What to Know About Airedale Terriers

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on April 30, 2022
7 min read

The Airedale Terrier, often shortened to Airedale, is the largest of all the terrier breeds. They are actually referred to as the “king of terriers.” A great swimmer and hunter, this dog was bred with determination and creativity to bring out a fine pet and companion. If you are looking for a family dog to go swimming and hunting with among other fun activities, the Airedale Terrier is the dog for you. 

The Airedale Terrier gained its nickname as "The King of Terriers" due to its size, strength, and unfailing loyalty. Males stand 23 inches tall and weigh about 50 to 65 pounds. Females are slightly shorter and weigh between 40 and 55 pounds. Both males and females are athletic and should be strongly built with muscular bodies. The lifespan of Airedales is  around 10 to 12 years.

Most dogs of this breed come in black and tan colors, and some may have white between the front legs. Their short and medium double coat is waterproof, making them good companions both in water and on land. Airedales also grow a distinctive beard around their face to protect their delicate muzzle from being pricked by thorns and twigs. They have v-shaped floppy ears and an erect tail of a square, sturdy frame. Even though their fur is not thick, Airedales do shed at certain times of the year. Grooming should be regularly done to keep their skin and fur healthy. 

Airedales are strong-willed and intelligent. As such, they are capable of forming strong bonds with families that have children and other pets. Although they can be stubborn at first, Airedale puppies can be great companions with firm but gentle training. Their personality is sweet, but can turn aggressive around dogs that they are unfamiliar with. This is because Airedales are bred with a prey instinct that makes them bold and confident hunters. They are great protectors of their owners.

Airedales are also inquisitive and playful. Due to their high energy levels, these dogs require exercise of up to two hours per day to channel all that energy. Luckily, this breed loves to move around and can be a great sport for owners who enjoy running. They do well in warm weather. Historically, Airedales were used in World War 1 to deliver messages behind enemy lines. They were very loyal and delivered messages successfully even if they were injured along the way.

After the war was over the Airedale terriers were one of the first breeds to be used for police work in Great Britain and Germany. As you can tell, these dogs have had an impressive historical significance among their peers.

Caring for Airedales is easy. However, you may need to pay extra attention to their coat and fuzzy muzzle.


They are moderate shedders and have a hard and wiry double coat that requires regular brushing and bathing. The task can easily be done using a comb and a soft brush. However, you should take care to not over-bathe them as it can soften their coarse fur. To maintain the Airedale's texture and vibrant color, full grooming should be done 3 to 4 times a year by the owner or a professional groomer. 

Don’t allow your pet to grow long and unsightly nails. Your dog’s nails should be clipped every three to four weeks to facilitate movement on all kinds of surfaces. Brush your dog’s teeth daily to remove bacteria build-up.


Airedales should be fed a maximum of twice a day. Like with other dogs, your pet should always have a balanced diet. Clean, fresh water should be readily available. Treats can be a powerful reinforcer during training. Obesity can be a significant health problem in Airedales, and you should therefore carefully monitor your dog's calorie intake. Treats should make up less than 10% of caloric intake per day.


Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise for Airedales. They also enjoy other energy-burning activities such as walks, playing fetch, and hunting. Exercise not only improves your pet’s health but also keeps their mood elevated. Airedales love playing with people and other animals. Older dogs require fewer activities than young energetic dogs.

Just like any other dog, Airedales can suffer from a number of health conditions. While you can prevent some of these diseases, others are inherited from their parents. The only way to prevent owning a pet with hereditary conditions is to check medical records before adopting or buying it. Consult your vet about dog conditions that you can prevent and how best to do it.  

Hip dysplasia. A genetic hip deformity, where the ball of your dog’s thigh bone does not fit the hip socket. Factors such as obesity, type of exercise, and excessive growth rate contribute to hip dysplasia. Surgery is the best form of treatment.

Infections. Airedales are also susceptible to a significant number of bacterial and viral infections, ranging from  parvovirus to  rabies and distemper. Such infections are easily preventable through vaccinations.

Bloating. Airedales are also at risk of bloating, common in dogs with deep and narrow chests. Bloating is when your dog’s stomach fills up with air. If left untreated, this disease can be life-threatening to your dog. Symptoms of bloat include:

  • Restlessness
  • Attempting to vomit
  • An enlarged abdomen
  • Lying in a prayer position

Surgery can be used to prevent this condition. Should it happen that your dog has GDV, your vet may also recommend surgery for treatment.

Dental issues. Unfortunately for Airedales, dental problems are common. They are not only at risk of losing teeth but also in danger of kidney, liver, and heart damage due to dental disease. Cleaning your dog’s teeth can go a long way in preventing dental problems in the future.

Dilated cardiomyopathy. Airedale Terriers can also suffer from dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that affects the heart's ability to pump blood. It is mostly genetic and can be controlled using prescribed medication. Symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing and congestion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Panting
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fast heart rate

Pancreatitis. Airedales are prone to developing  pancreatitis. It is the inflammation of the pancreas. You may notice that your dog is vomiting, has no energy, and has diarrhea among other symptoms. 

Airedales are very loyal and enjoy playing with their families. They are good with children and form great companionships. This breed is also capable of being good around other pets in your home, but can be aggressive around dogs they are unfamiliar with. With their bold and confident nature, Airedales provide security for their owners.

Airedales are intelligent, strong-willed, and independent dogs that naturally love digging, chasing, and barking. They also drool. However, excessive drooling can be a sign of a more serious problem.

Like other dog breeds, Airedales can get fleas and ticks. They are also at risk of heartworms that are spread by mosquitoes. To protect your dog, consult your vet about available medications. They may recommend Trifexis, a flavored tablet that protects against heartworms, fleas and some intestinal parasites such as hookworms, roundworms and whipworms.

Airedales thrive in hot weather. The short and wiry hair on the bodies allows them to tolerate extremely hot temperatures. You can trim down your dog’s coat during warm days and let it grow when it gets cold.

Regular wellness check-ups are important. Aim for at least once a year for adults and twice a year as they get older. This allows your dog’s vet to check for any abnormalities and administer vaccinations when needed. A health exam usually requires your dog’s health history, and your vet will ask you whether you have noticed any change in the behavior of your dog.

The Airedale terrier breed originated in Yorkshire, England. Around the mid-1800s, people bred hunting terriers with otterhounds around the River Aire in South Yorkshire. The goal was to improve their hunting ability around water. Other improvements also helped to develop enhanced scenting ability. As a result, Airedales emerged as a breed very good at otter hunting. They were originally called the Bingley or Waterside Terrier. It was not until 1878 that the dog was recognized as the Airedale terrier.

Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Richardson and his wife established the British War Dog School in 1917 to train Airedale dogs for military use. Airedales were used in World War 1 to deliver messages behind enemy lines and by the Red Cross to find wounded soldiers on the battlefields before the German Shepherd took on the role. 

History records show that there were two Airedale terriers among the dogs that did not survive the sinking of the Titanic. In 1888, the Airedale received recognition in the American Kennel Club.

The Airedale terrier is a wonderful-looking pet. Their rich history makes them an ideal dog to own. Once favored by the high and mighty in society, Airedales are not only fit for city life, but they would also do good in farm homes. Be sure to provide this dog with ample space to bring out their full potential.