The King of Terriers and a “Jack of all Trades” is the description of the Airedale Terrier. He is the largest of the Terrier Group and is a very stoic breed of dog. The Airedale can do many things from Hunting to just being a couch potato. The Airedale is not for everyone but for some he is the greatest thing since sliced bread. The Airedale has been in the United States since the 1881 and comes to us from the UK. He originates from England in the Valley of Aire region in West Riding, Yorkshire.
The Airedale evolved sometime in the mid nineteenth Century. He is believed to be a cross between the Otter Hound, the Manchester the Terrier, the Wire Fox Terrier and possibly even the Bull Terrier. The factory workers and countryside farmers who could not afford the expensive Hounds and Terriers produced this dog originally called the Waterside Terrier as a working Terrier. The countryman did not have the luxury to own multiple dogs for all their needs so they had the Airedale; this is where the Airedale got his nickname “Jack of all Trades.”
The Airedale was used to compete in the sport of water-rat matches. These were regular Saturday events which were held along the Aire River where 2 Airedales, competing against each other, would work both sides of the River. The dogs would swim from one side of the river to the other trying to locate live holes where the rats were. A dog would receive points for marking a live hole. Then a ferret would be sent into the hole and force the rat out. The dog would then go after the rat, which usually hit the river. The rat would dive down and the dogs would swim around waiting for the rat to appear on the surface and then go after it. Points were also received for catching the rat and were doubled if the dog that marked the hole also caught the rat. Many bets were placed by spectators at these social events.
The Airedale’s size is approximately 23″ at the shoulders, weighing from 55 to 60 lbs. for the males and slightly less for the females. The Airedale is not an extreme looking dog meaning everything is moderate on this dog. He is a square dog in proportion of length to height. He has a double-layered coat with a wiry top coat and a soft dense undercoat. He has a long head that is described to be the shape of a brick. He has an intense expression in his face. When he moves it should be effortless.
Airedales have a moderate energy level and do need exercise of at least 1 to 2 hours a day and do best with a fenced yard. The Airedale is very stoic, therefore paying attention to any changes in his behavior, is very important to his health and well being. You will not necessarily know he is ill until it too late, so when an Airedale seems not to feel well you need to seek medical assistance immediately. Airedales are considered medium maintenance as far as grooming is concerned. With the wire coat they don’t mat and the coat doesn’t grow as fast as a soft coated dog. They should be brushed once a week especially the legs and face and clipped 3 to 4 times a year. Since the breed is not a hot weather dog, being they are from a moderate climate in England, keeping them in short coat in the summer is a must.
Many people let them go wooly in the winter since the breed loves to play outdoors in the cold and snowy weather. Airedales are clowns and do very funny things so a requirement of the owner is a sense of humor. This breed is also very intelligent therefore he is a bit of a challenge to train. An Airedale must have basic obedience training or they can become very difficult to live with.
Training an Airedale should be fun and rewarding to get the best results. The Airedale is very willing to work for you if they understand what is asked of them and can be a great asset to the family. Negative and hard correction type training will not work well on this breed. There are so many things you can do as activities with your Airedale. Bred to hunt and being good in the water makes hunting a great activity for the breed. Airedales are now allowed to get hunt titles with AKC Spaniel tests.
There are many other competitive activities through AKC such as agility, obedience, conformation and lure coursing. There are many other sports like barn hunting, dock diving, and frisbee competition. Hunting is a natural ability of the breed, so training them to participate in hunt trials is a wonderful way to do something with what this breed was bred for. There are Spaniel trials all over the country and there are several groups that do hunting activities with the Airedale. One is the Hunting Working Airedale Group (http://huntingworkingairedales. com) and the other is the Airedale Terrier Club of America Hunting and Field committee (www.airedale.org).
Agility is not for everyone or every dog but many Airedales do quite well at it. It is also a way to keep you and your dog in shape and to have a well trained Airedale. It is a lot of fun running a course with your dog going over, through and on to all kinds of obstacles. Training takes time but it’s a great way to become a team with your dog. It is also a great activity to meet many people that are involved with this exciting dog sport. There are several groups in the country that involved in agility. The American Kennel Club is one and United States Dog Agility Association is another (http://www.usdaa.com/).
Competitive obedience is one where you go beyond the basic obedience and actually compete with your dog in obedience exercises. AKC holds trials in conjunction with dog shows all over the country. Rally obedience is another type of obedience competition but is not as difficult as the regular obedience competition. It is a more relaxed environment. You walk a course, read signs at numbered stations and perform the obedience exercise at that sign.
Lure coursing is a sport that Sight hounds have been doing for years and now the AKC has opened it up to all breeds. It is where the dog chases a lure on a pulley system around a field for 600 yds. It is a timed event. Dogs with good prey drive will do well at this sport. Showing your dog in conformation is another activity. But this is not an easy thing to do with the Airedale because you need to know how to groom by hand stripping the dog. Th is is something that can be taught but it takes a lot of time and dedication.
With the Airedale you can have a beautiful representation of the breed but if you don’t know how to trim it properly it will be hard to do well. There are many Airedale breeders that can possibly mentor you or you can hire a professional handler to trim and show your dog for a fee. Airedales are great with normal day to day activities like running, hiking, walking, going to the beach, take a ride to the park or just hanging out around the house.
This breed is very versatile and just a great all around dog. Living with an Airedale can be a bit of a challenge, extremely entertaining and also very rewarding. An Airedale is not for everyone but for the right person this breed is truly a Jack of All Trades and the King of Terriers.