Breed of the Month: Airedale Terrier

Airedale Terrier (Canis familiaris) adult

Description: The Airedale Terrier is the biggest terrier and is commonly called “the King.” The Airedale has a distinctive Medium length black and tan double coat with a soft and short under coat and a long, hard, and wiry outer coat. The front legs of the Airedale are straight. Its chest is deep. It has a long flat head with small black eyes and a black nose. Teeth meet in a vice or scissor bite. The Airedale has V shaped folder ears. The tail sits high on the back and, among show dogs, is typically docked.

History: Bred in the 19th century, the Airedale Terrier received its name from the location the breed was developed; the Aire river valley in the West Riding of Yorkshire England. Farmers and working class people bred Otterhounds, Irish and Bull Terriers, and Black and Tan Terriers to develop the Airedale Terrier. The breed was originally bred to hunt small game like otter, weasel, rats, and badgers while also being able to fetch waterfowl.

Its Terrier and Hound ancestry made the Airedale Terrier a good all-around dog favored among farmers and working class people. Airedales could herd livestock, track large game like dear, bay large prey like wolves, fetch waterfowl and upland game, and be a pleasant family companion and guard dog at the end of the day.

In the 1880’s the Airedale was brought to the United States where it became a popular general purpose working and hunting dog. Soon after its introduction to the US, the Airedale Terrier became recognize by the American Kennel Club in 1888.

Before the German Shepherd was used as a law enforcement and military dog, Airedale Terriers would often fill that role. Airedale Terriers served in both World Wars and were used to deliver messages to and from the frontlines and find wounded and dead soldiers.

Among the nearly 1,500 passengers and nine dogs who lost their lives in the sinking of the Titanic was an Airedale named Kitty. A second unnamed Airedale Terrier also perished in the sinking of the ship.

Size: Males: 22–24 inches at the withers, weighing 50–65 pounds. Females: 22–23 inches at the withers, weighing 40–45 pounds.

Temperament: The Airedale is a breed that are known to be good with children. They have a lot energy and are playful. Airedales are very intelligent and, as long as your are perceived as the alpha they, are easy to train and love to learn new things.

While they are a vigilant watchdog and have been used as a guard dog, they enjoy attention from all people.

The Airedale shares many qualities with his terrier relatives. They have a tendency to bark at nearly everything, which is a common complaint among owners. Airedales also like to dig. While they are good with other animals like cats, insofar as they are raised with them, Airedales are also like their terrier relatives in that they have an insatiable urge to chase things like cats and rabbits. Their desire to chase stems from being bred as ratters and hunters.

If these dogs do not have enough mental and physical exercise, they can become bored and destructive. As with all dogs, a daily pack walk is necessary.

Grooming: The Airedale Terrier can require more grooming than other dogs as it needs to be hand stripped of its loose hair. A special hand stripping knife or pumice stone can be used to remove the hair at least twice a year. If the hair is maintained and stripped regularly, this breed will shed very little. Many Airedales have a beard that is allowed to grow long. This beard should be washed daily to prevent food residue and other foreign matter from collecting in the hair.

Health: Airedales are susceptible to gastric torsion, also known as bloat. Bloat can be fatal if not treated immediately. Airedales, like all members of the terrier group, are susceptible to dermatitis or skin allergies. Itchy skin may lead to acral lick dermatitis, where the dog continue to lick the same patch of hair, and hot spots. According to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, nearly 11% of Airedales have hip dysplasia and 8% are affected by cataracts. Like most dogs, cancer is the most common cause of death with 40% of Airedales dying from some sort of cancer.

Exercise: The Airedale was bred to be a working dog so it requires daily exercise to stave off mental boredom and physical restlessness. Like all dogs, the Airedale requires a  daily pack walk.

Lifespan: About 10 to 12 years.

Trivia: Paddy the Wanderer. Calvin Coolidge, Theodore Roosevelt and Warren G Harding all owned Airdales. John Wayne owned an Airedale name Duke, from which he received his nickname. An Airedale also had a role in the 1996 film, 101 Dalmatians.