The Top 7 Reasons Airedale Terriers Are the Perfect Guard Dog

Written by Katarina Betterton
Updated: September 29, 2023
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If you’re looking for a perfect guard dog that loves its family and will fiercely protect it, the Airedale terrier might be exactly what you’re looking for. Also known in the past as working, waterside, or Bingley Terriers, the Airedale terriers have the social skills, intelligence, and can-do attitude that make them the perfect pups for protecting your family.

Discover why Airedale terriers make excellent guard dogs based on their characteristics and compared to other popular guard dog breeds.

A Brief Overview of Airedales

Airedale standing on top of column

The Airedale was bred in Great Britain to hunt badgers and otters.


Lovingly nicknamed the King of Terriers for its size, the Airedale terrier originated in Yorkshire, England from the River Aire region. Throughout history, Airedales have found their places among hunters, farmers, sherpas, police, and soldiers. The breed remains stoic, intelligent, independent, and stubborn. These qualities can pose issues for training if strict instruction isn’t given early in puppyhood.

If the look of an Airedale terrier feels familiar to you, you’re right! Airedales contributed to the breeding of the much smaller Yorkshire terrier

The average size of Airedales ranges from 40 to 80 pounds, depending on gender and height. They have a hypoallergenic coat made of hard and wiry “broken” hair that must be groomed ever so often. Because they don’t shed, owners must hand-strip the Airedale’s undercoat every six to eight weeks to ensure it doesn’t become matted. 

Naturally bred as working and hunting dogs, Airedales display a propensity for herding in their puppyhood. They make great farmhands for that reason — but if their herding is not properly trained and maintained, the dogs will anger the other animals. 

They have a litany of great characteristics that make Airedales a perfect guard dog. Keep reading for an in-depth discussion on each of the breed’s winning personality traits.

The Airdale’s curiosity bleeds into its fearlessness: they’ll sniff out, investigate, or try almost anything to figure out what it is.

Natural Protective Instincts

airedale terrier puppy laying the grass

Airedale terries do need training in puppyhood to reinforce positive behavior.


The naturally-protective instincts of the Airedale remain the foremost factor in making the breed such a great pick for guard dogs. Generations of Airedales have developed the “protectiveness” trait — fostering a drive to stand in between danger and the pack to which the Airedale belongs. The immediate, fearless response to sense danger is hard-coded into an Airedale’s DNA.

Intelligence and Trainability

Airedale Terrier standing in the park

Smart and motivated, Airedales learn agility courses quickly if they’re interested.


With such a high energy level, Airdales remain both conducive to training and intelligence. Airedale terriers are generally considered to be smarter than the average working dog. They pick up basic commands like sit, stay, and come quickly. While they don’t fare too well at conformity, they’ll train hard and learn quickly at sports and agility training courses they’re interested in.

The biggest habits you’ll need to train out of your Airedale are their constant digging instinct and destructive chewing.

Fearless and Courageous 

The large size of an Airedale terrier makes it an intimidating breed to go up against.

©Ioan Bodean, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

As the King of Terriers, the Airedale is a big dog. Its size alone makes it intimidating but coupled with a fearless attitude and willingness to try anything, these dogs become hard to contend with for strangers. 

The Airdale’s curiosity bleeds into its fearlessness: they’ll sniff out, investigate, or try almost anything to figure out what it is. This high adaptive intelligence is the main reason Airdales get picked to work as war and police dogs. Problem-solving remains one of Airedale’s best intelligence traits. It comes in handy when they need to find a creative solution to protect their loved ones. 

Alertness and Sensitivity 

Types of terrier dogs

An Airedale uses its intelligence to remain awareness of its surroundings.

©Grisha Bruev/

While all dogs have better hearing than humans, Airedales excel in hearing perceived threats around hearth and home. Airedales put their hearing ability and territorialist tendencies to work as guard dogs, surveying their “space” with a keen eye to know if anything — or anyone — is amiss. 

These dogs also have a great sense of family and instinctively know who is part of their “pack.” Their natural reaction is to bark. Depending on training, these vocalizations could be as harmless as “I’m excited to see you!” or communicate to the intruder, “Back away now.” 

Adaptability and Versatility

Airedale with paws resting in front

Airedales can move and adapt to changes in situations quickly, which makes them great at noticing changes in a situation.


Though Airedales can be stubborn, a deep relationship with their family helps them foster versatility. In addition, because they’re such great problem solvers, Airedales have an easy time adapting to quick changes in situations. They can go from playful and silly to serious and protective at the drop of a hat.

Loyalty and Bonding 

This breed is so loyal and steadfast, that even a U.S. President chose it as his companion.

©Woodrow Wilson – Harris & Ewing, Public domain | Airedale Terrier – Lilly M, CC BY-SA 2.5 – License

Airedale terriers rank among one of the most loyal breeds of dogs recognized by the American Kennel Club. Steadfast and unwaveringly loyal, the Airedale’s protective nature shines through when the Alpha of the family is busy and they must take charge of any other children and pets. 

If you want to see an Airedale’s proclivity for protection for yourself, observe one that is tasked with watching over the children of its family. Chances are, they’ll run laps of the house and yard, sleep or rest between the children and entry points of a room, and stick close to the sides of the children at all times.

Socialization and Interaction

Airedale Terrier in the park

With the right socialization, Airedales can enjoy the company of other pets and close human friends.

©Dora Zett/

It’s important to socialize your Airedale early to avoid aggressive behavior toward other dogs down the line. Whether Airedales are socialized or not, they will act wary of strangers. They’ll also become aggressive if and when a threat presents itself to them or their family. Otherwise, Airedales are pretty playful dogs that do well with cats, young children, and other dogs if they’re raised together.

Airedales as Family Pets and Guard Dogs

Airedale Terrier in the grass

Airedale terriers are protective and playful when socialized early.


Many myths exist about guard dogs, like that they bark all the time or they can’t be left alone with children. In actuality, nearly every myth is false. Breeds that have a natural inclination to protect their pack — fight — rather than give into a freeze or flee response make the best guard dogs and family pets. That’s an Airedale.

Airedales’ adaptability, loyalty, and good nature help them serve a dual role as both a family’s companion and its protector. Don’t forget: whatever tendency or inclination a dog has because of its breed standard isn’t set in stone. Everything comes down to training: you reward the behavior you want to reinforce and ignore or correct the behaviors that need retiring.

Training Tips for Airedale Terrier Guard Dogs

The biggest “trick” to training an Airedale terrier is finding a method that engages and excites them. With such a deep curiosity and wanderlust, Airedales can become bored quickly if they focus on one uninspiring thing too long. 

Positive reinforcement and spending time with their family make the most difference in getting an Airedale to look forward to learning something new. Training an Airedale for guarding and defense specifically comes down to a few simple things:

  • Consistency.
  • Patience. 
  • Firmness.

As you train your Airedale puppy to become a guard dog for your family, consider how they act around your children. While jumping up on a toddler is cute when they’re puppies, a 60- or 80-pound one-year-old Airedale can cause accidental injury to the toddler without meaning to very easily. Think a few months or years ahead as you see your Airedale exhibit behaviors to decide which are acceptable and which are not.

Exercise and Mental Stimulation

Airedale terriers can be hard to keep up with — literally. They can run up to nearly 30 miles an hour; for a dog with seemingly limitless energy, these dogs are best suited for active families that will provide a lot of regular exercise and mental stimulation.

You don’t need to take your Airedale on three-mile hikes every morning (though they would love that). Mental stimulation and exercise might come in the form of training a new trick, playing with other pets, going on a walk or two a day, or running around safely in the backyard.

As with any dog, getting the exercise, mental stimulation, and attention they deserve results in a happy Airedale that looks forward to spending time with, learning from, and protecting their family.

Airedales Vs. Other Guard Dog Breeds

German Malinois in a field

While breeds like the German Malinois or


rank as “top guard dog breeds,” the Airedale fits well in the ranks as a protective family pet.

©Bianca Grueneberg/

Airedale terriers aren’t always the first breed to pop into the mind when “guard dog breeds” are mentioned in conversation. Usually, people are referencing dogs like the German shepherd, Rottweiler, Doberman, or cane corso. These breeds are great protectors too — but Airedales have some unique advantages over them.

Compared to German shepherds, Airedales do better around strangers at first meeting. They can be introduced to friends and family more easily than a German shepherd, but they still maintain their protective nature. They also drool less and need less grooming attention.

Rottweilers are not pet-friendly like Airedales are, so if you’re a multiple-pet household, you’ll want to opt for the Airedale over the Rottweiler. In addition, Rottweilers can be unwieldy dogs for first-time dog owners and bark much more often than an Airedale.

Keeping with the same trend of more untrainable dogs, Dobermans follow Rottweilers in that category, placing Airedales even higher on the list of trainable guard dog breeds. Dobermans also fail to have the playful, confident, and friendly disposition Airedales have.

Finally, when compared to a cane corso, Airedales are more affectionate to their family and adapt well to lifestyle changes in nearly any environment. Cane corsos don’t adapt well and need to have a strict, predictable routine. 

Real-Life Examples of Heroic Airedale Terriers

World War II era Japanese fighter plane

Airedales played a significant role in World War I with the British forces.


Of all the dog breeds used in international conflict, Airedales have seen some of the most bloody battles. Airedales’ extreme loyalty, intelligence, and adaptability enable them to shine as sidekicks. During use in the First World War, many from the British Empire regarded the Airedales in battalions as war heroes. One even earned a Victoria Cross for his bravery in the face of enemies.

During World War I, Lt Col Edwin Hautenville Richardson was a dog trainer with his wife in Scotland. They ended up training hundreds of dogs — with a large percentage being Airedales — for both world wars.

Airedales take a patient hand to train at first, but their one-track mind and fearlessness enable them to complete nearly any impossible task laid before them. The most well-known story of an Airedale’s valor on the front lines was Jack. He weathered a breakneck pace, injured, through a half-mile of enemy lines to rescue his battalion. The soldiers he came from had become cut off and surrounded. They desperately needed reinforcements but had no way to communicate with the larger troops. Enter Jack, who carried their message through enemy lines despite a broken jaw, a broken leg, and a significant laceration on his back. He stopped at nothing to deliver the message — at which he succeeded — before passing.

Another Airedale who served in World War I remains unnamed and mysterious except for a small picture of him hanging in the Imperial War Museum in London. On his coastguard patrol, Jim heard a Zeppelin approach before his human counterparts and roused them to action. His actions saved the city of Ramsgate in Kent from a plethora of incendiary bombs.

Airedales Prove Themselves to Be Perfect Guard Dogs

As guard dog choices go, Airedale terriers are a wonderful breed for families and couples who want a steadfast companion that plays and protects. They’re loving, interested in the world around them, and downright heroic if called upon to make a courageous act. 

Next up, discover the 12 most popular tall and skinny dog breeds or 10 unique breeds of dog from Africa

The Top 7 Reasons Airedale Terriers Are the Perfect Guard Dog

1Natural Protective Instincts
2Intelligence and Trainability
3Fearless and Courageous
4Alertness and Sensitivity
5Adaptability and Versatility
6Loyalty and Bonding
7Socialization and Interaction
Summary Table of the Top 7 Reasons Airedale Terriers Are the Perfect Guard Dog

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Dora Zett/

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About the Author

Katarina is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on dogs, travel, and unique aspects about towns, cities, and countries in the world. Katarina has been writing professionally for eight years. She secured two Bachelors degrees — in PR and Advertising — in 2017 from Rowan University and is currently working toward a Master's degree in creative writing. Katarina also volunteers for her local animal shelter and plans vacations across the globe for her friend group. A resident of Ohio, Katarina enjoys writing fiction novels, gardening, and working to train her three dogs to speak using "talk" buttons.

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