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Are Airedale Terriers Good Guard Dogs? History, Instinct & Intelligence

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on April 5, 2024 by Dogster Team

airedale terrier dog training

Are Airedale Terriers Good Guard Dogs? History, Instinct & Intelligence

The Airedale Terrier has worn many hats throughout history and earned fame in capacities ranging from flexible farmhand to champion rat hunter to fearless war hero in WWI. Though their roles varied, each encouraged common themes of loyalty, courage, self-assurance, vigilance, and poise. Those traits remain strong as ever in our modern-day companions, making Airedale Terriers some of the best guard dogs for the home.


A Brief History of the Airedale Terrier

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

The Airedale Terrier appeared in the mid-19th century as an otter and rat hunter for working-class citizens in Yorkshire, England. The sizable Terrier was a versatile dog for owners who couldn’t manage multiple animals. As a biddable all-purpose worker, the Airedale was capable of tracking and retrieving game, pulling carts, guarding livestock, and performing many other jobs around the property.

By the late 1800s, the Airedale Terrier’s fitness for protective work garnered attention from European police forces. They eventually pushed their way to popularity through their heroics working with the British on the battlefield in WWI. Their intense determination, intelligence, and courage made them indispensable as medical and messenger dogs, saving lives and relaying communications across dangerous territory.


Are Airedale Terriers Good Guard Dogs?

Airedale Terriers make exceptional guard dogs due to their rich history as loyal, dependable workers. They have a pleasant temperament with children and will immediately show their protective side when they sense a threat to anyone in their family.

While Terriers of any size are often willing to scrap, Airedales are the most physically capable, standing up to 23 inches tall and weighing over 70 pounds in some instances. With a bark as powerful as their 269-pound bite force, they will quickly alert you to any potential threat and become aggressive to protect their territory and loved ones if necessary.

Instinct and Intelligence

The instinct formed over generations has made the Airedale Terrier determined to protect the home and mentally equipped to understand when to engage. Airedales are brilliant dogs, ranking 37th on Stanley Coren’s list of the 200 most intelligent breeds. While you’ll still contend with some of the typical Terrier stubbornness, they have a high ceiling for learning.

Training an Airedale as a guard dog is fluid and rewarding when you command respect and make the experience positive. But even before training, Airedales naturally fall into protective roles in the home.

Airedales understand the pack dynamic. They find their place in the hierarchy to determine when to defer and when to take charge. If a guest arrives at the home, an Airedale will become alert and ready to jump in as needed. They look to their leader for guidance with the new person and willingly accept them when they sense approval. They’re patient and intuitive with children, and Airedales know they need protection and will take the lead when adults aren’t around.

Airedale Terrier dog walking outdoors in summer
Image Credit: Sergey Ginak, Shutterstock

Heroism and Determination

An Airedale Terrier’s affectionate, playful personality and non-intimidating look may make them seem an unnatural fit for guard dog duties. But their determination sets them apart. When Airedales have a purpose or goal, they’ve proven their willingness to do anything to complete it.

In WWI, an Airedale saved a British battalion cut off across enemy lines and in need of reinforcements. Unable to traverse the bombed-out and barbed-wire-laden battlefield, the troops sent an Airedale named Jack to relay an urgent call for backup. They secured a note to his collar and sent Jack half a mile through explosions and gunfire to the force’s HQ. Shrapnel ripped his leg and shattered his jaw, but Jack miraculously completed his task.

Jack died shortly after delivering his life-saving message, but he posthumously earned the U.K.’s highest military honor, the Victoria Cross, for his heroics.

Defense Against Any Threat

Such intense motivation and dedication to their people make Airedales superior watchdogs and guardians. It’s easy to think of guard dogs solely as security against burglars. Though Airedales excel in this arena, their size and resilience allow them to take on almost anything that might threaten their family, including wild animals.

Among their many duties around the home and ranch, Airedale Terriers were exceptionally versatile hunting dogs. They could point, flush, retrieve, and do almost anything necessary to bag the game. However, waterfowl and rabbits weren’t the only targets. In the early 1900s, hunters used Airedales to engage bears, wolves, bobcats, and mountain lions throughout the central and southwest states.

Airedale terrier dog aggressive barking
Image Credit: Three Dogs photography, Shutterstock

Modern-Day Homestead Protectors

Today, Airedale Terriers still prove their mettle as guard dogs against anything man or nature can throw at them. One Montana rancher owns two Airedale Terriers to protect against a growing bear problem. “The one dog, he always goes to the head, and I’ve got another dog that goes for the heels.” They can sniff out, pursue, and chase off even the most imposing grizzlies as a team, keeping their people aware and at ease in the field and on the trail.

The desire to use Airedales to protect against black bears and wild cats is a common theme among Midwest and Rocky Mountain ranchers. Airedales set to work with minimal training, using their instinct for efficiency, fearlessness, and resolve to distinguish themselves as quality guard dogs.


Final Thoughts

Airedales may be patient and playful with their people, but the ever-alert dogs are always ready to flip the switch when they sense a threat. They’re persistent, tactical, and powerful, and they were born to defend their home and complete their job no matter what it takes. There are many reasons to bring them into the home, but Airedales excel as guard dogs, offering peace of mind alongside their joyous energy.


Featured Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

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