Choosing an Airedale

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As the largest member of the terrier group, the Airedale can be intimidating but his sweet disposition will often win over even the most fearful person. Unlike many other terriers, the Airedale has a short 150-year history, and is an excellent choice for a child's best friend.

History & Origin

Around 1850 in the north region of Great Britain, otter hunters were trying to breed a dog that could efficiently hunt on land as well as near water. To accomplish this, an English black and tan terrier was crossed with an otter hound. The result of this union and subsequent litters was the origin of the Airedale terrier. Named for the nearby river Aire, the Airedale was used to hunt otter, water rats, weasels, foxes and badgers. Since the breed was a large terrier, they were also used to chase and hunt deer and boar.

The Airedale not only excelled in hunting. Their intelligence and easy trainability made them very useful as messengers and couriers during World War I and World War II. The breed has even been used as police and guard dogs throughout the world.

The Airedale was officially recognized as a breed in 1879. The breed was popular in the United States until the beginning of the 1950s. After that, popularity declined but the breeds quirky attitude and intelligence have led to many devoted fans.


The Airedale terrier is the largest in the terrier group and has an overall appearance of elegance. The legs are long and tan. The long head is also tan with small floppy ears that lie above the top line of the head. The sides and upper body of the dog are either black or dark grizzle color. Some may even have red in their coat.

The Airedale has a double coat. The undercoat is soft and the outercoat has a hard coarse texture that tends to curl. These dogs should not be clipped but should be hand stripped twice a year. This involves plucking the old hairs from the coat.


The Airedale stands 22 to 24 inches at the shoulder and weighs around 45 pounds.


The Airedale is an intelligent and versatile breed. They have been used as guard dogs and police dogs. Many members of this breed seem to have a quirky sense of humor and love to play.

Home & Family Relations

The Airedale is a devoted, loyal and protective breed. Though they may seem aloof to strangers, the breed is very loving towards his family, especially towards children.

Remember that this breed is a terrier and as such, needs exercise and lots of space. The Airedale doesn't do too well in an apartment setting.


The Airedale is considered by many to be the easiest of all terriers to train. The breed is intelligent and responds well to direction and commands. They tend to learn easily and excel in hunting as well as obedience.

Special Concerns

If improperly socialized, some Airedales may show signs of aggression. With their large size, any show of bad temperament should be immediately curtailed.

The Airedale's coat requires frequent care to keep it clean and tangle free.

As a terrier, the Airedale needs plenty of exercise and needs human companionship. If left to his own devices for extended periods of time, the Airedale may develop behavior problems, including destructive behavior.

Health Concerns

In general, the Airedale is a healthy dog with few medical concerns. However, the following diseases or disorders have been reported:

  • Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint that results in pain, lameness and arthritis.
  • Hot spots are areas of itchy moist inflamed skin.
  • Demodectic mange is a parasitic skin disease caused by a mite. Hair loss and itchiness are common signs of this disease.
  • Melanoma is a tumor arising from melanocytes, which are the cells that produce pigment.
  • Hyperadrenocorticism is a disorder affecting the adrenal glands. When overactive, the adrenal glands secrete excessive cortisol, resulting in illness.
  • Hypothyroidism results when the thyroid gland does not function adequately. Without enough thyroid hormone, illness can occur.
  • Entropion is a problem with the eyelid that causes inward rolling. Lashes on the edge of the eyelid irritate the surface of the eyeball.
  • Pannus is a disease of the eye resulting in inflammation.
  • Progressive retinal degeneration (PRD) is a disease that causes nerve cells at the back of the eye to degenerate. The condition can lead to blindness.

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