Q&A: The Airedale Terrier


  • April 25, 2019

From the April 2019 Issue of ShowSight. Click to subscribe. Above photos from the article "The Airedale" by Diana G. Fielder, ShowSight Magazine, January 2014 issue.

We asked the following questions to people in the Airedale Terrier community. Here are some responses. 

1. Where do you live? What do you do “outside” of dogs? 

2. How many years in dogs? Showing? Judging? Breeding?

3. Describe the breed in three words. 

4. What are your “must have” traits in this breed?

5. Who was your mentor and what did he/she teach you that you value most highly?

6. As the King of Terriers, the Airedale commands a special place in the Group ring. Do you think his size and presence enhance his chances of recognition?

7. What are the biggest health concerns facing the breed today?

8. What is the greatest challenge most new judges face when it comes to the Airedale? What is most misunderstood?

9. To which do you attach more importance: a win at an all-breed show or a win at a specialty?

10. Are there any traits in this breed you fear are becoming exaggerated?

11. What do you think new judges misunderstand about the breed?

12. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate.

13. And, for a bit of humor: What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever experienced at a dog show? 

14. If there is anything else you would like to add, please to feel free to do so.

 

Linda Jarvis

I live in New Bern, North Carolina. I own a boarding kennel there named Lynaire Kennels and Crematory. We offer boarding, day care, grooming and have a pet crematory. It is a large kennel at 17,000 square feet. I built and opened the kennel in 1994. Prior to being in the kennel business, I managed Medical Practices for many years. The largest had over 100 employees and 10 surgeons and PA’s. My degree is in Health Care Administration.

I also enjoy reading, traveling and rving. I started in dogs in 1983. I began breeding in 1984 and have bred over 45 Champions. I have been judging some sweepstakes including Montgomery but have not yet pursued my judging license.

The breed in three words: King of terriers.

The must have traits in this breed are good head planes, small eye and good tail set and rear conformation. Movement is of utmost concern. 

My mentor was Betty Hoisington of Eden Kennels, Cordova, Tennessee. She taught me how to line breed and how to choose my breeding stock. 

I believe the Airedale is occasionally lost in the group ring because he lacks the cuteness factor of the smaller showier dogs in the group.

I believe new judges do a disservice by not sparring Airedales. They do not understand the value of judging this breed in a spar. It can be done safely and should be done to show true conformation.

A win at a specialty is more important especially as many specialty shows choose Airedale breeders to judge.

The funniest thing that ever happened to me was when I was showing in both conformation and obedience. I chose to wear a skirt. My Airedale in obedience put his whole head under my skirt and sat back wagging his tail. My face turned beet red as everyone laughed.

 

Dr. Valeria Rickard

We live in Northern Virginia, west of Washington DC. I work in a veterinary hospital and reproduction center. Besides work, I like to play tennis, travel, scuba dive and ski, plus my daughter keeps me busy with her activities.

We have 30 years in dogs: 20 in showing, nine in judging and 19 in breeding.

The breed in three words: King of Terriers.

Airedales must have an overall “regal” look. Specifically, a square body, long clean brick head, high tail set and a good quality coat. This “package” must be able put together correctly so to have fluid effortless movement. 

I personally value most the consistency in type and the head expression. With all of the physical attributes considered, the Airedale must have a temperament that is confident and proud in the show ring while allowing them to be a stable, loving and trusted family member.

Who was my mentor: there hasn’t been any “one person” in particular, but initially, I spoke to numerous handlers 
and breeders. I also educated myself in studying “old” pedigrees and breed history. English Yearbooks, magazines and books were essential in allowing me to see across history and the evolution of the breed. It also allowed me to see how the traits and characteristics were passed through generations.

Do I think size and presence enhance the chances of recognition: I honestly don’t think size plays a factor. The size aspect reinforces their position as king, but they easily get bored—both in the time waiting for the groups to start as well as in the group ring after they go first and have to wait for the other 30+ breeds to go. As a result, they sometimes don’t show as well as smaller terriers who are typically more “wound up” all the time.

The biggest health concerns facing the breed today are hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, renal PLN disease and mitral valve disease.

The greatest challenge most new judges face when it comes to the Airedale is it’s a square breed with moderate angles. Judges need to spend more time learning breed type as opposed to judging them as a “generic” dog. 

Judges also need to understand what true Airedale good movement is, and be able to recognize it when present (or lacking) and consider that in the overall judging equation. Also, “newer” judges aren’t comfortable with sparring dogs safely, so they may neglect to provide them the opportunity to perform.

There is nothing more beautiful than two Airedales performing a spar correctly.

That is also the best time when to evaluate ears and expression, as often Airedales will not use their ears in the initial judges approach.

To which do I attach more importance: a win at an all-breed show or a win at a specialty: a Win at a specialty—especially the national—in a company of many other great Airedales is very nice and something to be very proud of. But, a Best in Show win at an all-breed show is extremely memorable as well as it doesn’t happen that often. Airedales aren’t as  “flashy” of a breed in a BIS ring for the 
“all-rounder” judge.

Traits in the breed I fear are becoming exaggerated: rear Angles and length of body, length of loin are getting longer and longer. The Airedale is a square breed with moderate angles, when these proportions are overdone, that negatively effects the overall look and movement of the animal.

Airedales are not a sporting breed, and are not like smaller terriers that were bred to go in a hole, they were bred for a specific function. If a judge isn’t familiar with the purpose an animal was bred for, they tend to apply a more generic standard that may not be appropriate. Judges educations must make sure that the judge understand the history of the Airedale so that the standard may be applied appropriately.

Health testing is a must for all breeders (Airedales or others) who take the overall health, temperament and quality of their breed seriously. Breeders must know what is behind the animals that they select as part of their breeding programs. Only a select few of the purebred animals brought into this world will enter the show ring while the majority should live as long and healthy lives as possible in their companion homes. Breeders must be open about their animals’ test scores and health history or we are doomed to propagate health problems that should be at minimum understood. No animal is perfect, and nature can be “fickle”, but as a breeder you must understand your animals and strive to produce the healthiest (not just the prettiest) combinations. Neglecting to test or withholding critical information does a true disservice to the breed and the Airedale community.

This sport is, and must be “about the dogs” and I think the “business” of dog showing has clouded that truth. Sportsmanship and spirited competition are great, but in the end, the Airedale breed should be the winner. We, as stewards of the breed, Must demonstrate this for the younger generation to whom we will pass the baton. I am very pleased to see junior handlers enter the Airedale ring (not an easy thing to do with an animal who is almost as big as you) and compete—and win—against the professional handlers. That is shat it is all about—working hard, practicing, and having fun in honest competition and bringing the focus back to the sport of 
dog showing. 

 

Susan Rodgers

I am a retired university professor having taught Public Health Nursing in several schools across country. Thirty years ago Shirley Good and I opened a kennel in a very wooded area as we often kept 12 dogs and wanted to keep peace with the few neighbors. Because of kennel space we had frequent show visitors with space for human guests as well as dogs. Everyone knew Shirley was a gourmet cook and I could tend bar quite well.

It was always a great opportunity to talk dogs and often to see new youngsters.

I’ve been living in rural central Massachusetts for 35 years. When you’ve been “in dogs” all your life it’s difficult to imagine anything else. But I do enjoy painting, reading, traveling and dining out with friends.

I have been involved with Airedales all my life and am the third generation with the breed. In 1957 I began exhibiting in obedience at age 14, breeding my first litter in 1965. I have competed in confirmation for 50 years and judged many sweeps including Montgomery which was quite an honor. With my partner Shirley, we bred over 70 champions in the US, Canada and Europe.

Limiting the Airedale to only three words is impossible but intelligent, mischievous and independent will have to do.

No single trait describes the Airedale as it must be square and balanced without any exaggerations. However when I evaluate youngsters I hope to keep, the tail must be set well up on the back with a good amount of butt behind. The shoulders must we well laid back sloping into the withers and the neck must blend into the shoulders smoothly, never abruptly.

My family were my original mentors and then i met people especially handlers at shows who helped with grooming and showing. There were few mentors and no clinics run by the breed club back then. We were pretty much on our own.

Without doubt the Airedale commands the ring as the largest in the group, the leader of the line, bright of color especially outdoors, sharp of eye, and attitude.

The Airedale is a relatively healthy breed and always has been. While some problems are present such as hip dysplasia. most are found to be environmental rather than inherited. Much information is available to help prevent or limit health problems. And todays breeders are willing to share such information with others.

I have always especially valued a breed win at a specialty and particularly one at Montgomery. Isn’t it really all about competing against your own breed?

Over time traits change in importance and there are of course many reasons for this. Winners, especially at Montgomery will tend to influence stud selection for the following year especially if there is an exaggerated trait deemed to be correct. This trait such as straight shoulders and long necks will slowly predominate among the winners causing movement problems, dipped top lines and shoulder damage in dogs competing in events. These dogs move poorly and pass structural problems on to their progeny. Stove pipe necks 
are incorrect.

Airedales are a square breed of moderation and judges need to avail themselves of every opportunity to watch these dogs perform activities for which they were bred.

Breeders, handlers and judges are all equally responsible for structural changes in all breeds. We have to remember that winning isn’t everything.

While there have been many humorous incidents in the dog sport, an early one is often remembered. I kept a male from my first litter in 1965 and was persuaded to show him at the Terrier Specialty that preceded Westminster. I remember following Tom Gately into the ring and was watching him set up his dog. Meanwhile, my fellow lifted his leg on Judge Percy Robert’s pearl grey suit! Percy then said “he’s a nice pet and would be best kept at home”! The dog had a 
short career. 

 

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