Airedale Terrier

The Airedale originated in England as an all-around working dog, hunting small game and guarding homes. During the world wars, Airedales delivered messages and searched for fallen soldiers. Used for police work, the Airedale was also popular in the White House: Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren Harding all owned Airedales, and Teddy Roosevelt said that an Airedale can “do anything any other dog can do, and then lick the other dog if he had to.”

Sensible home guards, Airedales are protective but generally willing to accept newcomers once their families welcome them inside. Underneath a tough exterior the Airedale Terrier has a sweet but dignified nature. It is loyal and protective toward its family, reserved with other people and dogs. Airedales are the largest of the terriers, hence the nickname “King of the Terriers.’’

It’s easier to list what an Airedale can’t do than what they can. Excelling in protection, agility, obedience, and rally – the only thing an Airedale won’t do is sit around doing nothing. With a high activity level, the breed needs intense and regular exercise, and if possible, a good sized, fenced backyard. This feisty, athletic dog likes plenty of exercise and responds best to firm, consistent positive training.

Generally good with children, the Airedale is a strong, high-spirited breed, so supervision is wise, especially around smaller animals, including cats. Wary of new dogs at times, the breed thrives with socialization. The Airedale’s trainability is high, so long as owners navigate around their independence and self-assuredness.

About Airedale Terriers

Highly “employable”
Both King of the Terriers and King of Versatility
Stoic and serious at work, clownish at play

Should I get an Airedale Terrier?

Terrific for a person who:

Enjoys a dog that’s biddable but can think for himself.
Posts his dog wanted sign to read “No wimps need apply.”
Wants dog action and adventure, with a hint of comedy.

Think twice if you’re a person who:

Will freak out if your dog tries to collect his own rabbit stew ingredients.
Values ‘canine on the couch’ cuddling over activity.
Expects a dog to be satisfied with exercise in moderation.

Airedale Terrier Grooming

A relatively low shedder, the Airedale requires regular hand stripping for show, or clipping if kept as a pet.

Airedale Standard Look

The undisputed “King of Terriers,” the Airedale Terrier is the largest of the terriers, standing 23 inches at the shoulder. The breed should appear sturdy and athletic. The dog’s dense, hard, double coat is tan with black or dark grizzle markings.

Possible Airedale Terrier Health Concerns

Allergies, Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemi, bloat.

King of the Terriers

Kristen Walbolt

The first time Tango saw snow, the Airedale Terrier plunged in her nose, pushed it around until she’d formed a pile, and flung clumps into the air. Then she caught them.

“They’re clowns,” Linda Baake says of the Airedale Terrier. She should know. She’s a member  of the Airedale Terrier Club of America and shares her home with 12 of them, including 6-year-old Tango. “Home” is 20 acres in New Bern, N.C., where the dogs have a covered run, an outdoor exercise area, and the run of more than an acre.

Still, the Airedale Terriers need more than acreage. They want to occupy space in your life, Baake says. She got her first Airedale Terrier for security – this dog breed is known for keeping vigilant watch — but she also found her guard dog easily accepted anyone she welcomed into her home.

Diana Westhaus loves the Airedale Terrier’s youthful exuberance. “They stay young for so long,” she says. She and husband, Bill, owners of Fox Ridge Farms kennel in Ann Arbor, Mich., have nine Airedale Terriers. “They just smile. They do this little Airedale dance with their front paws to try to get you motivated.”

A cross between an unknown type of Terrier (possibly an extinct black-and-tan Terrier) and an Otterhound, Airedale Terriers were bred for hunting small game in England in the mid-19th century. The largest of the Terriers, these dogs are still common as hunting companions. Airedale Terriers also worked as police dogs in Germany and Great Britain in the early part of the 20th century and served with the British military during both World Wars.

“They’re very funny,” says Barbara Curtiss, ATCA rescue and adoption committee chairwoman and New England rescue coordinator. “Airedale Terriers honestly know when you’re laughing and do silly things to elicit more laughter.”

Her three Airedale Terriers try to trick her into feeding them early. They cause a commotion by barking at the kitchen door until she gets up to quiet them. When she gets there, the Airedales run to their crates to be fed. “I don’t want to give in to them, but by that time, it’s near the time they eat, and I am already up and in the kitchen.”

Despite their endearing qualities, a number of Airedale Terriers pass through rescue groups nationwide.

“It’s basically the complications in the lives of the people — not the dogs — that bring dogs into rescue,” Curtiss  says.

Still, she has a waiting list of people who want to adopt Airedale Terriers. And it usually works out. “I rarely see an Airedale Terrier that has a hard time adapting,” she says, “as long as the food is good, the hands are gentle and kind, and there is fun.”

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Breed Details

Country of Origin:
Medium Dog Breed
Black and tan with possible red.

Hard, dense, and wiry with a soft undercoat.


Brush daily. Clip every two months or hand strip three times a year.

Life Expectancy:
10 to 14 years
AKC Group:
Terrier Group
UKC Group:
23 inches at the shoulder
Proportionate to height
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Hunting, working, obedience, agility