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Airedale Terrier Pictures, Traits & Facts

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Airedale Terrier

Height: 20–24 inches
Weight: 40–50 pounds
Lifespan: 10–13 years
Colors: Black, gray, cream
Suitable for: Active families, those looking for a friendly working dog
Temperament: Playful, intelligent, friendly, fearless, immature

With their dense thicket of wiry hair and long beard, Airedale Terriers are certainly distinctive-looking dogs. They’re also energetic and playful and absolutely love to be the center of attention.

First bred as farm and hunting dogs, Airedale Terriers love to have a job to do around the house, and they’re versatile enough to adapt to anything you ask of them. Despite their suitability for a wide range of tasks, these dogs aren’t especially popular.

As a result, many people are fairly ignorant about these wonderful dogs. If you’d like to learn more about the breed, the guide below will fill you in on all the important details.

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Airedale Terrier Puppies

Airedale Terrier puppy
Image Credit: Three Dogs photography, Shutterstock

You can use many words to describe Airedale Terrier puppies, but “shy” isn’t one of them. These little dogs love a good romp, and they’ll crawl all over you as soon as you lay down on the floor with them. They think that your only purpose in life is to play with them, and who’s to say they’re wrong?

While that sounds adorable—and it is—you should know that life isn’t always smooth sailing with Airedale pups. They can be quite snappy, especially while teething, and their ability to destroy things is incomparable. Also, Airedales take longer to mature than many other breeds, so they’ll stay in their puppy phase for quite a while. Females generally come around sooner than males, but regardless, you’re looking at a long juvenile period.

All of this is to say that if you really enjoy puppies, then an Airedale is perfect for you. Otherwise, you may be better off bringing a different breed home.

3 Little-Known Facts About the Airedale Terrier

1. They Served With Distinction in WWI

Airedales were used in a wide variety of ways. They were first tasked with taking first aid to injured soldiers on the battlefield, then they were used to courier messages back and forth across contested territory. They were even taught to wear gas masks!

Airedales were selected because they are incredibly single-minded when given a task. They won’t let anything stop them from accomplishing their goal. This makes them incredible working dogs, but that single-mindedness can be less admirable when the thing they’re determined to do is dig up your backyard.

2. Airedales Were Originally Bred to Hunt Rats

In the 19th century, hunters would often use large packs of hounds to track down their quarry, with a few terriers trailing behind. Once the hounds were able to trap their prey, the terriers would be sent in to finish the job.

In the Airedale Valley in England, that quarry was often large river rats. The hounds would find a hole on the riverbank, and then a ferret was dropped into the hole, causing the rats to flee. Once they hit the water, the Airedale would jump in after them to make the kill.

It sounds like a great deal of work just to end up with a dead rat, but Airedales were definitely good at it, and they remain excellent rat killers today.

3. Presidents Love Them

At least three U.S. presidents—Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren Harding—have owned Airedales. Of the breed, Roosevelt said, “An Airedale can do anything any other dog can do and then lick the other dog, if he has to.”

President Harding was so taken with his Airedale, Laddie Boy, that he had a special chair carved so Laddie Boy could sit in on important meetings. We can only assume that Laddie Boy lobbied hard for sizable increases to the nation’s treat budget!

Airedale Terrier
Image Credit: jarobike, Shutterstock

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Airedale Terrier 🧠

Airedales are incredibly smart dogs, and they can be trained to do just about any task you could possibly ask of them (including espionage, apparently). However, that doesn’t necessarily make them easy to train. They can be extremely willful, and they’re not above defying your authority if they think they can get away with it. They’re also known for bending the rules at every opportunity.

Most of the time, though, they’re more interested in playing with you than disrespecting you. These dogs have an insatiable appetite for fun and games, especially when they’re puppies. That playfulness will disappear as soon as they’re given a task to accomplish. These animals will not stop until they’ve accomplished their goal, regardless of what stands in their way.

They’re generally friendly and welcoming toward strangers, but if they decide that someone is a threat, they can quickly become menacing themselves. It may be wise to trust their judgment, but you’ll need to be able to call them off if they pick the wrong target.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡

Airedales generally love children, which isn’t surprising given how much they love playing around. You’ll need to make sure they’re properly socialized, though, and you should never leave your kids unattended around any dog, even an Airedale.

They can get a little carried away while roughhousing, though, so be careful about letting them tussle with small kids. They can easily take things too far without meaning to. You’ll probably need to enlist the entire family in tuckering them out, as they have extremely high energy levels. They’ll likely be able to play longer than you will.

These dogs are fearless, and they’ll absolutely stand up to a threat in order to defend their families. It doesn’t matter how big the opposition is either—Airedales won’t back down. Older families may not want to deal with the hassle that owning an Airedale entails, but if they’re able to keep up with these pups, they’ll have a wonderful companion and a capable guard dog on their hands.

airedale at the beach
Image Credit: airedalelover, Pixabay

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets? 🐶 😽

Airedales were bred to work in tandem with other dogs; as a result, they usually get along well with other pups. You’ll still need to make sure they’re properly socialized, however. Smaller pets are less likely to be as well-tolerated. Remember, Airedales were designed to hunt down smaller animals like rats and foxes, so they may not understand why the cat or the gerbil are suddenly off-limits.

You may be able to curb this behavior with a good amount of training and socialization, but there are no guarantees. You’re probably better off not mixing the two animals at all.

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Things to Know When Owning an Airedale Terrier

Owning an Airedale can certainly be rewarding, but it has its fair share of challenges too. It’s important to know what you’re getting into before you bring one home.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Airedales are extremely active, so they need to eat a high-quality kibble to keep them operating at an equally high level. We recommend a food that’s packed with protein—25% or more. Look for one that relies on premium meats, rather than animal by-products.

Try to find a kibble that also has a wide array of high-quality fruits and vegetables. As a general rule, if it’s good for you, it’ll probably be good for your Airedale. Watch out for ingredients like wheat, corn, and soy, as they’re cheap substitutes for healthier foods. Go easy on treats and table scraps as well. You can use them for training but it’s not essential. Just don’t overdo it, as you don’t want these dogs to become overweight.

We generally recommend giving them one or two meals a day and then picking up the bowl, rather than letting them free-feed. However, if you want to give your Airedale a treat, you can stash food around the house and let them put their Terrier skills to work finding it (just remember where you put it).

Exercise 🐕

Exercise is important for Airedales, and it’s unlikely that you can give them too much. A walk around the neighborhood isn’t going to cut it (although it will still be appreciated). These dogs especially love to play, so they’ll chase after balls or children all day long in your backyard. They enjoy wrestling too, so don’t be afraid to get down on the floor with them.

They need mental stimulation as much as physical. They thrive when given a job to do, and you can train them to do just about anything.

Airedale Terrier
Image Credit: Lumia Studio, Shutterstock

They do well with agility training, as it works both their bodies and their brains. They’re small enough to be able to withstand all the impact that agility training puts on their joints.

If you don’t give them enough mental or physical stimulation, they’ll likely turn destructive. They love to chew and dig, and they’ll do both wherever is convenient for them, not you. If you don’t tucker them out, your yard and furniture will likely pay the price.

Training 🦮

Airedales can be trained to do virtually anything; that doesn’t mean they make it easy, though. They can be stubborn and uncooperative if they feel like they can get away with it. This means you need to have a firm, confident hand while training them. If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t be afraid to bring in a professional.

These dogs have high prey drives, so it’s important that you teach them commands like “leave it” and “stay.” You don’t want them taking off after every animal they see, and you need to be able to call them off when they do start chasing something.

You need to socialize them from a young age as well. These dogs won’t back down from anything, which can sometimes work to their detriment. You need to teach them that the entire world isn’t a threat and that sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. Keep in mind that these dogs don’t mature as quickly as some other breeds. You may have a little bit of difficulty getting them to focus and pay attention until they’re a little older.

Grooming ✂️

Airedales are hypoallergenic, making them one of the biggest dog breeds to earn that distinction. They’re great for allergy sufferers, and since they don’t shed much, they’re also great for people who don’t enjoy having their entire homes coated with dog hair.

You’ll need to brush them at least once a week with a slicker brush, and you’ll likely want to have their hair trimmed every few months or so. If you let their fur get too long, it will become dense and unmanageable. Many owners choose to have the fur on the dog’s belly hand-stripped every couple of months or so. This keeps loose hair to a minimum, but we recommend outsourcing this particular job to a professional.

Beyond that, their grooming needs are fairly basic. They need their ears and teeth cleaned regularly, and their nails should be trimmed as needed. The latter chore may not come up that often, as these dogs are so active that they often file their nails down naturally.

Health Conditions ❤️

Airedales are generally healthy dogs, but they’re still prone to a few chronic health issues. In particular, you should be on the lookout for the following.

Minor Conditions
  • Dermatitis
  • Thyroid issues
Serious Conditions
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Entropion
  • Heart problems
  • Cerebellar abiotrophy
  • Bloat

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Male vs Female

Male and female Airedales are generally similar in terms of size, although males can often be a little bigger.

Females mature more quickly than do males, although they still tend to lag behind other breeds. Both genders can be protective of their families, but females are slightly more prone to aggression, especially toward other females.

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Final Thoughts

Airedales are sometimes referred to as “the kings of the terriers,” and it’s not hard to see why. These dogs are fairly big and incredibly smart and have an endless thirst for play.

That doesn’t mean that they’re easy to raise, however. While they can be taught to do anything, convincing them to do what you want them to do can take a great deal of time and effort. They also require a ton of exercise, and they’ll destroy your lawn or your entire shoe collection if they don’t get enough.

For those who are capable of providing them with all the stimulation they need, Airedales will prove to be loyal, courageous companions. You’ll have the most distinctive-looking pet on the block—and quite possibly the smartest and most talented too.

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Featured Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock

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