Working airedale

working airedale

#1 foxhound45


Born Hunter


156 posts

Posted 19 November 2013 - 04:10 AM

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?

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.

  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):

Category: Airedale

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