Are Airedale Terriers Aggressive?

By John Martin - September 6, 2022

Airedale Terrier outside

The opinion on Airedale Terriers is quite divided—there are just as many folks who’ve thrown their hands up in despair as there are folks who wax poetic about the breed!

One of the reasons behind how hard Airedales can be to control is their aggressive nature. But are Airedale Terriers naturally aggressive, or do they just have certain triggers? Here’s everything you need to know about aggression in Airedale Terriers.

A Quick Intro to Airedale Terriers

Hailing from England, Airedale Terriers are a product of crossing different terrier breeds with otterhounds—the aim was to breed a dog that could efficiently combine the smelling, swimming, and hunting capabilities of both breeds.

Thus was born the Airedale terrier, an adorable, intelligent package of fluff that’s also a superb hunter and guard dog. These dogs excelled at both hunting and working and even today, enjoy being set tasks to complete (which makes them great at dog shows and in service).

Airedale Terriers have loving personalities, full of curiosity, intelligence, and quite an independent streak. These spirited dogs love being around children and other dogs and get extremely protective of their family, going to any lengths to defend them when the situation arises.

They can also be extreme goofballs, enjoying endless digging and chewing, stealing socks, playing, and generally being up to no good! Their puppyish charm extends well into their adult lives, often even up to their twilight years.

They’re capable of fast learning, especially if trained from their puppy years, and love any sort of mental and physical stimulation, enjoying games, puzzles, long walks, hikes, and any sort of outdoor activity.

However, if you want a dog that blindly obeys your every command, you won’t find it in an Airedale terrier. These dogs think for themselves and make their own decisions in a given situation.

Airedale Terriers are also extremely needy when it comes to love and attention from their owners. They want to constantly be around their owners and often don’t do well in solitude.

How Aggressive Are Airedale Terriers?

The thing with Airedale Terriers is that they’re not naturally aggressive dogs. What, then, drives them to aggressive behavior?

Here are some possible reasons behind an Airedale terrier’s aggression.


Airedale Terriers work best with positive reinforcement and detest being yelled at or hit. Even with owners, such treatment can cause an Airedale to be defiant and worse, aggressive. Airedales can also hold grudges against anyone who treats them this way.

A Strong Prey Drive

Airedale Terriers were originally hunting dogs and the hunting instinct has been sustained through the generations.

Therefore, when an Airedale believes that he or she is in a hunting situation (generally around smaller animals such as rabbits and cats), aggression may surface due to the strong prey drive still present in the dog’s genes.

Aggression Towards Other Dogs

Like other breeds, Airedale Terriers may also be given to dog-on-dog aggression. The causes behind this could be many.

The most common reason behind such aggression is the insufficient socialization of the dog. Socialization with other dogs needs to start at a young age, failing which many behavioral problems could arise, one of them being aggression.

Your Airedale could get territorial or defensive around other dogs, especially with other dogs of the same gender.

Another common reason is that growling is an inherited behavior, even if it is no longer required. While Airedales don’t generally have this inherited behavior, it is possible in the odd case.

Guarding the Family

The most common reason behind aggression in Airedales is their protective instinct. As mentioned earlier, these dogs are extremely courageous and brave and will go to any extent to protect those they love, treating them as their pack.

Such behavior is instinctive, so your Airedale will exhibit such tendencies even if you haven’t trained him or her for it.

Despite the lack of natural aggressive tendencies and training, Airedale Terriers can work themselves up into quite a fury when they need to safeguard their family and successfully chase away or fend off any attackers, not stopping until the job is done—even if it means getting hurt in the process.

An Abusive Past

Aggression is a common byproduct of an abusive past, particularly if the dog was abandoned or rescued or housed in a shelter. Anxiety and fear could give rise to aggression, especially if the dog learns that such behavior is successful in warding off threats.

Insufficient Mental and Physical Stimulation

Boredom from the lack of sufficient physical and mental stimulation can lead to aggression. Airedale Terriers, being the intelligent and energetic dogs that they are, require at least 40 minutes of exercise a day and sufficient games and activities.

Without these outlets for their energy, these dogs can get depressed, aggressive, and destructive.

Managing Aggression in an Airedale Terrier

Though Airedale Terriers are generally not aggressive, there are a few methods to control the aggression when it does occur:

  • In order to avoid aggression towards other animals, socialize your Airedale. Socializing needs to start in the puppy years itself to be successful, as training and habit-breaking becomes much harder in older dogs.

    Socializing your puppy with other puppies and animals will help avoid aggression towards other dogs as well as reduce the prey drive in Airedales (for example, if you socialize an Airedale puppy with a cat from a young age, it is less likely that the dog will treat the cat as prey).

  • Airedale Terriers are quite strong-willed, with a mind of their own. If you want to be able to control them and get them to listen to your commands, you need to start training them from a young age. This will not only help you control your dog better but also repress any unnecessary aggressive tendencies.

  • Always use positive reinforcement with your Airedale terrier. These dogs react negatively to threats but will do anything for you if you shower them with love, treats, and attention.

    This doesn’t mean that you should never punish them; it just means that you don’t unnecessarily punish them or be harsh when the situation doesn’t warrant it.

  • Establish that you are the alpha. Airedale Terriers understand hierarchy very well and follow it, so if they see you as the alpha, they’re more likely to listen and obey commands.

Surprisingly, Airedale Terriers hardly ever display aggressive behavior towards humans, even if they are strangers (unless they’re perceived as a threat). Though they may treat strangers with wariness, aggression is highly uncommon.

Also Read: How Much Do Airedale Terriers Cost?

The Bottom Line

As you can see, Airedales are not aggressive dogs by nature—it is only certain triggers that can cause aggression in them.

However, their stubbornness and strong-headedness can make it hard to bring them under control on the rare occasions where these dogs do get aggressive.

Unfortunately, many folks abandon or euthanize their dogs without understanding the reason behind their aggression.

Sufficient training is the primary solution to this, so only consider an Airedale if you’re willing to make the necessary mental and physical investments.