The Airedale Terrier (often shortened to "Airedale" or "ADT" is a breed of the terrier type, originating in Airedale, a geographic area in Yorkshire, England. It traditionally was called the "King of Terriers" because before the creation of the Black Russian Terrier by the NKVD, the Airedale was largest of the terrier breeds. The breed has also been called the Waterside Terrier, because it was bred originally to hunt otters in and around the valleys of the River Aire which runs through Airedale. In England this breed has also been used as a police dog.
The Airedale is the largest of the Terriers originating in Britain. They weigh 25–30 kilograms (55–66 lb) and have a height at the withers of 58–61 centimetres (23–24 in) for dogs, with bitches slightly smaller. The American Kennel Club standard specifies a smaller dog, approximately 17-20 inches at the withers, with bitches slightly smaller. Larger ADTs, up to 55 kilograms (120 lb) can be found in the New World. They are often called "Oorangs." This was the name of a kennel in Ohio in the early 1900s.
The Airedale has a medium length black and tan coat with a harsh topcoat and a soft undercoat. They are an alert and energetic breed, "not aggressive but fearless." It has been claimed that the large "hunting" type or Oorang airedales are more game than the smaller "show" type airedales. The large type are usually used for big game hunting and as family guardians or as pets, but usually do poorly in AKC conformation shows.The airedale terrier is the largest of the terriers and stands square in appearance.
Like many terriers, the breed has a 'broken' coat. The coat is hard, dense and wiry, not so long as to appear ragged, and lies straight and close, covering body and legs. The outer coat is hard, wiry and stiff, while the undercoat shorter and softer. The hardest coats are crinkling or just slightly waved. Curly soft coats are highly undesirable.
Airedales being shown or those who want their Airedale's coat to look healthy are generally groomed by hand stripping where a small serrated edged knife is used to pull out loose hair from the dog's coat. With regular grooming, the Airedale may shed very little. Although the Airedale often appears on lists of dogs that do not shed (moult), this is misleading. Every hair in the dog coat grows from a hair follicle, and has a cycle of growing, then being shed, then being replaced by another hair in the same follicle. The length of time of the growing and shedding cycle varies by breed, age, and by whether the dog is an inside or outside dog. "There is no such thing as a nonshedding breed."
The "correct" (according to the AKC breed standard) coat color is either a black saddle, with a tan head, ears and legs; or a dark grizzle saddle (black mixed with gray and white).
The Airedale's tail is usually docked (surgically shortened) within five days of birth, but this is not a requirement of breed standard authorities. To show an Airedale in the United States, the official AKC standard states "The root of the tail should be set well up on the back. It should be carried gaily but not curled over the back. It should be of good strength and substance and of fair length"., while in the UK it is illegal to dock dogs' tails unless it's for the dog's benefit (e.g., if the tail is broken). Traditionally the fluffy tail is left long.
The Airedale's eyes "should be dark in colour, small, not prominent, full of terrier expression, keenness and intelligence" Light or bold eyes are considered highly undesirable.
Some Airedales do suffer from eye diseases, such as congenital retina conditions.
Airedales have a normal 'scissor bite', where the top teeth close over the bottom. Airedales' teeth are the largest among terriers, and can inflict a strong bite. The Airedale is not normally aggressive, but like any dog of similar size, a bite can cause severe injury.
According to the American Kennel Club, Airedale terrier males should measure approximately 23 inches in height at the shoulder; bitches, slightly less. There is no mention of a specific weight, although the standard states that both sexes should be sturdy, well muscled and boned. At 23 to 24 inches, a dog should weigh approximately 50 - 70 pounds, being active and agile enough to perform well, while not too small to function as a physical deterrent, retriever or hunter. Some breeders have produced larger Airedale Terriers, such as the 'Oorang Airedale', developed in the 1920s.
Ex-Army captain and Airdale breeder Walter Lingo's monthly magazine "Oorang Comments" (#25, page 81), stated unequivocally that "When full grown your Airedale dog will weigh from forty to fifty-five pounds and if a female will weigh slightly less. This is the standard weight, but when required, we can furnish over-sized Airedales whose weight will be from sixty to one hundred pounds."
Because Lingo tried to fill orders for everyone, the Oorang strain size was never standardized. Airedales weighing from 40 to 100 pounds were produced, but for the most part they were approximately 50 pounds and 22 to 23 inches at the shoulder.
The Airedale can be used as a working dog and also as a hunting dog. 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. Strong-willed, with the tenacity commonly seen in terriers, the Airedale is a formidable opponent.
The Airedale Terrier, like most Terriers, has been bred to hunt independently. As a result, the dog is very intelligent, independent, strong-minded, stoic, and can sometimes be stubborn. They rank 29th in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs, being of above average working/obedience intelligence. The Airedale is a dog with a great sense of humor. For those who can laugh along with their Airedale, the dog can provide a unique and entertaining company. For those who don't appreciate being outsmarted by their dog, owning an Airedale can be a trying experience. Patience and consistency in training will be rewarded as the Airedales have been known to reach great heights in competitive obedience, dog agility, and Schutzhund. Airedales need an owner that can be creative in teaching what is expected. Airedales usually get bored easily and need a trainer that has the ability to make working fun and exciting. Changing the routine or taking a play-break is much more productive than trying to force the Airedale. If children and Airedale are both trained correctly, Airedales can be an excellent choice for a family dog.
Albert Payson Terhune wrote of the Airedale: "Among the mine-pits of the Aire, the various groups of miners each sought to develop a dog which could outfight and outhunt and outthink the other miner's dogs. Tests of the first-named virtues were made in inter-mine dog fights. Bit by bit, thus, an active, strong, heroic, compactly graceful and clever dog was evolved – the earliest true form of the Airedale.
He is swift, formidable, graceful, big of brain, an ideal chum and guard. ....To his master he is an adoring pal. To marauders he is a destructive lightning bolt."
They are also very loving, always in the middle of the family activities. Airedales are also known for expressing exactly what they are thinking, unlike more aloof breeds. The Airedale is also a reliable and protective family pet. Airedales are exceedingly loyal and strong dogs; there is one story of an Airedale taking down a bear to protect its master. They are very energetic, and need plenty of exercise.
The Airedale is also stoic, able to withstand pain and injury. An Airedale's injuries and illnesses often go unnoticed until they become severe and require veterinary attention.The airedale terrier will usually do ok with children if they have early exposure and socialization,however they may play too rough for very small ones.
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