Maremma’s take two years to reach maturity. During this growth period there will be times when it seems your pup has forgotten all you have taught him/her. This is normal but must be corrected with the same training it previously received so as not to confuse the pup regarding rules and boundaries on the farm. If you have a single pup with no adult guardian dogs on the property the following tips will be very useful. The Maremma does not need training like other dogs. They want to guard livestock and please their owner for sure. They also want respect from the owner to do their God given job. The following “training tips” are to teach the dog your language or vocabulary. Often the adult dog will not follow a command because it does not fit into their instinctual driven guardian job description. They will do what they can to adjust and meet your needs but often ignore frivolous commands like SIT, STAY, LAY DOWN, FETCH etc. because they MUST GUARD!
Pups need a “holding” area where they can sleep, eat, find shelter and be when not supervised. This area should have an enclosure where the puppy can stay and be warm or cool. Young puppies can not regulate their body temperatures on their own and require plenty of straw/hay in a small area that is free from cold drafts or extreme heat. If there is another guardian the pup can warm up next to the dog.
Heat lamps are not recommended due to fire safety concerns and puppy chewing on cords. A place in a barn near the stock the pup will be guarding is the best choice. If the pup is housed indoors it could impede the growth of its coat and then in extreme weather it will not be prepared. These puppies grow fast and you may choose to release it from the indoor set up because of its size. Please be sure you consider its coat when determining its shelter options. Also often times older pups and adult dogs will refuse the extravagant shelters humans provide. They want to see their stock, have the best spot for hearing and smelling things as well as the best weather guard for the day. This obviously means they will choose a spot according to their desire. Pups will stay where you put them in the early months and then they will do what they need.
Puppies will tell you what they need according to their behaviors. Some puppies may escape enclosures and this will guide the owner to know what type of fencing the dog will need to understand boundaries. Some pups/dogs dig out, others climb out, occasionally a pup will stay put and some go through gates etc. As the puppy grows the owner can correct negative escape routes during formal training times. Between 12 and 18 weeks these training times should be mandatory so the puppy understands the rules. As the puppy grows into adolescence guidelines the owner has created will be tested and must be reiterated with patience and persistence.
You should offer your pup consistent commands in a calm yet strong voice. Not with screaming or with a degrading tone. Pups may chew on and pull dropped or loose items into a preferred spot, often with their mark left on them.
My pups and young dogs bring them to the middle of the back yard area and leave them for me.
Often you can see through your pups body positioning and expressions if they are about to be mischievious. If you see the puppy using a common body position, or facial expression and you are fairly sure the dog is getting ready to behave poorly you should attempt to change your pup’s focus immediately. This should be done by calling the dog to you and offering encouragement to come with a certain sound like clapping your hands or pitch in your voice. Then redirect the dog to their guarding job with the animals. If they don’t come when called (quite normal) you should go and get them and take them to their guard post without any judgement. They are likely to forget the mischief they had just invented unless it involved food.
When you enter your pup’s pasture or guarding area , you should first give a command like, “Stay back” or “On Guard”, once you enter the area and the pup is approaching you give another command like “Off” or “Down” to deter jumping behavior. You can reinforce good behavior with a pat on the head and praise or even a treat. These interactions should be brief to avoid excessive bonding between owner and dog during training! Save hugs and kisses for a special reward time,
When I feed pups after 12 weeks I will separate them for an individual training time. I walk to the feeding area with their food. I offer the command “On Guard” before entering area and then enter. If they jump I give the command “Off”, if they jump again I then leave the area with the food in hand and try again until mastered for the session.
Pups should also be taught a “NO” command. I use this when they attempt to eat the livestock grain or are seen mouthing or biting on the livestock. I have heard Air horns can be very effective for stopping this type of behavior but I have never tried it. Throw cans or penny cans have been ineffective for training purposes with my Maremma. They ignored these efforts. It is common for pups to bite or chew on livestock during the bonding phase. This doesn’t mean they will be an ineffective guardian dogs. This behavior needs to be corrected and prevented IMMEDIATELY by removing the victim. The animal the pup is chewing on is most often the weakest of the stock and should be removed from the bonding process! Our first pup chewed on the tail of our weakest lamb. We had to remove this lamb and it did not chew on the others. The pup grew into an excellent guardian. We try to put pips in with the strong lead sheep that are willing to train pups and protect their lambs.
Cabling can be done for safety reasons or when you are getting through adolescence and need to manage things other than the frisky dog. The cable should be temporary used only for 1-3 hours or maybe over night in certain situations. It should not replace communication and boundary familiarity training. Adult dogs are often able to get off a cable if left too long or will injure themselves trying. Their need to run and guard is too high to be left on a cable. I have seen some successfully cabled Maremma that are afforded hours off the cable daily.
We use a cable run for training puppies to tolerate chickens and being tied. We place puppies that we know are going to farms with poultry regularly before they leave for their forever homes. All puppies experience the cable as time permits. The cable allows the chickens an opportunity to escape the puppy if it were to play too hard. We have never encountered any chicken injuries or issues utilizing this method. Once the dog reaches adolescence cable training should be closely monitored for problems. Cables that have a run in shelter are the best fit for Maremma as they need to be able to get out of the sun.
The cable run attaches inside the cinder block house and then to the fence in the chicken coop.