Buying vs. Adopting – Airedale Terriers: An Experienced Owner Weighs In

The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to Airedale Terriers" by Andrea Berman. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.

Author Credit: Andrea Berman

Now that you’ve gotten over the “sticker shock” of dog ownership, it’s time to consider the when, where, and how of acquiring the Airedale that best suits your lifestyle. Consider these questions: Are you up for the challenge of raising a very young, rambunctious pup who is clueless about housetraining, walking on a leash, good manners, and sociability? Are you physically able to care for an energetic dog who can go from 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye? Or would an older, more mature dog be a better fit for you and your family?

Airedale terrier kissingWe have already mentioned that Airedales and kids are the proverbial “match made in Heaven,” but would your children be timid around a frisky puppy with a penchant for nipping and play-biting? Kids and puppies are great company for each other, and they will surely tire each other out, but we’d put our money on having the child’s energy run out much sooner than that of a very active doggy youngster. Despite promises like, “Mom, I PROMISE to feed and walk him! Can we get a dog? Can we? PLEEEEASE??”, if your child is like most, the responsibility angle gets old pretty quickly. Caring for a mature dog may be much more agreeable when a child has to balance baseball practice, homework, dance classes, and play dates. As a child parent and pet parent, it’s up to you to decide whether an older or younger dog will be the best fit for your family.

Is there anyone living in your home with a disability, and would it be putting them at risk for a puppy to be zipping around them at lightning speed? On the other hand, would a large dog be endangering a family member who may be in frail health? You may think that a new puppy could be that extra little spark that the older member of your household needs to keep them active and involved, but an older, more mature dog could offer the companionship and exercise they both need at this stage in their lives.

Airedale terrier smilingThat’s not to say that there isn’t some middle ground here, so consider this compromise when deciding upon puppy versus older dog: What about the Airedale that may require a little additional effort on your part as well as his, but will reward you with many years of joy? He’s not a young pup, he’s not a wise old elder, but somewhere in between. He may have a few not-so-desirable habits, or through no fault of his own found himself in a bad living situation, but with a little loving care, could be just the ONE for you and your family. Death, divorce, jobs, and relocation happen, as we all too often find out. Someone else’s cast-out canine could be your next best buddy, so there’s one more option in your search for your dream dog.

Breeder, Rescue, or Shelter?

Benefits and drawbacks abound here, and can vary exponentially. There are several choices, so let’s start with the shelter. You’ll find plenty of homeless waifs here, both mixed and pedigree, ranging in age from youngsters to gray-faced seniors. It’s estimated that approximately 25% of dogs turned in to shelters are purebreds, so there’s always a chance that you’ll find an Airedale in a shelter. However, many purebred dogs who arrive in shelters will then go to an appropriate breed rescue.

Airedale terrier lying on grassYou may never know the real circumstances of how a dog arrived at a shelter. Was it because an owner was unable—or unwilling—to care for him? Was it because of a death, a move, or a change in someone’s household situation? There are as many reasons as there are dogs. Some owners of purebred dogs are unwilling to consult with the breeder from whom the dog was purchased, whether it’s because they are embarrassed to admit that there may be a problem, or because they were unaware that this is an option. Perhaps the dog was a stray, found wandering the streets. Shelter workers and volunteers want to know that their dogs are being placed in the right home, and these kindhearted folks will do everything they can to ensure a perfect match.

If you do find a purebred Airedale in a shelter, you will most likely be asked to undergo a thorough background check. Don’t be put off. It’s in everyone’s best interest, and whether you get your Airedale Terrier at a shelter, a rescue, or from a breeder, you will need to offer proof that you will be a responsible owner, capable of providing a safe, loving environment for that dog. You may be asked for income and residency verification, prior dog ownership experience, and how much time you can devote to being a dog parent. Do you own or rent your home? Will your landlord allow pets? If you own a home, you will need to present utility or tax bills in your name. If you have other pets, you might be asked to return to the shelter with them to make sure they will get along with the prospective newcomer.

A reputable shelter will also require you to have everyone in the household come in to meet the dog. Avoiding potential problems greatly reduces the chance that a dog will be returned. A good fit for the family is just as important as a good fit for the dog. Most shelter organizations will require you to have the shelter dog spayed or neutered by a certain age, or will spay and neuter before the dog goes to a new home.

Unfortunately, since most shelters are overcrowded it can sometimes be difficult to get a great deal of specific information on any one dog’s personality traits. Volunteers at shelters may have some knowledge as to which dog needs a single-pet household, or which ones love kids and cats, or have some previous behavioral history, but even this can be vague, at best—attributable to so many homeless dogs, and so little time for shelter workers to devote to each and every one of them. It is indeed wonderful to find your dream dog at a shelter, but future pet parents must recognize and realize that shelter dogs may have some quirks at best, or just a sad story that accompanies what could be the most amazing dog you’ve ever known.

Rescue Organizations

Most dog pedigrees these days have breed rescues, which can, for a potential owner, be the right solution between shelter and breeder. Rescue workers and volunteers are likely to be very familiar with the breed. Whether the dogs which were turned in are housed in group kennels or, as is usually the case, foster homes, their caregivers know their personalities well, and can evaluate their physical and behavioral characteristics. Foster parents of canines waiting for adoption get to know their dogs, and are able to give wonderful insight as to what will ultimately lead to a successful adoption.

Airedale terrier playing on grass
Photo Courtesy – Sunny Vellios

With both shelters and rescue organizations, you can expect a placement fee, but it may be less than acquiring a puppy from a breeder, depending upon the age, availability, and temperament of their dogs. There are quite stringent guidelines on dog placement, and these can fluctuate depending upon the organization. Submitting applications, providing references, scheduling home visits, spaying and neutering, vaccinations, and more will be dependent upon the rescue’s criteria for adoption.

Rescue volunteers and foster families are located in many states, work diligently to have their dogs placed in the right home, and rely on donations and adoption fees to sustain their organizations. There are many great Airedale Terriers of every age waiting to find their forever homes, so if you haven’t already thought about adopting, we encourage you to do a little investigative work and see if this option is right for you. Who knows? Your Airedale Terrier could be just a phone call or a keyboard stroke away!

Finding a Reputable Breeder

If you’ve made up your mind that a puppy is the best choice, where do you start? We will most emphatically offer this advice of where NOT to start: DO NOT start at the neighborhood pet store. Spending an hour or two in a small room playing with a dog may be a nice way to pass the time, and your salesperson will try to tell you all the reasons why you NEED this dog, and the fact that, “This week only, she’s on sale, plus we’ll include the price of her first vet visit, a beautiful red and white New England Patriots collar, and her first bag of dog food. Don’t wait, because we have someone else who’s interested in her!” If you think you’re “rescuing” this dog from a glass-enclosed 3-foot-by-3-foot cage, and that you’re doing a good thing, you’re really only making room for another dog from another commercial, for-profit puppy factory. You will end up paying the price of the pet store’s overhead, you don’t know where the dog came from, are unfamiliar with its family history/lineage from a temperament standpoint, and all too often, there are unseen health issues. In the long run, a pet store puppy could cost you much more than getting a dog from a reputable breeder. ’Nuff said on that subject.

Airedale terrier in snow
Photo Courtesy – Betsy Burroughs

How do you find a reputable Airedale breeder? Start by checking with your local veterinary practice, but don’t stop there. Talk to strangers (well, the ones walking Airedales anyway!). Ask for referrals. Ask questions. Is their dog healthy? What’s the temperament? Do they know the breeder personally? Make phone calls and email inquiries, and don’t commit to the first breeder you find. Chances are you might be put on a wait list, so pull up your big girl pants, be patient, and try to understand that you probably won’t be taking home a dog in a matter of days, weeks, or even months. In the long run, it will all be worth it.

An excellent resource is the ATCA—Airedale Terrier Club of America. Find it online at With an extensive list of member/breeders, the ATCA offers a wealth of knowledge and listings of breeders by state. There are also many other internet sites which may be helpful including various Facebook pages pertaining to breeders and associations. Check local breeders’ clubs. They can offer help with referrals.

Tips for Choosing the Right Breeder

A few tips when trying to discern which breeder is right for you: Visit the facility. Ask questions. Ask for references and verify that they are credible. Interact with the dogs on the premises. Check to see that the environment is clean. Ask to see the parents of your prospective dog. Request to see certifications, registrations, AKC pedigrees, and health reports. Inquire about any genetic issues. (This is extremely important!) Read contracts and warrantees before you sign, and become familiar with the obligations of both the buyer and the breeder. Be prepared for the breeder to interview you.

Airedale terrier with puppy
Photo Courtesy -Carly Kanipe

It should be noted that there are several categories of breeders: professional breeders, hobby breeders, and the “backyard breeders.” Hobby breeders are conscientious, responsible breeders who, rather than producing large litters, are more interested in working to perpetuate a particular lineage. The quality of their dogs is as important to them as it is to a professional breeder, and they are ethical, knowledgeable, hardworking people, dedicated to their particular breed.

Stay away from the backyard breeder. They are often only a step up (and in some cases, a step or two down) from the pet stores and puppy mills. They are in the business for one thing, and one thing only—profit. You’ll find them advertising throughout the internet, and while they may try to convince you that they always put the health and welfare of their dogs first, it’s far from the truth. Don’t be fooled by empty promises. A reputable breeder will want to be sure that their dogs will be placed in the perfect household. If it’s a good match from everyone’s point of view, you’ll have taken the first steps on the path to finding the right dog for you and your family.

Personal note: Here’s a story about a good friend of mine—a very gullible, foolish, and somewhat impulsive young lady…OK, I’m lying here. It was me. Many years ago, prior to becoming a professional dog trainer, I was walking along one of the many lovely beaches of Boston’s North Shore, when I spotted the most magnificent dog running along the water’s edge. He was huge, hairy, and handsome, and immediately came to greet me with wet kisses and a wagging tail. Dog lovers make friends easily, and this dog’s owner and I began chatting. “He’s a Bernese Mountain Dog. He loves everyone. Best dog I’ve ever had.”

Airedale terrier sittingThe owner, Frank, and I quickly became friends and realized that we lived nearby one another. Frank brought “Moose” around to visit often, and I soon decided that my next dog would be a Berner. Sadly, Frank passed away before I thought to ask about his breeder. But now I was a woman on a mission. I wanted—no, needed—a dog just like Moose.

This all took place before we had such impressive inventions as web sites, blogs, and Google, so other than email (think CompuServe; yes, this was the dark ages of the internet) I was pretty much on my own. After many hours of research, I managed to locate a breeder of Bernese Mountain Dogs who was in nearby Vermont, “only” a mere 3½ hour drive from my home. I chatted extensively with the breeder via telephone, as she informed me that she had 2 pups for sale, a male and a female, from her current litter. They were 12 weeks old and ready to go. The price was within my budget, and although I was willing to make the 3½  hour drive, she “coincidentally” was driving a little bit south to drop off one of the dogs to another buyer, and would I like to meet her and have first choice? Oh, and by the way, it would have to be a cash transaction.

It all sounded well and good to me, so we arranged to meet. The halfway point was the parking lot at Burger King in Brattleboro, Vermont. (Do we see any red flags here?) We rendezvoused at the appointed time, and a woman soon exited an SUV with 2 small dog crates, each containing the most adorable balls of black, brown, and white fluff I had ever seen. The female pup and I bonded immediately, so there was no doubt in my mind that I had found “MY” dog. The breeder said that since she was not sure which dog I would want, she would have to send me the AKC certificates and all of the vet records as soon as she returned home, but assured me that her dogs were healthy and from an excellent lineage. Who was I to doubt her?

Fast forward to a few months in the future, and you can probably guess what happened. Despite calling many times, I received no response from the breeder, no certificates, nothing in writing. Nada, zippo, zilch. Moxie was, indeed, the beautiful, loving dog that I had wanted. What I hadn’t wanted was the vet bills that ensued. Hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, food allergies, skin, eye, and ear issues. With a little luck, a lot of money, and often weekly trips to the vet, she managed to reach the age of 11, almost unheard of for a Berner. She was greatly loved and our years together were filled with some very happy memories, despite her sad health history and my empty wallet.

What did I learn from this experience? There are good breeders and then there are “backyard breeders”—the ones who are only interested in making a few bucks at the expense of a very naive dog lover. Caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware.

Choosing the Perfect Airedale

An experienced, reputable breeder will have a thorough knowledge of their dogs, their dogs’ history, and any potential health issues, and they will want to be sure that their dogs will be placed in the right home situation. A dog who must be returned for ANY reason is one dog too many. But a good, responsible breeder should be willing to try to alleviate any problems that may arise, answer questions, and, if need be, take a dog back. Certainly every situation is different, but it is the responsibility of the buyer to get everything in writing, ask questions, and be sure that you are agreeable to all terms of the contract before you sign. Whether or not you will be entitled to some, all, or none of your money will be up to the breeder and the individual situation. Every breeder and buyer hopes that this will never happen, but there can be unforeseen circumstances.

Breeders, for the most part, encourage their dogs’ owners and prospective owners to stay in contact, and would much rather spend time answering questions, offering assistance, and making sure that their dogs are happy and healthy, than having to re-home one of their dogs. If there are concerns of any kind, from the most innocuous quirky behavior to a potentially problematic situation, contact your breeder. And if your pup is just the love of your life and is everything you’d hoped it would be, let the breeder know that, too. Kudos to all the great, caring breeders out there!

Male or Female?

Despite years of research, it appears that no one has yet to figure out if there is an advantage to owning one gender of dog over another. Really, it all boils down to personal preference, so we can’t offer a definitive answer to this question. If, for example, you’ve always had female dogs, or feel that you can relate better to one gender more than another, then your decision will be easier. If you think male dogs are more your cuppa tea, you most likely have your own valid reason. So the advice here would be stick with that with which you’re comfortable.

There are many stereotypical, age-old arguments for why you should or shouldn’t get one gender of dog or the other, and you’ll hear all sorts of differing opinions. I have owned dogs my entire adult life, both male and female, and although the females have outnumbered the males, I’ve loved them all the same. In most breeds, a male will usually be a bit larger than a female, and Airedales are no exception.

Airedale terrier looking upTemperament-wise, I have had a few female dogs who were more assertive than males. There are some behavioral issues that can be inherent in both genders. Females may be viewed as typically more gentle, but I can state here in no uncertain terms that it’s not always the case. My first dog was a male Cocker Spaniel who, if you looked at him the wrong way, would submissively squat, pee on your shoe, and tremble in fear of some unknown demon about to emerge from under his doggy bed. My female Airedale, on the other hand, well, let’s just say “quite outgoing” would be a fitting description for her personality.

Other than temperament, there are a few additional considerations. Males who are not neutered may have more of a tendency to roam. In some breeds, unneutered males may be considered to be more assertive. If you are not planning to spay a female dog, you must take into consideration whether or not you are prepared to deal with her going into heat. Many male dogs will urinate frequently to mark their territory when being walked or even in the home. But there is the occasional female who does this also. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. An experienced breeder who spends weeks and months with their dogs can advise you on their particular personality traits so listen to their guidance. Unless you’ve already decided on male vs. female, quiet and laidback vs. Ms. Happy-Go-Lucky-Party-Animal, then keep an open mind. Often, it’s not you who will choose the dog, but the dog who will choose you!

To read more from "The Complete Guide to Airedale Terriers" by Andrea Berman, or purchase on Amazon, visit the link below:

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