a service dog.

Here is the Airedale Terrier at a Glance
Name Airedale Terrier
Other Names Waterside Terrier, Bingley Terrier, Irish Red Terrier
Nicknames Airedale, King of Terriers
Origin United Kingdom
Average size Medium to large
Average weight 40 to 65 pounds
Average height 22 to 24 inches
Life span 10 to 13 years
Coat type Double coat, soft under, medium harsh wiry outer
Hypoallergenic Can be
Color Black, tan, sometimes small white markings
Popularity Somewhat popular – ranked 53rd by the AKC
Intelligence Above average
Tolerance to heat Good – can handle some warm to hot weather but not extremes
Tolerance to cold Good – can handle some cold weather but not extremes
Shedding Low to moderate
Drooling Low – not a dog with slobber problems
Obesity Fairly high – can be prone to weight gain so watch its exercise and measure its food
Grooming/brushing Easy to groom, brush two to three times, professional grooming needed occasionally
Barking Occasionally to frequently
Exercise needs Fairly active
Trainability Moderately easy – can have a stubborn side
Friendliness Very good – social and good most of the time
Good first dog Moderate – best with experienced owners
Good family pet Very good – affectionate with everyone
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Moderate to good – needs socialization, has high prey drive
Good with strangers Good – approachable with socialization and training
Good apartment dog Low – need room and a yard to play in
Handles alone time well Moderate – prefers not to be left alone for long periods
Health issues Fairly healthy in general but some issues such as cancer, eye problems, hip dysplasia and allergies
Medical expenses $485 a year for pet insurance and basic care only
Food expenses $275 a year for treats and dry dog food
Miscellaneous expenses $640 a year for license, toys, basic training, grooming and other miscellaneous costs
Average annual expense $1400 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1000
Biting Statistics Attacks doing bodily harm: 2 Maimings: 0 Child Victims: 1 Deaths : 2

The Airedale Terrier's Beginnings

The Airedale Terrier, also referred to as the Airedale, come from Yorkshire, England and was named after a dale (valley) there. It was bred in the mid 1800s by the working class who wanted a good small game hunter including vermin and otters. They wanted dogs who would be able to get to the prey in its lair, were strong, brave and able to work without constant human handling. At the time it was called a Waterside Terrier or Bingley Terrier. It comes from the Otterhound, the Manchester Terrier and the black and tan terrier which is now extinct.

In 1864 the first Airedale was shown the Airedale Agricultural Society's sponsored championship dog show. A judge of the show, author Hugh Dalziel described it as "par excellence... an exceedingly good one." In 1879 they were renamed the Airedale Terrier and this attracted more attention even from the noble and wealthy of the time who adopted them into their pack of hounds for hunting. The hounds were good at scenting and chasing the prey but terriers are better at going into the den or burrow and killing it.

For a while the new name was not adopted by many and not accepted by many which meant in shows they were being judged in various classes. However when the English Kennel Club recognized the breed under that name in 1886 this settled things. In the 1880s it was imported to North America and The Airedale Terrier Club of America was formed in 1900. And then came World War I.

In the early 1900s before German Shepherds came along Airedales were used as police dogs. They were first used in Hull on one dock but the scheme was soon extended to other docks and then other police stations. It was also in the early 1900s that during the Russo-Japanese war the Russians asked for dogs to work in their army and in response the Airedale Terrier along with some other terriers were sent.

New Lease on Life

Then during World War I Airedales were very successfully used as sentries, pack carriers, messengers, ratters, scouts, Red Cross dogs, guard dogs, sled and ambulance dogs. There are a lot of stories that tell of the dog's bravery, lives saved and messages delivered no matter what.

It was Lieutenant Colonel Richardson and his wife who created a school for war dogs and sent two Airdales in 1916 proving their worth. A well known story is about one such dog called Jack, a messenger dog who ran through a swamp, had artillery coming down on him and even though he had a broken jaw, shattered leg and other injuries he delivered his message before dieing after. For his Gallantry in the Field he was given a posthumous Victoria Cross.

After the war its popularity soared thanks to the role it played. Several presidents in America had one as a pet and in the 1920s it was America's most popular dog. This went on through to the 1940s. Roosevelt said about it, "An Airedale can do anything any other dog can do and then lick the other dog, if he has to." It was also used during World War II.

Since then its popularity has waned partly because the German Shepherd became more popular as a working dog. It is still a good companion dog and there are some lines still out there that breed working dogs. It is ranked 53rd by the AKC.


The Dog You See Today

This is a medium to large sized dog weighing 40 to 65 pounds and standing 22 to 24 inches tall. It has a squared look to it, a muzzle and skull of equal length and a flat head. It nose is black and it has eyes that are small and dark. It has ears that are V shaped and they fold a little and a deep chest.

The coat is medium length, a dense and wiry outer and a soft under. Common colors are black and tans and occasionally specks of red. Some can have a small white marking on the chest. The fur is straight or sometimes a little waved but should not be curly. The tail is set high, in countries where it is still allowed it may be docked but in places where that is now illegal it will be long and fluffy.

The Inner Airedale Terrier


The Airedale Terrier is an alert and energetic dog, keen to play and be a part of anything going on. It is a great watchdog as it will bark to let you know if someone is breaking in, and it will also act to defend you as it is quite protective. Because of its independent and confident nature it is a dog best suited to experienced owners.

Airedales are intelligent and friendly, they will get up to some antics that will have you laughing and also have you tested! It is a very brave dog and very loyal too. It has a pleasant nature, quite fun loving, responsive and happy. As a puppy it tends to be more rowdy and that can mellow out to something more dignified but it will retain a great sense of fun.

This is a dog that needs a lot of exercise and without that and a lot of attention from you it can become destructive as it can quickly become bored and act out. Mental as well as physical stimulation is essential. When young your yard is likely to suffer from a lot of digging and that may carry on as it grows. It can also be prone to barking. These are terrier traits you need to be ready for.

With strangers some Airedales can be more friendly and some can be more warily polite. With family though he is loving, cheekily stealing socks and counter surfing and creating a wonderful environment full of life.

Living with a Airedale Terrier

What will training look like?

The Airedale is smart and with the right approach and trainer can be moderately easy to train but has an independent side that can make things harder for those with less experience. In general they are eager to please and very responsive. Keep the training interesting and engaging and be positive in your methods. Be firm so it is clear you are the boss and be consistent. If it think you or another family member are more submissive than it is, it will think it is top dog.

It tends to be a barker and likes to jump at people so train this out of them. It also needs early socialization so that it can be the best dog it can be and one worthy of your trust. It will not respond well to harshness or punishments. Keep things varied so it does not become overly repetitive.

How active is the Airedale Terrier?

The Airedale is not suited to apartment living as it needs room and it needs at least an average sized yard to play in. It can be rowdy and playful and energetic and it needs a place where it can let that out. As well as getting at least two good walks a day it should have toys and games that offer it mental challenges, time off leash somewhere safe where it can run free and places like a dog park where it can play with you and socialize.


As mentioned it does like to dog, bark and chase things. It will need leash training but it will love to enjoy joining you for a jog or hike so is best with owners who love to be active themselves. It has a lot of stamina and drive and can go for a while! As well as regular ball and dog games it also loves to swim and being bred as a working dog likes to be kept busy. The first two years tend to be the most active, it can mellow a bit after that, but some may retain that energy into a more mature age.

Caring for the Airedale Terrier

Grooming needs

There is a fair bit if maintenance and grooming to do with this breed. While it is not a high shedding dog and in fact could be suitable to home with allergy sufferers, the coat needs regular brushing still to remove burs and debris and regular trimming or stripping with a professional groomer. There is not a lot of vacuuming to do with the Airedale but there are places that need regular trimming, around the feet, face, the beard which also needs washing from food left there after eating. Give it a bath as it needs one, not too often. Baths should be something dogs have just when they are smelly or filthy! Otherwise you can dry out its skin.

Other needs include having its nails trimmed when they get too long, taking care if you do it yourself not to cut too low down. Its teeth also need to be brushed at least two to three times a week. It ears should also be given a wipe clean once a week and at the same time you can check for signs of infection.

Feeding Time

How much exactly it needs to eat a day will depend from one dog to another on its size, metabolism, level of activity, age and health. In general a guideline is 1½ to 3 cups of a good quality dry dog food, split into at least two meals. It will search counters and tables for food so keep an eye on how much it is eating!

Airedale Terrier with children and other animals

The Airedale is a fun loving and affectionate dog making it a great partner for children but best with older ones as it might knock over the young ones. Early socialization will help and so does being raised with them. In some cases it can even be quite protective of them. Make sure the children are taught how to approach, touch and play with the dog in a kind and safe way.

It can get along well with other pets in the home with socialization and it does help again if it is raised with them. Otherwise it does have a background of being a hunting dog and so can see other small animals especially ones outside the home, as prey to be chased.

It is a dog who will try to dominate other dogs and with strange ones it can be aggressive if it feels threatened. Socialization and training will help with this but it should be supervised in places like dog parks. It is a breed who while it does not usually start a fight will not back down from one and will finish it.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

Airedale Terriers have a life span of 10 to 13 years and are a healthy breed though there are a few health issues that can affect them. These include Hip dysplasia, skin problems, eye problems, cancer, heart problems, bloat, allergies, hypothyroidism, umbilica hernia and Von Willebrand's disease.

Biting Statistics

Looking at reports of dogs doing bodily harm to people over the last 34 years in Canada and the U.S the Airedale has been involved in 2 incidents. One victim was a child and sadly both incidents lead to death. However over a span of 34 years that is just one incident every 17 years which means this is not a dog to be feared over its aggression.


Any dog can snap or become aggressive and cause serious injury no matter its size. There are some key things responsible owners can do to ensure their dog is less likely to snap. Only own a dog you can offer the right kind of care for. Do not take on an active dog if you do not want to be active yourself! Make sure you can feed it, give it the health care it needs and that you offer it physical and mental stimulation. Also make sure you give it the kind of attention it needs and that you give it socialization and at least basic training.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

An Airedale Terrier is going to vary in cost depending on where you buy from and also the age of the dog. For a puppy from a good quality pet level breeder it is going to be somewhere between $1000 to $2000. For an AKC standard show dog you are looking at $2500 to $5000. If you opt to get a dog from an ad online or such places prices can widely vary from $500 to $2000 but so can the quality of the breeding and of the dog. If you do not mind having an adult dog rather than a puppy a great opportunity might be to offer a shelter or rescue dog a chance at a second home. This is going to cost less too at $50 to $500.

Upon getting your dog you should have a vet take a good look at it as well as carry out some tests and procedures. It should be dewormed, have blood tests done, given vaccinations, spayed or neutered, micro chipped and given a physical. These costs will be about $300. You will also need some gear ready, a crate, leash and collar, bowls and bedding for example for another $200 or so.

Annual costs for essentials like food and treats are going to start at about $275 presuming you get a good quality dry dog food. It will also need a basic level of medical care such as pet insurance, check ups, flea prevention and shots for another $485 a year. Finally there will be other costs such as grooming, toys, basic training, license and miscellaneous items that will come to at least $640 a year.

This means each year your Airedale Terrier will cost you $1400 or more.


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The Airedale is an athletic, bold, hard working, dignified and versatile dog. It does not shed as much as most dogs and it could be a great work dog or family dog or companion as long as you can give it the activity and mental stimulation it needs. It can be dominant with other animals and other dogs so socialization is also a key component to raising a well rounded and trustworthy dog.

It does like to bark, to jump and to dig so these will need to be trained to control somewhat though it is unlikely you will completely stop it from doing these things. It will also need a fair amount of grooming and trips to a professional groomer. It is a loving and loyal dog though so if you are ready for this energetic and independent sometimes goofy dog you will not regret it.

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