Airedale Terrier dog
Airedale Terrier dog
Airedale Terrier dog
Airedale Terrier dog
Airedale puppy looking at camera
Airedale Terrier dog
Independent, intelligent and stubborn, the Airedale is a real character who will make you laugh. He loves to dig a good hole, collect his own stuff, and go counter surfing. Active and loving with family, he’s not always well behaved around other dogs or animals and has a strong prey drive. Called "the king of terriers" by his fans, the Airedale may really be the smartest of the terriers — a quality that will make or break him as a family pet, depending on whether or not his owner minds being occasionally outsmarted by a dog. Fortunately he’s a handsome devil as well as a clever one, and charming enough to compensate for a certain degree of stubbornness. Owners who aren’t ready to provide consistent training from a young age, as well as firm but loving guidance as he grows up, are going to discover that the Airedale Terrier is way too much dog to handle.

Airedale fanciers often point proudly to the words of Theodore Roosevelt, who said the Airedale Terrier could "do anything any other dog can do, and then lick the other dog, if he has to." Those words probably describe the Airedale of history better than the dog of today, whose main job now is to be a companion.

Of course, in line with his over-achieving past, the Airedale has even topped the charts in the companionship category. It was an Airedale who inspired author Margaret Marshall Saunders to write the novel "Beautiful Joe," the story of an abused dog, which in turn sparked the creation of the modern humane movement.

The Airedale does everything in a big way. He loves his human family wildly. He plays games with huge enthusiasm. He runs, he plays, he dances, he clowns, and he lives life with reckless exuberance – the exact same dedication and joy he may bring to the task of excavating your garden, tunneling into your sofa and eating the family-room drywall.

Yes, it’s true, the Airedale Terrier, left to his own devices, is a perpetual motion machine dedicated to mayhem. Anyone considering bringing an Airedale into the family needs to be ready and able to provide him with consistent, early training, to respect his native intelligence and social nature and to not deprive him of exercise, companionship and affection. In other words, he can’t be left in the backyard all day, or he’s going to bark non-stop and be extremely unhappy.

 But make him a member of the family, give him plenty of activities to exercise his body and stimulate his mind, and you’ll understand why his fans feel so passionately that there is no other breed worth having.

Other Quick Facts

  • The Airedale has a long, flat skull, V-shaped ears that fold over, small dark eyes full of terrier keenness and intelligence, a black nose, and a muscular, squarish body. The tail is carried up but not over the back.
  • The Airedale’s coat is hard, dense and wiry, with a softer undercoat, and comes in both tan and black and tan and grizzle.

The History of the Airedale

The now-extinct black and tan terrier is thought to have been the father of several terrier breeds, including the Airedale. The breed probably began to be developed some time in the 1840s. Like so many terriers, he was bred in a specific area to do a certain type of work over a certain type of terrain. Hailing from the Aire valley in Yorkshire, where by 1864 the miners and wool workers who favored them knew them as Working, Waterside or Bingley terriers, the proto Airedales hunted all types of game: fox, badger, weasel, otter, water rats and more. They worked on land and along the waterside, in partnership with Otterhounds, which did the actual water work. The Otterhound contributed quite a bit to the Airedale’s genealogy, in fact, as local breeders hoped the cross would  improve the Airedale’s scenting and swimming abilities.

About the same time, dog shows were becoming popular. Airedales were among the breeds exhibited at local agricultural shows. The dog considered to be the founding sire of the modern Airedale was Ch. Master Briar (1897-1906). One of his sons, Ch. Clonmel Monarch, was exported to Philadelphia, and he greatly influenced the breed in the United States. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1888. Several American presidents favored the Airedale, including Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge.

Although he started as a hunting dog, the Airedale became known as a versatile dog who could do anything. He was a military dog in several wars and has hunted big game in Africa, India, Canada and the U.S. He ranks 54th among the breeds registered by the AKC.

Airedale Temperament and Personality

The Airedale is a hard-working, independent, and athletic dog with a lot of drive, energy and endurance. He is prone to dig, chase, and bark, behaviors that come naturally to terrier breeds.

These traits can be frustrating to owners who are unfamiliar with the Airedale personality. If you are considering an Airedale, you must consider whether or not you are willing to live with his inclination toward chasing, digging and barking.

The Airedale is an energetic breed, and he needs plenty of activity. Don’t leave him alone for long periods of time, or he is likely to become bored and think of something naughty to do. Training is essential, but it must be interesting and fresh. Drill-like training is a bore to the Airedale.

The Airedale is a reliable watchdog, and thrives on protecting his family. He can be a fierce guardian, but is friendly with his family and friends. That friendliness does not usually extend to other animals. The Airedale Terrier can be aggressive with other dogs, particularly of the same gender, and is not a great choice for families with cats, either.

Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.

Talk with a reputable, experienced Airedale breeder. Describe exactly what you’re looking for in a canine companion, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Choose a puppy whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized by the breeder from early birth.

What You Need To Know About Airedale Health

All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

Airedale Terriers are generally healthy, but some problems have been seen in the breed. They can develop hip dysplasia, a genetic hip deformity that requires costly surgery to repair and can lead to arthritis later in life.

The Airedale Terrier Club of America participates in the Canine Health Information Center, a health database. Before individual Airedales can be issued a CHIC number, breeders must submit renal disease information, heart and hip evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and . PennHip certification of hips is also accepted. Optional tests are eye clearances from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) and OFA elbow and thyroid evaluations.

Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. A dog need not receive good or even passing scores on the evaluations to obtain a CHIC number, so CHIC registration alone is not proof of soundness or absence of disease, but all test results are posted on the CHIC website and can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents.

Airedales may visit the vet for other reasons, too. Airedale Terriers can suffer from a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy, hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid glands don’t produce enough thyroid hormone, as well as some types of cancer. 

Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping an Airedale at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.

The Basics of Airedale Grooming

Airedales need a weekly brushing and professional grooming every two months or so to look their best. That is all they need – unless you’re planning to show your dog, in which case you’ll need to be doing a great deal more laborious work on that wiry coat.

The family Airedale doesn’t have to be trimmed, but many owners do have him groomed by a professional groomer three to four times a year to give him a neat appearance (an untrimmed coat is thick, curly and unruly). The coat is either trimmed with clippers or by stripping, a process by which coat is thinned and shortened with a stripping knife, a sharp, comb-like tool, or a combination of both. 

The Airedale Terrier is not known for extreme shedding, but he does shed certain times of the year. Regular brushing with a slicker brush once or twice a week keeps the coat in good condition. Bathe the Airedale only when he’s dirty. Bathing him too often softens the coarse terrier coat.

The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every few weeks. Keep the ears clean and dry to prevent infections. Check them weekly for redness or a bad odor that might indicate infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball moistened with a mild pH-balanced cleanser recommended by your veterinarian. Brush the teeth frequently for good overall health and fresh breath.

It is important to begin grooming the Airedale when he is very young. An early introduction teaches the independent Airedale that grooming is a normal part of his life, and teaches him to patiently accept the handling and fuss of the grooming process.  

Finding an Airedale Terrier

Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.

Choosing an Airedale Breeder

Finding a good breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks. Be wary of breeders who only tell you the good things about the breed or who promote the dogs as being “good with kids” without any context as to what that means or how it comes about.

Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.

Look for more information about the Airedale and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Airedale Terrier Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the ATCA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to obtain recommended health clearances on dogs before breeding them.

Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.

Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.

Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies. 

The cost of a Airedale puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.

Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Airedale might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.

Adopting a Dog from Airedale Rescue or a Shelter

There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.

1. Use the Web

Sites like and can have you searching for an Airedale in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Airedales available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.

Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.

2. Reach Out to Local Experts

Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for an Airedale. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.

3. Talk to Breed Rescue

Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Airedales love all Airedales. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Airedale Club of America’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Airedale rescues in your area.

4. Key Questions to Ask

You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:

What is his energy level?

How is he around other animals?

How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?

What is his personality like?

What is his age?

Is he housetrained?

Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?

Are there any known health issues?

Wherever you acquire your Airedale, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Puppy or adult, take your Airedale to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.