Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
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The Lab'Aire is a delightful mix of the chilled-out Labrador Retriever and the regal Airedale Terrier. As retrievers and terriers have quite different personality types, the temperament of each Lab'Aire can vary quite a lot. They are typically loving and affectionate but can be more independent and highly strung than their Labrador parent.

As the Airedale Terrier is the largest of all terriers, the Lab'Aire is no small dog and adults can reach heights of 58cm. Most would describe the Lab'Aire as a skinnier, longer-furred Labrador. Breed members have straight, wiry fur and most are either black or black and tan, though other colour combinations exist.

About & History

Lab'Aires are a recent creation that were likely first developed around 30 years ago. The trend to mix two Pedigrees together began in the 1970s and the Labrador was used in one of the very first official mixes, the Labradoodle (Labrador cross Poodle), so they are no novice when it comes to hybrid breeds.

The Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retrievers come in three distinct colours: yellow, black and chocolate. They have a reputation for being soppy and kind-hearted and many see them as the perfect pet to have around young children because of this. Though often kept purely as a companion animal, they are traditionally a hunting dog and many will still work for their living to this day. Originally bred in Canada, it was not long before they were brought to the UK where they were refined further.

They were used to hunt alongside men with guns and to retrieve game and fowl that were shot on land and in water, so it was important that they had good noses, obedient natures and an affinity for the water. Thanks to their biddable natures, we often employ Labradors as therapy dogs and seeing eye dogs today.

The Airedale Terrier

Airedale Terriers have a striking look, with their elegant silhouette and coiffed fur. Their nickname ‘King of Terriers’ is rather apt, not only due to their appearance, but also because of their loyal and hard-working personalities. As with the Labrador, Airedale Terriers were bred to work and were mainly employed as a hunting dog that would pursue vermin, as well as otters.

They were bred from the Otterhound and the Black and Tan Terrier and they had a reputation for working superbly in the water thanks mainly to the genes inherited from their Otterhound parent. They originated in Yorkshire, England and were later exported all around the world as tracking dogs. Their popularity peaked during and shortly after the First World War but nowadays they are a somewhat rare breed.


Lab'Aires are handsome, tall dogs but are sometimes mistaken for ‘Heinz 57 mutts’ as they have a rather scruffy appearance thanks to the wiry fur on their face and chest. They typically inherit the longer, narrower face of the Airedale, as well as their slimmer frame. They have a wide forehead and a long muzzle. Their almond-shaped eyes are either brown or hazel and they are set well apart. Their triangular ears are a prominent facial feature and they hang down and flop forwards endearingly. They have very long, straight limbs and a broad chest with a good abdominal tuck-up. Their tail is medium in length and should not be too slender.

The Lab'Aire grows to heights of between 53cm to 58cm and will weigh roughly 23kg to 32kg at maturity. They are classed as a medium-sized dog. The fur of the Lab'Aire is short and wiry, though will often be a few cms longer on their face and sometimes their chest and limbs. Some will have quite bushy eyebrows, much like the Airedale Terrier. They can inherit coat colour from either parent so may have chocolate brown, black, yellow or tan fur. A bi-colour coat is not uncommon.

Character & Temperament

A cheerful and confident dog, the Lab'Aire is a pleasure to be around and gets on well with most. They dedicate themselves to their family and are happiest when around the people they know best. Those that take more after their Airedale Terrier parent will be somewhat more independent and may act a little dominant at times, particularly if they feel that their owner is not in control. Some suggest that for this reason the Lab'Aire is best suited to an experienced owner.

Though the Labrador is heralded for being incredibly docile and tolerant of children (sometimes to their detriment!), the Airedale Terrier does not possess this personality trait so the Lab'Aire should be supervised in the presence of children, especially in the early days.

Behavioural issues, such as separation anxiety, do not pose as much of a challenge in this breed as others as they generally like their own company. They can be housed with other dogs and usually get on very well with them. As they have still got a strong prey drive, smaller pets may not be as welcome in their company.


An intelligent dog that has always worked for a living, the Lab'Aire is no stranger to training and enjoys taking part and showing off what it can do. Many are highly food driven, which trainers can use as a tool, rewarding positive interactions with treats and encouraging the dog to repeat the behaviour. Most have a good attention span but may get slightly distracted when in the park and animals, such as squirrels or mice are about.


When it comes to breeding designer dogs, their health should be one of the most important factors as breeding from unhealthy stock leads to the creation of unhealthy puppies. As the Lab'Aire gene pool is still small, it is critical that we pay close attention to the health of each individual. The typical lifespan of the Lab-Aire is ten to twelve years.

Hip Dysplasia

This orthopaedic condition is prevalent in both parent breeds and can dramatically affect the quality of life of those affected. We assess for hip dysplasia by taking a specific set of x-rays under either an anaesthetic or deep sedation. A score is assigned and the lower the score, the better. The maximum score is 106 and those with high scores should be neutered and not bred from.

Elbow Dysplasia

When elbows develop abnormally, dogs struggle to walk normally and arthritis will eventually develop. Dogs will be affected to varying degrees and while some may go on to live normal lives, others may find it difficult to simply get around. As this condition does not always show up well on an x-ray, more sensitive imaging techniques (such as CT scans) are typically advised when diagnosing elbow dysplasia.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopy causes itchiness which in turn leads to self-trauma and secondary bacterial and yeast infections. For some, their allergies will be seasonal while others will be affected all year round. Dogs can react to practically anything, from mites to moulds and chicken to cheese.

Where possible, we should try to identify the allergen so we can stop the dog from coming into contact with it. While atopy cannot be cured, we can use a combination of allergen avoidance, medication and immunotherapy to keep symptoms at bay.


A recent study has identified a gene that Labradors carry which makes them more likely to become obese. There is a 50% chance that a Lab'Aire will have this tendency, so owners should be vigilant for them gaining weight and should be consistent with both their diet and exercise.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Lab'Aires are somewhat energetic dogs and need about 60 to 90 minutes of exercise each day. They enjoy hiking off lead as this gives them the opportunity to sniff and follow trails. Not only is this good exercise, it also stimulates their mind. Excellent swimmers, these dogs enjoy a dip at any time of year.

Failing to provide enough exercise for the Lab'Aire will likely result in an unhappy dog with behavioural issues, as well as one that is prone to packing on the pounds.


The low maintenance coat of the Lab'Aire should be brushed weekly, with owners focusing on those areas with longer fur, such as the face. The pendulous ears should be dried thoroughly after every bath and wax should be cleaned out when needed.

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