Table of Contents
* General Health and Special Medical Problems
* Hunting/Working Activities
* Search and Rescue Activities
* Frequently Asked Questions
The Valley of the Aire in West Riding, Yorkshire, was the birthplace
of the Airedale Terrier. The exact date is unknown but indications are
that the breed began to be developed in the middle of the nineteenth
century. They were bred as an answer to the average factory workers
desire to hunt otter. To hunt this game properly required a pack of
Otterhounds and a "Terrier" or two.
The Airedale is believed to be the "Old English Black-and-Tan
Terrier," the "Broken-coated Working Terrier" and the "Rough-coated
Black-and-Tan Terrier" outcrossed to the Otter Hound among others. All
accounts of the "creation" of the point to a possible cross with a
Border Collie or some other sheepdog. Some accounts also point to the
Bull Terrier, while others insist that this outcross never took place.
These dogs were known for their gritty ability to take on any
adversary and give a good account of themselves. They were broken to
guns and trained to retrieve. They were fierce competitors in the
water-rat matches. Albert Payson Terhune sums up the Airedale
concisely: "Among the mine-pits of the Aire, the various groups of
miners each sought to develop a dog which could outfight and outhunt
and OUTTHINK the other miner's dog. Out of the experiments emerged the
modern Airedale. He is swift, formidable, graceful, big of brain, an
ideal chum and guard. There is almost nothing he cannot be taught if
his trainer has the slightest gift of teaching. Every inch of him is
in use. No flabby by-products. A PERFECT MACHINE--a machine with a
BRAIN, PLUS." The first Airedale known to come to America was Bruce
brought over by C. H. Mason. Bruce was the sire of Bess, who was the
dam of Airedale Jerry, root of the family tree.
Airedales have successfully mastered everything from big-game hunting,
coon-hunting, being excellent police dogs to obedience work. Not every
Airedale excels in every area but over time many have done a variety
of duties very well.
Today Airedales are still used as hunting dogs, watch dogs and even
obedience and agility dogs, but they are, first and foremost,
faithful, loyal and entertaining companions.
Just because an Airedale is AKC registered, it is NOT a guarantee of quality! ....Note the difference between the two pictures above. One has flat feet, poor top-line, short neck, inproper tail set, large eyes, wide set ears, and washed out color.
The Standard is the physical "blueprint" of the breed. It describes
the physical appearance and other desired qualities of the breed
otherwise known as type. Some characteristics, such as size, coat
quality, and movement, are based on the original (or current) function
for the dog. Other characteristics are more cosmetic such as eye
color; but taken together they set this breed apart from all others.
The Standard describes an ideal representative of the breed. No
individual dog is perfect, but the Standard provides an ideal for the
breeder to strive towards.
Because of copyright concerns over the collection of all the Standards
at any single site storing all the faqs, AKC Standards are not
typically included in the Breed faqs. The reader is referred to the
Airedale Terrier Club of America website for an explanation of the standard.
Due to the requests of the masses, the AKC has placed a condensed
version of the Standard for the Airedale Terrier (as well as the other
breeds eligible for AKC registration) on-line.
For many novice dog fanciers these standards are intimidating,
abstract, and subjective. One good way to begin to understand this
standard is to read books, such as The New Airedale Terrier,
and study the pictures and drawings while reading the standard. Also, take a copy of the standard
to dog shows and watch the breed. Talk to as many breeders as
possible. Over time an "eye" for the breed will develop if you
continue to question and compare the animal in front of you against
the standard. The Airedale Terrier Club of America has a nice
pamphlet, complete with sketches that is helpful in understanding the
Airedale personality, as described in Your Airedale, is "cocky and
brash, as he nonchalantly goes about his business with a swashbuckling
air." He will protect his family to the death if need be. He is very
patient with children, only moving away when he tires of their rough
and boisterous play. He is very strong willed, while being gentle and
affectionate with his family. The Airedale's curiosity is such that he
will investigate any situation until he is satisfied. He is definitely
a thinker. Airedales are people-oriented dog, where his owner is,
there he wants to be.
Choosing to own a Airedale is a wonderful, rewarding decision, but
remember that a sense of humor is an absolutely necessary
qualification for an Airedale owner.
Food: Airedales do well on high quality foods. Some may have slightly
dry "itchy" skin and can be supplemented with certain oils and kelp.
We highly recommend dog food with phyobetics for natural digestion.
One thing worth mentioning here is how long to feed puppy food. Some
research indicates that feeding puppy food for too long can increase
the incidence of hip dysplasia in dogs that are susceptible to it. The
theory is that the higher percentage of protein found in puppy
formulas can accelerate growth before the developing skeleton can
support the weight. Some breeders start feeding adult food very early.
Most people tend to gradually switch to adult food at 6 - 9 months.
Again, this is something to discuss with the breeder and your
Grooming: Many pet Airedales are clippered to the characteristic King
of Terriers look. Clipping should be done every 6 - 10 weeks. A good groomer should be able to provide this
service. If not, contact a breeder in your area, many will be willing
to provide grooming assistance on a limited basis. Airedales should be
brushed with a pin brush on a daily basis to remove dead hair, since
they do not "shed." Slickering their furnishings (leg hair and face
hair) will also remove dead hair, allowing new hair to grow in.
Airedales do "blow" their coat if it is allowed to grow out.
Dogs to be shown are stripped and trimmed. This is described in a
booklet available from ATCA at www.airedale.org . It is a very time
consuming endeavor and somewhat difficult art to master.
Housing: Airedales prefer to be with their families but also love to
romp and play. A fenced area is great for exercise and play, while
after play, they are ready to make great house dogs.
CAUTION: Airedales are lovers of digging. They are definitely
"terre-iers." Always keep that in mind when preparing an exercise
Crate training is a good idea for the young dog. As he gets older he
may tend to use this as his "den" and has a secure area for travelling
or your long days at work.
Exercise: Airedales are very active dogs and need lots of exercise.
They need a fairly large area to romp and play. Daily walks are great
exercise and fun time for both you and your Airedale.
As with other breeds, begin socializing your Airedale at an early age.
Socialization will begin to lay the groundwork for a happy and
obedient companion by increasing the dog's confidence. Airedales can
tend to be "dog aggressive" which makes socialization and obedience
training a must. Your dog must respect you but you have to earn that
respect. Your puppy needs a consistent set of rules to live by. For
example, will he be allowed on the couch or not? Consistent rules will
produce a reliable companion. Puppy classes, if available, are a good
Airedales do not respond well to harsh methods of training. They want
to make you happy, but they have to UNDERSTAND what is expected of
Several hints for successful training are:
1) Don't bore your dog. Airedales will not become "robots." He will go
check out an interesting onlooker before repeating the same "silly"
heeling pattern over and over.
2) Remember that Airedales are "thinkers." Don't ask them to do
foolish things. The only time my old girl ever broke a down was
because the "judge person" was foolish enough to set the dogs up in
the sun so that the judge could stand in the shade on a hot July
3) Use positive motivation. It doesn't matter how silly you feel, he
has to feel as though he is making you happy. Be creative. Remember,
Airedales are thinkers, not robots.
4) Approach each "training" session as an opportunity to learn more
about your companion. Try to look at each command from your dog's
point of view. This way of thinking will increase the mutual respect
that should develop while training.
5) Increase your chances for success by working with people who
appreciate and understand terriers. Do NOT allow any obedience
instructor or anyone else to compare your Airedale to those "perfect"
Shelties, Borders and GSDs. I heard a story of a woman working an
Airedale in an obedience class taught by a Border Collie trainer.
During one class, they were working on heeling patterns. The
instructor was busy pointing out the Airedale's inability to follow
the pattern as the instructor and Border Collie tumbled over a jump
while the Airedale watched from a perfect sit just in front of the
jump. The "stupid" terrier just "smiled."
You must be very flexible in training your Airedale. Expect the
unexpected and know your companion. Do not try to put a square peg
into a round hole. It is a very common MISCONCEPTION that Airedales
cannot be trained. IMHO Airedales simply require more ingenious and
Look for a reputable breeder when selecting your Airedale puppy. If
possible, visit the home of your potential puppy. Remember that the
first 8 weeks of any puppy's life are very important. A great
companion/show dog begins at birth.
Make list of questions before talking to or visiting the breeder.
Observe the puppy's environment. How do the puppies react to the
breeders? How do they react to you? Is their area clean? Ask the
breeder if the parents have been checked for dysplasia? Has there been
a family history of allergies? Have the puppies been around children?
Have they been around cats? Will the breeder be available to answer
questions in the future? Does the breeder offer a contract? (It is
virtually impossible for a breeder to guarantee that the health of any
animal, but the breeder should be willing to take the animal back and
replace it! Responsible breeders will often require that the animal be
returned to them, if for any reason, you are unable to keep the
animal. This ensures them that the animal will be cared for in the
future.)What vaccines have been given? Have the puppies been wormed?
(various areas need various levels of worming, due to climates.)These
are just examples of some of the questions that you should ask.
Remember that you are selecting a companion for many years to come, so
take your time, make sure that your are choosing not only a compatible
breed, but also a compatible animal and breeder!! Expect a lot of
questions from your breeder. He/she is also selecting a companion for
an animal into which many hours of love, thought and energy have been
When you pick up your puppy, your breeder can tell you the puppy's
schedule, brand of food and can recommend a future diet. Then you can
gradually change the diet to suit your preferences. Remember that
sudden changes in diet can severely disrupt the puppy's digestive
system and cause gastric distress. The Airedale can eat quite a bit,
especially as a young and rapidly growing puppy.
For additional information on learning to live with your new puppy,
"Your New Puppy" written by Cindy Tittle
NOTE: Remember in many cases, an older dog may suit your particular
situation much better than a young puppy. Many breeders place older
puppies and dogs. These dogs are often "show prospects" that didn't
mature as was expected or maybe were returned to the breeder for
various reasons. (My personal experience with adopting an older dog
has been very successful.) Every breed rescue organization is in
search of good potential adoptive homes. Rescue dogs often require
additional work but can also be very rewarding.
If considering an older puppy or dog, please read
"Your New Dog" also written by Cindy Tittle Moore, for more
Remember that Airedales and other terriers are very smart and
personable dogs. They are not dogs that should be left to their own
devices. You could be quite surprised at their ingenuity. A trained
Airedale could become the best friend that you will ever have. Keep
your sense of humor and a consistent set of rules for your dog, and
you will be rewarded with a companion without compare. You must be as
smart, patient and assertive as the friend you are choosing.
General Health and Special Medical Problems
Airedales, in general, are very healthy and hardy animals. Some do
have health problems, but in many cases, these are only minor.
Airedales, like all other larger breeds, have occurrences of hip
dysplasia. These cases are not common but the possibility should be
addressed. When selecting a puppy, always question the breeder about
the condition of the parents' hips. Many breeders have preliminary hip
x-rays done at a year of age (these x-rays cannot be sent in for an
OFA number), prior to beginning a "show" career.
Airedales, like many terriers, may have "itchy" skin. This could be a
sign of many things. Sometimes it is nothing more than a dietary
problem, and sometimes it is an symptom of hyperthyroidism or
hypothyroidism. All of the above can normally be treated and
controlled easily. "Itchy" skin may also be a symptom of allergies.
These allergies may be food or other. My experience has been that the
first place to start is with the diet. Some Airedales do better on a
quality lamb and rice food, others do not.
Always take the time to keep your Airedale's ears clean and dry (this
helps prevent infections or irritations.), toe nails trimmed, teeth
cleaned (doing this at home on a regular basis can prevent gum disease
and other dental problems, and it is good practice for trips to the
vet.), and remember to keep the hair trimmed between the pads.
Always consult with your veterinarian and breeder about any health
Airedales, as previously mentioned, are used for hunting and working
in many areas. In an effort to promote and maintain the hunting
abilities for which the Airedale was originally bred, a
Hunting/Working committee was formed by the Airedale Terrier Club of
America in 1985. This committee holds an annual workshop in
conjunction with hunting tests. The workshop is assists both novice
and experienced hunters in developing the skills Airedales need to be
These trials are conducted in accordance with ATCA-approved hunting
tests and titles. These tests are being continually revised and
improved to tap even deeper into the talents of the breed. Currently,
there are Junior and Senior Hunting Dog titles in flushing (JHDF and
SHDF), retrieving (JHDR and SHDR), and the more traditional fur test
(JHDFur and SHDFur).
The members of the H/W Committee are working with hunting judges and
instructors from other breeds with AKC recognized Hunting titles to
develop AKC recognized hunting titles for Airedales. Hopefully in the
future, Airedales will be able to obtain AKC Hunting titles.
The Upland Bird tests require the dog to find and flush two birds,
retrieve a shot bird on land, and do a short water retrieve. (JHDF and
The Hunting Dog Retriever test brings contestants to a line from which
the dog is expected to remember or "mark" the fall of a bird shot in
the field. Upon a command from the handler, the dog should retrieve
the bird. The next phase is to repeat the retrieve, except from the
water. To obtain the SHDR title, the dog is required to mark one duck
shot over the water, and while waiting to be released, see another
duck down. The dog must then retrieve both birds.
The HDFur test requires the dog to follow a track of raccoon scent,
locate a caged raccoon in a wooded area, bark, or "bay," to declare
For more information on the H/W Activities,
visit the ATCA Hunting and Working Web page to see Airedales
Search and Rescue Activities
Another activity which Airedales are becoming more active in is Search
and Rescue. For more information on SAR activities and what it takes
to become a certified SAR dog, please visit the page maintained by
Karen Clouston. Karen is an active Airedale SAR trainer.
Karen also provides pictures of working SAR dogs, and explains what
training a SAR dog means. The people that choose to train SAR must be
a dedicated as the dogs that they are training.
Frequently Asked Questions
How should I choose a breeder? What should I expect from my breeder?
Choosing a breeder is equally as important as choosing a breed or a
puppy. You should contact sources such as the ones listed above, go
to dog shows, or talk to vets in the area. Talk to as many
different breeders as possible. You should choose a breeder that is
willing to work with you and help you choose the right animal for
you. Your breeder should ask questions of you. He/she should be
very concerned with the welfare of the puppy that is being placed
in your care. If you can visit the breeder, you should. You should
observe the interaction between the breeder and his/her animals. Do
the animals seem happy, well-cared for, and clean?
A good breeder will present you with health records, a pedigree
and, in most cases, a contract. Most of these contracts will at a
minimum stipulate that: a)the animal is in good health, b)the
animal shall be kept up-to-date on vaccinations (and other health
concerns cared for; i.e. heartworm, intestinal parasites, flea
control, etc.), c)all local leash laws be obeyed, d)the animal
shall be returned to the breeder, if for any reason, you are unable
to keep the dog, e)the animal shall be replaced in the case of
hereditary health issues that are debilitating to the animal, and
f)the animal shall be spayed or neutered (unless there is a special
agreement; i.e. potential show prospect). Many breeders will sell
puppies only on a limited registration with the AKC, unless there
is a special agreement. Your breeder should make himself/herself
available to answer questions and try to help solve problems
(should they arise) in the future. As noted in the 1998 ATCA Roster
and Information Booklet, good breeders accept responsibility for
dogs they produce and take them back if they need help,
re-evaluating and placing them in suitable new homes. Irresponsible
breeders fail to live up to these expectations.
Are Airedales good with children?
As is the case with all dogs, both the children and the dog must be
taught to respect each other. Children must be taught that taking
toys or bothering the dog while he/she is eating are not good
habits. Also, the dog should be taught that jumping on people or
"mouthing" are not acceptable traits. Every household will have a
different set of rules (which should be carefully considered before
getting any dog) which must be clearly and consistently conveyed to
everyone (adults, children, and the dog). With proper training and
patience, Airedales are wonderful with older children. I,
personally, would never leave a young child and any dog together
It is very advisable to seek the advice of an expert in training
when introducing your dog to children. It is very important for the
dog to maintain the position of "dog" within the hierarchy without
discounting the importance and needs of the dog.
Is a fenced yard "required" for owning an Airedale?
Although a fenced yard is not a requirement for owning an Airedale,
it is a very big plus! Before bringing a dog in to your household,
you should consider what you will do on days that you are sick,
running late, or for some other reason unable to walk the dog. Many
areas have some type of leash law and, for the health of the dog,
you should never allow the dog to run freely, without some type of
boundary. Remember that Airedales were bred to hunt and terriers,
in general, will chase "furry creatures" with reckless abandon for
Is it true that Airedales are good for people with allergies?
While it is true that many people that are allergic to some other
breeds seem to have fewer problems living with Airedales, the fact
that you have allergies is not a sufficient reason to get an
Airedale. You are adding a member to your household and should
consider the temperament, size, your schedule and many other things
when selecting a pet. There are other breeds, (for example;
Poodles) which are also "less allergic", which may suit you and
Are older Airedales adaptable into new environments? When is a rescue
or older dog a good choice for me?
Airedales are very adaptable into new environments. Like most
animals, they respond very well to loving and structured
situations. Older dogs are sometimes more desirable for a specific
situation than puppies. One example is a family or person that
simply doesn't want to deal with housebreaking a puppy. Maybe you
are a little older and want the companionship of a dog but not the
energy of a puppy. What if you are a jogger and want a companion?
(It is not advisable for a young puppy to jog!) There are lots of
situations where an older animal may be a better fit into your
Older animals may include rescues (for whatever reason) or older
animals that a breeder may desire to place into a good home. Always
get as much background on an animal as possible. Medical
information should be provided. If you think that an older animal
is better for you, then you must also consider the "re-training"
that may be needed. Dependent upon the situation that the animal
comes from this could vary from housebreaking to teaching the
animal that even though it was OK to sleep on the couch at the old
house, the rules here are, on the dog bed in front of the
fireplace. One breeder suggested that a good approach when dealing
with an older animal is to treat it like a puppy, assume that
he/she knows nothing and let him/her earn their freedom.
Cindy Tittle Moore's "Your New Dog" has helpful hints and
considerations if you think and older puppy or dog might be right
Should I "crate-train" my Airedale?
In my opinion, crate training is a definite plus. It should not be
used as a substitute for training your Airedale to have manners and
live within the rules of the household but rather as a safe,
comfortable "den" for your pet to rest in. It is also a safer way
for your dog to travel. Teaching your dog that his/her crate is
his/her space can be invaluable when company arrives, when he is
being house-broken, and if your pet ever has to be confined for
medical reasons.For more information
and opinions on "crate-training", please also read Cindy Tittle
Moore's "Crating Your Dog".