“Surviving” an Airedale– Lessons From a First-Time Owner – Part 1, by S.M.

Our adventure in Airedale parenthood has been rewarding, educational, and reinvigorating. This breed is not for the faint of heart; they are active, tenacious, self-directed, and the strongest 65-pound animal I’ve ever experienced. With careful consideration, proper training, and responsible puppy parenting, you can enjoy the same incredible journey we’ve had. After the passing of our beloved Boxer, we longed to add another canine addition to our family. We knew we wanted a larger dog again and wanted a dog with spunk similar to that of our Boxer. Having still another elderly dog, as well as a small dog and a new grandbaby, we began researching for that perfect addition to our family.

We came across a book by Mr. Rawles. After reading that he recommended Airedales as a favorable family dog and addition to your arsenal of preps, or weapons so to speak, I decided to do extensive research on the Airedale breed. After all, any dog owned by John Wayne, Teddy Roosevelt, and several other past presidents, would be a notable addition to our family.

Fun facts:

  • John Wayne got his nickname from his boyhood Airedale, “Duke“.
  • President Theodore Roosevelt is remembered as saying, “An Airedale can do anything that any other dog can and then lick the other dog.”
  • Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Calvin Coolidge all owned Airedales as well. Warren G. Harding also owned an Airedale Terrier named Laddie Boy, whom he included in many of his cabinet meetings.

Note to self: We could use an Airedale’s personality in our current administration.

Upon completion of my research, I decided to bring a male Airedale into the family. I was confident this dog would be valuable in the present day setting, a grid-down setting, as a force multiplier.

Let me take you through some of the research and why I knew that after retirement was the ideal time. I will cover areas of choosing your Airedale, caring, training, grooming, co-existing in the house.

Listed below are some links to some of the research we discovered:




Description and History of Airedale Terrier

According to wikipedia, “The Airedale Terrier (often shortened to “Airedale”), also called Bingley Terrier and Waterside Terrier, is a dog breed of the terrier type that originated in the valley (dale) of the River Aire, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England. It is traditionally called the “King of Terriers” because it is the largest of the terrier breeds. The Airedale was bred from a Welsh Terrier and an Otterhound and probably some other Terrier breeds, originally to hunt otters. In Britain, this breed has also been used as a war dog, guide dog, and police dog.”

“The Airedale Terrier, also called Bingley Terrier and Waterside Terrier, is a dog breed of the terrier type that originated in the valley of the River Aire, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England.”

Hypoallergenic: Yes

Lifespan: 10–12 years

Color: Black and tan

Temperament: Outgoing, alert, friendly, confident, courageous, and intelligent

Height: Females grow to 22–23 inches (56–59 cm) and males grow to 23–24 inches (58–61 cm)

Weight: Female grow to 40–44 lbs. (18–20 kg) and males 51–64 lbs. (23–29 kg)

Terrificpets.com’s article on interesting facts about Airedales asks, “Did you know that before the German Shepherd took over the role, the Airedale Terrier was used for Search and Rescue and police work?” This in itself is a testament to their loyalty, courage, and intelligence as only the very best dogs are ever used in such important work. This is further portrayed in Colonel Richardson’s book on Airedale’s, The Making of the British War Dog School, 1900-1918.

According to a 2015/2016 study by the Humane Society, most U.S. households own dogs. In fact there are between 43.3 and 54.4 million households, or 44% of the all homes, with at least one dog. The breakdown between sizes of dogs in U.S. homes that own dogs is 50% own small dogs, 26% own medium-sized dogs, and 37% own large dogs, with the number of average pets per household being 1.43. (Incidentally, the large dogs percentage is up from the 2012 survey of only 27.3%.)

Retirement was an important part of my decision because the research revealed that to be fair to my family and to the dog, I needed to spend as much time as possible training a dog with this tenacious personality. Previously, dogs we’ve owned required smaller amounts of time for training. I wanted this dog to be fully engaged with our extended family and us–going on vacations, riding in the car, enjoying the benefits of our one+ acre homestead, and behaving as a “proper gentlemen”. This has been our first attempt at owning a “dominant” dog in the house, so some of the lessons learned were “on the fly”, while others were gleaned from participating in our local Airedale Association and learning invaluable experiences from other owners.

My wife and I knew obedience training for our new pup was a necessity, and we decided we would attend obedience training together so we both would know the training methods and commands that were being taught. This was fun to do together and one of the best decisions we made, because it meant the dog would then receive consistent training from both of us. He would understand that we were the alphas and he was not. If caught off guard, our Airedale could pull my 200-pound body down to the ground while on the leash and wearing both a prong and choker collar. (I’ll share more on collars later.) Even still, my wife has to be careful when outside as he is easily distracted and could jerk her off balance if she’s not prepared. This scenario is just one situation where training for the handler and the dog are vital.

Our primary reason for selecting an Airedale was his unique appearance (non-shedding hypoallergenic coat) and the unusual combination of clownish behavior and loyal family companion/watchdog. This large male terrier is as intimidating as any bull terrier and a stunning head-turning specimen in the neighborhood.

They are known for not backing down from any fight, but they will not start a fight if properly socialized. He is very alert both inside and out and can be distracted by smaller animals like those he was bred to hunt. Another important characteristic of the Airedale is their stoic nature and high pain tolerance. We have found cockleburs in his paws with no sign of limping. On one occasion, unknown to us, he had a puncture between the pads of one foot, but he never indicated any pain until it was very badly infected and required a vet visit and antibiotics. We have learned from this to actively study the dog’s gate and tendencies to catch any potential problems early.

I believe in the days ahead, medium/large size dogs will be invaluable for your homestead regardless of the size of your yard. Since most households have a dog, it could be beneficial for a dog to serve multiple purposes, including watchdog/protection, companion, friend, and work dog. As evidenced by the stats above, small dogs make up the majority for reasons such as size, ease of training, and cost of dog food. However, large dog ownership is up, and it seems may be for protection and the desire for a watchdog. The Airedale is categorized as the large end of the medium-sized dogs.

Selecting your Airedale

Choose from reputable breeders. See the list of breeders below by state:

Airedale Club of America

Breeder list by state

We selected a breeder and kept in close communication with them. We chose a breeder with a quality website that included plenty of information on the bloodline of their dogs and pictures of the matriarch, the patriarch, and the puppies. The website also included detailed Airedale pedigree information, health, medical conditions, and overall general materials. The husband of the breeder team is a veterinarian with extensive training in genetics, and his wife is well versed in grooming and showing Airedales. This particular breeder chooses your puppy for you.

As part of this selection, the breeder asked us detailed questions regarding other dogs in the house, their ages, their temperament, the size of the yard, et cetera. Our family mix prior to our Airedale joining our household had two dogs: a 12-year-old Yorkie and a 17-year-old Pomeranian/Miniature Picher mix (think small red fox). Our two small, older dogs are great for alerting when someone’s at the door or even walking down the street, especially the Yorkie that has fantastic hearing. Between the dogs and our Mule driveway alarm it’s apparent when a car has entered the driveway. However, their bite will not be much of a deterrent unless you take her place on the sofa. ? (This Mule alarm mentioned is very effective even in the rainy days, and I recommend one for everybody.)

The breeder sent us monthly pictures of the available litter. They selected the puppy for us, based on the requirements of our household. We did see the online pictures of the father before purchasing. Before selecting a particular pup for us, the breeder wanted to do temperament testing until the pups were eight weeks of age. The puppy was being socialized, and the process of being housebroken began before we picked up our puppy. According to the breeder, this entire litter was outstanding in appearance and personality. We do not plan on showing our Airedale, and he was neutered at the time suggested by our local vet. The cost of a full-blooded Airedale will run between $1000 and $1500. Most reputable breeders do not make a profit from the sale of their pups but choose to reinvest back into their bloodline. We were very pleased with the entire selection process.