Called "the king of terriers" by his fans, the Airedale may really be the smartest of the terriers -- a quality that will make or break him as a family pet, depending on whether or not his owner minds being occasionally outsmarted by a dog. Fortunately he's a handsome devil as well as a clever one, and charming enough to compensate for a certain degree of stubbornness. Owners who aren't ready to provide consistent training from a young age, as well as firm but loving guidance as he grows up, are going to discover that the Airedale Terrier is way too much dog to handle.
Is the Airedale Terrier the Right Dog for You?
Airedale fanciers often point proudly to the words of Theodore Roosevelt, who said the Airedale Terrier could "do anything any other dog can do, and then lick the other dog, if he has to." Those words probably describe the Airedale of history better than the dog of today, whose main job now is to be a companion.
Of course, in line with his over-achieving past, the Airedale has even topped the charts in the companionship category. It was an Airedale who inspired author Margaret Marshall Saunders to write the novel "Beautiful Joe," the story of an abused dog, which in turn sparked the creation of the modern humane movement.
The Airedale does everything in a big way. He loves his human family wildly. He plays games with huge enthusiasm. He runs, he plays, he dances, he clowns, and he lives life with reckless exuberance – the exact same dedication and joy he may bring to the task of excavating your garden, tunneling into your sofa and eating the family-room drywall.
Yes, it's true, the Airedale Terrier, left to his own devices, is a perpetual motion machine dedicated to mayhem. Anyone considering bringing an Airedale into the family needs to be ready and able to provide him with consistent, early training, to respect his native intelligence and social nature and to not deprive him of exercise, companionship and affection. In other words, he can't be left in the backyard all day, or he's going to bark non-stop and be extremely unhappy.
But make him a member of the family, give him plenty of activities to exercise his body and stimulate his mind, and you'll understand why his fans feel so passionately that there is no other breed worth having.
One note: The Airedale Terrier can be aggressive with other dogs, particularly of the same gender, and is not a great choice for families with cats, either.
Airedales need a weekly brushing and professional grooming every two months or so to look their best. That, along with keeping their nails trimmed and their ears clean, is all they need – unless you’re planning to show your dog, in which case you’ll need to be doing a great deal more laborious work on that wiry coat.
7 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Airedale Terrier Puppy
- Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers many breeds and popular mixes, or that ships with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you’ll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
- Start your search for a good breeder on the website of the Airedale Terrier Club of America, which maintains a referral list for breeders. Choose one who has agreed to be bound by the club's Code of Ethics, which prohibits its members from selling puppies to pet stores and outlines the responsibilities of its member breeders to the dogs they produce and the people who buy them.
- Ask your breeder for written documentation from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or the University of Pennsylvania (PennHip) that your puppy's parents' hips are free of dysplasia. Also ask for OFA certification that the parents are free of kidney and heart disease. Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) documentation that her breeding dogs have had their eyes tested within the last year, along with clearances on their thyroid glands and elbows are also recommended.
- Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing, and any breeder who says her lines are free of all these problems, or that they're not a concern, is either lying or knows almost nothing about Airedale Terriers. Look for your puppy elsewhere.
- Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Airedale Terriers aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. Since an Airedale Terrier can live to be 11 years of age, even an adult dog will be with your family for a long time.
- Puppy or adult, take your Airedale Terrier to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues. In particular, watch out for the early signs of allergies, skin problems and ear infections.
- Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Health Issues Common to Airedale Terriers
Airedale Terriers can suffer from hip dysplasia, a genetic hip deformity that requires costly surgery to repair and can lead to arthritis later in life. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association in 2002, Airedale Terriers are 3.9 times more likely to be at risk of hip dysplasia than all other breeds.
Airedale Terriers can also suffer from allergies and are more likely than many breeds to bloat, a condition in which the stomach twists on itself, cutting off blood flow. Bloat and torsion strike very suddenly, and a dog who was fine one minute can be dead a few hours later. Watch for symptoms like restlessness and pacing, drooling, pale gums and lip licking, trying to throw up without bringing anything up, and signs of pain. Bloat requires immediate veterinary surgery, and most dogs that have bloated once will bloat again. That means it’s wise to opt for the procedure known as "stomach tacking," which will keep the stomach from twisting in the future. This procedure can also be done as a preventive measure.
Pet Insurance for Airedale Terriers
Pet insurance for Airedale Terriers costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Airedale Terriers are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat
Embrace pet insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Airedale Terriers are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Airedale Terrier is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.