Airedale Terrier: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

An Airedale Terrier running on grass

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The Airedale terrier is a medium-sized breed developed in England and often referred to as "the king of terriers." The dog is best known for its classic terrier-shaped head, V-shaped floppy ears, erect tail, and a square, sturdy frame. It's also a strong-willed, sharp-witted, and energetic breed that is full of character. The dog's bold personality, however, means it may not be the best choice for a novice dog owner.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Terrier

HEIGHT: 23 to 24 inches (male), the female is slightly smaller

WEIGHT: 40 to 65 pounds

COAT: Hard, wiry, dense, straight, short topcoat, with a softer undercoat

COAT COLOR: The head and ears are tan, and the body is a mix of tan and black or dark grizzle

LIFE SPAN: 11 to 13 years

TEMPERAMENT: Outgoing, friendly, intelligent, alert, confident, courageous


ORIGIN: England

Characteristics of the Airedale Terrier

This handsome breed is often quoted as being the smartest of all the terriers. Their intelligence, combined with their independent streak, means that they have bags of character, but they can also be a challenge. In addition, if you're looking for a lapdog, the Airedale isn't for you. They're exceptionally loyal to their family, and they can be very affectionate, but it will be on their terms. They aren't natural-born snugglers.

Affection Level Medium
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly  Medium
Pet-Friendly  Medium
Exercise Needs  High
Playfulness  High
Energy Level  High
Trainability Medium
Intelligence  High
Tendency to Bark  High
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Airedale Terrier

The largest of all the terriers, the breed gets its name from the Aire Valley in Yorkshire, North England, where it was first developed as a versatile all-rounder.

During the middle of the 19th century, when the Industrial Revolution was booming, these dogs were bred by the working class factory workers and farmers of the area.

They're a mix of several breeds including the otterhound and the now-extinct black and tan terrier. They may also have traces of Bedlington and Irish terrier, among others in there, too.

Known for their adaptability, they were often employed to hunt out vermin like rats in factories and farms, and they would help herd and protect livestock on land and in water. In the early days, they would also often be used in rat hunting competitions held along the banks of the River Aire.

The first Airedales arrived in North America in the 1880s, where their skills as multi-purpose hunting companions were much appreciated. They were recognized by the AKC in 1888.

The bravery and intelligence of Airedales were utilized during World War I, and they often acted as lookouts, guard dogs, ratters, supply carriers, and messengers.

An Airedale called Jack was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for valor, after managing to deliver a crucial message for reinforcements, despite having been grievously injured by shrapnel.

They also served as police dogs, before they were replaced by more eager-to-please German shepherds.

Through the years, there have been many high-profile Airedale enthusiasts including Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Warren Harding, and actor John Wayne.

Airedale Terrier Care

Airedale terriers will benefit from living in a household that has the time and energy to give them enough exercise to satisfy their athletic and high-spirited nature. While Airedales are usually very affectionate with their own family, they can be aloof with strangers, and their protective instincts can come out if provoked.

Airedales, like many terriers, also love to dig. If you have a pristine, well-manicured garden, you may want to work on training and provide additional enrichment in this space. A designated digging pit can be useful.


An Airedale needs a minimum of an hour of exercise a day to burn off its energy. If it doesn't get enough stimulation, the dog will look for ways to keep itself entertained. Along with plenty of exercise, the dog would benefit from lots of other enrichment around the home.

Making sure you have lots of interactive and tough chew toys and that you'll have time to do short, fun training sessions, and other brain train games will greatly reduce the chance of any destructive or wild behavior.

If you're able to channel the Airedale's fierce intelligence, natural athleticism, and exuberant spirit appropriately, they can excel in dog sports or canicross. This can be a great way to keep them enriched and to strengthen the bond between you both.


Airedales don't have a high-maintenance grooming regime. They aren't prolific shedders either and a weekly brush out of their hard and wiry coat is usually enough to lift out any dead hairs and keep it in a healthy condition. Many Airedale owners have their dog's coat hand-stripped (removing dead hairs by hand) a few times a year to prevent it from becoming too thick and untidy-looking.


The owner of an Airedale will need to have a good understanding of dog behavior and training or be prepared to learn. The breed can be stubborn and very strong-willed and may also test an owner's patience with its antics.

You won't be able to force an Airedale to do something it doesn't want to, and it may begin to try to challenge you if you push it too far. It's much better to encourage the dog to make good choices using reward-based training methods.

As with many terriers, Airedales can have a high prey drive. You'll have to work hard to achieve a rock-solid recall, and you may have to keep them on-leash in areas where there's a lot of wildlife.

An Airedale Terrier standing against a white background
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Puppy Airedale Terrier licking a teddy bear
Airedale Terrier pups tend to have a darker, less coarse coat than adults Willee Cole / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

Airedale terriers are generally regarded as being robust and healthy but, as with any breed, they can be prone to certain inheritable health conditions.

Obtaining a puppy from a reputable breeder that performs health tests can reduce the risk of some of the known conditions developing, however, there are no guarantees a dog will be perfectly healthy.

Some of the conditions it's worth being aware of include:

  • Hip Dysplasia: Common among many breeds, this condition relates to the abnormal positioning of one or both of the hip joints. It can cause pain and mobility issues and, in severe cases, surgery can be required to help correct the problem.
  • Hypothyroidism: This relates to the thyroid underperforming, which can slow down the metabolism. Symptoms include weight gain, hair loss, coat and skin problems, and lethargy. Once diagnosed, the condition can usually be successfully managed through the use of specific thyroid medication.
  • Heart Disease: It's thought that Airedales could be at a higher than average risk of developing heart murmurs or the heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy. Good breeders will have a cardiac exam performed on prospective parents.
  • Allergies: Airedales can be more prone to developing environmental or food allergies, most commonly those affecting the skin. Often a process of elimination will be required to try to identify the cause, and medications and management techniques may be needed to prevent the allergies from flaring up.

Diet and Nutrition

Airedale terriers, with their deep chests, are more prone to developing gastric torsion, commonly referred to as bloat. This life-threatening condition occurs when the stomach twists abnormally.

There are still a lot of questions surrounding the causes and possible treatments but, for breeds at higher risk, feeding two or three smaller meals a day rather than one large one is recommended. Giving meals from a slow feeder or treat toy, if your dog is a fast eater, is also recommended.

Where to Adopt or Buy an Airedale Terrier

Making sure that you select a puppy from a reputable breeder will greatly increase the chances of having a healthy and well-socialized pup. It also means you won't inadvertently be supporting the thriving cruel and unethical puppy farming trade.

Depending on the breeder, expect to pay $800 to $1,500 for an Airedale puppy. Consider opening up your home to an Airedale in need of a forever home by contacting a breed-specific rescue organization. Begin your search with these resources:

Airedale Terrier Overview

  • Fun-loving and adaptable

  • Loyal and affectionate with their family

  • Low-maintenance grooming regime

  • Can be stubborn and strong-willed

  • Needs a lot of exercise and enrichment

  • Won't always get on well with other dogs or small furries

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you're interested in dogs similar to the Airedale terrier you could also consider the following breeds:

There are lots of wonderful dog breeds out there. By doing your research, you'll find one that will be best suited to having a forever home with you.

  • Are Airedale terriers good with kids?

    Their playful, sometimes clown-like nature means that they often get on well with the children in the household. Because of their size and boisterousness, they may be better suited to a household with older children and ones that have been taught how to be respectful of the dog's space.

  • Do Airedale terriers get along well with other dogs?

    With careful introductions, Airedale terriers can form strong bonds with other dogs in the household, but they don't always enjoy the company of other canines, especially those of the same sex. Although early and ongoing socialization can be helpful, these are often not dogs that will love to romp with other four-legged chums in a dog park.

  • Are Airedale terriers aggressive?

    Since these terriers are extremely protective of their territory and family, they can become aggressive and rowdy with other dogs and strangers when they sense threats. If not kept under control, they can become prolific barkers and will always alert you to an approaching stranger's presence, which makes them a great guard dog.