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Published Articles by Dr. Dave and Dr. Laura


Shoulder Structure in Long Legged Terriers
David Post, DVM,MS and Laura Post, Ph.D.
(Text of Article as Published in July, 2005 AKC Gazette)

Shoulder structure and its relationship to movement is one of the most confusing areas for breeders and exhibitors alike. The long legged terriers are known to have some variation from standard shoulder structure, but little information is available on what correct shoulders are in these dogs. In order to clarify this confusing issue, a study was initiated where about 50 dogs were radiographed (x-rayed) in standing show poses. Most of these dogs were AKC champions and approximately thirty were Airedales of a variety of bloodlines. Keep in mind, it is not possible to determine a �correct� dog with a measuring tape and a protractor and some x-rays. However, understanding what is really going on structurally is critical to evaluating the overall dog. This study was designed to help develop basic understanding of front structure.

As you review this information, remember that the front legs are attached to the body with only muscle, ligaments, and tendons. It is a flexible arrangement and there is no exact numerical angulation that a particular dog can be assigned. The angle can vary by positioning and the maturity of the dog. Consistency in the radiographs used in this study was carefully controlled.

Figure 2 shows terminology of the bones in the shoulder of a dog and the two angles of the shoulder conformation. The angle of the scapula is from the uppermost point of the scapula to the point of the shoulder compared to a vertical line. The angle of the humerus is from the point of the shoulder to the elbow compared to a vertical line.

Many exhibitors at dog shows talk about a 45 degree angle of the scapula. This is the traditional description of correct front angulation, but the description is incorrect. Rachel Page Elliot showed in her book, Dogsteps, that the correct actual angulation was approximately 30 degrees from vertical. Forty-five degree angulation does not exist, when measured from the point of the shoulder to the highest point on the scapula. The present study confirms Ms. Elliot�s conclusion.

This study attempted to correlate the angle of the shoulder with the correctness of movement. In the 30 Airedales in the study, the range of angulation of the scapula was between 19 and 36 degrees from vertical. Dogs with steep shoulders (smaller angles) typically move in a choppy fashion, without much extension. Most of the better moving dogs had angulation of the scapula around 30 degrees from vertical. There were some dogs in the study had shoulder (scapula) angulation around the correct 30 degrees that did not move well. This indicates the angle of the shoulder is important, but it is not the final determining factor for good movement. We looked for other factors to correlate with correct movement.

The next area of interest in evaluating front ends, is the degree the humerus (upper arm) goes back under the dog to support the weight of the chest. In most breeds outside the long-legged terriers, the forearm extends back under the chest to support the weight of the dog. Long legged terriers have a different conformation and are said to have �straight fronts�, sometimes called �fish-hook� fronts. This straight appearance (when viewed from the side of the dog) is shown by running a straight line upright from the feet to the forechest, continuing through the underside of the neck, to the base of the jaw. To achieve this appearance in long legged terriers, like Airedales, the humerus is more upright than standard dog conformation and does not go back under the chest like it does in other breeds like sporting breeds or hounds. This, in part, gives the long-legged terriers the straight appearance to their front conformations, since their front legs are positioned more forward in their normal stance than the stance of other breeds of dogs. This result is because of the smaller angle of the humerus compared to a vertical line. This upright characteristic of the humerus (upper arm) can be too extreme with too upright a humerus. When this occurs front movement is adversely affected, resulting in choppy movement with little extension. When a long legged terrier has a sloping humerus that goes under the chest, the dog does not have the desired straight appearance of the front end. Correct long legged terriers have a fine balance between too upright a humerus destroying movement and too much slope to the humerus, affecting type. A correct long legged terrier moves with extension and strength and without wasted movement, yet still has the visual appearance of a relatively straight front.

A short upper arm is said to cause dogs to throw their front legs high, sometimes in a �hackney� manner. As the study progressed, measurements were taken of the length of the scapula relative to the length of the humerus to study this claim. In our very small sample of dogs that move in this manner, we were not able to confirm this theory, but we have no data to refute the idea either. All of the dogs in the study that we were able to measure this ratio, had similar ratios of length of scapula to humerus (variation was one centimeter) regardless of their movement.

Another factor considered, was the slope and height of the withers, sometimes called �lay on� or incorrectly �layback�. Airedales and other long legged terriers with prominent withers tend to have beautiful silhouettes. This feature tends to give the impression of a lot of angulation to the shoulder and very short backs. However, we did not correlate good angulation with the amount or slope of the withers. We did correlate that dogs with a lot of slope and height to the withers frequently move poorly. We examined the radiographs of the prominent withered dogs carefully. There did not seem to be a difference in the placement of the scapula relative to the thoracic vertebra or any other anatomical feature when compared to less extreme dogs. The primary difference was the length of the (upward extending) spinous processes of the thoracic vertebras giving the height to the withers. In terms of basic anatomy, specific muscles attach to specific points on bones. Each prominence on a bone has a specific attachment for a particular muscle. The spinous processes are specific attachments for muscles that support the front limbs. Having particularly long spinous processes to these vertebra (high withers) results in a longer length for the associated muscle attachments to have to contract. This may play a role in the tendency for these dogs to lift their legs high as they move.

There was also the opportunity to radiograph one dog repeatedly as it matured. As this dog developed, the angulation changed dramatically. He appeared (no radiographs) to be very angulated as an eight week old pup. When he was radiographed as seven months of age, his shoulder angulation was only 22 degrees, meaning he was quite upright in his shoulder. When he was again radiographed as a fifteen month old dog, his angulation was 36 degrees. This is a lesson in selection. Dogs can change dramatically in appearance and angulation as they go through stages of maturity. A breeder needs to be familiar with the developmental stages of the bloodlines that they use in order to avoid culling a dog in an �ugly� phase of development.

So what makes dogs move differently in front? As the study progressed, and the issues were discussed with experienced breeders and judges, it became apparent that the most important indicator of front movement was the overall balance of the dog. If the dog has extreme characteristics, like an ultrashort back, a very long neck, very high withers, extremely strong rear ends or weak rear ends, the dogs front movement suffered. Further, if the dog lacks balance, even correct angulation will not result in correct movement. This is consistent with the wording of many standards, including the Airedale standard which states �Movement or action is the crucial test of conformation�.

Many breeders select for a particular silhouette in the long legged terriers. This visual picture often includes a long neck, clean, �fish-hook� front, high withers, short backs, and powerful, well angulated rears. It makes for a beautiful picture standing still. However, when the beautiful silhouette moves, if the conformation is actually flawed, movement will clearly demonstrate the flawed conformation. Some defend the attractive, beautiful silhouetted dog with poor movement with an argument about type verses soundness. This argument is incorrect. A dog with correct type in athletic breeds like a long legged terriers, will move soundly. When breeders and judges select for the dogs with too extreme characteristics because they are beautiful in sillhouette, they lose soundness, a fundamental characteristic of type! Characteristics like short backs, high withers, long necks, and clean fronts are ideal until they become so extreme that movement is lost.

The constant challenge for fanciers of purebred dogs is to select for desired type without loss of soundness. Most breeds started with fundamentally sound dogs. Fanciers then selected for characteristics they considered desirable as the breeds develop and evolve. As a particular characteristic is deemed desirable the tendency is to go for more of it. �If a big head is good, a bigger head is better�. Fanciers can go too far. Soon, too big a head results in loss of reproductive soundness, and c-sections are required to deliver pups. There are now a number of breeds that require c-sections for most deliveries. This is the rule of unintended consequences, where by selecting for one trait, you adversely affect another important characteristic. All breeders and judges should be constantly alert for fads and fashions that harm the fundamental soundness of their breeds. Movement is the test of conformational soundness. When selected characteristics have become too extreme or out of balance, movement is lost.

Many thanks to members of the Tyler Kennel Club and the Lone Star Airedale Club for providing dogs for the study, for help in interpreting the information, and for their enthusiastic support of the project.


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The Hair Of Wire-Haired Breeds
David Post,DVM,MS and Laura Post,Ph.D.
(Text as published June, 2006 in Just Terriers)

All mammals have hair, even whales. Among the different species, even among breeds and individuals of the same species, the pattern of hair growth can vary considerably. Wire-haired breeds are unique in several respects. When grooming wirehaired breeds, the hair is stripped or plucked for show dogs and pets have clippered coats. The difference between stripped and clippered wire coats is noticeable, with stripped coats coarser in texture and richer in color. An understanding of canine hair physiology sheds light on this difference.

Basic Biology of Hair

Hair is produced by specialized epithelial cells called keratinocytes which reside at the base of a hair follicle and produce the hair. The pigmentation comes from melanocytes. The hair itself is comprised of an outermost layer, the cuticle, and a cortex which is packed with dead keratinized cells. Additionally, some hair may contain an inner region, the medulla, which has fewer keratinized cells.

There are three types of hair on a dog. The undercoat, composed of secondary hairs, has a soft texture (the shaft of hair is not as densely packed with dead keratinized cells) and is shorter than the other types of hair. Coarser and often longer, primary (guard) hairs are the outermost layer of protection (these hairs are densely packed with the keratinized cells). The last hair category is whiskers, highly sensitive tactile sensors found clustered on the face. With that sensitivity in mind, use care if you decide to remove these hairs while grooming your dog.

Dogs and other animals with fur coats have many hairs per follicle (unlike humans where there is one hair per follicle). The diameter of individual hairs has been shown to increase as the number of hairs per follicle decreases. Thus, stripping, a process which would reduce the number of hairs per follicle, allows the remaining hair to become coarser and more pigmented. In contrast, human hair gets thinner and thinner and can cease growing altogether when plucked repeatedly.

In dogs, hair grows in cycles. It grows to a genetically predetermined length and then it stops growing and dies. Shedding is the result of the weakening of the hair shaft attachment to the follicle. All dogs shed, but the pattern and rate of shedding, like hair growth rates, varies from breed to breed. Some wire haired breeds shed hair in a relatively short time frame resulting in loss of tufts of hair or what is also called �blowing a coat�. Other factors like temperature, hormones (especially estrogen and thyroid), light cycles (longer days encourage shedding), nutrition, parasites, disease and certain drugs can influence shedding. Brushing the coat can also speed up the breakdown of the hair�s attachment to the follicle. Brushing also stimulates circulation and regrowth and helps train the coat to lie flat.

To understand the differences we will divide the types of coats. Normal coats are coats like German Shepherds and Corgis. These coats are composed of guard hairs with a high proportion of undercoat hairs. Short-coated dogs come in two versions, coarse and fine. Coarse short-coats, like Rottweilers and some terriers, have strong growth of guard hairs and much less undercoat hair. The longer wire-coated breeds are a variation of this. Fine coated short-haired breeds, like Boxers and Dachsunds, have the largest number of hairs per unit area, have large numbers of well developed undercoat hairs, and guard hairs are reduced in size. Long-coated dogs also come in two versions, fine and woolly. Fine long-coated breeds like Cockers and Chows are similar to normal coats except the guard hair is not as developed and the weight of hair per unit area is greater. Woolly long-coated breeds like Poodles, Bedlington Terriers, and Kerry Blue Terriers have undercoat hair that makes up eighty percent of the total number of hairs and these undercoat hairs are relatively more developed and coarse compared to undercoat hairs in other breeds. These breeds give the impression of an overall softer appearance to their coats and tend to shed less than other breeds.

The role of the sebaceous gland should be mentioned. This gland associated with hair follicles produces an oily secretion that helps to keep the skin soft and pliable, helps retain moisture, and protects from bacterial infection. The oil film also coats the hair to give the coat the shiny appearance associated with good health. During illness and malnutrition, the hair coat often develops a dull, dry appearance associated with reduced sebaceous gland function.

Pet Grooming

When dogs are shaved, all the hair is cut which makes the undercoat as visible as the outer guard hair. Typically the softer, duller undercoat significantly changes the appearance of the dog, particularly if the undercoat is a lighter color than the guard hair. This appearance can be partially modified in some dogs by raking the undercoat out with a stripping comb. This can�t be done immediately after clipping because the hair is too short and it can�t be done if the hair is of an excessive length before it is clipped. However, if the owner rakes out undercoat regularly, between shave downs a better cosmetic result from the clippers will occur. If the coat is clipped it is important the clippers be clean and sharp and that the skin is cleaned as part of the grooming process.

Care While Grooming with Stripping

There are as many strategies for care of dogs during the stripping process as there are groomers! Unfortunately, little information exists on what is correct and what is incorrect, so a lot of bad strategies exist.

One of the most important aspects of stripping is to understand how irritating the process is to the skin. When skin is irritated in this manner, cleanliness is very important to minimize soreness and prevent infection. The use of a medicated shampoo often before and always after stripping, to reduce inflammation and soreness, makes the dog more comfortable and drastically reduces the opportunity for infection. Figure two illustrates what happens when skin is not cared for during and after stripping. As the pictures illustrate, the skin is both inflamed and infected and the dog required veterinary care after being returned from the groomer. This should never be the outcome after stripping, even with dogs with sensitive skin. If the skin is not clean prior to stripping, bathing is appropriate. Groomers often report that hair is easier to grip and pull if it is not recently bathed. Although there is some truth to this idea, the skin must be clean. Further, after stripping, baths are helpful to reduce the opportunity for infection and make the dog more comfortable. Groomers also will state that the jacket should never be bathed or it won�t lie flat. Towelling and blow drying in the direction of hair growth will train the hair to lay flat, as well as add luster to the coat appearance. This should routinely be done the jacket as it grows as well. There is a happy medium between �never bathe� and bathing too much. The answer to how frequent to bathe depends on circumstances, but it is essential that the skin stay clean! If the skin smells, if you see dirt on close inspection, if the skin is flaky or oily, or if you have just worked on the coat and irritated the skin, bathe your dog!

Some groomers routinely end up with irritated skin after grooming while others always seem to quickly remove the hair without significant irritation. There are a number of reasons for this difference. Some dogs have skin that is more sensitive than others. Some dogs have types of coats that are more difficult to pull which can add to the irritation. Some tricks to reduce irritation include the following. It is important to pull the hair in the direction of growth, rather than �against the grain�. Steady and methodical pulling is more effective and comfortable than erratic, jerky motions. It is also less likely to result in accidental pinching and scuffing of the skin with stripping tools. Most importantly, keep the skin clean.

Once the initial pull down has occurred, the process of �rolling the coat� begins. After a period of time, the new jacket of guard hairs begins to emerge along with an abundant undercoat. The undercoat is typically �raked� with a stripping comb to remove this undesirable hair. It is important to keep the edge of the stripping comb parallel to the skin so that the hair is pulled without the skin being raked and irritated. Again, gentle and steady is more effective that hurried and rough. As the jacket emerges further, the longest guard hairs are selected and removed with the goal of getting a number of layers of guard hairs of differing lengths, so that the high quality jacket can be maintained for an extended period of time.

Typically, furnishings (hair on the legs, chest, and face) are maintained in a similar, but less aggressive manner. Usually the undercoat of furnishings is not raked, due to concern of breaking the longer, desirable guard hairs of the furnishings. The longest guard hairs in the furnishings are often dead hair that will need to be pulled to keep the furnishings rotating, just like the jacket. Furnishings are often bathed more frequently than the jacket and treated with a number of products to keep the hair softer to avoid breakage. These are often oil based products like Vitapointe, that protect the long hair of the furnishings, but often attract dirt and sand. The dirt and sand can result in breakage, hence the need for more frequent bathing.

As you work through the process of grooming with your show dog, and you wonder about whether to bathe, ask yourself a simple question. �If MY scalp was dirty or irritated, and I went to my dermatologists, what would be his first and most important suggestion?� The answer is, �Shampoo your scalp with an appropriate shampoo frequently!� The same is true for your dog. Keep the skin clean!


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Back To Basics Presents Not Just Child's Play: Tom Lams shares his thoughts on the relationship between children and dogs.
By Laura Post

"I want to get a puppy for my child. When will you have a litter for sale?"

This question can strike fear in a breeder's heart. Which is ironic because I haven't met a trainer/breeder yet who didn't grow up loving a dog or pet of some sort. A major factor behind breeders� concerns is the fact that, yearly, a large number of tragedies occur where a dog has seriously injured a child. An understanding of the nature of dogs versus children is greatly advantageous to developing an fulfilling relationship between a family and their pet. Renowned animal behaviorists/communicators, Tom and Kay Lams, will soon visit LSATC, and recently, Tom shared some of his insights into the world of dogs and children with me. (It might surprise folks to know that along with their lifelong study of animal behavior, the Lams' raised seven children.)

Dogs view children as being lower in the pecking order than adults. Why do you think that is?

Kids are often hyper and don't concentrate on one thing. They make sudden, erratic moves that dogs don't understand or often see as prey-type behavior. One thing we work on during seminars with children and dogs is to make the children more aware and sensitive to what the dog is feeling.

Another thing is that children, being shorter, are often on the same eye level as the dog and will stare at the dog, whereas adults tend to look at the dog and then look away. Dogs see staring as threatening behavior. And sometimes children stare because they are afraid. A dog's instinct is to dominate and if it senses fear, it will want to react.

Should parents wait until their child is a certain age before getting a dog?

I have seen success with children being raised with a puppy and then with older kids with a dog. Both situations can work. However, one of the hardest times for the dog can be when a child starts school. The child will suddenly not have time or as much time with the dog as before and the dog can suffer from lack of attention. I know of one situation where a family dog leaves the house at 3:00 PM every day, like clockwork, to walk to the bus stop and wait for the child to come home. The dog never mistakes the time. So dogs prefer routine. I have one dog that eats at 4 PM every day. If I'm late in feeding him, he brings me his bowl.

I have heard it said that a mature dog�s intelligence is equivalent to that of a five-year old child. Would you agree with this?

Not always. I had a dog where I never did know his limits. There wasn't a thing I couldn't teach him. And every dog is different, some are smarter than others. Some are smarter than a lot of people.

Are there breeds of dogs that you wouldn't recommend for children?

I would not recommend Dalmatians. More Dalmatians bite children than any other breed. Of course, I am mostly speaking of "backyard-bred dogs here" where attention to breeding for temperament and health is ignored. A dog in pain from hip dysplasia, for example, can be testy, especially around children, because it doesn�t feel good. Other breeds I don't recommend for children are Basenjis, Akitas, Rhodesian Ridgebacks and Rottweilers.

Breeds I recommend are the King Charles Cavaliers, they are wonderful dogs with kids. Also Shelties, and the Australian Shepherd, but only with an active family, these dogs need exercise, and Whippets. Whippets are fantastic house dogs. Calm in the house and very loyal. You'll never go to the bathroom alone though if you own a whippet, they'll follow you everywhere.

What about Airedales with children?

Airedales are not for everyone, and for families with children, it would depend on the temperament of Airedale, calmer Airedales would be better. Some Airedales do not like quick movements and some don't forgive easily. I find Airedales tend to be one- to two-person dogs. The children would need very good dog manners and would need to have a good understanding of how a dog feels.

Also, parents need to communicate to the dog that the kids are first and the dogs are last in the pecking order.

Airedales will often rule a household if the owners are not careful, why do you think that occurs?

Airedales are extremely intelligent and too smart to put up with a lot of baloney. You have to ask for what you are wanting, they just won't up and give it to you. They are also very intuitive and will take advantage of people if the owners aren't careful. In this way, the Airedale can be too smart, smarter than their owners sometimes. And it�s best to guide rather than force the Airedale into doing what you want. Negotiation, that is really what it's about, and with most dogs, not just Airedales.

Poodles are another breed that can be smarter than a lot of people and will take over a household if the owner isn't careful. I would place Dobermans in that category as well.

The things I have learned from attending your seminars have greatly influenced how I interact with both dogs and people. Your understanding of animal behavior and communication, and your ability to teach this to people is extraordinary.

I can't say that I've learned it all. Or that there is one perfect way. I am constantly making adjustments to what I teach through what I learn. And working with dogs is a constant learning process. The dogs have taught me a lot. We just need to listen. And approach things with an open mind. If you don't do that, you will miss something, and often, the dog will teach you more than you teach it.


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Back To Basics Showbreeders Translate Murphy's Laws
by Laura Post

One of my favorite books of all times, "No Hidden Meanings" by Sheldon Kopp and Claire Flanders has an illustrated eschatological "laundry list" of 43 truths that have worked their way into my subconscious only to surface at various opportune moments. At 4 am one morning, while trying to catch a nap in the veterinary clinic closet on my son's bean bag chair (a chair meant only for 12 year olds) and keep two C-section pups warm at the same time, a couple of these truths came to mind:

1) All important decisions must be made on the basis of insufficient data, and

2) All solutions breed new problems.

From this beginning, the list quickly grew (#3 being: An unplanned C-section will occur at 3 am. A planned C-section will also occur at 3 am.) Knowing I was not alone with my observations, I queried other breeders about the quirky nature of breeding and showing dogs and below is a sample of the contributions.

Murphy's Laws On Breeding:

Corollary to #3: Your terrific vet who is almost happy to do a 3 am C-section because she too is a breeder is sure to be at her national specialty the night of your emergency C-section. (Phil Weinberger)

4. Fertility (there are no sterile barn cats) is inversely (not to be confused with perversely) proportional to desirability of cross, ease of insemination, and waiting list for pups.

5. In case of breeding with chilled semen from hundreds of miles across the country - your bitch will be at her peak on Sunday when there is no Fed Ex delivery available for your area. (Sherry Raley)

6. The puppy that has a conformation to rival AKC standards will also be a good three inches outside the accepted size range or will have a bad bite. (Carla Hughes)

7. A dog's misbehavior will be in direct proportion to the number of people who are watching.

8. If you think your dogs all have water, they don't. (Cecilia Porter)

9. If you are wondering if you have latched the gates so that the dogs can't open them, you haven't. (C. Porter)

10. If there are two pairs of shoes laying side by side on the floor - your puppy will pick the most expensive pair to chew to pieces.

11. Only the good die young. (C. Hughes)

On Showing:

1. There is an inverse relationship between distance and ring time: the further you have to travel to the show, the earlier the ring time. (P. Weinberger)

2. Plan on rain the day you pack for a show and preferably the entire week prior to the show so that your dog's furnishings will look their worst.

3. If a dog is going to get injured/ill, it will be minutes before or during a show. (Sara Kautz)

4. Your dog is less likely to pee on the gate and poop in the ring UNLESS the judge is Ed Bivin. (P. Weinberger)

5. If you count on a judge taking 15 minutes per group, he or she will break the records on fastest judging times. Likewise, if you need to get an early start home after showing, plan on being able to read War and Peace in its entirety before its your time to show. (S. Kautz)

and last but not least:

6. As soon as you send in those entries, the little "star" will either blow all coat or damage herself in some way that you just can't cover up. (S. Raley)