Which Terrier dog breed is crowned the ‘King of the Terriers’? The Airedale Terrier. It has a high energy level and is the tallest of the purebred terrier breeds with an expert hunting-dog prey drive; versatile in the water and on land, catching otters, and other vermin. This hard-working Terrier combines strength and agility when it comes to hunting.
This dog breed has been referred to by many different names:
- The Airedale Yorkshire Terrier,
- Waterside Terrier dog,
- Bingley Terrier,
- Bingley and Waterside Terrier,
- Otterhound Airedale,
- Rough-Coated Terrier,
- Old English Yorkshire Terrier,
- Broken-haired Terrier,
- Black and Tan Terrier,
- Oorang Airedale,
- or simply the Airedale.
The Airedale Terrier is a neat and upright, medium-sized dog with very long legs. It has a shaggy and wiry, short-haired double coat and drop-ears that bend forward.
An Airedale Terrier is an extrovert dog that when trained and properly socialized will be child friendly and could adapt to family life. Airedale puppies are playful and look just like big Black and Tan Yorkshire Terrier puppies.
A Brief History of the Airedale Terrier dog breed
The Terrier Breed
Terriers are a specific group and type of dog breed; originally bred to dig and hunt for vermin.
FACT: Vermin is defined as ‘quadrupeds’ such as badgers, otters, weasels, rats, mice, and birds, like hawks and owls.
The Airedale Terrier
In the mid-19th century, in England, Great Britain, the Airedale Terrier was specifically bred to be versatile hunting, scenting, and working dog; like most Terrier dogs.
The Airedale Terrier originated in the Aire Valley (or Dales), where the River Aire flows through the West Riding and Bingley areas of Yorkshire, in England, Great Britain.
FACT: Airedale is a suburb of the town of Castleford, and Bingley is a Market Town in the Aire Valley, Yorkshire, in the North of England, Great Britain; both are situated near the River Aire.
The sport of water-rat hunting, between the River Aire and the River Wharfe, was popular at this time and hunters wanted a terrier that could swim and catch rats in the water.
To create this skilled hunting and sporting Terrier, the breeding mix used to achieve the Airedale probably included:
the Otterhound (an expert swimming breed), the Old English Black and Tan Terrier (called the Welsh Terrier today), Irish Terrier, Bull Terrier (a fierce hunter with a strong bite), and possibly others from the Terrier breed too; such as the cute little Yorkshire Terrier.
The Airedale Terrier dog was recognized as a purebred dog breed, by the United Kennel Club of England (UKC), in 1886.
Airedales were then permitted to compete in English Dog Shows where they were quite successful. Initially, they entered under their early names – the Bingley and Waterside Terrier, and the Rough-Coated terrier.
As the largest of the Terrier breed, the Airedale earned the nickname the ‘King of Terriers’.
‘CH Master Briar’ (1897–1906), the King of Terriers, is considered to be the Patriarch of the breed and sired the first Airedales to be imported into North America.
When did they make it to the United States?
In the 1880s, Airedale Terriers were imported into North America.
They quickly became popular in the United States, and at their peak of popularity, in 1949, they ranked 20th out of 110 breeds recognized by the America Kennel Club (AKC).
The breed was popular with American Presidents too. In fact, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, and Calvin Coolidge, three successive American presidents, were all proud owners of Airedale Terriers.
The Airedale Terrier was recognized as a purebred dog breed by the following Kennel Clubs, as follows:
- 1886 – United Kennel Club of England (UKC)
- 1888 – American Kennel Club (AKC)
- 1888-1889 – Canadian Kennel Club (CKC). The first Canadian registrations are recorded in the Studbook of 1888–1889
- 1900 – The Airedale Terrier Club of America (ATCA), was founded as the parent club of the breed in the United States
FCI – The Airedale Terrier is now also recognized as a purebred terrier breed by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI).
FACT: The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) is the World Canine Organization. It is an international federation comprising a number of national kennel clubs for dogs across the world.
What does an Airedale Terrier dog look like?
The Airedale is classic Terrier, with a square shape, strong muzzle, and almost no stop (forehead), with V-shaped ears that tip forward.
It’s larger than the other Terriers and has a compact and sturdy body, with a straight back, long legs, and an erect tail that is not docked meeting breed standards. Airedales have a free gait.
An Airedale has a solemn look, with small round black eyes, almost hidden in a face that is naturally covered in wavy hair. They are often groomed to neaten their appearance.
The short double coat color is typically your classic terrier Black and Tan or Grizzle; where most of the coat color is Tan with either a Black saddle or grizzle (the grizzle color is black with a mix of gray and white). All of these colors are breed standard.
Its double coat has a topcoat that’s wiry and dense and an undercoat that’s short and soft. This type of coat will protect it from harsh weather, water, and injury while chasing prey.
What are the main characteristics of an Airedale Terrier dog?
Airedales are independent, brave, courageous, and reliable. They are challenging to train but will follow orders; even in extreme danger to achieve success.
The Airedale Terrier dog was very valuable during World War I where it was used extensively to carry messages to soldiers behind enemy lines and to transport mail.
Airedales also received recognition for their bravery and skill in finding and rescuing wounded soldiers on the battlefield; Jack, a working terrier killed in action during World War I, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery in the field.
After that their skills proved useful in search and rescue roles and as police dogs for their sharp scenting skills; a role now more commonly filled with German Shepherds.
Airedales are strong and energetic and inherit the prey instincts of a working Terrier, as a Ratter (Ratcatcher), not as a lap dog.
Terriers were originally bred to work in packs, for the hunting of burrowing prey, such as rats, foxes, rabbits, etc.; basically any small animal that creates burrows in the earth.
An Airedale would make a good watchdog or guard dog, as it will bark if it senses intruders; human or vermin.
Loyalty and companionship:
The Airedale Terrier was bred to work in packs to chase off unwanted vermin and will, therefore, enjoy company and make a great companion. It will demonstrate its complete loyalty to its master and family.
The Airedale Terrier is a typical Terrier dog; bred with a prey instinct, determination, and confidence. Airedales are expert swimmers and will hunt endlessly to catch water prey, along riverbanks, such as otters even in dangerous conditions.
It’s agile, fast, and has a high energy level for working or playing.
This dog breed is not known to be aggressive, but it will hold a grudge if it’s been treated badly in any way.
FACT: it is important to treat any dog with respect, especially one with hunting and prey drive instincts, otherwise it might feel challenged and react in a negative or aggressive way.
The Airedale Terrier was popular in the 1930s but since then has lost its appeal slightly, and now ranks 60th in the American Kennel Club (AKC) list of the most popular dog breeds in the United States.
Any Terrier dog needs to be trained as a puppy regardless if it is to be used as a working dog or kept as a family pet. An Airedale is a working pack animal that loves to, hunt, swim, chase, and dig.
The trainability of this dog will be challenging as it has an independent streak and is not easily biddable; to follow orders or control its behavior. This type of Terrier matures more slowly than most other Terriers and it’s boisterous and mischievous so it will need careful socialization and discipline training.
Terriers can be very active and independent so they are not suited for a novice owner or one who cannot give it enough exercise and stimulation.
Leash training is strongly recommended as this dog is not friendly with other dogs or small animals and might turn aggressive or chase them. Leash walking will teach it control and road safety awareness, so we do recommend investing in a good quality dog leash.
Harsh training tactics are not recommended for any terrier dog as it might rebel and snap, bark or simply refuse to cooperate. Positive reinforcement with little food-based treats will work best.
This dog needs a big fenced living space to burn off excess energy.
Power and intelligence:
Airedales are smart, athletic, and courageous. They are solidly built and like to solve challenges and hunt prey. They are determined and can be difficult to handle at times as they are constantly alert with sharp senses. The Airedale Terrier can be aggressive with other dogs unless trained and socialized properly.
The Airedale Terrier was bred to chase and catch vermin on land and water, alongside the River Aire and River Wharfe in Yorkshire, England.
They are reliable, quick, and robust, and love to hunt and dig, so they made a perfect ratting dog.
Today they are more family dogs than ratters, but they still have that prey instinct that will keep them alert to the presence of unwanted creatures in the area they roam, so they should not be left alone.
They are vigilant and wary of pending danger and always ready to react.
They are not friendly with other dogs and small animals so if you have other pets and want to take them out to doggie parks, they need to be socialized and have obedience training.
When an Airedale puppy is socialized and obedience trained properly it would make a reliable family pet. It is good with children and will look after them but, remember, it is a Terrier with prey instincts so should not be left alone with young children or other small family pets.
Airedales are self-assured, outgoing, and boisterous. They’re big long-legged Terriers and have lots of energy and need to find a way to use it, otherwise, they will romp around and make their own fun; generally causing chaos in a house!
Their type of fun may not be a positive type of fun; it could involve running off with things, slippers, socks, clothes, or even other small pets! Therefore they need to be kept stimulated with a daily routine and enough exercise and playtime.
This breed will suit a family that has time to play and go for walks or needs a jogging partner or a buddy for other types of exercise. It needs space, so apartment living is not suitable for this big pooch. Its yard needs to be fenced as it might be tempted to dig to escape if it has nothing better to do.
This dog is not for an inexperienced dog owner. They are naturally suspicious of strangers and small animals. They are wary in new situations or circumstances and may bark if suspicious; making them a good watchdog for any home.
Physical Characteristics of an Airedale Terrier dog
An Airedale Terrier Dog is a silly, big purebred dog with a mind of its own; it’s agile, with a square compact build, and does not usually have a docked tail, as it is not considered breed standard.
Size: Medium Sized dog breed
Height: Up to 23” (58-61cm) for Male and 21” (56-59cm) for Female
Weight: Up to 50-65lb (23-29kg) for Male and 40-55lb (18-25kg) for Female
Lifespan: 10-13 years expectancy
Litter Size: Average, 9 puppies/litter
Coat: A short wavy-haired, dense, double coat; the undercoat is soft for warmth and protection.
Color: The breed standard allows for Black and Tan, or Grizzle (black, with a mix of gray and white). The base color is Tan.
There are no other breed standard colors for the Airedale Terrier dog.
Eyes: Small, round, Dark Brown/ Black color eyes, rimmed with Black color; with a beady stare.
Ears: Drop ears that fold–over forward.
Temperament: it can be silly and playful when socialized properly. It likes company and will want to be around its loved ones but does not get on with other dogs and smaller animals naturally.
It will be caring and protective of children if raised with them, but this is a prey-type dog and has inherited the instinct of a hunting Terrier dog. It therefore always needs to be supervised around young active children and other smaller animals.
It can be gentle and loving but could chase smaller animals, pets, or wild animals, like rabbits, hamsters or rats, if given the chance.
How should you train an Airedale Terrier puppy?
An Airedale puppy is a courageous pack animal with a high energy level. It needs to be trained early in the puppy years as it is likely to inherit hunting and prey instincts.
This puppy needs to know who the leader of the pack is and this should be reinforced throughout the training. This breed is difficult to handle and is highly independent so it will need ongoing positive reinforcement and praise for good behavior.
It should only be given gentle reprimands for not behaving, but not harsh treatment as this dog is known to hold a grudge and may decide to react negatively with that person in the future or refuse to cooperate further.
There are various types of recommended training: obedience, discipline, agility, and socialization.
So, if you are not going to use a professional dog trainer:
1) Develop your basic command words: Find keywords such as Stop, Sit, and Wait, etc. and be consistent each time you use them.
2) Crate – Buy a crate and get this boisterous and energetic puppy used to going into it. This will eventually become its nest and it will sleep there. You will have to lock the cage in the early days so it knows it has to sleep there and it’s useful to experience for bladder control and when transporting this breed.
3) Potty training – It will become a creature of habit quickly. However, should you need help there are products available, such as mats and odor sprays to attract the puppy to use the same spot each time.
4) Walking on a leash – Voice commands and road safety awareness is a must as this puppy bores easily and has a strong hunting instinct and it might just dash off. This will keep the puppy safe.
Health problems and health issues
Any purebred dog breed, like the Airedale Terrier, can inherit certain genetic health problems. This breed is relatively healthy but may suffer problems common to the Terrier breeds, from joints and heart problems:
Cancer – this is the biggest cause of death for Airedales. Check for lumps and bumps.
Hip Dysplasia – an abnormality where the ball and socket of the hip joint are not a neat fit. Excessive movement can lead to further damage to the limbs, extreme pain possible bone disease such as arthritis. Dogs with known Hip Dysplasia should not be bred.
Heart disease, such as Mitral valve disease (MVD), a heart murmur from a leaking mitral valve, causing poor blood flow which reduces the efficiency of the heart.
Bloat – a build-up of gas from eating too much or drinking too quickly can be fatal.
Other conditions include allergies, bacterial infections, and skin problems
Caring for your Airedale Terrier – what’s needed?
An energetic dog with lots of stamina that needs one hour of exercise a day; combining playtime with mental and physical stimulation. They need fenced space to run around in.
Feed as a medium to large-sized dog, with1.5 to 2.5 cups of good quality dry dog food (Kibble) per day, over two meals, to prevent Bloat; the exact amount depends on size, build, metabolism, and activity level.
This dog breed is needs maintenance, sheds moderately but is known to matt if not groomed regularly. It should be brushed about twice a week, to remove debris and dirt.
This breed is hypoallergenic.
This double-coated, water-dog, tends to have a smelly coat so needs to be bathed when necessary, not too often though as its natural coat oil can be stripped with over-bathing.
Certain dog formulated shampoos have a double effect of cleaning the dog coat and protecting it against fleas and insect bites.
Cleaning teeth, nails, and ears
Check teeth to prevent a build-up of plaque and avoid gum disease. Nails need to be trimmed regularly and ears checked for dirt that can lead to infection.
Positives and Negatives of owning an Airedale Terrier
- Playful, loyal and a good companion
- Intelligent and dependable
- Adaptable, non- aggressive
- Good watchdog as it will bark
- Child friendly when trained and socialized
- Very active needs stimulation and exercise
- Strong prey drive may chase small pets
- High energy, not for an inactive owner
- Wary and suspicious of strangers and other dogs
- Not naturally obedient or biddable
- Likes to dig and escape
- Must be leash walked, could suddenly race off
- Will hold a grudge if badly treated
- Needs regular grooming
Commonly Asked Questions:
Q. How much does an Airedale puppy cost?
A. Budget approximately $1,200-1,500 (or more if breeding stock!), from a reputable breeder, or consider adopting one, but do your research though as this is not a commonly available breed.
Q. Why is an Airedale puppy so expensive?
A. They’re not an overly common breed and as they are often used as show dogs they are carefully bred to strict standards. Costs should include full vaccinations, chip and passport, and name registration. This all adds to the overall cost.
Q What other costs should I expect?
A. A good quality dry dog food, Kibble, Vet’s fees, regular vaccinations, medications and accessories and toys, collar, leash, grooming equipment.