Airedale Terrier

About the Breed

The Airedale Terrier is the king of terriers, and he is the largest of the breed group.  He originated in England and was likely descended from a now extinct dog known as the black and tan type terrier.  There were likely other terriers and possibly Otterhounds in the mix as well.

This terrier breed was developed  to be one of the more versatile of the terriers.  He was bred for hunting skills and used to kill small vermin like rats, but he also assisted in hunts of other animals like otters, badgers, rabbits, among other animals.  The addition of the Otterhound in his heritage gave him more scenting ability than the common terriers, so hunters valued him greatly.  He not only could scent larger game and go after it, but many hunters also taught him to retrieve it.

In later years he found work in the military as a messenger dog, and he was widely used for police work by the English.  Today the Airedale Terrier is primarily a valued family member for people the world over.

Physical Characteristics

The Airedale Terrier is a sturdy dog, well built and muscular.  He stands about 23 inches tall with males being slightly taller than females.  His tail is normally held high but doesn’t curl or curve over his back.  Instead, it stands ready and at attention.  In the United States, his tail is docked to a shorter length, but in countries that no longer dock, it is left a slightly longer length.

His coat is very harsh and wiry to the touch.  There is a very short undercoat that is soft and lies close to the body.  The outer coat is dense and lies straight against the body although there may be some wave in it.  His coat comes in two color variations: black and tan or black and grizzle.


The Airedale Terrier presents himself with a curious, alert expression, and as with all terriers, he makes sure he is known to all.  He is friendly and outgoing and makes friends easily.  He is generally very good with all ages of people, but children should be taught to be respectful of him.  He loves affection and being with his family.

The Airedale Terrier is not one to start a fight, but he’s not one to back down from a confrontation either, as is the case with most terriers.  He can normally live peacefully with other dogs in a group, but opposite sex pairings often work best.  He may be able to live with other animals if socialized at a young age, but many terriers have a hard time living with small animals like cats, so how well he will do is really based on the individual dog.

The breed is generally quite joyous and likes to have a good time.  He makes an excellent companion for an active family who really likes including the dog in the fun.  He adapts well to a variety of situations and is a fairly easy going breed.


The Airedale Terrier is a smart dog that learns quickly, but it must be remembered that he was bred to be an independent thinker that was tenacious.  This is a trait that appears in his training.  He can be strong willed or stubborn, and training that is very positive and fun normally works best for him.  He is not a breed of dog that enjoys never-ending training sessions or lots of repetition.  If one does this, the dog very well may find his own activities to do!

Consistency, patience, and respect are all important in training an Airedale Terrier.  It is important that he learn to listen to his owner and respect him, but his owner must also respect the dog.  He will not tolerate or appreciate harsh training methods.

Shedding & Grooming

The Airedale Terrier is not very hard to take care of.  He just requires a regular brushing of his coat for maintenance.  Two or three times a year he will need to have his coat plucked or stripped of the dead coat to maintain the texture of the coat and rid him of dead hairs that have been blown.  This can be done with a stripping tool or by hand, and your groomer can show you how to do it or do it for you.  Additionally, one may trim his coat or shape it.

The grooming routine should be introduced early on to an Airedale Terrier to help ensure that he will be okay with the process as an adult.  Otherwise, he might be more difficult to work with.

Otherwise, an occasional bath, routine nail trims, ear cleaning, and tooth brushing are the other requirements.

Health & Life Expectancy

The breed’s average lifespan is about 10-13 years of age.  While Airedale Terriers are an overall healthy breed of dog, there are a few health concerns to be aware of:

  • Cancer
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Arthritis
  • Skin issues and irritations
  • Allergies
  • Gastric Dilatation Volvulus
  • Hypothyroidism

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