Not Just a Dog - Why Airedale Terriers Are Special
By Robin Reynolds
So you think you want to adopt an Airedale puppy? Wait a minute! Have you owned an Airedale before? If you have, you know that any other breed is just a dog! That’s because as a group we’re known to be keenly intelligent, joyfully exuberant and playfully mischievous.
OK, I know I’m biased, but it’s not just me. President Theodore Roosevelt is quoted as saying, "An Airedale can do anything any other dog can do and then lick the other dog, if he has to." Also Laddie Boy, the Airedale who occupied the White House with Warren G. Harding, had his own chair so he could sit in on Cabinet meetings. So if I tell you Airedales are smart, I’m not just saying!
Who couldn’t fall in love with our expressive bearded faces, our stoic perseverance and our clownish antics? However, if you’re expecting a dog who will lounge at your feet like a bear skin rug, we’re probably not the breed for you. You see, we were originally bred by Yorkshire working class folks who didn’t want to have one dog for tracking on land, another for digging out prey and another for retrieving in water. Airedales were the original "3 in 1 dog" -fearless hunters, steadfast guardians and loyal companions.
During World War I, my ancestors were used extensively to carry messages to soldiers behind enemy lines, transport mail and to help the Red Cross to find wounded soldiers in the battlefield. There are many accounts of Airedales heroically completing their duties despite terrible injuries. This stoicism makes us tireless workers and great heroes, but it also often makes our illnesses and injuries go unnoticed until it becomes quite serious.
The demand for Airedales in the United States peaked during the 1920’s, which led to some indiscriminate breeding. This is when a larger variation was bred to 70-100 lbs. rather than the standard of 50-65 lbs. Though the larger variation stills exists today, it is not recognized by the AKC and most breeders are returning to the medium size standard of our origin. I think we’re better at the standard size because the larger size makes us more prone to medical problems like hip dysplasia.
Airedales do make great family pets. People say we have a twinkle in our eyes and it’s true that we smile and laugh. We love to play; we shed very little; and we are very protective of our people. Even with our athleticism and determined nature, we can also be delicate and graceful. Our families are always sharing stories that highlight our unique abilities–like the time the family Airedale grabbed the baby by the diaper to keep her from plummeting down the stairs.
It is also true that we like to be the boss. If you’re not willing to exercise with us regularly and provide appropriate training, then you’re going to have a very powerful and unruly housemate. Also, we like being in the middle of things so if you abandon us in the backyard, we’re either going to dig our way to freedom or we’re going to make a mess of your garden.
However, if you know all these things and you’re willing to accept the responsibilities, then you won’t be disappointed by an Airedale. There’s no dog that is more loving or lovable; willing or willful; more fun or funny. Take it from me, Max, you can bark my word on it. After all, how many dogs do you know who can write?
When Robin Reynolds had to have the family dog put down, she wanted to do something to celebrate his life. The end result is Life to the Max: Maxims for a Great Life by a Dog Named Max — a whole life journey told from the perspective of the family dog. To learn more about Max’s maxims, visit http://www.lifetomax.com