The Airedale Terrier, also known as the Waterside Terrier, the Yorkshire, the Bingley Terrier, the Warfedale Terrier, the Broken-haired Terrier and the Working Terrier, is a hardy, water-loving dog that is the largest of all terriers. Its name comes from a small otter-river, the Aire, in northern England. The Airedale is known for its extreme intelligence, dense wiry double coat, high energy level and tenacity. This breed is peaceful unless provoked; they are said not to pick a fight, but always to finish one. Airedales will fight furiously to protect home and family and typically are better with people than with other dogs. If not properly socialized and trained from a young age, Airedales may exercise their intense prey drive on smaller dogs and cats. Without regular exercise, they can become destructive. The Airedale was accepted into the American Kennel Club's Terrier Group in 1888.
Male Airedale Terriers should be 23 to 24 inches in height and weigh between 50 and 65 pounds. Female Airedales should be 22 to 23 inches tall at the shoulder and between 40 and 45 pounds in weight. Fairly intensive grooming is a lifelong requirement to keep an Airedale's coat and skin in good condition. They do not shed as much as many other dogs, but they do shed their entire coats twice a year. Acceptable coat colors are tan and black, and tan and grizzle.
History & Health
Airedale Terriers are a relatively young breed, created in the 19th century by the working class rather than by aristocrats in the industrial Aire River Valley region of northern England. Their exact origin is not well-documented, but the Otterhound (for its sensitive nose), the Irish and Bull Terriers (for their tenacity) and the now-extinct Old English Rough Coated Black-and-Tan or Rat-Catcher Terrier (for its rough coat) are considered to be prominent in their development. Other contributors include assorted setters and retrievers, sheepdogs such as the Yorkshire Collie, and Bedlington Terriers. What we know today as the Airedale Terrier first emerged around 1840 and was bred to hunt otter, duck, weasel, badger, fox, water rat and other small game. The breed's intelligence, agility and strength, combined with almost boundless energy, made them equally valued as guard dogs and personal companions. These unique terriers have been used as rat-killers, duck-catchers, deer-trackers, working dogs, war dogs, hunting dogs, guard and police dogs, gun dogs, army-messenger dogs and all-around sporting dogs. They were used in both World Wars to locate the wounded and to carry messages and medical supplies. They have also been used to hunt large game.
The Airedale was first shown competitively in 1876 at Shipley, in the Aire River Valley, and became officially recognized in England shortly thereafter. The breed came to North America in the early 1880s, where it rapidly became known as a three-in-one gun dog – perfectly suited to hunt game birds on land, waterfowl on water and four-footed mammals wherever they might appear. Airedales grew steadily in popularity in the United States during the first part of the 20th century, especially among western farmers and ranchers. According to a publication of the American Kennel Club: "They became first-choice farm and ranch dogs because of their versatility and grit. Their do-it-all skills included guarding the farm or ranch against two- and four-legged predators; babysitting toddlers; herding sheep and cattle; and being a gundog when there was time for upland bird, waterfowl, or fur hunts."
The American Kennel Club recognized the Airedale as a member of its Terrier Group in 1888. The Airedale Terrier Club of America was formed in 1900 and is still the breed's parent club in this country. As a testament to its versatility, in addition to their supreme hunting talents, Airedales have been awarded Best in Show at the most prestigious dog shows in both England and the United States. Today, they are still used by countless devotees to hunt all manner of game. They also perform police and search-and-rescue work, as well as for therapy and assistance dog work, herding, sledding, carting and backpacking. Airedales excel in obedience, agility, flyball and other performance disciplines, and they are extraordinarily devoted and affectionate family companions.
The Airedale Terrier has an average lifespan of 10 to 13 years. Generally speaking, this is a healthy, hardy breed. Breed health concerns may include:
Cancer (Various forms): Defined as any malignant, cellular tumor
Hip Dysplasia: Involves abnormal development and/or degeneration of the coxofemoral (hip) joint
Hypothyroidism: a clinical syndrome caused by inadequate production and release of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4)
Skin Problems: Conditions that affect the dog's fur and skin. Causes are often related to allergies, bacteria, fungus or parasites.
Temperament & Personality
Airedale Terriers are hard-working, hard-playing dogs with boundless energy. The are vigilant and protective, making them excellent watchdogs, though they are friendly to family and friends. A true family dog, the Airedale loves attention from all people, will enjoy running and playing with children by day, and curling up for a belly rub with parents by night.
Airedale Terriers are a high-energy, thinking breed. They need as much mental activity as they need physical activity, and apartments are not the right living situation for them. Families with large, fenced yards are ideal, as the Airedale needs plenty of room to run during the day. They enjoy chasing and hunting, so fetching and hide-and-seek games are among an Airedale's favorite activities.
Airedales do well with children, though they can exert dominance over small children. If an Airedale is raised alongside small children, however, they can be socialized to know that children are not to be dominated.
The Airedale is a thinking breed – in addition to keeping his physical activity high, he will require mental stimulation as well. Basic obedience should be conducted with confidence and positive reinforcement. This breed likes to be the Alpha Dog, so it is important to establish who is in charge from an early age, and always be consistent, because Airedales will take a mile if given an inch. They excel in advanced obedience, tricks and agility training, thanks to their high intelligence.
Training should be conducted with treats, and a drill-style of repeat tasks works best to keep an Airedale Terrier's attention.
The Airedale is a terrier, so barking is a common complaint of owners. Airedales will bark at strangers, other animals, neighbors, cars, anything that moves. Early training to obey a stop barking command is imperative.
Like barking, chasing is a common behavior of terrier breeds, and the Airedale is no exception. They should be kept in a fenced-in yard or on a leash whenever outdoors. Once and Airedale takes off on a chase, it will be nearly impossible to stop him.
Digging can also be a problem with this breed. If outside, they should be supervised as they can tear up a flowerbed in record time.
Cats, rabbits or other small pets should not be brought in to a home with an Airedale. They were originally bred to hunt, and this instinct is still very strong.
Should be well balanced with little apparent difference between the length of skull and foreface.
Should be long and flat, not too broad between the ears and narrowing very slightly to the eyes. Scalp should be free from wrinkles, stop hardly visible and cheeks level and free from fullness.
Should be V-shaped with carriage rather to the side of the head, not pointing to the eyes, small but not out of proportion to the size of the dog. The topline of the folded ear should be above the level of the skull.
Should be deep, powerful, strong and muscular. Should be well filled up before the eyes.
Should be dark, small, not prominent, full of terrier expression, keenness and intelligence.
Should be tight.
Should be black and not too small.
Should be strong and white, free from discoloration or defect. Bite either level or vise-like. A slightly overlapping or scissors bite is permissible without preference.
Should be of moderate length and thickness gradually widening towards the shoulders. Skin tight, not loose.
Shoulders and Chest
Shoulders long and sloping well into the back. Shoulder blades flat. From the front, chest deep but not broad. The depth of the chest should be approximately on a level with the elbows.
Back should be short, strong and level. Ribs well sprung. Loins muscular and of good width. There should be but little space between the last rib and the hip joint.
Should be strong and muscular with no droop.
The root of the tail should be set well up on the back. It should be carried gaily but not curled over the back. It should be of good strength and substance and of fair length.
Forelegs should be perfectly straight, with plenty of muscle and bone. Elbows should be perpendicular to the body, working free of sides. Thighs should be long and powerful with muscular second thigh, stifles well bent, not turned either in or out, hocks well let down parallel with each other when viewed from behind. Feet should be small, round and compact with a good depth of pad, well cushioned; the toes moderately arched, not turned either in or out.
Should be hard, dense and wiry, lying straight and close, covering the dog well over the body and legs. Some of the hardest are crinkling or just slightly waved. At the base of the hard very stiff hair should be a shorter growth of softer hair termed the undercoat.
The head and ears should be tan, the ears being of a darker shade than the rest. Dark markings on either side of the skull are permissible. The legs up to the thighs and elbows and the under-part of the body and chest are also tan and the tan frequently runs into the shoulder. The sides and upper parts of the body should be black or dark grizzle. A red mixture is often found in the black and is not to be considered objectionable. A small white blaze on the chest is a characteristic of certain strains of the breed.
Dogs should measure approximately 23 inches in height at the shoulder; bitches, slightly less. Both sexes should be sturdy, well muscled and boned.
Movement or action is the crucial test of conformation. Movement should be free. As seen from the front the forelegs should swing perpendicular from the body free from the sides, the feet the same distance apart as the elbows. As seen from the rear the hind legs should be parallel with each other, neither too close nor too far apart, but so placed as to give a strong well-balanced stance and movement. The toes should not be turned either in or out.
Yellow eyes, hound ears, white feet, soft coat, being much over or under the size limit, being undershot or overshot, having poor movement, are faults which should be severely penalized.
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Sources: American Kennel Club