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Airedale Terrier Breed Info: Pictures, Care, Traits & More

Written by: Brooke Billingsley

Last Updated on July 22, 2024 by Dogster Team

Airedale Terrier dog standing on grass

Airedale Terrier Breed Info: Pictures, Care, Traits & More

The Airedale Terrier certainly stands out because of their handsome appearance, but you may not realize that the breed is the largest of the terriers, standing around 23 inches at the shoulder. They have all the courage and tenacity of a typical terrier, packaged in a larger body, which means this breed is a perfect fit for some homes but is not suitable for all pet owners.

Breed Overview


22–24 inches


50–70 pounds


11–14 years


Black and tan, grizzle and tan

Suitable for:

Active families, homes with older children


Bold, intelligent, friendly

The Airedale, sometimes called “the king of terriers,” was developed in the Aire Valley in Northern England near the border with Scotland in the 1800s. During the Industrial Revolution, factory workers developed the breed, bringing a certain irony to the breed’s “king” title. They were developed from multiple other breeds, including the Otterhound and Bedlington Terrier, as well as breeds that have gone extinct, like the English Black and Tan Terrier.

During World War I, Airedales were frequently used as guard dogs, sentries, and messengers, but the breed has also been used as a well-rounded hunting dog for everything from ratting to big game hunting.

Airedale Terrier Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

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Airedale Terrier Puppies

airedale terrier puppy lying on grass
Image Credit: Lenkadan, Shutterstock

Since the Airedale is not an overly popular breed, you may have some trouble finding a breeder if you’re in the market for a puppy. It’s important to ensure that any breeder you choose uses responsible breeding practices, like all health testing recommended by the Airedale breed club. The AKC website is a good starting point for finding a reputable breeder. There are breed-specific rescues, as well as shelters and non-specific rescues that are good options if you’re looking for a rescue puppy or adult dog.

Because of their natural stubbornness, Airedale puppies can be a handful. Be prepared for a puppy that requires consistent routine and training, as well as plenty of exercise and enrichment activities.

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Airedale Terrier

Like other terriers, the Airedale is known for their courage and drive, and this breed is also known for being adaptable and multifaceted. This is a hard-working breed that loves to have a job and, although not overly energetic, not providing daily exercise and enrichment for the Airedale is definitely a mistake. These dogs need consistency in training and an outlet for their athleticism.

Although loyal, this is not a cuddly or overly affectionate breed, which may make them unattractive to people who prefer a “Velcro” dog that sticks by their side all the time. The Airedale may not stick by your side all the time, but you can rest assured that this is the type of dog that will protect you and your home.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🧑‍🧑‍🧒

Airedales can make great family dogs, but they’re usually recommended for homes with older children. Because they’re not overly touchy and affectionate, excessive handling from small children with poor boundaries may result in tension, stress, and bites. Older children who are respectful of the dog’s boundaries can be a great match for this breed, though. To build trust and affection between your Airedale and older children, consider having your children participate in training sessions and activities with the dog.

Three airedale terrier dog lying in a meadow
Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets?

The Airedale can be a suitable dog for multi-pet homes, but it’s not the top choice. This breed isn’t particularly social with other animals, and due to their protective nature, they are likely to be aloof with strangers, including strange animals. With proper introductions, many Airedales can do well in multi-pet homes, but this process can be time-consuming and require a lot of patience.

When it comes to small animals, including cats, it’s important to keep in mind that, like most terriers, the Airedale has a very high prey drive. They are likely to view small animals as prey animals and may chase, hurt, or even kill small pets in the home.

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Things to Know When Owning an Airedale Terrier

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

It’s important that you provide your Airedale with a high-quality diet to meet their nutritional needs. The activity level of your dog will determine if they need a high-energy food or not. For most house pets, high-energy foods are typically not appropriate, but working dogs can often benefit from the extra calories and nutrients.

Most veterinarians recommend that you stick with commercial dog food that meets WSAVA recommendations for nutrition. Some people feel strongly about feeding homemade or raw food to their dogs. If this is the diet you want to provide to your Airedale, then it’s essential that you consult with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to help you properly balance your dog’s diet.

airedale terrier dog lying by the fireplace
Image Credit: PROMA1, Shutterstock

Exercise 🐕

In the world of terriers, the Airedale isn’t in the top breeds for energy levels, but don’t let that fool you. This is an intelligent and athletic breed that requires daily physical activity to stay mentally and physically healthy. Activities that allow your Airedale to use their instincts, like ratting, hunting, and agility, are excellent options for ensuring your Airedale gets plenty of exercise because these activities are likely to keep your dog engaged for extended periods.

Training 🎾

Training is an essential part of Airedale ownership. This is a stubborn, willful breed that requires consistency in training from a young age. Positive reinforcement is a good training tool, but strict rules and boundaries that are clearly set for your dog are necessary for this breed. It’s also important to ensure that everyone in the household is on board for the training regimen.

airedale terrier dog in obedience training
Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

Grooming ✂️

The rough, wiry coat of the Airedale is very low shedding, making this breed a good option for people who don’t want a dog that sheds. They do require somewhat routine grooming to maintain the health of their skin and coat, though. Be prepared to brush your dog’s coat weekly, and if your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, make sure to check the coat over for sticks, seeds, and burs regularly.

Keep the nails trimmed short to prevent breakage, and clean the ears regularly to prevent infections and wax buildup. In some cases, a professional groomer may be needed to help you maintain your dog’s coat and nails, but this is not common with this breed.

Health and Conditions 🏥

Like all dogs, Airedale Terriers have a few health conditions that you’ll need to keep an eye on. If purchasing from a breeder, they should be providing you with a health guarantee and proof of health screenings to ensure your pup is in the best shape possible before going home with you.

Minor Conditions
  • Allergies
  • Ear infections
  • Umbilical hernia
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Hypothyroidism
Serious Conditions
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Kidney disease
  • Heart disease
  • Factor VII deficiency
  • Autoimmune hemolytic anemia
  • Corneal dystrophy
  • Bloat
  • Cerebellar ataxia

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Male vs. Female

Physically, male Airedales are typically larger than females by a couple of inches and around 10–15 pounds. When it comes to personality, females tend to mature faster than males, making them easier to train and allowing them to outgrow their puppy phase faster. However, females tend to be more independent than males. In many cases, males are more affectionate, and females are more protective, but this is not always the case.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the Airedale Terrier

1. Their Military Service Was Widely Recognized

This breed was commonly used by the British military during World War I for various duties. One Airedale by the name of Jack was a messenger dog who, although injured by shrapnel, delivered a message that allowed an entire trapped battalion to be saved. Unfortunately, Jack passed away from his injuries soon after, but he was posthumously recognized by the British government by receiving the Victoria Cross, which is the highest military honor he could’ve received.

2. They’re Good Police Dogs

Airedales probably aren’t one of the breeds that come to mind when you think about police dogs, but they were actually one of the first breeds to ever be used as police dogs in Germany and Great Britain. They were especially sought out as police dogs after their brave service in World War I.

3. They’re Presidential

Multiple American presidents have had Airedales. Interestingly, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, and Calvin Coolidge were successive presidents who all had Airedales. Their names were Davie, Laddie Boy, and Laddie Buck, whose name later became Paul Pry.

airedale terrier dog standing in the forest
Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

The Airedale Terrier is a striking dog with a big personality and lots to give to the right people. This breed can be a handful, though, making them a poor choice for first-time dog owners, families with small children, and people who don’t have much time to work on training and exercise for a dog. In the right home, the Airedale can be counted on as a protective and loyal presence who is adaptable and able to learn a variety of skills and tasks.

Featured Image Credit: Sue Thatcher, Shutterstock

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