Are Airedale Terriers Smart?

By John Martin - September 6, 2022

Closeup of Airedale Terrier

If you’re thinking of bringing home an Airedale Terrier, you’re in great company—from John Wayne to President Harding, Airedale Terriers have been quite the beloved pick. These beautiful dogs, though they can be quite the rowdy puppers, grow into their own easily and stand proud as brave, confident dogs.

One of the most distinguishing features of an Airedale Terrier is its smartness. As a new Airedale owner, this smartness is something to both take pride in as well as beware of. Here’s everything you need to know about an Airedale’s smartness as well as dealing with any overly smart behavior!

Are Airedale Terriers Smart?

Airedale Terriers are extremely intelligent dogs, often regular features on lists of the smartest dog breeds. If there was a scale of 1-10 for doggo smartness, Airedales would earn an 8 or a 9.

In human terms, this would mean intelligence equivalent to that of a 2.5-year-old.

This means that Airedales can easily learn new tricks, have a great range of instinctive behavior and skills (such as being natural swimmers and being protective of the family even if they’re not trained to be watchdogs), and can even read reactions and moods very easily.

They can even recognize various objects and easily associate them with actions or events, such as the sound of car keys being a sign that the owners are leaving or even a jacket being a sign of going outside and a possible walk.

This makes them easy dogs to train—there’s not much that you need to teach them, and anything that you do need to teach them is picked up fast, so you’re not spending too much time and effort on training.

It is also believed that Airedales can learn up to 165 words, commands, and signals; for the smartest dogs, this number is around 250.

They may also be able to recognize counting up to the number five and have displayed the ability to easily outwit their owners and other dogs if it means rewards.

Here are some more signs that are indicative of smartness:

  • A natural instinct of protecting themselves and staying safe
  • Easy mastery of new tricks and lessons
  • The ability to figure out escape routes easily
  • The ability to easily remember orders and commands without much practice
  • Puzzle-solving skills
  • Knowing how to grab your attention
  • Reacting to your mood, such as snuggling with you and trying to cheer you up when you’re down
  • The ability to recognize and associate actions
  • The ability to pick up on the mood, especially if you’re leaving the house

Their smartness makes Airedale Terriers a great option for dog shows and service.

In Service

Given their origin story as labor dogs, service is in the Airedale’s genes. Their intelligence meant that they could be used for demanding, complicated tasks and their obedience meant that they would easily listen.

As mentioned earlier, these dogs were soldiers in the First World War, used to carry messages across the borders and also track down any wounded soldiers.

In fact, before German Shepherds captured the hearts and units in law enforcement, Airedale Terriers were the popular choice.

Apart from serving in the army, Airedale Terriers also made great farm dogs, retrieving lost animals or herding flocks.

Airedales have the ability to understand and execute almost any command, but only with the right training. Without this, they can turn out to be stubborn, willful dogs who let their curiosity get the better of them.

In Dog Shows

Their intelligence allows Airedale Terriers to excel in dog shows, especially the more complicated challenges such as agility runs (though their speed lets them down eventually).

Also Read: How Much Do Airedale Terriers Cost?

The Problem with Smartness!

Though the intelligence levels in Airedales are a definite cause for celebration, they can also quickly turn into a source of despair.

When you have a smart dog, you also have every chance of having an overly smart dog (and not in a good way), which is often the case with Airedale Terriers.

These dogs easily understand how the reward system works and which behavior will earn them a treat.

For example, your terrier may eat something he shouldn’t be eating while on a walk and will not obey any command till he’s ready to do so. However, once he’s had his fill, he will come trotting right back to you, finally heeding your command, and will expect a treat for coming back!

Airedales are masters at bending rules if it means more benefits. They know what kind of behavior can earn them treats and what can result in the opposite, and they also have an acute sense of what they can’t get away with vs what they can.

Therefore, the right type of training is paramount if you don’t want an Airedale Terrier that’s constantly getting the better of you and being a handful with its stubbornness and smarts!

Training Your Airedale

To ensure that your training methods don’t backfire, here are some tips for training an Airedale Terrier:

Start Young

The older the terrier is, the harder it is to break the stubbornness. Additionally, if your puppy forms any bad habits in this stage, breaking them is much harder, especially in a breed with as much of an independent streak as Airedales.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is the most effective way to train your Airedale. If you resort to being rough or yelling, this proud dog is going to refuse to obey you. Punishment is sometimes necessary, but physical aggression should be the exception and not the norm.

Treats and appreciation for good behavior can help reduce your Airedale’s tendency to act out.


Patience is key with intelligent breeds such as the Airedale. Their intelligence means that they won’t always obey you; you should be prepared for selective command obeying and deafness! Patience goes a long way here.

Mental and Physical Stimulation

Airedales love mental and physical stimulation. Constantly playing games (especially games where they need to solve something for a reward or food) or introducing new tricks will keep them mentally stimulated, while up to 40 minutes of a day of exercise will help them work off their energy.

Bear in mind that no matter how much you train your Airedale, you’re never going to completely get rid of their independent and stubborn streaks. This is a part of their nature, and while it can be controlled, you shouldn’t seek to erase a part of their nature.

These are curious, energetic, independent dogs who love exploring and playing—this is where the beauty lies!

Also Read: Do Airedale Terriers Shed?

A Closing Note

Airedale Terriers have charming, vibrant personalities and as mentioned earlier, you shouldn’t try to suppress or change this. Doing so will only make your Airedale confused and depressed and this is going to bring you no joy, either.

If you feel like an Airedale is too much to handle, there are always other loving breeds to consider, but if you do bring home an Airedale, ensure that you can give your doggo the life he or she needs and deserves.