Airedale rescue nc

Airedale Terriers

By Karen Copley ©1998

The Airedale Terrier, frequently referred to as the King of the Terriers, has earned his royal reputation by being a steadfast canine companion. The Airedale breed originated in the picturesque Valley of the Aire, in West Riding, Yorkshire, England. Located less than a hundred miles south of the Scottish border, the Aire Valley afforded a variety of challenges for terrier breeders. These early competitive minded breeders wanted to develop a dog that could outthink, outfight, and outhunt the other breeder’s dogs. The dog they wanted could not only catch mice and rats, but had herding instincts and was also an excellent swimmer. The first Airedales were bred for their stamina, courage, tenacity, and spirit.

The exact date the breed was established is unknown. Breed historians estimate that the Airedale breed became consistent in standard sometime around the middle 1800’s. The primary ancestors for the Airedale is believed to be the “Broken-Coated Working Terrier” and the “Old English Black-and-Tan Terrier”, now both extinct. To improve the dog’s water ability, it is believed that he was crossed with the Otterhound. Some of the first Airedale terriers were known as “Waterside Terriers”, or “Bingley Terriers”, as the township of Bingley lies in the center of the Aire Valley. The first Airedale to come to America was around 1880. “Bruce” is remembered as “being blind in one eye and having a bad temper”.

In spite of the initial poor representation of the breed, Airedale popularity increased to its height in the early 1920’s. President Warren Harding and Teddy Roosevelt both had Airedales for pets while in the White House. The decline in Airedale popularity is frequently blamed on the post-WWI emergence of the German Shepherd, although frequently Airedales were also used in both world wars to take messages from one camp to another and for search and rescue of wounded soldiers.

The Airedale today makes an excellent family dog, guard dog, and is still used as a working dog on farms and in law enforcement. The personality is described as curious, independent, and strong willed. They are definitely a thinking dog, and will frequently puzzle over a situation until they solve it. When well socialized as puppies, the Airedale can adapt to almost any situation, and thrive in many different types of circumstances. An un socialized Airedale can frequently present many behavior problems, and they are not generally a pleasant dog to be around.

The Airedale terrier is the largest of the terrier breeds. An adult male will typically stand 23-24 inches tall at the shoulder, and weigh around 60 pounds. Females are slightly smaller. The breed is known for its hard wiry black and tan coat, and when properly groomed the coat is almost shed-free. The high energy level of the Airedale makes this breed a poor candidate for apartment or houses with small yards unless exercised frequently, and vigorously. Sturdy 6 foot fencing is a must. Being a terrier, the Airedale likes to “go to ground in search of vermin”. Loosely translated to city life; the Airedale likes to dig holes in your backyard! Airedales, being territorial in nature, can be very protective of their home, especially from other dogs. While in most cases the Airedale will not start a dog fight they most often will finish it when challenged.

The Airedale overall is a fairly healthy breed of dog, usually living to be 10-13 years old. Probably the most common minor health complaint is dandruff and minor skin problems. This is caused by the dry hard wiry coat. Bathing with a moisturizing shampoo, or adding fatty acids to the diet will help decrease the dandruff. Health problems that are more severe in nature include hip dysplasia, low thyroid, eye problems, and food allergies.

Hip dysplasia is the most serious of the health problems. Airedale breeders who are willing to evaluate the hips of dogs they are considering for breeding by several tests are decreasing the incidence of hip dysplasia. PennHip and the Hip OFA are two tests that measure the hip socket and determine the likelihood of the dog developing hip dysplasia. Educated Airedale breeders are only breeding dogs whose PennHip scores are higher than the average, or who have an OFA rating of good or excellent. The PennHip test is the more specific of the two tests as it measures hip laxity in specific millimeters, while the OFA can be somewhat subjective. Other problems such as allergies, eye, and low thyroid problems are also genetically

linked. Don’t believe anyone that says that they “don’t do health testing because their dogs are healthy”. The only way to document that heath issues don’t exist is to perform the tests. Other specific tests such as an eye certification can be obtained to decrease the chances of passing eye problems along to future generations. While health testing can never prevent heath problems, chances of heath problems are greatly decreased when genetically sound parents are used for breeding.

Purchasing a puppy is best done through a reputable Airedale breeder who is affiliated with both the local and national clubs. Finding a breeder whose Airedales have achieved titles in conformation, obedience, tracking, hunting and agility and herding will also validate that persons commitment to improving the breed, not just having puppies. When interviewing a breeder, establish that health testing; including hip evaluation, eye certifications and thyroid testing have been performed, and their Airedales are free from problems. If health abnormalities exist, evaluate the severity of the abnormality as well as other pros and cons of obtaining puppies from that breeder.

Another important item to consider before purchasing a puppy includes the temperament of the parents. If at all possible plan on meeting both parents. Temperament problems can be somewhat genetically linked, but most temperament problems come from lack of socialization. Socialization, or accustoming the puppy to a variety of unusual sounds, general handling manners, and exposure to a variety of different situations are very important in the puppies early development. Choose a pup that has been raised in a home environment, and exposed to many different things since birth, not a pup raised in a kennel or someone’s garage. Socialization must continue after your puppy purchase. The more new things the puppy is exposed to, the better they will adapt to new things throughout life. Some breeders temperament test their pups at 7 weeks of age. Temperament testing provides the new owner with an objective evaluation of the puppy’s temperament as well as potential issues that when identified can be dealt with early.

Grooming the Airedale can be done by two methods. Hand stripping or clipping. If the Airedale is to be shown in conformation the coat must be hand stripped to maintain its dark black and tan coloring. Clippered Airedales frequently lose their coloring and become more gray and blonde in color. If the coat is brushed weekly, shedding is almost non-existent. A professional can do regular clipping or many breeders will instruct their new puppy owners on how to do it themselves.

Airedales are generally easy-keepers, meaning that they can thrive on a good quality dog food without needing to add expensive supplements. They are rarely picky eaters, and can be found examining the kitchen countertops looking for goodies if not trained to stay off. The trashcan is also a very tempting area to explore for goodies, so it’s best in a cabinet out of reach.

Training an Airedale has been described as impossible by some, but most dogs can be easily trained with the correct methods. The first hurdle to overcome is who is the boss. The Airedale will assume, that he/she is in charge unless their human companions explain otherwise. Once a hierarchy is established, the Airedale responds well to positive motivation, especially with food as a reward. Always praise for correct behavior, short reprimands for bad behavior. Severe reprimands are needed on occasion, but frequent severe reprimands will make a cowering fearful animal. Redundant training is also not successful. The Airedale is exceptionally smart and after performing the required task several times becomes bored, and will respond with a “what do you want me to do that for, I’ve already done it SEVERAL times” type of attitude. Short frequent training sessions work the best.

If you have never experienced the magic and humor of this very delightful breed you should investigate them. As for many of us, once bitten by the Airedale bug we would never have any other breed. With all breeds of dogs each has its inherent good and its bad traits. Before purchasing a puppy or adopting a dog please be thoroughly convinced this breed is for you. Airedales bond to their families for life, and being displaced can be very traumatic for them. Please consult several resources for information on any breed before you buy a puppy.

Karen Copley


Greater Denver Airedale Terrier Club

Susan Hill

(303) 322-0626

Airedale Terrier Club of America

Category: Airedale

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