Like many terriers, it has a ‘broken’ coat, which requires regular hand stripping to maintain the coat and distinctive square terrier shape. A broken coat is a harsh, wiry topcoat with a soft, fur-like undercoat. Broken-coated breeds do not shed their coats as much as smooth coated breeds, and are therefore less likely to cause allergic reactions in people prone to dog allergies.
Stripping is the correct process for grooming an Airedale, using a small serrated edged knife to pull out loose hair from the dog’s coat. Airedales who aren’t being shown are often clipped with electric clippers. This process, while easier on the dog and the groomer, softens the coat and fades the color, and sometimes causes skin allergies for the dog. This is because the loose hair that would normally moult is cut, so the roots remain within the hair follicles.
The correct coat color is a black saddle, with a tan head, ears and legs; or a dark grizzle saddle (black mixed with gray and white). Both are acceptable in the AKC breed standard.
The Airedale’s tail is usually docked (surgically shortened) within five days of birth, but this is not a requirement of breed standard authorities. However, to show an Airedale in the United States, the tail is expected to be docked.
Airedales generally have black gums, a condition that would indicate asphyxiation in many other dog breeds. Additionally, Airedales’ teeth are the largest among Terriers.
The Airedale can also be used as a working dog and also as a hunter and retriever. Airedales exhibit some herding characteristics as well, and have a propensity to chase animals. They have no problem working with cattle and livestock, however, an Airedale that is not well trained will agitate and annoy the animals. The Airedale Terrier is typically an independent (stubborn), strong-minded dog with a great sense of humour. For those who can laugh along with their Airedale, patience will be rewarded as they have been known to reach great heights in competitive obedience, dog agility, and Schutzhund. They are also very loving. The Airedale is also a reliable and protective family pet. Due to Airedale stubborness, they can often be difficult to train, and require constant re-inforcement, or they may soon forget. Young Airedales exhibit a general lack of common sense, and require much training. They are also very energetic, and need plenty of exercise.
The Airedale is relatively free of inherited diseases except for hip dysplasia in some lines. Airedales, like most Terriers, have a propensity towards dermatitis. Allergies, dietary imbalances, and under/over-productive thyroid glands are main causes for the Airedales’ itchy skin. Dogs of this breed usually live for around twelve years, but have been known to last until the age of seventeen.
The Valley of the Aire in West Riding, Yorkshire, was the birthplace of the Airedale Terrier. In the mid 19th Century, working class Britons created the Airedale Terrier by crossing the old English rough coated Black and Tan Terrier with the Otterhound. The result was an intelligent, hardy dog adept in the water, on land, at work, or with the family; their goal to create an all-purpose dog was fulfilled. In 1886, the Kennel Club of England formally recognized the Airedale Terrier breed.
The Airedale was extensively used in World War One to carry messages to soldiers behind enemy lines and occupying the trenches. They were also used extensively by the Red Cross to find wounded soldiers on the battlefield. Their courage and stalwart character in the face of danger was legendary; there are numerous tales of airedales delivering their messages despite terrible injury.
Before the adoption of the German Shepherd as the dog of choice for law enforcement and search and rescue work, the Airedale terrier often filled this role.
Post-WW1, the Airedales’ popularity rapidly increased thanks to stories of their bravery on the battlefield and also because Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren Harding owned Airedale Terriers. 1949 marked the peak of the Airedales’ popularity, ranked 20th out of 110 breeds by the American Kennel Club. The breed has since slipped to 50th out of 146.
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