Airedale Terrier

Breed Group: Terrier

Temperament and Behavior

Although still possessing plenty of terrier feistiness, an Airedale Terrier is calmer than many of his smaller Terrier cousins. But still active both inside and out, they need vigorous daily exercise and mental stimulation. If left alone for long periods of time, an Airedale will become bored. Once bored, they will then become destructive. To consider letting an Airedale off-leash outside of a confined area is folly. A fenced yard to romp in is almost a must. But, like most terriers, they are expert diggers. Fences must be secured at their base and if your landscaping is a valued possession, this is not the breed for you. Good with older children when raised with them, they may play too roughly for smaller kids. Naturally alert, Airedale Terriers are above average watchdogs that offer above average protective abilities. Some have a clownish streak that can be both amusing and a challenge for their owner. Puppies are noted for exploring everything with their mouth. Protect them and what you own by leaving only their toys within reach. Airedales are usually aggressive with other animals, especially dogs of the same sex. Their hunting instincts lead them to pursue any small animal as prey; it makes no difference if it is wild or a small household pet. Cats are safe only if the dog is raised with one as a puppy.

Physical Characteristics

The Airedale Terrier is a large, sturdy, athletic dog. The largest of the Terrier group, they have a height of 22-24 inches at the shoulders and weigh 50-70 pounds. The Airedale’s coat sheds very little but they still need to be brushed twice weekly. To avoid matting, clipping, trimming or stripping is also needed. Their tails are docked or natural. They do best in moderate temperatures.

Trainer's Notes

Early socialization and obedience training are especially important for this lively, “dog-aggressive” breed. Airedales are smart, and can learn almost anything (including opening doors so they can go where they please) but are also independent and strong-willed. Trainers must earn their respect and should not be surprised to suddenly realize his canine training partner is out-thinking him. Happy to please unless they find something more interesting than training, Airedales respond best to firm, positive training methods. Originally bred to pull snarling badgers from their den, it is much better to convince rather than try to coerce an Airedale to cooperate. One owner put it this way “He will not be bullied and does not suffer fools gladly. He will neither fawn nor grovel. But if you allow him his dignity… there is nothing he won’t do for you.
Photo © by Havenkennels available under the GNUFDL
Airedale Terrier
Airedale Terrier


Airedales are a generally healthy, hardy breed. They are prone to few genetic diseases, with hip and elbow dysplasia each affecting about 1 of every 10 dogs. The Airedale Terrier is among the breeds most frequently affected by Bloat. Corneal Dystrophy is also a concern in males. Like most terriers, they tend to develop skin conditions caused by poor grooming, dietary imbalances, allergies, and thyroid problems. Airedales average lifespan is 12-14 years. Many fanciers warn the breed’s toughness results in a stoic dog. Owners must look for illness or injury their dog will ignore.


With about 3,000 Airedales registered with the American Kennel Club in a typical year, they are ranked 52nd in popularity.

Breed History

The Airedale Terrier was first bred in England as a hunter of water rats, foxes, and badgers. In addition, he helped his working class owner poach game. With its size and temperament, Airedales became popular guardians of farm and home. They were used in World War I to carry messages, transport mail, and locate wounded soldiers. Their popularity soared due to accounts of their bravery on the battlefield peaking in 1949 when they were ranked 20th out of the 110 breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club at the time. Although Airedales are still used as hunting dogs, watch dogs, and obedience and agility dogs, today they are mainly valued as loyal companions.

Additional Information

U.S. Presidents Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson all owned Airedales as have Ty Cobb, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Bo Derrek, James Earl Jones, John Wayne, and John Steinbeck. The National (US) Breed Club is the Airedale Terrier Club of America.

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