“Surviving” an Airedale– Lessons From a First-Time Owner – Part 3, by S.M.

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HeartGard and Flea Control

This is a necessity especially in the Gulf Coast summers with the unusually bad mosquito and flea/tick issue resulting from the spring floods. We give our dog Heartgard to protect against heartworms and Nexgard to protect against ticks and fleas.

Dental Disease Prevention

We also use Vet recommended Virbac C.E.T. Enzyemic Oral Hygiene Chews for home dental care. These are a great addition our vet recommended for keeping teeth clean. We purchase them according to our dog’s size at the time and give one a day. (Tip: We also began giving our small, older dogs chews that we cut into one-inch strips from the bigger chews instead of having to buy a separate bag for them. Be careful cutting these, because they can be very thick.) Our canines’ teeth are immaculate and white.

Also great for teeth and chewing is a dog chew toy. Buy the Kong Black XXL. Then, cut or saw off part of the above dental chew and stick it inside the toy with a little peanut butter or cream cheese. Our Airedale loves this and will use it to entertain himself for long periods of time. This may keep him busy for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how long it takes him to remove the dental chew from the Kong. Tip: Really push the chew in nice, tight, and hard to help prevent the dog from quickly removing the chew.

CAUTION! Never leave your Airedale unattended with his Kong or chew. Remove it from his possession before leaving or sleeping. Our year-old male chewed the top off of two of the large Kongs within a month, so we switched to the XXL. So far that’s working okay.

In addition to dental health benefits, these chew toys help address the Airedale’s natural desire to chew everything he can get his teeth on for the first year and a half.

Fun Training At Home

Airedales love a job, so we incorporate fun games into our training using Pup-Peroni Dog Beef Sticks. They’re an excellent positive training tool.

With this smart breed, adding to his understood vocabulary and commands seems to be limitless. We try to add at least one new command/word per week, such as:

“Stay” command at the doorway, so we go out first

“Stay” in cage when taking him out

“Collar” command while in the cage

“Take to the recycle” bin

“Checking the chickens” in their coop

“Let’s go check the mail”

“Bring in recycle bin”

“Bring in trash can”

“Go to the back door” for potty time

“Check the septic line” clean out plug (due to April/May massive floods)

“Go for a ride in the car” in the neighborhood

“Catch it” treats in his mouth

“Backup” command

“Come” command in the driveway with long 30-foot lead after “Stay”

Additional Formal Training- Tracking Class

At eight months we enrolled in a six-week introductory “Tracking” class taught by AKC-certified officials and instructors. He did very well. This is not surprising, since he always is sniffing the ground with his enormous nose. This skill obviously could be very beneficial in a grid down setting. We were provided excellent methods and techniques for ground scent tracking. Using an old leather glove and his Pup-Peroni treats, he learned to track straight, long curves, left and right turns, et cetera. This provides a fun thinking exercise for his curious mind and his natural desire to work.

Grooming

We learned two methods of grooming– clipping and stripping. Several ladies from the local Airedale Club volunteered their time to teach these grooming methods. This enabled us to try different types of grooming equipment before purchasing them. Being a part of the Club also gave us an opportunity to glean from experiences of others in many aspects of having an Airedale. These wonderful ladies had been taught by someone previously and wanted to “pass it forward”. What a great mindset to have with any skill we have. Grooming can be very expensive to have done, so their help was greatly appreciated. As we compared these two methods, we saw that clipping was a much faster method, done more often, and typically on a clean and dried coat. It also changes the color and texture of the Airedale’s coat.

Completely stripping the dog takes several days to do but retains the beautiful deep color and texture of the hair. This method only has to be done several times a year and does not require electricity, allowing it to be done anywhere and anytime. Stripping is done on a dirty coat, saving on the washing and drying time. This method does not hurt the dog when it’s done correctly.

After trying these two methods, we found that our dog does better on the grooming table in multiple short intervals of time. We have decided to strip the jacket and clip/scissor the remainder of the coat. We purchased an extra-long, sturdy 30” tall grooming table, Andis clippers, blade #10, and a medium stripping knife. Clipping the head allows us to get the desired sharp angles for that “Brick head look” and the short clean ski slope appearance on his back end. We use regular and feathering scissors on his nose and furnishings.

Shedding has not been a big issue to begin with, and grooming takes care of what little shedding there was. We have also found grooming to be a great bonding time with our dog and important for the overall health and comfort of the dog, especially being mindful in scissoring between the pads of his feet and keeping his nails tidy. Good grooming has given us a fun sense of accomplishment when we walk our Airedale down the street and someone asks if he is a show dog, to which we reply, “No, but he thinks he is.”

What We Did Right

Up to this point, some of the things we did right include:

  • Quality breeder
  • Crate training in the beginning at eight weeks
  • Both of us attending formal training and using same commands
  • Early car riding practice
  • Grooming techniques, where my wife grooms and I assist
  • Consistent training
  • Socialized early with people and other dogs
  • Science Diet dog food
  • Establishing ourselves as the pack leaders, which is still in progress
  • Choosing a vet who was familiar with Airedales (Our local vet knows the breed.)
  • Keep both collars on with leash even in the house (It’s easier to control and train him when using them.)
  • Being consistent

What We Would Have Changed

Some of the things we would like to have done differently include:

  • Underestimating the tenacity of the breed
  • We should have started the formal puppy training earlier (before six months).
  • My frustration between 4–10 months old, thinking he would never behave; he does now.
  • Spring floods knocked down our back fences, and we’re still working on them surrounding our 1.5 acres, which has required the need for daily early morning walks after his breakfast and lots of training time and play time.

Pros & Cons of Owning an Airedale

The Pros of owning an Airedale include that they are:

  • Very loving
  • Good with people and older kids
  • Loyal
  • Very intelligent
  • Unique in appearance
  • Can be a quick learner
  • Once he decides to learn “it”, he’s got it
  • Quiet, unless he needs something or is alerting

The Cons include that they are:

  • Stoic
  • Stubborn
  • Require crate time as puppies
  • Mouthing
  • Owner’s thinking dog will never behave because of dog’s strong-willed nature
  • Lots of time spent in crate for now
  • Real need to keep the leash and collar on in the house because it’s easier to control the dog. (We’re looking forward to the point when this isn’t the case.)

I believe, in the days ahead, that medium- and large-size dogs will be invaluable for your homestead regardless of the size of your yard. Since most households have a dog, it could be beneficial for a dog to serve multiple purposes, including being a watchdog/protector, companion, friend, and work dog. As evidenced by the stats cited in my research listed earlier, small dogs are the majority currently owned for reasons such as size, ease of training, and cost of dog food. However, large dog ownership has increased, and it seems to be for protection/watchdog reasons. Whether the desire is for companionship, work dog, or protection/watchdog, we have found the Airedale breed to be the perfect combination of those desires. People we have visited with who have previously owned Airedales commonly say that they would love to own another one.

In a recent experience at a very large dog show where the Airedale Club invited club members to bring their dogs and allow dog show attendees to “Meet the Breed,” we were given a wonderful visual of the true nature of an Airedale. Our dogs were in the ring with many people of different ages. A young, special-needs boy got down on his hands and knees and stared at this still-young male dog square in the face. The pup licked that boy like he had known him all his life. Our Airedale behaved like a perfect gentleman the whole time.

In conclusion, this breed is a must-have if you are willing to put in the time required to train and adopt an attitude properly communicated to your Airedale. Remember, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a BIG difference” and “Never give in”. These are thoughts expressed so memorably by the legendary late Winston Churchill.

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