Tuesday, March 17, 2009

RE: Russian Airedales.

hbergsby has left a new comment on your post "Russian Airedales":

Oh, darn! I hated reading this. I have a Ridgeback currently, and an Irish Terrier is my next dream dog. I had one growing up .... and I guess I must admit she was pretty feisty. But she was a terrific family dog and would never have run away. I can still dream about having one of each, can't I? :)

Lawrence responds:

Well, let me explain. You may not have to give up on your idea of an Irish Terrier. In fact, I've been rethinking what the breeder told me and I'm not sure I completely believe her. Chances are you aren't faced with my circumstances. The critical situation for me is the San Jacinto River, which is dry most of the year. We have a stretch of perhaps 4 miles by ½ mile wide where we can get in as much walking and running as we like. There are rabbits down there, and my Ridgeback girls chase everyone they see, but they have never caught any. Now, the Irish Terrier breeder implied that if I got an Irish Terrier, that might change. What I thought I heard, or what I imagined I heard was an Irish Terrier going into the bushes after a rabbit (something my RR girls don't do) and perhaps find a rabbit hole and dig away at it out of my sight while I walk up and down the river calling for him in vain. At least that's what I was thinking while she was talking. But what she actually said, not having the foggiest idea of the San Jacinto River or how rabbits behaved, was that the rabbit would run forever up river, for example, and the tenacious Irish Terrier would follow it forever and I'd never see my dog again. But this is not what rabbits do. They'll run for awhile and then they'll make a 90 degree turn into some bushes. Somehow they judge when the Ridgebacks can't see this maneuver, because my girls keep on ahead for 50 yards or so, until they realize they've been hoodwinked.

So after reflection, I doubt that an Irish Terrier would "run away" as she said, and while an outing at the river might very well be different, I imagine that if my scenario happened, an Irish Terrier would be making such a ruckus that my Ridgeback girls would be sticking their noses in the bushes trying to see what he was up to; so I would probably know where he was.

I thought the biggest issue with getting an Irish Terrier was their dog-aggressiveness. That is, they don't do well in situations with dogs of the same sex. I thought I had that covered, because my two Ridgebacks are female and I intended to get a male Irish Terrier, but when I questioned her about how much trouble I would be in when my nephew came a-visiting with his dog-aggressive Shiba-Inu, she said "it all depends on the dog," but probably lots, and that I might well have to keep them separate. Well, that would be disappointing, but manageable, but her implying that I couldn't let the Irish Terrier run at the river was a deal breaker – if I believed her.

The thing is, I had this same conversation with this breeder's mother 4 years ago, as I was making up my mind whether to get a second Ridgeback or an Irish Terrier. This breeder's mother thought I would be very happy with an Irish Terrier. I can't recall vividly what we talked about, but I'm sure I mentioned rabbit-chasing and the coyotes we sometimes encounter down there. She thought the Irish Terrier would do just fine, even against feral dogs. But her daughter is the one I spoke to the other day, and the daughter was much more cautious. I suspect that if I went back to her and said I really, really, want an Irish Terrier, she would probably say she would sell me one, but any problems relating to my terrier running away would be entirely on my own head.

In a lot of respects an Airedale would do better. The Airedale wouldn't run away. In fact, I've taken one of my son's Airedales down to the river and it did fine. So an Airedale is a known-quantity to me in many respects. I don't like the idea of caring for an Airedale's coat, but the typical Airedale isn't going to be dog-aggressive. However, an Airedale is larger than an Irish Terrier (and I do want to down-size a bit). The Irish Terrier Breeder I spoke to suggested that I might expect a 40 pound IT male. Whereas if I got an Airedale, I might not get one as light as 55 pounds. The range I see is 55-65 pounds. And "Working Airedales" might even be larger. A "Working Airedale" could more readily deal with feral-dog threats at the river, but do I really need that?

The cause of part of my quandary is that I was educated for three years by the United States Marine Corps, and "a Marine is always prepared." I don't know if a soldier in the Red Army is always prepared, but a Marine is; so I feel duty bound to try and imagine all the dangers one of my dogs might encounter at the river or in the mountains and 1) prepare the dogs I've got as much as possible, but 2) make sure my next dog is suitable to the (potential) challenge. I feel I have succeeded with my girls. They are muscle-bound dynamos down there. Rabbits, coyotes and feral dogs all run from them. But as they age, I expect my next dog to pick up the slack. Could a 40-pound Irish Terrier do it? The local breeder's mother thought so, but I wonder if one if the reasons an Irish Terrier has to fight so much is that it isn't all that big and other bigger dogs call its bluff, only to find out it isn't bluffing. My girls are much larger. Sage probably weighs 85 pounds and Ginger might weigh 95 pounds. That's at least 180-pounds of thundering well-muscled Rhodesian Ridgeback intensity prepared to chase anything it sees. I have witnessed the result. Coyotes and feral dogs run from them in considerable alarm. And they might not run from an Irish Terrier. Of course they would as long as the girls were backing him up, but if the day came when he was on his own, he might have more difficulty.

Whereas an Airedale would probably never have difficulty. So do I want to go back to the Irish Terrier breeder and tell her I understand all her warnings but want an Irish Terrier anyway and if it runs away it will be on my own head? Or do I want to give up on the Irish Terrier idea and opt for what would in many ways satisfied my Marine Corps training more thoroughly, and get an Airedale?

So if you aren't faced with my challenges, you might not need to give up on your Irish Terrier.

1 comment:

Heidi said...

Thanks for that! It was a great read. You are correct; my dreams may not truly have been shattered. :) I have always thought the two breeds would complement one another well, and now I am even more convinced. Sure, the IT might be a bit over-the-top in feistiness, but that's what a terrier is all about, right? And surely the RR's more sane personalities (well, sometimes!) will rub off on the IT to some extent. Airedales are awesome dogs, too - I think perhaps I live in a fantasy world, wanting to bring certain elements of my childhood back to life. I actually named one of my children after my old IT, and the other after my current RR. Simply put, I am somewhat weird! I hope to read future updates on your blog regarding the pack .....