The Maremma is an Italian breed officially known as Cane da Pastore Maremmano Abruzzese, or Pastore Maremmano (Abruzzese). Independent, instinctive and dedicated, Maremma’s have been bred for over 2,000 years to guard sheep from predators. Here on the farm we have owned and employed working Maremma Sheepdogs as livestock guardians, since 2014. It has been an amazing experience and an absolute joy getting to see these dogs interact with the livestock and do what comes naturally for them. I have owned many breeds of dogs in my life for various reasons and needs, but this breed is beyond special and is the most amazing animal that I have ever owned.
They blend right in with the sheep herd with their white fur and stocky build. In my opinion they are of the best LGD (livestock guardian dogs), for protection (not for herding) of livestock. Where other LGD breeds might fail in comparison, the consistent and selective breeding of the Maremma excels. For example they are not known to roam or venture away from their farms or their flocks, and they will protect whatever animals that you raise them around, sheep, goats, cattle, horses, cats, poultry… Seeing this breed’s abilities and temperament on a daily basis and knowing that these dogs can take down wolves, bears and mountain lions… and yet totally melt around small children and baby animals, just amazes me, and that is why I have chosen them for my farm.
But as adoring, fluffy, beautiful and special as they are, Maremmas are not a breed for everyone! They need lots of outdoor fenced space and of course they need livestock to protect and they are very independent. They work best in groups with at least two dogs (minimum) so they have backup to stay safe, against a persistent predator. They also need a partner that can patrol while the other can rest. They guard by barking, they communicate with each other by barking and they are always on duty. Barking is their first line of defense, and for this reason they are not for small hobby farms or backyards with neighbors that might not appreciate all this noise. I have grown to understand the nature of the bark, in the middle of the night, my dogs might be telling a passing coyote to just keep going, and not to make this a regular stop. In the day time they might bark because there is a hawk circling too close to their pastures, or there are migrant farmworkers pruning grapes on the next property.
Maremma’s are also not a good choice as a first dog, or an only dog, and above all they are not bred to be a pet. This is hard to understand as they are possibly the most adorable pups you’ll ever see and I’ve had to stop myself from taking them straight into my house. But trust me on this, they know more about what they are bred to do then I could ever train them to do, nor would I want to ever undo this dog’s wonderful instincts.
So getting down to whatever human “training” means to a Maremma, you must understand that a this breed requires mutual respect in handling, in voice, and with consistency. In their role as guardians, Maremmas will get along with new dogs and new humans that they have been properly introduced to, but any unknown visitors will be stopped in their tracks. To be a successful owner you must display a confident, calm yet firm, ability to be the pack leader. By showing them what is theirs to be protected and what is allowed… we can step back while they do their jobs and we will be constantly impressed with their abilities.
If you are interested in registered livestock guardian Maremma’s please contact me to be on the puppy mailing list. We like to get to know you in advance and invite you to visit us and learn more about the breed!