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foxhound45

Working Airedale Terriers

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This Post is to clarify that Airedales are being worked in the field today here in Northern Ireland and I aim to outline their function within the pack.

 

In N.I./R.O.I. the "Working Airedale" is closely guarded and the physical form and mentality differs completely from the Kennel Club dogs you now mostly see.

 

The name An Táin (The Raid) comes from a famous cattle raid in Celtic Ulster, and continues to work Airedales "alongside" lurchers, terriers and hounds as a unique pack. Their diversity, stamina and ability to range confidently away from the hunter handling them are a reason this pack has continued and as I have seen them continue to be successful in the field I would like to share why the breed should be protected..

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The traditional Airedale is thought to be lost, both in its old physical form and the hard working terrier that once hunted otters has thought to now be nothing more than a ringside pet. The photo above has been taken in the early 1900's of the old-style Airedale, this form still exists here in Ireland and I am currently training a bitch now finishing her first year in the field (Bitch in photo below).

 

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I am also working a bitch of 5 years as a heavy terrier in the field and is fantastic at marking fox holes, working cover and finishes a fox like a tasmanian devil (5yr old bitch left of photo).

 

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So why an Airedale?

 

When an Airedale is entered as a pup the handler must know exactly what he wants from that dog in the same way a hound is worked to cover, a lurcher is used for foxes or a terrier is a digging or bushing dog.

 

If the Airedale is to be worked for fox it must have limited/if any contact with rabbits during training. That pups whole life must be fox related, playing with fox tails, tracking trailed skins, working alongside experienced fox dogs (of any breed). The same goes with deer tracking for stalkers who may be thinking of the breed. If the dog is used to track deer, it is not used off the lead to point deer. It must not be used as a fox dog. Its role is defined before it ever steps foot onto grass.

 

The Airedale Terrier has huge prey drive, even when working cover will try its hardest to go to ground, but thankfully this doesn't last long given its size. The prey drive is what makes the breed formidable in the field. Some may ask why the Airedale is no longer used and this is down to several factors.

 

The Airedale is one of the world's most modern breeds. Younger than the Kerry Blue, the Wheaten, the Manchester and originating from Aire, its function to work alongside Otter Hounds. The fact that the breed is so relatively new immediately highlights the small number of pure genetic parent dogs that were available to continue the lines to what we know it as today.

 

Each World War (1 & 2) financially having a massive impact on financially crippling Hound Packs, coupled with the Otter Ban and of course changes in public perception on hunting.

 

As the years went by those dogs which we were important but not crucial diminished into a small handful of working dogs and from here factors such as inbreeding, cross-breeding and new lineage such as the Redline took its toll on the traditional Airedale.

 

So what is the Airedale's function in today's hunting pack?

 

Before you comment on gameness, aggressiveness to other dogs, inability to hunt or not possessing the fire to close in on vermin please ask yourself this one question...............when have you seen an AIredale working?

 

I work with Airedales every day, in and around other dogs of all types. Even in a high tension scenario like widening for the draw on a fox dig Airedales will stand focused, without sounding, of the lead for the exact moment to get the cue to move in. They have a huge amount of fire, will frantically dig at spit holes where the scent rises to their nose buried solid against the hole. They will hit the hole hard to push to any game and the jaw pressure is immense, a reason the AIredale is used extensively in German/American Schutzhund as well as a catch dog for wild boar in both countries.

 

 

So do they stand and bay at game or do they hit hard and silent?

 

This is probably the most fundamental question posed to any hunter working an Airedale and the answer is it depends on the line.

 

When working Fell terriers, we all know Fell's that will stand off a fox and treble its lungs out, almost making that fox go deaf but never moving back and forcing that fox solidly into a dead end until being dug. We also know the Fell terrier that will go to ground and hit its fox so hard that there won't even be a sound and before the locator box is switched on you discuss whether it is digging up to the fox or still looking.

 

What I mean is an Airedale's traits depend on such a number of things that we must understand what makes up that exact animal standing in the kennel. Here is what I mean:

 

1). Did the pup originate from working stock?

 

2). Is it a Redline or Traditional Airedale or does it have both genetics?

 

3). Is it a Dog or a Bitch? What place did it have in the litter i.e. was it headstrong? Playful/Play Hard? Bark excessively? etc. These are only a few things.

 

4). How was the dog entered? End Stop? Watching other dogs? What did it kill (rat/Feral cat/fox cub/mature fox?)? More importantly did it get hurt in the process or did it have time to be worked up and held back until it couldn't stand being on the leash any longer?

 

5). What age was it entered? (too young? with another experienced dog?)

 

6). Did the handler punish the dog at any time during the entering process? It does happen! Did a dog nail the pup at any time during the entering stage?

 

7). As the pup matured how was it treated? Did it go to a new handler, did this handler make mistakes or abuse the dog? Or did any other member of the kennel target this pup in particular?

 

8) Has the pup been given time to mature before being entered and time to mature in the field?

 

9). What quarry did this dog mostly encounter?

 

10) Finally what breeds did this particular dog work alongside and dispatch quarry with as a pack?

 

 

I know that any of those questions can relate to any type of breed, but each one is vital in building a working Airedale.

 

In order to understand the Airedale you must understand that it is an intelligent pack animal. I emphasize the word PACK.

 

As a pack dog there are going to be those that work better at flushing, those that bay more than others and those that bay less, those that bay on point, all hunt quietly and some that bay when on the rear of a fox, those that take to water and those that don't. Many find the letter hard to comprehend as they were worked with otter hounds but in fact Airedales will always cross deep water but some don't won't enter DEEP water unless needed.

 

 

 

So how do they function in a pack?

 

If you are working the Airedale in a pack you must know each member. An Airedale litter will produce a variety of personality types, the Airedale is not a breed with one type. This is what some people struggle to understand. The Airedale terrier is highly intelligent at solving how to escape a pen but this intelligence does not make it any less game, in fact if bitten by fox or dog an Airedale will ALWAYS unleash the fury. They do not have middle ground, it is either working or playing to an absolute mental set of jaws that when clamping down will take the animal to the back of its jaws and close lock those jaws like one giant bear trap. This is exactly why they are used as military schutzhund or wild boar catch dogs.

 

When they do clamp they will shake like a demon possessed and seeing a heavy terrier work has to be seen to be believed. Nothing survives.

 

When working an Airedale as a cover dog, only he will know how that particular dog works, if it will bay or be quiet. Either way, every Airedale I have owned can take an enormous amount of hurt and not make a noise. The hard coat helps but any time I have seen my 5 year old bitch get hurt when drawing and killing foxes by herself she does not make a sound.

 

 

How the Airedale hunts?

 

The Airedale has a special gland in the roof of its mouth called a Jacobson's organ which is similar to that of a snake where it air-scents, tasting the air and building a scent picture.

 

My youngest bitch is used only for tracking deer and during her early years all her training (and still is) is carried out with her on a long line. This has two functions, it allows me to slow down her tempo and pace as Airedales have such high prey drive that they will want to get to their item as fast as they can. The problem with scent is that it can be blown by wind causing airborne scent, so as an Airedale air-scents it will sometimes follow a trail 20feet to the side. Airscenting alone can cause a dog to lose a trail for a brief period of time if that trail doulbles back or turns at a sharp angle. The dog air-scenting will suddenly run out of scent so in training (as goes for any hound or beagle), a long-line should be used to encourage the dog to work more methodically in keeping its nose to the gorund.

 

As for the second reason a longline should be used in training especially on finding deer is that as the hunter closes in on an animal should the dog be off the lead it will run ahead faster than the handler can keep up and if the deer is still alive will take grip. If that particular Airedale is silent, some are not, some sound with a roar that is like a lion, then the handler will not be able to pinpoint the location of the Airedale and deer, which if an injured red deer can cause serious injuries should the handler not get there quick enough. Also if the dog is completely silent the handler may lose the dog completely, the situation made worse of working in a pine forest plantation or if the dog has closed in on the deer under wind fell trees which are hard and dangerous to get through.

 

The Airedale can also pick out an injured deer among a whole herd all moving together. I do not know how my Airedale bitch does this but I have seen it several times, even at 1 year old she has had three successful fallow tracks of an injured animal moving with a herd. I put it down to a trait we all possess as humans, being able to walk into a friends house and smell his/her unique smell from another friends house. We can still recognise the smell of that family even though a cooking turkey may be wafting in the background. An Airedale is a master of tracking, this is what they were bred to do - track and close in for the kill. Airedale's are extremely competitive and this should be used to our advantage of wanting to make a game heavy drawing dog. Each individual on this site has their own particular way of entering a dog, as long as it is the right way and works for dog and handler then no more needs to be said. The Airedale will do its job and you will see those jaws are not for show.

 

To finish up, if you look at my number of posts I am not a regular on here and only started coming on after years of hunting. This season I will add to this and post more photos of Airedales working in the field, but like you I do not bring a camera hunting for a hundred and one reasons.

 

Writing about working Airedales "TODAY" in the field for fox is not common and I am at an advantage because I am here in Ireland, I can work alongside Beagle packs, working terriers and I have more than 1. On behalf of those who work Airedales I do want to apologise at the lack of proper photos, accounts and pups that are available to those who feel the breed has a defined role in their pack as a hard working, large, game terrier. This I promise to rectify but you must give me time.

 

Here a few of photos I have sourced to fill the gap and for those that are interested in the breed.

 

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Austrian Dog below:

 

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An Táin bitch (1 year old) tracking on a long line (below):

 

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An Táin (bitch - 7 moths old) below:

 

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An Táin pup (3months old) on a 10 metre artificial deer track (below):

 

 

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Good to see you've posted on here! Thanks for doing that write up, very interesting: I'd love to know more about the background of the Tain kennels. I assume (wrongly or rightly) that they are KC registered, originally from show stock? How does their ability and intelligence differ from the American Redline strain of working Airedales? Do you think that their noses are as good?

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I know I will own one of these dogs everything about them, fascinates me,my farther said they were the best dogs he ever saw but couldn't afford one, thankyou very much for your write up, it has answered a lot of things for me, I am focusing on getting one next yr and would love some blood line info,what's good and not, I don't buy show dogs,or dogs too closely bred,and love dogs with real prey drive,and it's good to read a post from someone with real depth of knowledge,

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A very informative writeup keep them coming.I have always been very interested in the true working Airedale but getting the right stuff seems impossible in the UK.There is a chap in Scotland that imported some I think that were Redline breeding.How do yours differ from these lines?

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Nice write up bud hope you carry on with working your airedales and find somemore like minded people to help carry on with a breeding plan or a import plan to widen the gene pool over here and in Ireland

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None of my dogs have papers, this was not planned it just is how it is.

 

I have my own view on KC registered dogs:

 

Yes, there are KC lines that show less of the raw hunting instincts that we require in the hunting field. But you must remember with Airedales in particular, developed in the turn of the 1900's, are not like many other breeds which have had hundreds of years of competitive breeding in order to produce a purely aesthetic animal.

 

I honestly believe we have to be very careful about this phrase "KC dogs can't work".

 

KC Airedale terriers were all produced from working lineage, although the KC dog was selected on form not ability, but this is not to say that by picking a dog with good form it immediately categorises that dog as having no ability.

 

If we label KC dogs as unable to work because they look powerful, stand tall and are leggy but select dogs we deem to be working because they have square set shoulders, wide muzzle and rough coat then we are contributing to the decline of the breed.

 

Some people personally do not care how a dog looks as long as it works........but why shouldn't a hunter working Airedales be entitled to the same strong, powerful looking dogs we see in the wheaten, bull lurcher world, or any other breed for that matter.

 

It is so easy to say "ach, sure they are all KC dogs now". Well in my opinion KC dogs haven't lost their working traits but lost their working handler. We are so quick to blame the animal but what about the handler?

If I was offered a KC dog I would take it immediately and do my damnedest to bring out the best in that dog. Tracking is not hard, when I started tracking deer Stalkers working Bavarian and Hanoverian mountain hounds ridiculed an Airedale being worked in the field. I now find that although the two breeds work exceptionally well at tracking they work no matter and in fact completely differently than an Airedale terrier.

 

Bavarian hounds and Hanoverians are very methodical in the field, there sole mission is to track. If you go to buy one of these dogs it will most likely come with an encyclopaedia of breeding lineage and a nice price tag of £750+, does this make them less of a working dog?......he'll no. It just depends on how the hound was brought on.

 

As I say to anyone teaching a dog to track and they themselves learning in the meantime, a track is a track is a track. It is the dog doing what it does best, following scent, but how that dog was allowed to follow scent is a completely different matter. If the dog is to be used for foxes but the handler took the dog to a place he knows is filled with rabbits, guess what, you probably will end up with a dog that could potentially come off scent. So discipline is needed not for the dog, but for the handler! A working Airedale is a holy specialised piece of equip,ent the same way the lads here in Ireland will only train foot beagles on foxes. If it is for fox it is only ever trained on fox, brought to ground where fox is present and in time it can be taken the Airedale will work ground ignoring rabbit. The pack will make mistakes, no doubt about it, especially given the breeds prey drive, but the handler must understand how unique and specialised his Airedale or pack of Airedales are.

 

As for Redlines, I have experience with them and they are very hard working dogs. I aim to restore the traditional Airedale and this is the only reason I like the traditional Airedale over the sleek coated type. There is an amount of literature the size of a mountain based on working Airedale breeders in the USA and Canada who believe the Redline is not pure traditional Airedale and they could be right. It is a modern Airedale. The two forms must be accepted. In the same way we have wire coated and sleek lined vizla's, pointers, teckels, jack russells, fells. Let's not be pedantic, we have two breeds and for those who truly work dogs they are happy that two lines exist as it gives us more choice in such a limited amount of Airedales, working and non-working left in the UK.

 

I want to finish on this note.......

 

At the moment, some hunters are looking to foreign breeds because these are better dogs. They are not, they will be if we keep looking abroad and let our own native breeds diminish and vanish into thin air. The Jack Russell, once used extensively but now lads want the "better" dog, the dog no-one has, such as a jagd terrier. By selecting foreign breeds not only are we stating that our own native breeds are to good enough but we are dismissing all the work by our fore-fathers who hunted, selected dogs, working tirelessly in the field. In fact by not selecting our native breeds we are loosely stating that those breeds with fail or unable to carry out the task as good as our neighbouring countries.

 

In N.I., R.O.I., Scotland, Wales, England our dogs are viewed across the world as being the best and some folks paying handsome money to export our breeds, why else did the Airedale ever end up in America and Europe. So if you do have the opportunity to pick up a KC Airedale you must decide not to give the dog time, but understand that you need the time to build confidence in your dog. It is a highly specialised piece of equipment like all tracking dogs, so you must develop your dog in that it can work confidently away from you for long periods, strengthen its ability to track the item that is your main quarry, fox, deer etc, and allow the dog to mature. Turning an exceptional trackiing dog into a drawing dog, or vice versa takes years so if you have space in your kennels for this dog and have a pack with which the dog can work with then I promise you this breed will not let you down.

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I think I have covered all questions and for Spindolero, I do plan to breed a litter next year and 2 the year after. I will be keeping a few to widen the pack and any that I will be letting go will only go to working homes, after all it is important that working Airedales pups remain in the working Airedale world. But that is not until next year.

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Hey Hawki, I would really hope anyone working Irish Terriers could answer this. I can only speculate but to tell you the truth I have never seen them being worked in the field.

 

The Airedale would be much larger with a larger muzzle, but I would think the Airedale as being more dog friendly in the field. Truthfully only an Irish terrier handler who works them hard could answer.

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None of my dogs have papers, this was not planned it just is how it is.

 

I have my own view on KC registered dogs:

 

Yes, there are KC lines that show less of the raw hunting instincts that we require in the hunting field. But you must remember with Airedales in particular, developed in the turn of the 1900's, are not like many other breeds which have had hundreds of years of competitive breeding in order to produce a purely aesthetic animal.

 

I honestly believe we have to be very careful about this phrase "KC dogs can't work".

 

KC Airedale terriers were all produced from working lineage, although the KC dog was selected on form not ability, but this is not to say that by picking a dog with good form it immediately categorises that dog as having no ability.

 

If we label KC dogs as unable to work because they look powerful, stand tall and are leggy but select dogs we deem to be working because they have square set shoulders, wide muzzle and rough coat then we are contributing to the decline of the breed.

 

Some people personally do not care how a dog looks as long as it works........but why shouldn't a hunter working Airedales be entitled to the same strong, powerful looking dogs we see in the wheaten, bull lurcher world, or any other breed for that matter.

 

It is so easy to say "ach, sure they are all KC dogs now". Well in my opinion KC dogs haven't lost their working traits but lost their working handler. We are so quick to blame the animal but what about the handler?

If I was offered a KC dog I would take it immediately and do my damnedest to bring out the best in that dog. Tracking is not hard, when I started tracking deer Stalkers working Bavarian and Hanoverian mountain hounds ridiculed an Airedale being worked in the field. I now find that although the two breeds work exceptionally well at tracking they work no matter and in fact completely differently than an Airedale terrier.

 

Bavarian hounds and Hanoverians are very methodical in the field, there sole mission is to track. If you go to buy one of these dogs it will most likely come with an encyclopaedia of breeding lineage and a nice price tag of £750+, does this make them less of a working dog?......he'll no. It just depends on how the hound was brought on.

 

As I say to anyone teaching a dog to track and they themselves learning in the meantime, a track is a track is a track. It is the dog doing what it does best, following scent, but how that dog was allowed to follow scent is a completely different matter. If the dog is to be used for foxes but the handler took the dog to a place he knows is filled with rabbits, guess what, you probably will end up with a dog that could potentially come off scent. So discipline is needed not for the dog, but for the handler! A working Airedale is a holy specialised piece of equip,ent the same way the lads here in Ireland will only train foot beagles on foxes. If it is for fox it is only ever trained on fox, brought to ground where fox is present and in time it can be taken the Airedale will work ground ignoring rabbit. The pack will make mistakes, no doubt about it, especially given the breeds prey drive, but the handler must understand how unique and specialised his Airedale or pack of Airedales are.

 

As for Redlines, I have experience with them and they are very hard working dogs. I aim to restore the traditional Airedale and this is the only reason I like the traditional Airedale over the sleek coated type. There is an amount of literature the size of a mountain based on working Airedale breeders in the USA and Canada who believe the Redline is not pure traditional Airedale and they could be right. It is a modern Airedale. The two forms must be accepted. In the same way we have wire coated and sleek lined vizla's, pointers, teckels, jack russells, fells. Let's not be pedantic, we have two breeds and for those who truly work dogs they are happy that two lines exist as it gives us more choice in such a limited amount of Airedales, working and non-working left in the UK.

 

I want to finish on this note.......

 

At the moment, some hunters are looking to foreign breeds because these are better dogs. They are not, they will be if we keep looking abroad and let our own native breeds diminish and vanish into thin air. The Jack Russell, once used extensively but now lads want the "better" dog, the dog no-one has, such as a jagd terrier. By selecting foreign breeds not only are we stating that our own native breeds are to good enough but we are dismissing all the work by our fore-fathers who hunted, selected dogs, working tirelessly in the field. In fact by not selecting our native breeds we are loosely stating that those breeds with fail or unable to carry out the task as good as our neighbouring countries.

 

In N.I., R.O.I., Scotland, Wales, England our dogs are viewed across the world as being the best and some folks paying handsome money to export our breeds, why else did the Airedale ever end up in America and Europe. So if you do have the opportunity to pick up a KC Airedale you must decide not to give the dog time, but understand that you need the time to build confidence in your dog. It is a highly specialised piece of equipment like all tracking dogs, so you must develop your dog in that it can work confidently away from you for long periods, strengthen its ability to track the item that is your main quarry, fox, deer etc, and allow the dog to mature. Turning an exceptional trackiing dog into a drawing dog, or vice versa takes years so if you have space in your kennels for this dog and have a pack with which the dog can work with then I promise you this breed will not let you down.

Absolutely spot on in every way :thumbs::thumbs::thumbs:

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Nice to see someone embarking on a breeding programme that has done his research ,and has a clear , achievable aim that will benefit the breed and put proper tried and tested workers back in the gene pool , the very best of luck to you sir and please keep us updated .

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