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Is an Airedale for You?

There are more than 100 varieties of purebred dogs recognized by the American Kennel Club. Choosing one to suit your particular needs can be difficult. The following information may help you determine if an Airedale is the dog for you.

Although the Airedale's virtues are many and its faults few, Airedales are not for everyone. While not considered large dogs, their exuberance, strength and determination can make them a handful.

Like many breeds, Airedales seem to do best when they are a regular part of the family, not totally relegated to the outdoors. A fenced yard is almost a necessity.

Airedales are said to be born mischief-makers. While not malicious, they enjoy a good time and may entertain themselves for hours at your expense. Airedales are quite intelligent and can work successfully at obedience if proper motivational training methods are used.

Upkeep for an Airedale is similar to most breeds: daily food and water, routine vaccinations and preventative medications, such as heartworm and parasite control. In addition, the Airedale's non-shedding coat will require periodic grooming. In most cases, you can do the grooming yourself. Many breeders will gladly teach you the basic steps or direct you to grooming services.

Airedales come in a range of temperaments and attitudes. Be honest with breeders about your expectations, your facilities and your needs. They will help you determine if an Airedale is right for you and can help match one to your home.

Characteristics of the breed

The Airedale is a medium-sized dog -- the largest and hardiest of the terrier family. According to American Kennel Club breed standards, male Airedales should measure approximately 23 inches in height at the shoulder with bitches (females) slightly less. For their size, Airedales have a good deal of solid heft with very little unneeded bulk. While there are no weight standards, a typical female will weigh about 45 to 55 pounds, and a large male with good proportion can exceed 24 inches and 65 pounds.

Terriers are essentially "varmint dogs," small in stature, intelligent, fearless and tenacious. The word "terrier" is derived from the Latin word "terra" meaning "earth." Their specialty -- to seek out rodent or predator prey and drive them below ground -- was very useful in days gone by. Through careful breeding, this developed skill became a natural instinct.

As an all around useful dog, the Airedale has no superior. Airedales are extremely adaptable and, through a keen intelligence and great desire to please, can be taught to handle a number of different jobs that are usually done by specialized breeds. In one dog you will find a good-tempered baby sitter, an affectionate and protective companion, a performance dog to show in obedience and or agility or an adaptive and eager hunter.

In fact, Airedales have been referred to as the “original and still the only three in one gun dog.” They can be trained to hunt for fur like hounds, hunt waterfowl like retrievers or hunt upland birds like spaniels.

In addition, historically their agility, intelligence, strength, fearlessness and determination made them a member of most hunting packs, including those for dangerous game like bear and mountain lion. Airedales were the first dog called upon for the Canine Corps in World War I and have been used for police work in Germany, Great Britain and Japan.

Yet the Airedale is sensitive and responsive to the human need, and easily develops a strong sense of responsibility for family and home. Its ability as a watchdog comes from devotion to family, not from viciousness. An Airedale at your side, whether on a solo night car ride or during an evening at home, gives comfort and security that is without measure.

The Airedale will return, many times over, the care, training and affection you invest, growing with you in wisdom and understanding. And there is no better recommendation for owning an Airedale than to paraphrase that well-known saying, "Ask someone who owns one." Many devotees believe once you have owned an Airedale, other breeds just don't measure up.

History of the Airedale Terrier

The Airedale is believed to have come from the Valley of Aire in England. Seeking a larger multi-purpose hunting dog, sports-loving Yorkshires crossbred the Old English Terrier, a small wire-coated dog with typical terrier pluck and hunting instincts, with the Otterhound, a breed with a good nose, a water-repellent coat and an easy-going nature. This cross resulted in an all-around sporting dog ready to work on land or in the water.

These early Airedales did not resemble today's show Airedales, weighing only 25 to 35 pounds with a smooth or wooly coat ranging from red through various grizzles to bluish-gray and black and tan. Even the latter was not the familiar brown or tan with a black saddle. As their appearance evolved so did their name: they were first called Waterside and then Bingley Terriers. It was not until 1879 that classes for Airedale Terriers were offered at dog shows.

Airedales were first brought to the United States in 1885. By 1900 there were enough fanciers to organize the Airedale Terrier Club of America. Their exploits as a determined messenger in World War I, combined with their personable temperament, contributed to a meteoric rise in popularity. By the early 1920s, the Airedale was the most popular breed in America. Breeders more interested in money than in breed characteristics and standards flooded the nation with dogs of diminishing quality, widely varying sizes and poor temperaments.

Despite adversity, reputable breeders have slowly but steadily improved breed quality over the years. Today Airedale Terriers have all the intelligence and ability originally sought, but with a more stylish, majestic look. Airedales today are more worthy than ever of the title, "King of the Terriers."





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