Airedale Terrier is the biggest terrier, and he is often called “the king of terriers”. You could also call him “the clown of terriers”. A quite ordinary Airedale is a wonderful companion, children’s friend, and a source of joy. He is playful till old age. As a compensation for all this, also the human has got obligations for his friend. An Airedale is full of energy especially at young age, and he should get lots of excercise every day. He should also be activated, be it utility training, obedience, brain work or just nice play with the dog. Unless the dog is having another dog as a companion, the human should play regularly with him. Living with your Airedale is most satisfying and you’ll learn to know him the best possible way, when you’re associating with him as much as possible.

An Airedale may thrive on the yard or then not; I’ve owned both kinds, but more of those, who, when given the chance, choose to be inside with humans. So this breed is not a yard dog, and I don’t want to sell a puppy to be one. Extremely rare are those specimens who will stay on a yard poorly fenced or not fenced at all. The Airedale is a bit of a wanderer, and he loves to visit the neighbours at least. Even if you should have an Airedale who you think will stay on the yard like an angel, he still may surprise you and vanish after some irresistable temptation.

An Airedale is seldom dominant in his own family, but as grown-up he may try to dominate other dogs. It is therefore important to keep up an obedience level good enough.

The Development of the Breed, see also photos

The Airedale Terrier as a breed originated in the Aire river valley of Yorkshire, less that one hundred miles from the Scottish border, about in the middle of the 19th century. The factory workers and farmers wanted to develop a dog, which would hunt otters successfully and also help in controlling the river banks roaming martens, foxes and rats. To control these pests, the hunters and farmers of the valley often kept many different dogs, each of which was specialized to deal with a particular species of vermin. Keeping so many dogs was an expensive proposition, and generally, beyond the financial constraints of the average farmer. The people soon realized that they needed one dog that could do the work of many. Such a dog needed to be small enough to take on a rat, yet large enough to tackle larger prey, such as foxes or martens. They also needed a dog that could pursue its quarry through the water.

The Airedale is believed to be the "Old English Black-and-Tan Terrier", the "Broken-coated Working Terrier" and the "Rough-coated Black-and-Tan Terrier" outcrossed to the Otter Hound among others. There also were possible crosses with Border Collie or some other sheepdog and Bull Terrier.

The breeders appreciated the utility properties above the exterior. They competed hard with each other, and their dogs were excellent hunters, retrievers, and also fighting dogs. At first the litters were far from uniform, there were the small terrier type and the large hound type dogs, and these early specimens ranged in size from 15 to 24 inches (38-61 cm), and weighed between 30 and 80 pounds (13-36 kg). In the beginning the dogs were called “Waterside Terriers” and “Bingley Terriers”. The name “Airedale Terrier” was established in 1886.

Airedale Jerry

(- Gladys Brown Edwards: The New Complete Airedale Terrier)

When the southern show-centered breeders became interested in the breed, the exterior started developing rapidly towards the modern type. But still for a long time and even in the best litters there were specimens with hound ears, light eyes, soft backs, and soft coats. Airedale Jerry, whelped in England in 1888 (Rattler x Bess) is considered to be the foundation sire of the Airedale Terrier.

The Utility Properties of the Breed

Many think that the Airedale is stubborn, but in fact, he is independent. He was developed to be able to work independently on the riverbanks. Obedience trained, the Airedale will get bored easily, and the trainer must concentrate in rewarding the dog. An Airedale is the perfect companion for a person with a sense of humour, a person who is able to cherish his funny and independent personality. No dog, and especially not an Airedale, is merely for to be used for competing. If one wants to keep the dog’s happy disposition, the trainer must always motivate the dog and retain his willingness to perform the tasks.

There has been much talk about the versatility of the Airedale Terrier. The breed has been excelling in hunting, retrieving, as a police and drug-tracking dog, in search and rescue, as a message dog in war, and as a guarding and herding dog. One must not believe that every Airedale can perform these tasks, but there are individuals, who have versatile talents. To achieve these skills, though, requires lots of work and effort of both the dog and his trainer.

Photo: Don Turnipseed, High Country Airedales, USA

These days the Airedale is commonly used for tracking and blood tracking, search and rescue, agility and obedience. An Airedale will also make an excellent therapy dog. But above all, he is a faithful and loyal companion, and a lovely member of the family.

The Good Leadership

Many people, however fortunately not so commonly the Airedale owners, are getting the concept of leadership wrong. One must not think that one should dominate and command the dog all the time. In the wild, the dominance relationships will become clear only when there’s a lack of something important like food. It’s not good for any pack to stress its members too much. In a situation like this the vital co-operation doesn’t work, as every member is important for the pack. In the family pack there’s no lack of food, and there’s really no need to clearly dominate the ones lower in hierarchy. When things are working as they should, the dog knows his place without being continuously subordinated, and he is calm and satisfied. The people are treating the dog in a calm, determined, consistent and gentle way. In fact, the human’s role is more of a parent’s than a leader’s!

But even more common are the cases when one doesn’t keep the dog in line at all. He is treated inconsistently, and he’ll never know, what is allowed and what not, and when – if at all anything is forbidden. This is stressing the dog and making him nervous. The dog doesn’t understand anything about democracy – it is best for the dog, also for the darling family Airedale, to treat him with gentle, consistent authority.

It’s very important for the human to study the dog’s sign language, especially the calming signals . Dogs are using these all the time both with each other and with people. The calming signals are used to show one’s friendly intentions, and to hold the pack together. To find out about this language may be challenging, but it will also be very rewarding, like the owner suddenly would share the same language with his dog.

The coat care: coming soon

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