As the name implies, this dog breed originated from the Aire River Valley area of Yorkshire, England. His main duty was to tenaciously hunt down otters in rivers and rats. They were also often employed in the in their sport of hunting water rats (a gambling event). During the war, they were often utilized as as messengers, carriers of food and ammunition. The also helped locating injured soldiers on the battlefield. One of the most famous Airedale terrier, was one named Jack who became quite popular during World War I. His mission was to deliver a message to the British Headquarters. Jack bravely confronted the battlefields, but was shot and suffered a broken jaw and shattered leg. Despite the injury, he persisted in his mission only to drop dead in front of the recipients. His hard work that cost his life granted him the Victoria Cross for “Gallantry in the Field.” Unlike other terriers, the Airedale is a multi-purpose dog who not only could swim and hunt prey, but could also work as a sporting, guardian and working dog.
The breed became quite popular in 1949. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Woodrow Wilson and Warren Harding owned Airedales. Even John Wayne loved them, indeed his nickname the “Duke” came from his Airedale, called, you guess it, the Liitle Duke. Their popularity however declined later on when their duties as police dogs and search and rescue were replaced by German shepherds dogs. This breed was recognized by the AKC in 1888. It’s categorized under the terrier group.
Like other terriers, this breed has loads of courage as Jack’s story demonstrated. And as other terriers, his passion for digging, chasing, chewing and barking has no equals. This is an energetic breed that has loads of stamina and loves to move about and stay entertained. He is also very intelligent and has an independent streak. This breed can make a protective and even fierce watch dog, make sure to socialize him properly. Most Airedales are happy to have guests over. This breed is very fun to watch. Airedales may look serious and dignified, but they are very playful, clownish dogs that will entertain you with their antiques. Expect them to steal your belongings and stash them in a hidden place with his other treasures. You’ll also see lots of boisterous play as this breed plays with vigor. They are known for being perpetual puppies who seem to age slowly. Among famous personalities who loved this breed were Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Warren Harding, and Calvin Coolidge.
If you love dogs who are biddable and love to please their owners, this breed is not for you. The Airedale likes to do as he pleases, but if you like challenges and have patience, you’ll see some great results as these dogs learn quickly. Don’t forget how versatile this breed can be, this means that with the right methods, you can train him to do anything–at least, if you make sure to keep it interesting. Remember though to always be gentle when training him, harsh treatments will make him uncooperative. Use gentle, positive reinforcement training with these fellows. Early socialization with people and other dogs is important for this breed.
The Ideal Household
Does this dog get along with children? Yes, this breed seems to enjoy the company of children, but like all dogs, the child has to learn how to handle and treat dogs with respect. This breed though may be too exuberant with small kids. He may also become protective of children. Never leave a child and dog unattended, no matter what. When it comes to getting along with other pets, consider that he has a strong prey drive and can easily harm small pets out of instinct (remember his past as a hunter). However, they may do well if raised with other pets from a young age. He can be aggressive towards other dogs, especially those of the same sex, and they can become instigators of fights that may be difficult to break up.
This dog requires a nicely fenced yard that will contain him. Keep in mind his propensity for digging, barking and getting into mischief when left unattended. Expect your yard to become a moonscape when you’re gone. He wasn’t meant to be left in the backyard alone, this dog thrives being with his family and boredom when left alone leads to destructive behaviors. Because of his need to stay active and entertained he won’t likely adjust well in an apartment. This guy needs his daily walks, preferably two of about 20 minutes, and a daily dose of mental stimulation. He makes a great jogging companion. The barking, digging and chewing can be frustrating for dog owners not familiar with terrier traits.
The coat of the Airedale requires attention so plan on learning the ropes of how to properly groom this breed by clipping or hand stripping or hire the help of a groomer.This dog doesn’t shed much because of the coat’s wiry texture, which is why they need to be hand stripped to pull out loose hairs. Plan to have him groomed about 3 to 4 times a year to keep his coat nice and orderly. The groomer will clip or strip (or a combination of both) the coat. If you are interested in this breed, be ready to commit to money and time on coat care; too many specimens were surrendered to shelters and rescue because of casual owners not aware of the care involved.
Where to find one
Find a good breeder who health tests Airedales before breeding. Alternatively, look for a rescue that will provide a list or Airedales in needs of a loving home.
Airedale Club of America Rescue and Adoption Committee
Airedale Terrier Rescue and Adoption
Airedale Terrier Club of America
The average Airedale stands up to 23-24 inches tall and weighs between 55 and 65 pounds. Very large Airedale terriers, weighing up to 121 pounds, known as Oorangs may be found in North America, but these do poorly in the show ring. Oorangs were developed in the 1930s’ by Capt. Walter Lingo, of LaRue, Ohio.
The coat is medium-length, in this double-coated breed. It’s blessed with a a dense, wiry topcoat and a short and soft undercoat. The coat is typically tan and black. It was selectively designed to protect the dog from its predators. The head, ears and legs are typically tan, while the saddle is black or has a dark grizzle hue. The tail is long and erect, but in areas where tail docking is permitted it’s docked. This breed has the largest teeth among the terriers, these pearly whites aided him in biting his prey.
This dog breed is overall a very hardy breed, but can be prone to hip dysplasia, especially seen in the larger specimens, and hypothyroidism, progressive retinal atrophy and von Willebrand’s disease. The median lifespan is about 11.5 years. These dogs have a high tolerance for pain, so an injury may not become as evident.