Hunting & Field

The Hunting Airedale

The Airedale Terrier’s hunting ability has been documented in hunting journals since the early 1900’s. In the May 1909 issue of Country Life in America, Airedales were described as “having a very strong hunting instinct, with few dogs better equipped for shooting over in the cover or in the open. The Airedale’s speed, endurance, and imperviousness to climactic conditions fit him for bird hunting. He loves the water and can stay in it by the hour on the coldest winter day…making an ideal dog for snipe or to retrieve ducks and geese”. In the March 1921 issue of Outing, the breed was honored for “being an excellent retriever, particularly from water”. Present day Airedales have maintained the strong hunting ability which was bred into them from their inception.

In 1985, the ATCA Board of Directors formed the Hunting/Working Committee to promote the Airedale as a field dog. When the AKC denied the committee’s petition to open existing AKC hunt tests to Airedales, the ATCA Hunting/Working Committee developed our own ATCA hunting tests for Airedales. Beginning in 1986, the ATCA sponsored National hunt tests, allowing Airedales to participate in varied testing venues. The tests showcased the Airedale’s ability to flush and retrieve as well as track and trail fur bearing game. Dogs who successfully completed tests at the ATCA sanctioned venues received Flushing, Retrieving, and Fur titles from the Airedale Terrier Club of America. The breed’s ability to excel in a variety of hunting settings resulted in the Airedale being recognized as a “three-in-one” dog.

Years of hard work and perseverance by the ATCA paid off in July of 2009 when Airedales took their place on the AKC list of breeds recognized as gun dogs, eligible to earn AKC Hunting Test Titles. With this one decision by the AKC, a whole new world opened for Airedales. Today there are many training and testing opportunities open to Airedales that are available throughout every region of the country.

One of the ongoing ATCA Hunting and Field Committee events is the Randy Cooley Memorial Hunt Test, held every May near the town of Beaver Dam Wisconsin, North of Madison. Randy had started a regional ATCA hunting test in Wisconsin in 1998. Sadly, he died suddenly of a heart attack in 2002. The following year the ATCA decided to carry on the hunt test in his honor. In 2010 we celebrated the 8th year of the Randall Cooley Memorial Hun Test by holding the test as a licensed AKC Spaniel test for the first time. Randy would be very proud to be part of what the event has become and the ATCA is proud to hold the test in his memory.

As Airedales have trained and competed side by side with Spaniels breeds, they have earned respect and acceptance within that community. The Spaniel community has been exceptionally welcoming and helpful to Airedale handlers. Their mentoring of the ATCA Hunting and Field Committee has been noteworthy and generous. To find AKC Spaniel Hunting Tests or Clubs near you, follow the link below to the AKC website and search ‘Spaniel Hunting Tests’ or ‘Spaniel Clubs’ under the “Events Search” button. Also if you’d like to learn more about the working history of the Airedale Terrier breed, see the LINK below.

The ATCA Hunting and Field Committee is a group of breeders, hunters and hunt testers who are committed to preserving and promoting the Airedale Terrier’s hunting abilities. We also mentor people new to training an Airedale for hunting by providing information about spaniel clubs, professional trainers, recommended training books and anything else Airedale.

For information on any of these events look for the link below or contact Scott Lichty, Hunting and Field Committee Chair.

Article entitled:  “Airedales in the Field”


Reprinted from DN Magazine, 0886-2133, Copyright @#2016, Volume 2, Number 39, October 6, 2017, permission granted by Oyster Bay Publications, LLC and the author, M.J. Nelson.


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For more information: please contact Scott Lichty, chairperson at