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The Airedale terrier is an independent, problem-solving breed. Photography ©Alex Potemkin | Getty Images.
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Get to Know the Airedale Terrier Breed

Did you know the Airedale Terrier was among the first British police dogs? Or how the Airedale is nicknamed the "King of Terriers"? Do Airedales shed a lot? How long do they live? Let’s find out more here.

Lynn M. Hayner  |  Aug 14th 2018


President Teddy Roosevelt once declared that the Airedale Terrier “can do anything any other dog can do, then lick the other dog if he has to.” The president certainly appreciated the exceptional versatility of the Airedale. The King of Terriers is an earnest, occasionally clownish, independent problem-solver with an enormous heart for family.

The Airedale has Valley of Aire origins

Col. Edwin Richardson’s specially trained dogs served alongside British troops during the World Wars. Photography ©Amoret Tanner | Alamy Stock Photo.

Col. Edwin Richardson’s specially trained dogs served alongside British troops during the World Wars. Photography ©Amoret Tanner | Alamy Stock Photo.

Developed in England’s valley of Aire, the Airedale was developed by common folks. Farmers needed a multipurpose working dog that could control vermin, guard the home and bring food to the table. Early Airedales killed badgers, water rats and otters, hunted small game, kept track of livestock and protected homes.

Hunters (and more than a few poachers!) used them as bird finders and retrievers, too. The Airedale’s speed, stamina and imperviousness to rough conditions equipped him for his diverse tasks. But despite his hardiness, he was bred gentle enough to live alongside family.

Not surprisingly, given his courage and athleticism, the breed was also among the first British police dogs. In the early 20th century, Col. Edwin Richardson trained Airedales (as well as Collies) to perform military tasks such as searching for the wounded and carrying messages in tins. Richardson established the first British War Dogs Training School at Shoeburyness, Essex.

In World War I and World War II, Richardson’s robust and resilient Airedales were renowned for getting their jobs done, even when severely wounded.

Fitting the Airdale into the family

The Airedale terrier may be hardheaded about obedience because of his independent character. Photography ©WilleeCole | Getty Images.

The Airedale terrier may be hardheaded about obedience because of his independent character. Photography ©WilleeCole | Getty Images.

Although strong and serious about work, many Airedales have a silly side and relish entertaining the household with their antics. At work and at play, their commitment to family is well-celebrated. Generally sensible, the Airedale is characteristically a levelheaded watch dog. He’ll announce newcomers, but his watchfulness transforms to sociability once guests are welcomed inside.

Around other dogs, Airedales typically are selective about friendships. They may be aloof or watchful with new dogs, and they certainly tend to chase the family’s cats.

With the breed’s physical and mental versatility, he can excel in any type of dog event: conformation, rally, agility, tracking and barn hunts (Yes, he’s a terrier!). But also because he’s a characteristic terrier with an independent streak, the Airedale may be hardheaded about obedience.

In fact, he’ll often review his owner’s requests and then make his own decisions. Because we developed the breed for resolve and perseverance and rewarded his self-directed problem-solving, we can’t exactly criticize him for independent thought!

Airedale ABCs

The Airedale terrier is relatively a light shedder. Photography ©kadmy | Getty Images.

The Airedale Terrier is relatively a light shedder. Photography ©kadmy | Getty Images.

  • Life span: 11 to 13 years
  • Weight: 55 to 60 pounds; females slightly smaller
  • Puppy coat: The pup coat will change from a soft, fluffy coat to the trademark wiry coat.
  • Adult coat: The double-coated Airedale has a hard, wiry, topcoat and a softer undercoat.
  • Shedding: Good news! The Airedale is a relatively light shedder.
  • Grooming: Regular brushing, as well as trimming or hand stripping as needed.
  • Color: Black and tan; grizzle and tan
  • Nicknames: King of Terriers
  • Prior names: Waterside Terrier, Bingley Terrier
  • Gear: Lots of leashes (and a fenced yard). Airedales, bred to hunt, are likely to take off after fleeing creatures with abandon. Trimming or hand-stripping tools (if you intend to groom at home).

Thumbnail: Photography ©Alex Potemkin | Getty Images.

Originally an attorney, Lynn Hayner writes about dogs and law, in no particular order. Lynn lives in Waco, Texas, with her family, a rescued cat and her new German Shepherd Dog, Anja.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Dogster magazine. Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Dogster magazine delivered straight to you!

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