Life With An Airedale

2012-06-26 17.53.02


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Living with an Airedale

Welcome to our website which you will already know is dedicated solely to the Airedale Terrier breed – the ‘King of the Terriers’.

What is so special about the Airedale Terrier that we can have a worldwide website and Forum dedicated to them?

Well, some of you will have owned an Airedale for many years, some for only a few years and maybe some not at all but are seeking an understanding of the breed before committing yourself.

This section has been put together to assist everyone in understanding how ‘us humans’ can live with an Airedale. I say ‘us humans’ because we are the ones that need to understand them and learn how to live our life with them in harmony.

All these stories are provided by Airedale people who have all different experiences of these wonderful creatures. Good, bad, funny, sad, hilarious, stories etc.

There will be new stories from people added on a regular basis.

We would love you to do an article about your Airedale experience so please contact us and include a picture if possible.



In truth, I’m not at all the person you should ask for a balanced view. I’ve been completely hooked for years, and in my eyes, they can do no wrong, which, of course, is nonsense.
They are, and particularly the male of the species,
all consuming, disobedient, wilful, stubborn, noisy,
one-track-minded, artful and at times malodorous.
Airedales are also loyal, devoted, good humoured, courageous, exceptionally tough, almost always well disposed towards other dogs and humans alike and in brief wholly delightful!!
If you’ve ever had one, you will know exactly what I mean. If not, and you are considering taking the canine plunge, look no further.
I unhesitatingly give you……THE AIREDALE !!

The Girls

The Girls

As people know Airedale Terriers were bred originally as hunting dogs along the River Aire many years ago. In addition they worked as guard dogs, police dogs and were famous in the First World War. However since around the early 1950’s they really became a pet.

So the question is does the Airedale Terrier still have the ‘hunting instinct’ in them? My answer to this after 30+ years with the breed is definitely YES.

There are many examples I could write about and maybe one day I will add to this. However the first one that comes to mind is this story of five Airedales we had although I can assure you it is as relevant today as when this incidence occurred a few years ago.

We are fortunate to live with grounds of some 8 acres – all Airedale proof as we erected 6ft deer fencing all around. 3 acres around the house and 5 acres is in a field with a large pond and small woodland. Close to our woodland is our neighbours’ woodland. We are surrounded by farmland with the closest neighbour about 1/4 mile away.

As we are in the country then I am sure you will know that rabbits are plentiful. However pheasants also abound and whilst the shooting season is active, pheasants come onto our land ‘feeling safe’. Silly things.

Twice a day I take the dogs up into the fields for a good run. Although for the rest of the day they have 3 acres to run in I am sure you can picture the dogs when they are allowed up the field – bedlam!! As soon as the gate is opened the five Airedales ‘Charge like the Light Brigade did’ up the field. I am sure they have a competition to see who will get to the woodland first.

Without training I can guarantee you that normally two of the Airedales go straight into the woodland whilst the other three gather around the outside. You can hear a lot of scurrying in the wood whilst the outside three are going round the woodland waiting in anticipation.

The next thing is either a rabbit comes ‘running for dear life’ out of the woods heading for our neighbours woodland the other side of the fence or better still a pheasant comes out trying to ‘take off’.
You can imagine the commotion. The three Airedales on the outside of the woods go charging after them and the next thing is the two from the woods appear accelerating after them all. What happens I hear you ask next? Well, sometimes the story finishes in the rabbits or pheasants favour but other times the Airedales win. I won’t tell you what the score is to date!!

Have we trained them at all for this? NO. An Airedale has its hunting instinct still and given the chance what is fair game – rabbits, pheasants, moles, squirrels, and cats. Basically anything that will give them fun and excitement.

And who would want to change them ?



A day in the life of an Airedale is really dictated by the “dog clock” rather than any reference to human time. Mickey thrives on routine apart from eating and sleeping where there is some scope for variety. Some nights he chooses his very comfortable bed but seems just as happy in the corridor or on the mat by the back door.

He does not do much in the mornings reflecting the fact that we are often out at that time of day. At lunchtime he comes to life, nudging my legs to remind me about his lunch which he gets only if the breakfast bowl has been emptied. Whatever time we have lunch, he watches carefully and afterwards starts his determined campaign to go out for his walk. He gets between or pushes my legs or stands in front of me just in case I forget. Obvious moves by me to get ready are greeted with great excitement and impatience and he watches carefully to see whether I choose the short or extending lead. The short lead means we are only going for a standard walk probably because it is raining. The extending lead means we are heading for the seafront or the cliff tops both of which offer “free running” opportunities. On the sands he is so happy he leaps into the air with joy. He races after his ball (occasionally someone else’s) and looks as if he could keep it up all day. One of his tricks to get a rest is to take the ball out into the sea and leave it then looking at me as if to say “now your turn”.

Always reluctant to leave the seafront, for his late afternoon rest he sleeps on his special place on the old sofa and comes to life again when dinner is being prepared. He has his own idea of how long we should spend eating and comes to interrupt if he thinks it has gone on long enough. He wants me to let him into the lounge so that he can stretch out in front of the TV occasionally looking up if any dogs are featuring. When the TV goes off he jumps up and heads for the back door for a pre-bedtime pee and stretch his legs.

He has a great, friendly disposition with humans and other dogs providing the latter are friendly. Other dog owners often ask about him and we are regularly stopped by admirers as we walk along the promenade. I must have said “Yes, you don’t see many of them around these days,” a thousand times. He is washed, cut and blow dried in the traditional Airedale style every 6 weeks and his fan club shoots up for the often too brief period between the beauty treatment and his next swim in the sea.

All this might lead you to think that he is a perfectly behaved dog. How can I put it; he is whilst his interests pretty much coincide with mine. The King of the Terriers has a proud and independent nature and his instincts will always override his training. For instance he will always want to meet and greet other dogs we encounter. If a squirrel or rabbit is incautious enough to appear then he instantly reverts to nature and will give chase, suddenly stone deaf to all your usual commands.

So, we have a partnership, me and him as part of the same family and as you may have guessed we love each other to death.



Having had the breed for sixty years I can think of many assets but few disadvantages.

As puppies they are very easy to house-train – they are usually ‘dry’ in a week and have control over their bowels in about three weeks. Whether male or female as adults they have an amazing bladder capacity. However, with bitches one cannot have a pristine lawn.

They do not molt. Ideally one grooms them daily but they do need ‘trimming’ three or four times a year by a professional unless one knows how to do it themselves.

They are affectionate but not ‘lap’ dogs; they like their own space at times, usually in their garden. When in doors, although large dogs, they can take up little space and usually choose to be in the same room as the owner etc. They are quiet but do make good housedogs. With their large feet it helps if they have been trained to wait at the door when coming in from outside to have their feet wiped particularly if one has light coloured carpets!

They are strong dogs so training classes do help with walking to heel etc. when they are young and they learn about obedience as they are strong willed. However, they are normally good with other dogs and sociable with other people and children.

They seem to enjoy being in the car and although of course they should have daily walks they do not pester for these perhaps unlike the working breeds.

I feel I cannot say more– just adore the breed and hopefully with the affinity I have for them I understand them as much as is possible.

photo 1

Buster ( Lab )
and Beads

I first became involved with Airedale Terriers when a young colleague tragically died and I gave a home to his 6 month old puppy. “Please look after Buster”….. and so began my love affair with the ‘king of the terriers’ and our household would never be the same again.

These handsome dogs are very loving and have a huge sense of fun, but can be tenacious with an independent spirit and sense of adventure.  How many times did I hear my poor husband utter the words “there are no more Airedales coming into this house”.

How wrong could he be? Buster was a gentle soul and was my friend for 9 happy years and when he died there was a huge ache in my heart and sadness in our home.

Beads came into our lives the following year.  He was 5 years old and full of spit and fire.  He had been the unfortunate victim of a broken relationship.  A new partner and a new baby saw him looking for a new home. He was terrified and bewildered, which manifested in some very scary moments, but I knew there was a lovely boy there desperate to be loved.

Within a short while and with a lot of love, reassurance and firm but positive handling, Beads settled down in our home and is now a fantastic companion and valued member of our household. I look at his funny little face with those lovely brown eyes and my heart melts with love for him.

Planet Airedale is a fantastic forum and provides friendship and support to Airedale owners all over the world.

A few years ago we were all alerted to the sad case of a young Airedale living in a distressing situation in the north of England. A volunteer was sought who could collect the dog at short notice. My husband and I drove off full of trepidation, but luckily the rescue mission was not so difficult.  However, my heart went out to that poor little Airedale, to say he was smelly was an understatement.  I don’t think he had ever been brushed, washed or trimmed in his life.   But he was so friendly with such a sweet nature. A visit to a very kind dog groomer the following day saw an amazing transformation – a very handsome Airedale indeed!

A few days later this beautiful boy’s prospective new mum and dad travelled up from Cheshire with their 4 year old girl dale and very soon he had stolen their hearts. I cried when I saw him being driven away. This lovely boy had landed on his feet, with a loving home and beautiful sister. With the power of the web and the influence of Planet Airedale, Airedale lovers all over the world monitored the progress of this ‘tail’.  What a happy ending.

More recently I helped with the ‘rescue’ of an Airedale, again in the north of England. But ‘rescue’ wasn’t really the right word, because this boy was very much loved. His owner had fallen into ill health and because he loved his boy so much he knew it was kinder to find him a new home.

So our household ticks along in a bumbling happy way. Beads, or Good Boy Beads as he is affectionately known, is now almost 11 and is the constant companion of our black Lab (another Buster) also a rescue boy. The difference between a Lab and an Airedale? Well, when we go into a field, the Lab is by my side, happy in the knowledge that I will throw his ball.  The Airedale looks over the dry stone walls into the distance beyond and plans his strategy…… Happy days!



To say this could be a challenge is an understatement! But not always.

‘Albert’ our beloved old man was a ‘pain in the neck’ from Day One. The first time we met him at the re-homing centre he appeared wearing an industrial strength harness, he was fat, had short legs and a matted coat. But we agreed to take him for a short journey to see how we got on together.

We soon found out Albert DID NOT like other dogs! There was a Border Collie about 100 yards away when Albert started to make a noise crossed between a loud yodel and a fog horn – extremely loudly indeed. Within seconds we had cleared the car park!

Albert seemed very pleased by this and our son was quite impressed too. We went back to the rescue coordinator, signed the forms and Albert was ours.

Before embarking on the journey home we stopped by the river to have a picnic. Albert enjoyed most of our food. We ate what was left when suddenly our 16 stone son was quickly pulled down the riverbank on his back – mid way through his ham sandwich. The reason was Albert had spotted an inoffensive Labrador trotting along the path and felt this dog had to be ‘dealt with’.

Our son apologized and hauled Albert back up the bank. That was Day One!

The next day Albert patiently stood while we washed him, cut out all the matted knots in his coat and groomed him. He emerged looking very handsome. Since then he goes to the salon every six weeks, which he enjoys immensely. The grooming ladies there have to make sure they put all their other clients away before we walk in – just in case!

Since then we have added 99% of dogs, ALL CATS, squirrels, rats and mice to the list of dislikes. He has killed a few smaller things and eaten them whole before we could stop him but I suppose that is nature. He loves to pull unsuspecting cats out of bushes, often by their tails and tosses them up in the air.

Also on his list are tall men, paperboys and particularly postmen. His technique is to leap from a standing start, five foot into the air and ‘get’ them on their upper arms. This has cost us wine, flowers and the biggest Easter egg Thornton’s could sell.

People in our town have been very supportive – with the odd exception understandably. They tell us what a wonderful job we have done in taming Albert. However we have a clutch of awards to our credit – an ASBO, Restraining Order and a place on the Post Office Dangerous Dog List, Agility awards & Dog Show rosettes.

Albert has calmed down as he nears 13 – but he still has his ‘moments’ and we know when to cross the road to avoid trouble.

He is on £200 a month of tablets for his weak heart and arthritis. He is very social at times and loves visiting cafes where he knows he will be plied with biscuits. He seems to know he has to be on his best behaviour when he is in shops and pubs and will happily sit under the table gazing at other dogs.

His favourite thing is car trips and going to new places and he sometimes asks to go into the car just to have a sleep.

After Albert’s BIG run in with the police, my husband was so ill with stress that he almost had a breakdown. However the police sergeant did say he thought Albert ‘didn’t have a bad bone in his body’. This was after the Albert had licked him on his hands and face!

The past eight years have all been worth it though. It is a privilege to have taken care of such a wonderful dog.

After all who else would have?



When my parents got their first Airedale we lived in a small semi-detached with a reasonable, though not large , garden (which, incidentally, was difficult to make secure). His basket, as far as I remember, was under the kitchen table; anywhere else he simply had to lie on the floor. Crackers, unfortunately, died tragically young, so we didn’t have another Airedale for a long time, until a contact led my then widowed mother to Charlie, who was followed by Pepper and Jilly. But those are other stories.

Some 65 years after Crackers, I live on my own with Harley,who has an armchair in one room to call his own, and a studio couch in another, as well as the option of lying on my bed when I don’t want it – and occasionally when I do. (He won’t use a basket, though as a pup he was happy to go in to a cage, which he outgrew). Crackers used to like long walks, and occasionally went by himself ( unofficially of course, but there was less traffic in those days). Harley of course prefers to go out in the car, and the only long walk he likes is the one to the pet shop where his food comes from ( or any other similar shop). If he gets out on his own, it’s only when I’m working in the front garden, and he only goes to a neighbouring garden to look for cats. The back garden is well fenced, and anyway this is the dog that when we’re out and come to a hedge or fence with a gate, and a good gap nearby, will wait for the gate to be opened.

He has some funny ideas about grooming: “you can cut out the mud balls from between the pads of my feet, with care – as long as you only do it to the front ones. You can wash my feet – but only the back ones” (he doesn’t exactly stop me doing the other end in each case, but is not at all co-operative).
“I don’t scratch at doors to have them opened*; I expect you to be watching to see when I want it open. If I‘m desperate I can bark, or just moan”.

* exception – if he’s been shut out of the room when I’m about to put a match to the fire.

And the big question: What does one say to the owner of an ordinary (but very nice) dog, when he looks at the Airedale (usually at the fluffy stage becoming due for a trim) and says “Ah, what a beautiful dog” ?