Friday, April 1, 2011

Airedales As Treedogs

Below is a picture from Palmer's "All About Airedales". It shows two Airedales that have treed a Mt Lion in a pine tree. Now these two Airedales tracked that cat and pushed it hard enough to put it up that pine and barked tree long and hard enough for the hunters to get there and take this photo. You can not ask for any more than that and they have to be considered tree dogs in this particular hunt in every sense of the word.


But I have a point of contention to make here and have been bantering about this treeing ability thing with my big game hunting friends for many years on not only Airedales but hounds too. While they seem to have reasonable success getting their dogs on the tree I have found that it is much more difficult to get a good tree dog on smaller game. I see a direct correlation between game size and treeing.

I have owned a lot of Airedales and I can say with some certainty that almost every single one would tree bark on this Lion as pictured. The cat is in plain view and with all the scent from such a large animal drifting down and about and probably some spitting and growling going on I think a gamey dog is going to tree and tree hard. When dogs can see and hear the game in the tree the treeing is almost 100%.

Now if that Lion had treed in a thick 75 foot white pine up in the top somewhere out of sight I would say the percentage of Airedales I have owned that would locate and tree would probably drop to less than half and maybe even less.

If it was a big bear up in the tree I believe the percentage of dogs that tree would increase because there is a lot more scent. I have smelled Bears and they stink, they must reek to a dog. I think that in itself makes them the easiest big game to locate and tree on.

Exchange the bear for a 15 pound coon and you will be doing good if you have one Airedale in ten that can locate and tree with accuracy and stay.

Make it a squirrel and forget it, out of all the Airedales I have owned only one would have been considered a top squirrel dog. I am talking about a top squirrel hunting dog not a dog that sight chases a squirrel off a bird feeder and trees it by sight only.

The point of all this rhetoric is that I have been asked many many times about the treeing ability of Airedales. I have always considered it their biggest weakness as a hunting dog and I will be quick to point it out.

I have always been a big believer that the instinct to be a good tree dog is something that a dog is born with be it Hound , Cur or an Airedale. I have trained a lot of Coon dogs never been able to take a sorry tree dog of any breed and make a good tree dog out of it. If I have to knock out a couple of hundred Coon to a dog before it will tree I don't want the SOB.

With the negativity aside I have owned several Airedales that were good tree dogs, and several others that were decent especially if I could get in to the tree fairly quick. I have talked to many of the old timers that claim to have had Airedales that were top Coon dogs and Squirrel dogs in every sense of the word. So we know that they have existed and can be very good tree dogs. Just not often enough to suit me.

The Airedales that made good tree dogs were trained using the same methods and tricks that a hunter would use for any breed used for climbing game. Then there were Airedales that no matter what I did, I could not interest them in treeing.

Too bad that the old hunting lines were not maintained as they should have been, much of the treeing instinct seems to have been lost. Maintaining the trait strong takes judicious breeding.

So to wrap this up, at this particular point in time if you are a big game hunter and have an Airedale from decent hunting lines it seems you have a good chance of having a dog that can produce some game and tree half way decent with proper training.

If you are Coon hunter and expect to have top treeing Coon dogs coming one after another from Airedales it is not going to happen. They come along but not in big numbers or percentages.

A first rate squirrel dog is almost a dream as far as I am concerned, they seem to be an anomaly it is is almost blind luck to get a real good one.

When it comes to hunting many Airedale breeders will tell anything you want to hear especially if they are selling. As Howard Cosell used to say "telling it like it is" will not be very popular in some circles but in my opinion is the best way to go about things. You have to be honest with yourself and others, identify where improvement needs to be made and breed for it.

The positive thing is that almost any trait can be improved upon with good breeding of the correct dogs. Airedales are still great hunting dogs as they are right now and can fill your game sack with all you would want to carry, but there is always room for improvement. Remember all hunting dog breeds emerged from a group of like minded people working together. Herding, retrieving, pointing and treeing were all the result of breeding. The Airedale's treeing abilities can be bred for and along with everything else can be upgraded and improved.

Al Kranbuhl

Shawn Brannon's "Buck" showing how it is done, treeing on a Squirrel with style!


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