Airedale Terrier

Breed of the Week: Airedale Terrier (Video)

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Welcome back to the Breed of the Week, guys. Recently we talked about the Giant Schnauzer, and today I wanted to talk about a dog that sometimes gets mistaken for a Schnauzer. If you aren’t a dog expert and haven’t been around these breeds very often, it’s somewhat easy to see why an Airedale Terrier could be mistaken for a Schnauzer. They have the same rectangular heads, with the long snouts and the beard looking very similar. But this is an independent breed that has a lot to offer the right type of owner, so let’s take a look at them.

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I’ve had the good fortune to know a couple of Airedales in my day. These are the largest terrier breed that we have today, and they are absolute hams, every one. I’ve never met one that wasn’t eager to make everyone nearby laugh. They are quirky and unique dogs that have their own personalities, for sure. Here’s what you need to know about this breed.

History

Just like the Giant Schnauzer, the Airedale Terrier has a long history as a police dog in Germany and Great Britain. They were also used as guard dogs during the first World War, and carried messages to various camps throughout the countryside. But the breed’s original development began earlier, in the 1840s, when miners and wool farmers in the Aire valley of Yorkshire created a dog that would keep away pests of all kinds. See, the problem at the time was that they had small dogs to keep away mice and rats, and they had large dogs to keep away things like fox and weasel, and they had dogs that were good at keeping away water-based pests like otter; what they wanted was a dog to do it all.

And so was born the Airedale Terrier. Large enough to take care of bigger pests, prey-driven enough to take care of small pests, and with the excellent swimming skills of a local dog called an Otterhound, the Airedale Terrier presented all the things these working men needed in a single companion. Despite his start as a hunting dog, the Airedale quickly became popular for other reasons. Their amazing scenting ability led to their use as police and military dogs.

Today the breed is known as a great companion and guard dog, as well as a good family pet. They rank near the middle of the AKC’s popularity charts. Airedales have been popular with celebrities and presidents in the past. Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren Harding all had Airedales. The Airedale is also pretty popular at dog shows, frequently winning in the Working breed arenas.

Appearance

The Airedale Terrier is the largest terrier breed, standing up to 23 inches tall, and weighing up to 65 pounds. In addition to having that very rectangular head with a beard, they have rather square bodies, with dense, wiry coats that may have just a bit of waviness or curl. The tail is medium-length, carried upright, and the ears are triangular, and folded over the head. The Airedale Terrier only comes in two colors, black and tan or grizzle and tan, though the amount of black on the coat can vary. You may see one that is nearly all tan with just a bit of black in the undercoat, for example. Most owners keep the Airedale coat short, though they often have a bit longer fur on the front legs, giving them an almost column-like appearance. The rest of the body is athletic and burly, with a deep chest and powerful hind quarters. There’s no mistaking the fact that the Airedale is a working breed when you look at him, because even as a terrier, he is muscular and imposing.

All that being said, many Airedale lovers find that the dog has a very dignified appearance, probably due to the beard and the very confident posture that Airedales adopt.

Personality

You can say a lot about the Airedale personality because quite frankly, these dogs are all pretty unique. They are extremely smart, first of all, which often earns them the description of headstrong or stubborn. The fact is, you will find yourself outsmarted by an Airedale from time to time – but those who love the breed find that to be an endearing trait, rather than an annoyance.

They definitely have all the standard terrier traits that make people love or hate them – they’re energetic, with a tendency to get up to mischief. They like to dig, to bark, to chase, and to generally make themselves known. One thing that you’ll find with Airedales is that they do not do well if they are bored, and they get bored very easily. You can’t expect them to fall in line with just a few voice commands, for example. You need to give them training that is fun, challenging, and unique. Most likely, you’ll need to combine a few different types of training, such as combining clicker training with hand signals, or creating complex commands that require multiple steps.

 

Airedales tend to be extremely friendly, silly, and fun with their families – but they aren’t usually fans of strangers. They are good watchdogs for this reason, but be aware that you’ll need to have a firm hand on your Airedale if you intend to bring him to an area full of new people. A quality harness, and possibly even a muzzle for an untrained Airedale, will be valuable tools. Airedales are brave, bold dogs who have no trouble making themselves known if they sense a threat. The saying goes that Airedales never start fights, but will always finish them, so be aware that around new people, you may need to keep a very close eye on this breed.

Overall, Airedales are considered a more medium-energy dog, though I’d say they fall on the high end of “medium”. The biggest concern for this dog will be keeping him mentally occupied, since they are curious and get bored easily. Consider an Airedale like a big inquisitive child who wants to learn everything, and you’ll have a good idea of what the Airedale personality is like.

Care and Grooming

Caring for an Airedale’s physical needs is relatively easy in comparison to keeping their minds occupied. They don’t tend to suffer from allergies that would require special food, so any quality large-breed dog food will do.

They require a somewhat regular schedule of grooming, but it’s not very involved. Brush their coat a couple of times per week to keep down the shedding. About four times a year, the Airedale coat needs to be stripped thoroughly, but if you do regular clipping instead, you can avoid this task. Once a week, check their ears for wax build-up and brush their teeth. Trim their nails as needed. That is the extent of what they need in the grooming department.

 

Airedales need some daily exercise. Just a quick walk won’t be enough, but they don’t require hours and hours to run, either. Their exercise needs can be met by simply being part of the daily activities of a busy family, along with a good daily walk. If you have kids, having them play a game of chase, or teaching your Airedale to fetch and play tug of war, will be good ways to keep them occupied physically.

Mentally, you’ll want to have a wide variety of toys and games for your Airedale to play. Airedales are known for “collecting” things (like big magpies), so they’ll love having a variety of toys around to sort of herd. KONGs and other treat-dispensing toys can be good ways to keep them occupied, but also consider things like teaching them to enjoy lure-coursing, or playing hide and seek with their favorite toys. Airedales have a high prey drive, so hide and seek or other games that require them to sniff out a target, will be favorites. I would suggest giving your Airedale a job if you can, such as letting him loose in a barn to get rid of mice, or teaching him to alert you when someone comes to your door.

Health

As with all large breeds, Airedales have a tendency to struggle with hip dysplasia, as well as arthritis in their later years. This breed lives around 13 years, so they could have several years of painful arthritis to look forward to if they aren’t watched for signs of this condition early on.

Airedales are also prone to a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart condition, as well as hypothyroidism. Both can be treated and maintained, and your vet should keep an eye on your dog’s health for signs of these conditions.

Finally, Airedales are sometimes more likely to develop certain types of cancers, although the same could be said about any purebred dog. Once again, your vet can keep an eye on your dog to ensure that they are in good health.

However, beyond the most common threat of arthritis and hip issues, this breed is relatively healthy overall. Airedale Terriers are good for those who don’t relish the idea of caring for a dog with costly vet needs in the future, and will generally maintain great health in future years. Caring for their joints is as easy as giving them a supplement, in many cases.

Kids and Other Pets

Airedales are great with kids that they deem as part of their family. If you have children, you’ll find that an Airedale makes a fun, loyal companion who will wear them out with lots of play, and who will keep them safe in the event that they ever run across strangers or wild animals. But it’s important to note that an Airedale likely won’t warm up to kids that they don’t see on a regular basis, so if you go to dog parks, don’t expect to be able to let a kid run up and pet your Airedale without some introductions first.

With other pets, an Airedale is likely not the best companion. Their incredibly high prey drives mean that they find cats to be potential pests to be chased off, and they aren’t known for being terribly friendly with other dogs. If you raise an Airedale with another dog from a puppy, they may be just fine, but don’t expect to bring home a new puppy to your adult Airedale without some serious work.

I know that I’ve made the Airedale sound a bit vicious throughout a lot of this article, so let me just reiterate – these dogs are a lot of fun, and they can be very friendly. I’m not saying that you won’t be able to introduce your Airedale to friends and have them get along just fine. What I am saying is that this dog’s first instinct will be to guard against strangers, so be aware that you’ll need to teach them how to respond to new people to avoid any problems.

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The Final Word

Are you someone who has plenty of time to devote to training a dog? Do you like to get creative and think outside the box when it comes to training? Are you interested in having a friend who is very loyal, who makes you laugh with their antics, and who has a quirky personality that is all their own? Are you relatively active, or do you at least have a busy on-the-go lifestyle that you could insert a dog into? If all of this sounds like you, then you are probably a great candidate for an Airedale owner. These dogs are great for single people and families alike, and will want to be front and center with all your daily activities as much as they can be.

However, they also adapt well to being left alone when necessary, which makes them a great pet for someone who wants a dog even when they have a busy work schedule. Give your Airedale plenty of attention and training, and you’ll find that they’ll be a great companion.

Sources:

http://www.vetstreet.com/dogs/airedale-terrier

http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/airedale-terrier/

About the Author Ash

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