Jump to content

Working Airedale Terriers


Recommended Posts

  • Replies 141
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

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 cl

only pics i have of my airedales all redline us bloodlines

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 re

Posted Images

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..



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).




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).




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.




Austrian Dog below:




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





An Táin (bitch - 7 moths old) below:






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






I rarely post here but great post and you should be commended for the work you are doing with this breed.Again a great read written by a knowledgeable hunting man.

Link to post

Hey Penny, I just picked up on your question about the Redline and Traditional Airedale nose, as to which is better.


Both are brilliant! It depends on which dog is lucky enough to be at the front of the pack or has the most experience.


You have given me an easy question but one that I find very difficult to answer, the reason being that we know when an Airedale picks up on scent but not when it misses scent (unless an artificial track or a fox was seen running along a pad with dog on track).


I find that in hot days on heather, if searching for wounded deer, the scent is at its hardest to follow. Maybe the heather is too strong, or the turf is too pungent. But I am going to have to get a bit scientific with you as to why I honestly think it is, be prepared as I have a Post-grad in Environmental Toxicology.....


When we think of what scent is it is a mixture of broken plant matter, natural fatty oils, blood, fur, bacterial breakdown and loosened substrate.


I spend all my time thinking about scent as tracking is where my roots lie and I would regularly chat with highly experienced deer stalkers in the highlands of Scotland using deer tracking dogs. My youngest bitch was trained under the guidance of Danish Author, Stalker and Tracker Neils Sondergaard and he was very happy to see my Airedale tracking deer on his last visit to N.I.


So back to the toxicology part. Bogland plants such as heather contain diphenols that inhibit bacterial enzymes from breaking down organic matter. Bogland turf contains these diphenols and although turf is rich in organic matter the bacterial functions cannot perform as effectively as in natural loamy soils.


When a fox or deer deposits these oils while in flight the dog can pick up on the broken twigs, disturbed turf, small deposits of fatty oils but on heather these oils do not decompose as effectively as on other woodland plants or grassland due to the diphenols present in the heather's chemical make-up. The heat of the bog on hot days causes moisture to quickly evaporate and this is when I find minimal scent.


So what I mean is, if Redline and Traditional Airedales are beating cover together which I have seen on many an occasion and the handler watches a traditional Airedale following a fox successfully through a Sitka spruce plantation in hotter months (even Sept/Oct) and as the fox slips out over the bog with a Redline at the helm, unable to hold track or finding scent turning off and on, the handler would immediately think that the Redline is the lesser of the dog.


Only the dog itself knows how productive that scent is and the inexperienced handler may interpret the dogs tracking completely wrong. I and I am sure you have said it many times........."The Dog Knows Best!".


Working both Traditional and Redline breeds I have on many occasion doubted dogs. I kick myself every time and hold my hands up in saying that I used to do it. But not anymore. Recently I was road walking both Redline and Traditional Airedales together and bang on cue they all picked up on cat upwind walking across a field. None of the dogs could see it but they all started air scenting immediately as though it was choreographed.


So to cut a long story short the Redline and Traditional Airedales are both excellent on track but it goes back to how the dog was brought on. From what I know on tracking deer I am trying to teach a few friends working hounds and beagle crosses on fox. I enter the dog young on an artificial trailed track (fox tail / skin / deer hide / deer feet), the length and complexity of the track depends on the age and experience of the dog. The dog Airedale / Hound / Vizsla / Terrier should always be worked on a long line by itself with no other dogs present on the artificial track to gain time in understanding what scent is, how scent changes over the terrain, not to air-scent prolifically, but most importantly:


The time on the longline allows the handler to see how the dog reacts immediately on scent.


How the dog performs and solves changing scent strength.


How the dog may get excited and want to gallop down the scent trail and the handler can see that keen-ness in the dog is the major factor in air-scenting, lifting its head high off the trail for periods of time which effectively cause the dog to periodically lose scent.


Most important in training Hound / Airedale on a Long Line is the reward. The reward at the end of the track for the novice dog in ragging the skin, smiles and praise by the handler but most importantly its the relationship builder!


We can sometimes be very quick in letting a dog run with more experienced pack members, but how often do we work the dog, one-to-one, building and strengthening the relationship. I sometimes dogs with poor recall and some handlers call this keeness. I sometimes ask what one-to-one time in tracking the dog and handler have had. How the handler communicates to the dog, holds the dogs attention and more importantly why is the handler trying to recall the dog. Is the dog in fact on scent and by not having that special one-to-one time in track training that he cannot read the dog is actually on scent and that it may be poor but fresh, or so strong the dog is practically saying "over here, I am on!!!".


Penny, I have digressed but I wanted to share my own experiences of tracking and what I feel makes one dog better than another on that day and on that specific track.


Is the Redline better than the Traditional? Personally it is all down to the handler. I have included a picture of Neils Sondergaard for those who may be crurious, this is a photo of him and I at our last tracking day.





As for hounds and tracking, I think the Redlines and Traditionals work brilliantly together and I love nothing better than watching inidividual hounds work. This is a photo of entering young hounds only taken last Friday.



  • Like 1
Link to post

Thanks R. It is so good to hear from someone who has really studied the whole nose and tracking issues in detail, specifically with Airedales, as opposed to the more usual tracking breeds. I am also so very pleased that your posts have met with appreciation and enthusiasm ... maybe this site really is changing for the better!

  • Like 1
Link to post

the traditional airedale and the redline are the same dogs long and short coated as both where found in the same litters but the short coated where never seen as they would be put down by the kc breeders as they only liked the long coated dogs even when the short coated omes are a better working coat ,the old working airedales from the past are still there in the us dogs as yhey came from the old english dogs and they have kept these dogs working in the us which are the redlines that are over here now ,and long and short coated can be in the same litter and can both hold the kc papers ,but not the ones that i breed here as i would not give out papers with pups as i did not want to see any of these dogs end up being used and breed for money and not there working ,the last thing i will say is that me or any airedale worker i know in the us all would ever mix there bloodline with show stock


  • Like 3
Link to post

The Airedale is a completely different dog than the German Wire-haired Pointer, both brilliant in their own separate ways.


The German Wire-haired Pointer, Dutch Drathaar and Korthals Griffon; all pointing breeds are more generally associated with shooting sports, game and deer stalking. They are highly specialised at going on point, air-scenting, tracking and the Dutch Drathaar in particular having high aggression although in the right hands all have amazing prey drive. Of these three breeds I have only had the fortune at observing German Wire-Hairs work and after seeing one work in thick plantation for Sika, a deer that can be highly nocturnal and classed by stalkers as the hardest to shoot, I was impressed. Although in my opinion all deer are difficult to stalk but on the mountain I shoot, the Sika literally drove me insane last winter, as I found myself on the mountain at 4.30am hoping to catch them moving at dawn and then seeing them as I was walking back to the vehicle at 9.30am, of course unloaded and bolt out of the rifle.


Anyway I digress a little.....


The Airedale and GWP share many traits, a high ability to detect and track game but I find the GWP more of a detection dog and going onto point is something an Airedale can do but not to the same extent as a GWP. The GWP on point inches forward and moves almost cat-like. If anyone works an Airedale will understand that although this dog can point and do it quite well (as used for shooting in the states) they are headstrong and have far too much prey-drive to stand-still in the same way as a GWP.


Watching my own Airedales work they have a random pattern of looking for scent, while a trained GWP will move forward ahead of the handler in a zig zag pattern. The GWP can cover alot of ground with his nose a distinctive foot of the ground.


The Airedale air scents too but often I find from my own experience the Airedale keeps its nose much lower and on hitting a scent marked stump, say by a dog fox, will stop and sniff as though they are getting more information than just the scent.. Sometimes I sit and think right come-on dogs, you have sniffed that long enough, and then off they go barrelling into beating cover.


I have to be careful how I write this answer, because any German Wire-haired Pointer handlers will of course swear by the breed and if I say the GWP faults in any way I am sure I would be quickly informed otherwise. Thankfully I can only comment on seeing Wire-hairs working over heather and through Sitka Spruce so I cannot comment on how hard GWP's hit cover. Airedales are not shy of pushing into cover at all, especially if the sense that prey is contained within a thicket. I do know of a friend from Wales working Wire-hairs and he always told me about this thicket of briars and ferns that his GWP's would work hard through. Subsequently each of the dogs caught cancer in the nose or organs and he always blamed it was down to their keenness of years of working ferns, which have carcinogenic spores.


So to finish, I just want to tell you what it is like to work cover with Airedales. They will push through anything, try to get down fox holes, just dying to push something out of get to grips to have a successful hunt. They work together like a hound pack and when they work cover it is not a case of let them go and try to keep up like dogs with poor recall, they work with you. They can work confidently out of sight although with a few calls they will be coming back, which is great when working cover in Ireland and I want the cover beat in a certain direction as some of the plantations I work can be up to 3 miles long.


When working deer if I shot and wounded a deer, even a perfect heart shot causing that deer to run 200m and I had an Airedale out with me (rare, as I use them only to track deer I can't find) and off the lead, the dog seeing the deer running off into cover, I would really have to give the dog a command to stop as it would do its damnedest to pursue the deer. A good shout though stops even my youngest, headstrong bitch.


There is one thing I would like to say about how I talk to my dogs from a puppy in training to adult, especially during stalking. All the communication training for stalking starts in the home and when giving a command it is always at a whisper, quietly saying the dogs name commanding attention, then whisper the next command i.e. "sit". I always whisper to the dog because it commands this constant attention. My dogs know the difference between a stalk or track on the mountains or a walk on the mountains, but I will only ever use my dogs to track because although they are excellent at detecting deer I "choose" to only allow them to track. Tracking wounded deer is the only part of the stalk I like to utilise Airedales for if working deer.


The difficulty in finding this particular deer below is what threw me into the world of tracking dogs. I had to find this deer in a sitka spruce plantation and it took me over an hour. It was strange because it was only about 150m from where I shot it, but the plantation was very dark inside and the deer blended in perfectly to the forest floor so it was invisible unless I was right on top of it.




Now to definitely finish up, the German Wire-haired Pointer is a disciplined dog, the discipline is what allows this dog to pause on point for very long periods of time. Airedales are like the heavy crew, they can be used to point deer, I have a bitch which is excellent at it, but I prefer to only use them to track, because I see them as highly specialised in the same but different way than a GWP.


I have seen Airedales draw foxes and are excellent when digging, I have never had the fortune of seeing GWP's on a dig, I know no-one who would take one fox digging, but then again, there aren't many people left who would take an Airedale on a dig either.


I hope this helps. If anyone can bring more clarity from the GWP side sure jump in! I have to admit, the European shooters swear by Drathaars and I hear they still have high aggression when it comes to big game. Of course, legally, I do want to make the point it is illegal to pursue deer with dogs, though though Finnish stalkers think it is strange we don't have dogs that track and dispatch or at least grip hold of wounded deer.

Link to post

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...