How Not to Let Your Airedale Terrier Own You
So you have decided to get an Airedale Terrier?
You are going to have your hands full.
Having an Airedale around stands much of the conventional dog training advice on its head.
After having had three of them, it is a promise. On the other hand, they are smart, loyal, affectionate, and impish clowns. It is worth the effort to train them, because they are a wonderful breed if you take charge firmly and early.
For all of their wonderful traits, they have others that can drive you to into therapy. They are extremely intelligent, very strong, fearless and stubborn. After all, they were bred to hunt badgers, just about some of the meanest, most aggressive and dangerous animals on the planet. To an Airedale, that is like the ideal game.
They are so tough and courageous, in fact, that in World War I they were used as dispatch carriers to send messages to other neighboring troops because they could sustain an injury and still reach their target.
It is hard to believe that the cute little bundle of wiry black fur could ever be your worst nightmare. Unless you establish control early and firmly, that is exactly what that adorable puppy will become.
Their boundless energy, and curiosity are inevitably guaranteed to give you some interesting memories.
When you talk to reputable breeders expect to be asked if you have ever had ever had an Airedale before. They do not want to place them into the home of the faint hearted. Owning an Airedale is a bit like trying to tame a kangaroo on speed. And training one, without expecting to encounter their headstrong nature, can be quite a shock.
Breeders know that prospective owners are charmed by their seeming amusing temperament, and handsome appearance, only to find that their dog expects to be in charge. That is why so many Airedales end up as rescue dogs. In despair, many less than firm owners simply give up.
What fun to come home from a long day at work to find part of your home ravaged. My second Airedale, even after being fully trained, accidentally managed to lock himself in an interior bathroom with no windows. In panic, he clawed down the bottom half of a solid wood door. It takes a very strong and very determined animal to accomplish that feat, but that is classic Airedale. The telltale “warm spot” on the couch meant that afterwards he calmly and imperiously returned to lounging on the couch once he had gotten free.
I installed a door that could not lock involuntarily.
My third Airedale, in a burst of energy tripped on the cord of a halogen lamp, causing it to set the couch on fire before I returned to the room. Not thinking, I told the 911 dispatcher that my dog set the couch on fire. The five firemen who arrived to be sure the fire was out were quite amused and could not resist asking me “Lady does your dog smoke?” As I explained: “Not yet, he is still underage.”
I moved the lamp.
But since he seemed more exuberant than most, I promptly enrolled him in obedience classes, where he flunked out. Well, not exactly. . . . It was so embarrassing to take him to class, I opted for home schooling. Being around a room full of dogs was more fun than he could stand. Rather than participate in class lessons he would immediately begin leaping wildly with delight, leaving me to weather the cold glances of those with less obviously disobedient beasts.
Even so, I would never have another breed.
For one thing, they don’t shed. Airedales do not have fur, they have hair. And so they really do not shed at all, particularly since they are kept groomed with short hair. They are good watch dogs because they are quite attentive and protective of their family, and their turf.
If you can survive their early years, and train them to accept you as alpha male early on, they are wonderful companions. Once trained, their playfulness can be charming, and they have a sweet and loving disposition, that makes them very appealing.
But to get to that point, there are things that must be done while they are young.
First, is to be consistently firm. No slip in behavior should ever go un-addressed. Some over tolerant dog owners make the mistake of “excusing” unacceptable behavior “just this once.” With an Airedale, that leniency is paid for with years of insubordinate challenges. When house training, if an “accident” happens, show him calmly outside after directing his attention to his “error.” If he chews a favorite shoe, scold, but don’t punish him. And train yourself while you are at it to close the closet doors. Because they are headstrong, training through praise usually works better than punishment.
Go to obedience school (which is actually to train you and not the dog). Even if he can’t cope with the public environment, you will learn enough to train him to follow commands. It does not matter if you never want him to sit, stay, heel or lay down on command, teach him anyway. That lets him know who is boss. And it is also a good way not to get nipped in his enthusiasm to get to that treat in your hand.
Accept that there are some things you probably can’t train out of him. He will always be extremely curious, but if he has been trained not to destroy property, this is not a bad trait.
Force him to learn proper leash behavior, unless you want to learn sidewalk skiing. They are very strong dogs and can easily take a full sized adult human off balance, if allowed to have their way on a leash. Get a prong collar early and use it every time you are out. He will quickly learn that heel means heel. The collar will teach him restraint in a humane manner, unlike choke chains.And in time, you won't need it. He will learn
Once he finally is clear that you call the shots, not him, he will be one of the most wonderful dogs you could hope to have taken into the family. His natural high energy level and clownish behavior are wonderfully amusing, and he will be a dedicated and loyal companion who is usually very good with children.
No matter what else, you can be sure with an Airedale in the house, life is always exciting