Is an Airedale the Right Breed for Your Family?


*This article was originally compiled and written by Sidney Hardie.

Do you love the way the Airedale looks? Many people buy an Airedale for the way it looks, not realizing what a high maintenance dog an Airedale is … high maintenance in terms of grooming, exercise and attention required. Please think carefully about whether an Airedale will fit your lifestyle.

Do you want a dog that will sit at your feet, quietly, most of the time? That is not an Airedale.

Do you have a sense of humor? Do you want a dog that is inventive, clever, finds each day a grand adventure, wants to supervise and help with your every activity, and is loyal and loving to those he respects? Are you looking for a buddy to join you for long walks, or hunting, backpacking, agility, canoeing, skiing, hiking, jogging? Perhaps an Airedale is for you.

My husband and I had a conversation the other night about “life with an Airedale.” My husband’s take on it is this: with our previous Scotty (who is not only at the Rainbow Bridge, but definitely RUNS it!), he was like a member of the family, you know, a brother or uncle or something. And this has pretty much been that way with previous dogs my husband has had. BUT with an Airedale, it is like a marriage. They are like a spouse. Their wants, needs, and desires are expected to come FIRST! They follow you everwhere. Want to know everything you do. And won’t take no for an answer! — Fran Peck [quoted with permission]

We cannot emphasize enough how much energy an Airedale has and how important it is to find positive outlets for that energy. If your current lifestyle is already packed with activity, an Airedale is not a dog you can fit in around the edges. An Airedale will not wait patiently for you to find the time to play with him. And don’t expect to be able to stick him in the back yard to exercise himself or think that tossing a ball a few times is going to be enough. Providing an Airedale with adequate exercise requires your active participation.

Annie Supervises Adam

Airedale Supervising the Job

When you add an Airedale puppy to your life, you should consider that you are taking on a second full-time job, or adding another child to your family — a child needing just as much attention and perhaps **more** loving supervision than the two-footed kind. A great adult Airedale requires that you spend a lot of time with him as a puppy. Everyone in the household has to be willing to make changes and compromises to accept life with an Airedale as a member of the family. An Airedale expects to supervise every aspect of your life.

Are Airedales Good with Children? It depends on the Airedale and it depends on the child, but mostly it depends on the adults, especially the adult who is primarily responsible for the day-to-day management of the home. For shorthand, we will call that adult “Mom.” Despite all good intentions and promises by Dad and the kids, Mom is the one who will end up spending the most time with the puppy and must be enthusiastic about providing for puppy’s physical and emotional needs. Dad may forget to clean up the yard, or the kids may forget that they can’t play with the puppy until he has “taken care of business.” The result may be that the puppy piddles in the middle of the living room rug. Mom cannot resent the puppy for her family’s failings. The puppy has to be fed, taught where to go to the bathroom and trained in basic house manners. If other family members fail, Mom has to be prepared to take up the slack. Mom can growl at Dad and the kids for their failings, but puppy must not bear the brunt of Mom’s anger.

To get a taste of what you will be dealing with if you get an Airedale puppy, read the Puppy Timeline and Terriers are Just Different!


Most young Airedales are a whirlwind of muscle, hard-edged play and head-butting enthusiasm. From puppyhood until about two years old, they are a real handful. They need careful training, constant watching and loving discipline.

A fellow goes to the edge of a cliff and asks a Lab to jump off. The Lab says, “OK ” and then jumps. Then the same fellow asks a Dalmation to jump over the edge of the cliff, and the Dalmation says, “OK” and jumps, too. Several other popular breeds are then asked with the same response. Jump. Jump. Jump….. Then the fellow asks an Airedale to jump from the same cliff, to which the Airedale responds, “You first.” [Courtesy of Terry Wertan — original author unknown]

Although they are a challenge for some to train, Airedales love to learn as long as learning is a game. They will reward your patience and your sense of humor with years of loyalty and devotion.

Airedales are intelligent, sensitive and perceptive. When you get an Airedale, you are making an emotional investment for the next 12-14 years. When the newness of your puppy wears off, you cannot stick him in the back yard, feed him once a day and expect that to be enough. An Airedale not properly socialized and treated as a member of the family can become neurotic, destructive, dog aggressive or even people aggressive.

Before you make this 12-14 year commitment, read everything you can get your hands on about the breed.

One of the best descriptions of owning an Airedale I’ve seen is a message on rec.pets.dogs.breeds

Complete the The Airedale Quotient (AQ) from the Nebraska Airedale Terrier Association to determine whether an Airedale Terrier is a dog you should consider.

Join an Airedale e-mail list and listen to the stories people tell. What amuses these people may horrify you!

Read To Aire is Divine, a book of stories by members of the Airedale-L e-mail list, edited by Sherry Rind. The following excerpt from the introduction is quoted with permission:

Alice Kiss

“Ready for a WETBEARDKISS?”

When people refer to ADTs [the e-mail list abbreviation for Airedale Terriers] as “furkids,” they are not anthropomorphizing dogs unduly, nor are they being cute. They are pointing out that the ADT as family member has his own place, different from that of human (upright) child, significant other, friend, or in-law. It is very difficult to define what that place is, however, since the place is everywhere. People who do not allow their spouse of twenty-five years to accompany them into the water-closet allow in the Airedale because the dog expects to be there and is not self-conscious. The Airedale sits on the couch and the person sits on the floor because the dog looks so cute with her head on the arm rest that no one wants to disturb her. People, such as myself, who hate cooking the family dinner happily slave in the kitchen to prepare special treats for the dogs who would be just as happy with a plain piece of cheese as the special doggie birthday cake.

When you think about it, the Airedale does nothing to deserve this royal treatment but be himself. She slurps up water, dribbling a quart on the floor (see examples), then rubs her dripping beard on your leg in the notorious WETBEARDKISS. He greets friends, strangers, and dignitaries with a BIGNOSEPOKE to the crotch—no mere sniff this but a high impact greeting. She makes you smile by doing the HAPPYDANCE with all four feet prancing and dancing in a dozen directions, and then she tucks in tail and hind end for a scamper around the house in the famous TUCKBUTTRUN.

From To Aire is Divine, Stories by the members of Airedale-L; edited by Sherry Rind. Copyright 1999, by Sherry Rind. Permission to quote material granted by Sherry Rind.


Another excellent book is Airedale Terriers : Everything About Purchase, Care, Nutrition, Breeding, Behavior, and Training (Barron’s Complete Pet Owner’s Manuals) by Dorothy M. Miner. Ms. Miner has been involved in one aspect or another of the dog fancy for over 25 years, mostly with Airedale Terriers.

Take equal parts of intelligence, strength, heart, and loyalty. Add a generous portion of humor, sensitivity, and high energy. Throw in a pinch of stubbornness and feistiness. Pack this inside a handsome 50- to 70-pound (23-32 kg) dog, and you have the Airedale Terrier.

Airedale Terriers book cover

Airedale Terriers by Dorothy Miner

Airedale aficionados will be the first to tell you this breed isn’t for everybody. Airedales are remarkably strong for a medium-sized breed, strong-willed, and above all, they are terriers. Terriers are known for their high activity level, feistiness, noisiness, and independence. Airedales need considerable amounts of exercise, regular grooming, firm but kind training, and patience. They are puppies for a long time, usually not reaching maturity until after two years of age. Even after that, they retain a mischievous streak that can sometimes get them into trouble. Some Airedales also exhibit considerable aggression toward other dogs, and prospective owners must be willing to socialize and train their terriers to curb this tendency.

Are you prepared to put up with an Airedale’s rowdiness, unique personality, and disruptive antics? More than one Airedale has interrupted a human social gathering to display something fragrant it has just dug up or rolled in, or to show off a dead rodent it was just dying to share. An Airedale can carry an amazing amount of dirt, mud, and burrs in its furnishings or an equally amazing amount of water in its beard just after getting a nice drink. Unfortunately, it’s at times like these that an Airedale seems to be particularly desirous of human company and affection.

Airedale puppies are a handful. They have an almost limitless supply of energy and are into something most of the time they are awake. It often seems that the only time they are quiet is when they are asleep. Destructive chewing can be a major problem with young Airedales. It may surprise a new Airedale owner just how quickly furniture can be dismantled if a puppy is left to entertain itself. They are also notorious diggers, and can quickly turn the most elegant landscaping into something resembling Swiss cheese. Most Airedales also have the typically terrier trait of barking at anything they notice, and they notice everything. Squirrels, passing dogs, or pedestrians, and sometimes even clouds and airplanes must be commented on or warned off. In spite of these less than desirable traits, however, Airedales are very trainable. They are also smart enough to realize then they must turn on the charm. They do grow up eventually and are wonderfully devoted, protective, bright, and entertaining companions.

Airedales can make wonderful pals for considerate children. They are active and playful, and not particularly delicate. They are strong and forceful, however, and play sessions should be monitored by an adult. Young Airedales may not be the ideal playmate for toddlers as their rough-and-tumble play may result in the child’s being knocked off its feet, but, with adult supervision, an Airedale can be a child’s best buddy.

The Airedale is a high-maintenance breed. The lovely crisp black and tan coat seen on the show dog is the product of countless hours of plucking, stripping, and grooming. Most pet Airedales are clipped to keep the coat under control, but there is still a fair amount of combing, brushing, and trimming needed to keep the coat in good condition. Left to its own devices the Airedale’s coat will grow to the point that the dog will resemble an animated tumbleweed.

Airedales are not good impulse purchases. Buyers must be aware that they are going to be responsible for a living creature with real needs for possibly more than 13 or 14 years. Therefore, consider your lifestyle and your ability to train and care for a dog before jumping into the role of Airedale owner.

From “Airedale Terriers, A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual” by Dorothy M. Miner, copyright 1998 by Barron’s Educational Series, Inc. (ISBN 0-7641-0307-5) Permission to quote material granted by Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.


Other References:

The Airedale FAQ by Kathy Dowd and Lori Valentine.

AIREDALE TERRIERS: A Comic with Heart by Chris Halvorson

The New Airedale Terrier by June Dutcher and Janet Johnson Framke. People considering an Airedale should especially read “Selecting Your Airedale and Starting Out Right” by Joanne Vohs and “Grooming the Airedale,” which contains guidelines for clipping the pet Airedale as well as stripping a show Airedale.


As a member of the right family, an Airedale is a joy! If after doing your homework you have decided this is just the breed for you, please read these articles:

My First Airedale
What is a Backyard Breeder
How to Find a Responsible Breeder
How to Choose a Puppy

Many wonderful Airedales end up in rescue only because their owners did not realize the energy level of an Airedale and the absolute need for walks, runs, or play time. With the right family, these dogs are treasured family members. Please contact your nearest Rescue Coordinator and request an application.


Thank you to the following members of the Airedale Internet Community who made suggestions for this article and/or authorized me to incorporate their words: Anita & Dave Pisarcik (Stryking Airedales), Ry Carol & Daniel Linthicum, Tina Long, Becky Preston (Skycladd Terriers), Jackie Noel (Sagacious Airedales), Sherry Rind, June Dudley, Katharine Wallace, Nancy Foster, Lana MacInnes, Mary Kihlstrum, Cannie Robbins, Ken McE, Jadie Davis, Michael Jones, Joyce Miller (Jubilee Aires), Nebraska Airedale Terrier Association, Jim Mattimoe.

*TART is grateful to be allowed republish this article originally compiled by Sidney Hardie of SWAT for AiredaleTerriers.Org