Aidi

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Aidi

Originating in the Atlas Mountains of Northern Africa, the Aidi is not a breed you will commonly encounter in the rest of the world today. Classically used as a guard dog by farmers, it is actually a multi-purpose animal, with a noteworthy sense of smell, making it a relatively good hunter too.

Renowned for its courage and protective instincts, the Aidi is an exceptional watchdog, who has kept herds of sheep and goats safe for many centuries throughout Northern Africa (Morocco, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria). Recently, they have become established as family pets, particularly in rural homes, where they can keep active with plenty of access to the outdoors. At times sensitive, and typically independent, this breed requires an experienced owner who uses firm and consistent training.

About & History

Also known as the Chien de l’Atlas, Kabyle dog or the Berber dog, the Aidi is widely believed to have hailed from the Atlas Mountains – a large series of mountain ranges spanning 2,500 kilometers in the North of Africa. It is general accepted that they are more specifically from Morocco.

While the exact date of their origin is unknown, there is speculation that they are a truly ancient breed, who have been around for thousands of years – although this is practically impossible to verify. Some say that they may even have been bred by the Phoenicians, an ancient civilisation well-known for developing other dog breeds, such as the Basenji and Pharaoh Hound, however, opinions are divided on this matter.

The Aidi, while commonly found working alongside herds of grazing animals, is most certainly not a herding dog. In fact, the Aidi was mistakenly classified as the ‘Atlas Sheepdog’ in 1963, a mistake which was later corrected in their 1969 breed standard. The purpose of the Aidi is purely to stand watch until they sense a predator, such as a jackal, and to warn the flock of its approach by barking loudly.

When kept as a hunter, it is common for the Aidi to work alongside another North African breed called the Sloughi dog, who is quicker than the Aidi, and more apt at catching the prey. Considering the Aidi’s highly developed sense of smell, these two are known for making a great team.

Appearance

Aidi Large Photo

Unlike most African dogs, the Aidi is celebrated for having a thick double coat, which is essential for the fluctuating temperatures of mountain life. This coat ensures the dogs can regulate their body temperature in both very hot and very cold conditions, and gives them the required protection from the strong African sun.

Equally, this impressively dense coat can help to physically protect them, keeping them shielded from the bites of predators, such as wolves, when working as guard dogs. Their coat measures between two and three inches long, and covers the entirety of the dog, though will be shorter over the head and ears.

Many coat colours exist, and include:

  • Black
  • Fawn
  • Red
  • Black and White
  • Brindle

Their distinctively hairy tail is impressively long, easily reaching the hocks. The fur around their neck and chest is particularly bushy, resembling that of a lion’s mane, and offering extra protection from bites and scratches. They will have a strong jaw and powerful teeth. Their lips are dark, ears stand semi-erect, and their eyes can be any shade between amber and brown. They have a ‘bear-like’ head and muzzle that is in proportion to their lean and muscular body.

This is a medium-sized breed with the female Aidi standing 52 to 62cms tall at the withers, while the male can reach up to 64cms. They typically weigh between 23 and 26kg (or 50 to 57 lbs).

Character & Temperament

Fiercely loyal and naturally protective, the Aidi is a breed that is always alert, and is characteristically wary of strangers. While typically affectionate and loving with their family, they have the potential to become aggressive with strangers, particularly if they sense a threat to their territory.

Due to their strength and likeliness to display hostility, it is critical that the Aidi is socialised at an early age with other people and animals in order to encourage them to be more accepting of those outside the immediate family. Not unexpectedly, given their working history, the Aidi will be the first to notice any sound, smell or movement inside or outside the house that does not belong, and will dutifully bark to warn their owner of the potential threat. They are not trusting by nature, and are constantly on guard. Of course, this makes them the ideal pet for a household requiring a guard dog.

The Aidi's high energy requirements and propensity to becoming highly strung mean that if they are not sufficiently exercised or mentally stimulated, they have the potential to become destructive within the house, and may develop repetitive barking habits or other unwanted behaviours. They can do well with other pets as long as they have been properly socialised and introduced from a young age. They do not typically do well with new dogs encroaching on their territory and caution is advised when introducing them – a task that should be done on neutral territory.

Trainability

This energetic and often anxious dog, requires an experienced trainer who will be consistently firm and patient. The trainer should be calm, and should use positive reinforcement techniques, as the Aidi is known for being a sensitive dog who does not respond well to criticism or punishment (which would usually result in mistrust of their trainer and a lack of responsiveness).

They have the potential to become dominant and can be known to pick up bad behaviours quickly. Training should be started very early, and will need to be intensive to ensure the Aidi does not become an aggressive or overly shy adult dog. Training, when done well, can be particularly rewarding with this breed.

Health

One of the healthiest dog breeds of all, the Aidi is not naturally predisposed to any known health issues. Every dog is an individual, however, and this does by no means guarantee that any individual Aidi will not become ill during its life time. As with all dogs, the Aidi should have regular health checks at the vet, and should be kept up to date with vaccinations and anti-parasite treatment.

The typical lifespan of the Aidi dog is 10 to 12 years.

Exercise and Activity Levels

This energetic breed of dog is best suited to a rural or outdoor life, and should certainly not be kept in an apartment or small house. They benefit from long daily walks, and thrive when allowed outside off the lead in large, fenced areas.

Under-exercising the Aidi will almost certainly result in unwanted behaviours, and is to be avoided. Remember, this is a breed that has been developed to be constantly vigilant, and to patrol a herd. They are never lazy, always alert, and have good stamina and endurance when outdoors.

Grooming

With their thick, dense double coat the Aidi does require regular and consistent grooming. Their outer coat is harsh and coarse, while their undercoat is soft to the touch. They will experience one or two full moults a year and will shed moderately in between. They require regular brushing: at least once a week, to disperse their natural oils over their entire coat. It is vital that they are not over-bathed, as this will result in the weatherproofing ability of their coat being lost. Bathing once or twice a year will be sufficient.

Like all dogs, their eyes and ears should be routinely checked for any unusual build-up or discharge. It is important to get your Aidi used to you checking these things routinely from an early age; perhaps during their weekly grooming session. Their claws can be clipped if overly long. Their teeth should be monitored for the accumulation of any yellow or brown calculus, and daily tooth brushing should be introduced from when they are puppies, to ensure they will tolerate it.

Famous Aidis

There are no famous Aidi dogs out there just yet, nor do they seem to find fame within the Instagram world, perhaps given their rarity outside their native homeland in North Africa.

Cross-Breeds

No popular cross-breeds of the Aidi exist to date.

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