We choose the Maremma for our homestead because this breed does well on smaller farms and stick with their flocks and assigned animals. Their guarding range is about one mile when compared to the larger breed The Great Pyrenees that will guard ranges of about 5-10 miles. Maremma will wander if not trained properly at an early age (birth -6 months), even on a fenced property. We have four guardians for an active homestead with 30-50 animals on 23 acres. We have utilized an underwire fence at the front of the property in the past. We changed to an above ground electric fence due to hunting dogs causing our Maremma to expand their territory outside the underground fence area. The Maremma instinct to guard causes them to expand their territory when needed and they will cross the underwire or unfenced property to do so. Once trained our dogs have been very respectful of the homestead boundaries. There are 7 separated pastures or yard areas on our farm. The dogs travel throughout the area freely and younger ones never enter the human dwelling unless there is a medical need or concern. Our first female came inside when in heat and now likes to come in for a nap or a visit once in a while. She is well mannered and does not alert bark while in the home unless and stranger walks in. Our older male will come in once in a great while if he has had too much excitement or needs a break from the younger pack. He must be watched as he sometimes marks in the house. he does not alert bark inside either.
MAREMMA SHEEPDOG DOG BREED
The Maremma Sheepdog is a working breed, originally from central Italy. This breed was designed to be a livestock guardian dog and will protect herds and flocks alike. Puppies raised with seasoned guardians become the best workers on the farm as their parents place them where they should be. They can become excellent guardians of poultry with the owners close monitoring during puppy age and some extra training or retraining around adolescence while they mature. If the puppy is raised with the parents poultry training is very easy because the parents help. Young Maremma seem to find poultry quite amusing during their adolescence (10 months-18 months depending on dog and environment). During this time they need extra attention around poultry and re-training much like human teenagers. Our first Maremma killed a few chickens during this time of growth. No chickens died with the generations following our initial Maremmas. The Maremma pup may play chase and because they are too big they injure the poultry during the game. Other times the Maremma seem to want to mother the chicken and lick and hold them for way too long which can cause the chicken to have a heart attack. Once over this teen time they treat poultry like any other stock. Cable training is great for teaching Maremma’s about poultry because the birds can get away and choose when to interact.
Height: 24-29 inches Weight: 65-100 pounds Lifespan: 11-13 years
Our Maremmas weigh from 70 lbs (18 months) – 90 lbs (eldest male)
The Maremma Sheepdog is considered a large dog breed. This breed is takes care to groom themselves and they hold a striking appearance. They run with great speed and agility as a team when taking down predators. A pack of Maremma will practice predator take down simulations daily as a sport. The Maremma’s first two years have quick growth that is not complete for a full 24 months. They are tall, fast, thin and light majestic creatures during their childhood and adolescence. They are quite large and seem bulky due to their thick coats. When fed the right diet they are fast, muscular, and energetic dogs. If fed poorly they can become lazy, gain weight, have physical problems and coat issues. The coat of the Maremma does not come all the way in until they are full grown as well. Special attention is recommended during the rapid growth years for matting as the fur sheds rapidly twice a year. All our Maremmas have had mats appear behind the ears. With regular care and grooming they are easily removed. We brush all dogs once a week while doing health check. I carry a brush around with me most days and use brushing as a reward for awesome behavior on the farm.
Maremma Sheepdogs are strictly working dogs, they are not suitable to be family pets for the most part. Over recent years they have been used as companion dogs, this involves at least two years of round the clock availability and training. Their coat is not house friendly and was made for the outdoors and harsh weather, so daily grooming is required when in doors. They also need to run exercise every day to stay healthy. These dogs do not play like most dogs with balls and simple commands. Fun and play time mostly consist of practice predator defense trials with another Maremma or LGD, running, running, running, hugs, rubs and yummy snacks. Smart and independent, this breed is extremely adept at protecting farms, herds, flocks and people. They will show you what they need and they want to please their owner, as long as they are able to protect their stock. The Maremma Sheepdog can get along well with non LGD dogs and other pets on the property they guard. It is not recommended that non-guardian dogs interact with the stock as this can cause guard duty confusion and aggressive interactions. Also, they are very attentive and affectionate to children when raised and acclimated too socialize.
This dog is extremely vigilant and prone to excessive barking as it is their primary defense over their territory. Ultimately, the Maremma Sheepdog is authentic, loyal and devoted.
Coat & Grooming:
They have a two-layered coat. While the outer layer is long, thick, coarse and slightly wavy, the undercoat is soft and dense. I have heard you can use the undercoat for a natural fiber to spin and use as a yarn and even felt with it. The Maremma Sheepdog’s coat perfectly protects against adverse weather conditions. The dog sheds profusely in the spring and some in the fall. The dog appreciates grooming thoroughly during the shedding season. Matting is possible if the environment does not have regular wind and weather changes. Our Maremma occasionally get mats behind the ear during shedding times. Maremma Sheepdogs do not tolerate too hot climates without some shelter and water to cool themselves during summer heat. They also prefer to claim their own shelter. Many elaborate shelters may be turned down by a Maremma trying to meet their personal guarding requirements. As landscapes and roles change their shelter locations change. When our female is whelping and nursing guardian roles and shelter areas change almost daily.
A Maremma’s fur is developed according to genetics, health and environmental needs. I have noticed through photographs that Dogs in very cold regions seem to have heavier coats while those in warmer regions tend to have lighter coats during the same months. I am not sure if this is scientifically backed it is just something I have noticed over the years. The Maremmas full coat will not be disclosed until they have finished their two year growing season. All Maremma have a winter and summer coat. It is imperative that appropriate care (water, shelter, fans etc.) is given during hot months due to their long haired coats. If a maremma’s coat looks dull the dog might need a supplement. Raw eggs have done well for our Maremma”s coat issues. There are products like vitamin E and Coconut oil that are recommended. Always consider modifying diet if a dog has health issues even just a dull coat. Shaving and cutting the fur is not recommended and bathing is not necessary unless there is a medical concern. We trim our female prior to whelping for easier cleaning of pups.
The Maremma Sheepdog has a life expectancy of 11 to 13 years. They are a large breed and may develop arthritic symptoms in their latter years. Many people have concerns that fixing the pup before two years could complicate their growth process because they are a large breed. Some people are turning to tubal ligations for females to allow the hormones to facilitate their growth but prevent pregnancy. Finding a Veterinarian to do this procedure can be difficult. I found an article that explains a veterinarian’s perspective on the issue:
Another concern is Mammary gland tumors. These are primarily a concern for Poodles, Spaniels, and German Shepherds but I have included a link to a study regarding this concern:
Maremma are-not prone to the same congenital defects that many of the large breed dogs face. Change in the color of their noses is normal as the dog ages.
There are a couple of problems that can be attributed to the guardian lifestyle:
Hip and joint problems usually occur because of weight gain. We believe our Maremma do best on a low calorie, low grain diet to keep from putting too much stress on the connective tissues. Raw meat and bones are excellent for them and cooked bones should be avoided. We feed our Maremma bones from bone broth that have become soft and bendable. We monitor what we give them to avoid overfeeding. We offer a nutritious kibble providing puppy food for 18-24 months for pups. Our dogs hunt rodents and birds of flight as well as eat from the compost pile daily. Because of their independent dieting practices in the yard we do not feed as much as is recommended on the bag unless they seem to be losing weight. When we are in plenty on the farm we also give raw eggs and milk products. Some people feel the Maremma an all grain diet and I have herd they were bred for grain diets because they may be left in the fields with the stock and not have access to meat for long periods of time. I am not clear about this and I know my dogs hunt so I believe they need meat.
Bloat could be a concern. I have never known anyone with a Maremma that suffered from bloat but it can happen because they are a large breed. They should be fed in two small meals during the day to avoid this twisting of the stomach. I moisten dry food to help with digestion. Bloat occurs when the dog eats too much, too fast. We feed in the morning and the evening with occasional snacks during some days.
Weight / Height
Maremma Sheepdog’s height is around 24 – 29 inches and weighs around 65 – 100 pounds. Their appearance is that of a heavy dog but they are surprising light and this helps them to be quite fast when they need to maneuver through obstacles to protect their stock. They are very intelligent and their instinct to guard gives them a drive to escape enclosures. One of our Maremma in her adolescence could scale 6 foot fencing and one of our adolescent males jumped 5 foot gates with out touching it. Once they expand their territory they need mandatory training to correct it. Our Maremma could easily scale our gates with no climb fence, run under our wires and leave the property but they do not because we trained them and they stay with their stock.
The Maremma Sheepdog requires early socialization and obedience/guardian training to meet the needs of their individual farm duties. These dogs see their owner as an equal friend and work best with the same attitude from the owner. Maremma Sheepdogs will not tolerate rudeness and disrespect, but they do well with firm and consistent training so they understand their jobs. They want to please their owner as long as it does not interfere with what their instincts tell them regarding guarding their livestock. Boundary training is required consistently on the farm for their first two years in order to be able to incorporate new jobs and boundary introductions throughout the working life. If the farm they are on does not require changes in job duties or poultry, training will be minimal. Click link for puppy training tips.
The Maremma Sheepdog is not usually suitable for living indoors and must have acres and something to guard for proper exercise and mental well being. This breed does best on a farm setting to get the required amount of physical and mental work. Without the proper environment the dogs will destroy property, become easily overheated (if indoors) and may become depressed if left alone often. The Maremma enjoys independent activities in a spacious farm/yard area. They work best in pairs for the best protection of livestock and to meet social needs.