The largest of the terriers, the Airedale is a highly intelligent dog who is smart, loyal, and affectionate. Airedales have plenty of personality and make great family pets who are gentle with children, love a good romp and play, but are highly protective of their home. Their short, wiry coat is easy to care for, and while no dog is totally hypoallergenic, the breed is often more easily tolerated by those with allergies. They are active and require a moderate amount of exercise. Airedales are a robust breed that usually live long, healthy lives.
Airedales have short and wiry fur that comes in black and tan or grizzle (a mix of dark and light hairs) and tan, and they have dark eyes. They aren’t big shedders and don’t require a lot of maintenance beyond a good brush and the occasional visit to the groomer. Although no dog is truly hypoallergenic, because most people allergic to dogs react to the dander that is attached to a dog’s fur rather than the fur itself, some people with dog allergies report fewer symptoms when living with an Airedale.
Airedale terriers have a proud and alert stature, which fits well with their “ready for action” personality.
Airedale terriers are playful, fun, confident dogs who make excellent companions. They have a lot of personality, and it’s easy to see why they’re such an enduringly popular breed. “Airedales are comedians, they’re such fun dogs to live with because they have a sense of humor,” says Andrea Brown Berman, author of The Complete Guide to Airedale Terriers.
Highly intelligent, the Airedale excels at agility and other dog sports and loves being given a task. “They’re clever,” Berman says. “They can figure things out that you would never even think that they would.”
The best owners are attentive and ensure Airedales have plenty to do. “In general, terriers are in a class on their own as far as activity level and intelligence, but also mischief and challenges,” says Shlomo Frieman, DVM, founder of the Animal Hospital of Factoria in Bellevue, Wash. “While an Airedale isn’t as intense as say a Jack Russell terrier, they do need a lot of exercise and training from a very young age.”
Like most terriers, Airedales are an active breed and will happily accompany you on hikes and other outings. “They’re definitely not couch potatoes,” Berman says. “If you’re looking for a laid-back dog, I’d say forget the Airedale as they need quite a bit of exercise when they are younger, and often don’t seem to slow down much as they get older.”
The Airedale terrier temperament makes them perfect family dogs. They’re gentle with children, love other dogs, and adapt easily to different situations. “Airedales are always up for an adventure, whether that be a good long hike or a ride in the car,” Berman says. “They’ve got a lot of energy and are happy to go anywhere with you.”
While by no means an aggressive dog, the Airedale is highly protective of both family and home—if someone tries to break in, they’re going to alert you and challenge the intruder.
Because they’re so smart, Airedales are considered relatively easy to train. As with all dogs, consistency is key, and the earlier you start training them, the better. “They are very willing to learn, and they’re the kind of dog that needs a job,” Berman says. The American Kennel Club recommends varied training sessions to keep these smart pups from getting bored, as well as puzzles and other challenging toys to help keep them occupied when you’re out of the home.
Airedale terriers are highly adaptable dogs who are well-suited to just about any situation. They’re fine living in apartments so long as you get them outside and give them the exercise they need, whether that be a good long walk a couple of times a day or a romp at your local fenced-in dog park. These dogs can be diggers (they were originally bred to hunt rats and other small animals, so still have those strong terrier instincts) so leaving them in a backyard alone is probably not a great idea.
Because they are curious and smart, Airedales can be “naughty and barky” when left alone, Berman says. So this may not be the best dog for someone who needs to be out of the house all day. They are definitely social animals who get on well with other dogs, although they may not always do well with cats (there go those terrier instincts again). Airedales may peacefully coexist if introduced to cats during puppyhood. “A lot of that comes down to how well the dog has been socialized with cats, and how they were introduced to them,” Frieman adds.
Hikers and outdoorsy types will appreciate this breed’s seemingly boundless energy, and many Airedales love being in the water.
Overall, Airedales are pretty easy to care for. Their short, wiry coat requires a weekly brush to keep them looking clean and tidy, though you may need a groomer to work their magic occasionally to clip the longer hair on their rather adorable beards and keep everything trim. Berman recommends professional grooming no more than four times a year. “It can dry out their skin and Airedales can be prone to allergies and skin conditions,” she says.
In terms of exercise, you’ll get worn out long before your Airedale does, so be prepared to give them good walks and incorporate lots of play into their day. Agility training and other dog sports are a fabulous way to keep your Airedale stimulated and happy. They are a super social breed and love spending time with their humans and playing with other dogs.
As they are so smart, training can be pretty easy with an Airedale so long as you are consistent and reward them with plenty of praise. “Start training early when your Airedale is a young puppy,” Berman says. “If you have children, be sure to get the whole family involved … so everybody is doing the same thing with the dog and he knows exactly what he needs to do.”
Airedales can live to the ripe old age of 15, and Frieman says they are generally robust and healthy dogs. “They can be prone to issues with their hips and knees, but terriers, as a rule, are solid creatures,” Frieman says. “As with any purebred dog, you should ask the breeder about how they have screened for orthopedic and other issues.”
Other things that can potentially crop up with Airedales are dental issues and allergies. It’s important to talk with your vet to see what steps you can take to help prevent these from occurring in your Airedale.
Airedale terriers were first bred by mill workers in Northern England’s Aire Valley in the mid–1800s. Their function was to hunt rats and other small prey, as well as to join in the hunt for ducks and other small animals. The breed was soon recognized for its sharp intelligence, and they were used as working dogs on farms, in the police force, and even in the military.
During World War I, the British Army trained Airedales for a number of military uses. These brave and determined war dogs carried messages and first-aid supplies on the battlefield, located injured soldiers, and worked as guard dogs. Amazingly, they were trained to wear gas masks and find their way through treacherous battlefields. There are many stories of how these dogs saved lives and made a real difference in outcomes for the soldiers they supported.