Pet or Predator?
What 2000 years of breeding and selection has
done for the Maremma
Livestock Guardian Dog.
It's remarkable that there are so many things in just one dog !!
* A dog that guards it's charges instinctively.
* He barks rather than bites - but will kill IF he has to.
* Is understanding in the day - unforgiving at night.
* Is quite big enough for the job - in Europe it was wolves and bears - in America, the coyote - in Australia it's dingoes, feral dogs, foxes, eagles and crows.
* They are white, to blend with the stock (mainly sheep and goats)
* Floppy ears so they don't frighten stock.
* Can cope with extremes of weather that the stock can.
* Light eater.
* Cautious nature - but not afraid.
* Doesn't need to be taught it's job - comes naturally.
* Thrives on affection and works more confidently for it.
* Takes charge and makes decisions - 24 hours a day.
* Is not aggressive by nature.
* Stock accept them readily.
* Can call a mob together quicker than any dog can herd them.
* Recognise predator animals instinctively.
* Live happily with the group they have bonded with.
* Can be changed to another group of animals easily.
* Will protect young animals and birds with great concern and diligence
* Won't readily leave their group.
* Don't need your company, but love to see you visit.
* Can protect family members but always need a group.
* Grin more than any other dog when they are happy.
* Talk to their mob whenever they are concerned.
* Are really quite a majestic, proud, self confidant dog.
So, considering what has taken 2000 years to fine tune, wouldn't it be a shame to cross breed them and risk losing any of that?
A Critical Look at some Myths about Maremmas.
Here are some common questions and considered answers.
Q. What adorable pups - won't they make a lovely pet?
A. They certainly have a lovely nature but
they grow into a big dog, need a lot of room to exercise and become clearly
stressed if left on their own - they
are essentially a flock animal and need the company of a group of animals.
Q. Will they make a house dog?
A. They are usually uncomfortable indoors but will regard the owner, family and sundry pets (and chooks) as part of a flock and will be content with that.
Q. I'd like a Maremma as long as it's not going to bark too much.
A. Maremmas are bred to BARK ! That is their first line of defence and it's most effective. They bark at anything strange, different or threatening.
Q. If they live with sheep and goats all the time, do they eat grass as well?
A. (after thinking carefully) They are the
same as any other dog - they are omnivores and will eat a range of meat and
vegetable material but need
a regular supply of meaty bones.
Q. If I feed my Maremma butchered sheep or goats from the flock they are looking after - will they turn on the flock and kill for a feed?
A. NO! But living in the open paddocks as
they do (and in the bush often), as they are opportunistic feeders, they will
feed off a carcase they
come across if they are hungry.
Q. I'm used to training sheepdogs - these shouldn't be any trouble to train, should they?
A. Breeds of Livestock guardians generally
and Maremma in particular are quite different in behaviour to 'traditional'
working dogs (herding
dogs). They do not need training to guard - the instinct is inherited from the parents - they need only good discipline as pups.
Q. If they are handled too much it destroys their guarding ability and they are then no good for their job.
A. A lot of nonsense!! Like all dogs
they thrive on affection. It's impossible to give them to much - but - give it
on your terms! In the paddock
or where ever they should be working. The trust that develops is invaluable.
Q. If a dog has been used for guarding sheep it couldn't be any good for poultry because it hasn't bonded with them, has it?
A. The Maremmas will bond with any
livestock (or mix of livestock) at any stage of it's life - if the farmer allows
both stock and dog that brief time
to get used to one another - some dogs look after private zoos with anything from emus to carpet snakes.
Q. I've seen a Maremma tied up near a poultry run and the foxes still came in and killed chooks - so they can not be all that good.
A. Maremmas are not bred to be tied up !!! They patrol constantly and investigate anything suspicious.
Q. They look a lot like Labradors - wouldn't they make a nice cross?
A. NO !! With 2000 years of selective
breeding for the very traits that make them successful, why do it? And besides,
any cross breeding risks
destroying those characteristics and also the reputation of the dog.
Please!! Let's be intelligent about it.
Chris Franks - Mundui Maremmas - Bermagui.
Email Chris for more help or advice here