The Airedale Terrier is the largest breed of terrier, earning it the nickname “King of the Terriers.” This medium black-and-tan dog breed was originally created in the valley of the River Aire, located in Yorkshire, England, to catch otters and rats. The breed garnered worldwide recognition during World War I, when Airedales were used to bravely relay messages tucked into their collars across battlefields and behind enemy lines. The Airedale has historically been used for a myriad of jobs; from hunting to police work to all-around farm dog.
Airedale Terriers are extremely versatile, able to be docile and patient with children while also vehemently defending their families and homes. Today, the Airedale Terrier is ranked number 60 in popularity of the 193 breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club.
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CHARACTERISTICS OF THE AIREDALE TERRIER
What characteristics define the Airedale Terrier? Read on to discover what physical attributes and personality traits make the Airedale Terrier such a unique breed.
The Airedale Terrier is easily identified by its large size and long head complete with tan beard, dark eyes, and folded ears. Airedales weigh between 50 and 70 lbs and stand approximately 23 inches high at the withers (top of the shoulder). Larger Airedales bred in North America have been known to reach 120 lbs and are known as Oorangs. Oorangs are named for the Ohio kennel they are said to originate from, are less standardized, and rarely do well in AKC competitions.
Whether large or standard size, these terriers have a wiry topcoat with a softer undercoat, usually sporting a tan body with a black “saddle” across their back and neck. Coat coloration may also come in a “grizzle and tan” variety, where the black coloration is lighter and less defined. Their coat is hypoallergenic, making this breed an ideal choice for potential dog owners with pet allergies.
The Airedale is characterized by an alert, energetic temperament. Though they are not known to be aggressive, they are fearless, making them ideal hunting dogs. Airedale Terriers exhibit herding characteristics and may chase some animals. When exposed at a young age and trained correctly, Airedales can do well with children, cats, and other small animals. Like most terriers, they have been bred to hunt independently, resulting in an intelligent, strong-minded, and sometimes stubborn animal. Airedales exhibit fierce loyalty to their owners.
CARING FOR AN AIREDALE TERRIER
Understanding and maintaining an Airedale’s particular needs will lead to a longer, healthier life for your dog and a more enjoyable partnership for both dog and owner. Read on to learn more about an Airedale’s nutrition, exercise, training, and health requirements to ascertain whether an Airedale is the right breed for you.
Airedale Terriers thrive on a high-quality dog food. Diets should be appropriately tailored to an individual based on age (puppy, senior, etc) and activity level. Many dog foods have serving suggestions on their packaging, but monitoring food intake and body condition, as well as consulting with your veterinarian, are all simple ways to make sure your dog is receiving the nutrition he or she requires.
Terriers are infamous for high energy levels and the Airedale is no exception. As the largest terrier of all, the Airedale’s energy must be expelled in healthy and constructive activities or boredom and excess energy could lead to destructive habits. Moderate walks and/or backyard play sessions with family members a few times a day should be enough to satisfy their exercise requirements. Though Airedales may play well with children, sessions including small children or toddlers should be closely supervised as their boisterous energy could cause mishaps. Airedales can make excellent walking or jogging companions, especially when trained to wear a harness.
The Airedale Terrier is a working dog. With the high-energy requirements characteristic of all terriers as well as their larger size, training and socialization are essential. This breed is known to have a long puppy-hood, so consistent training and patience are key to successfully raising an Airedale Terrier. Puppy classes are a great way to start training and socializing a new Airedale puppy early on. Couple this with taking your young Airedale with you wherever you go: the park, pet store, restaurant patio, etc. At minimum, your Airedale should learn basic obedience commands such as sit, stay, and come. Airedales are typically eager to learn and eager to please.
Due to their high intelligence, Airedale’s are easily bored. Boredom can lead to destructive behavior such as digging and chewing. Activities such as training and exercise as well as items like puzzle feeders and interactive toys can help to alleviate boredom.
Crate training your Airedale Terrier is also highly recommended as it aids with house training but also provides a “safe place” for your puppy to relax and feel comforted. Line your crate with a crate blanket or pad for ultimate comfort.
In addition to war and police dogs, Airedale Terriers have been trained to herd farm animals, protect homes, eliminate rodents, retrieve waterfowl and hunt larger game.
Overall, Airedales are a rather hardy breed with life spans of 10-13 years, though some can suffer from hip dysplasia, skin infections, or eye problems. Though all Airedales can be susceptible to hip dysplasia, it is more commonly seen in the larger Oorang Airedales.
Like most terrier breeds, Airedales can be affected by skin conditions such as dermatitis. Care must be taken in regards to skin conditions that may go unnoticed due to the wiry, dense coats particular to the breed. Itchy skin resulting from an underlying condition may manifest in symptoms such as profuse licking, chewing or the appearance of “hot spots;” areas where hair has thinned or fallen out. Skin conditions may be caused by dietary imbalances, allergies, or under- or over-productive thyroid glands.
The Airedale’s coat was originally designed to protect it from predators: the wiry texture would come out of the claws of predators. Consequently, an Airedale Terrier’s coat benefits from “hand stripping,” which removes the potentially irritating dead hair roots from the skin and stimulates new growth. Plan to brush your Airedale 2-3 times per week with a grooming brush.
Other breeds similar to the Airedale Terrier include: