Dog breed: Airedale terriers

Are you looking for challenge in your life? Do you enjoy matching wits against an intelligent adversary? Do you like being ignored?

Get an Airedale.

Most articles on Airedales concentrate on the breeding, care and grooming. Yes, they are the largest terrier; yes, they were bred from early terriers and otter hounds. But most articles will not tell you that they are part cat. You know the old saw about pets? Dogs come when you call; cats take a message and will get back to you. Well, that should be cats and Airedales. They are not the human-centric, needy people-pleasers that most dogs are; they are supremely independent, and may or may not do what you tell them-IF they think it’s a good idea. Somewhere I read they were “willfully disobedient.” Yes, that’s accurate, if a trifle sugar-coated. They require consistent training and socialization by someone as hard-headed as they are. Without that, they will ride roughshod all over a tentative or inconsistent owner. I’ve seen Airedales owned by people who are too soft or too unwilling to discipline them, and the dogs are maniacs. (Look up Mr. Woofer online.) My current Airedale, Cassie, was the puppy from hell. She was constantly jumping, biting, mouthing, barking. I was not a novice dog-owner or even a novice Airedale-owner, but she was way more than I ever expected. I read books, consulted experts and even considered giving her away but finally settled on pure consistent daily training. She has now become the best dog I have ever had, but even after years of training, will often look at me over her shoulder as if to say, “You want me to do what?” At other times, she will simply walk away and tell me, as eloquently as a poet, “Talk to the butt.”

If you want a dog that will lie at your feet and gaze at you with endless love and devotion, get a golden retriever.

Airedales, as terriers, are high-energy dogs and need a lot of exercise. This is as true for an 80-pound Airedale as it is for a 10-pound Jack Russell, but of course it’s a little easier to control a Jack Russell on a leash (see above, training). Constraining an almost 100-pound dog when s/he decides s/he wants to go someplace else can be quite an exercise. One of my Airedales almost broke my elderly father’s wrist when she jumped into the car unexpectedly, dragging him along behind on the leash. Cassie has many nicknames that reflect her strength and power: Rhino-Butt, Tank and Shovel-Head.

And terriers stay puppies forever. They will play

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