Breeds

Maremma Sheepdog

GROUP 5 - WORKING DOGS

History

The Maremma Sheepdog is traditionally a livestock guardian dog, originating in Italy, where it has been used for thousands of years to protect flocks from predators, particularly wolves. It is sometimes know as the Maremmano-Abruzzi after the regions of Italy where it was originally found. In Australia, the breed can be found on rural properties protecting all sorts of livestock, ranging from sheep and goats to alpaca and even poultry.

Characteristics

Despite the name Sheepdog, the breed is not used for rounding up sheep, but protecting them, or whatever stock they are bonded with, by living with them and keeping predators at bay. The Maremma Sheepdog does this by territorial marking, warning barks and, when required, by displaying protective behaviours. The breed’s first response is to put itself between the predator and the flock and bark and sometimes charge at the threat. While the Maremma Sheepdog is not an aggressive breed, if a predator persists, it will protect its flock by force.

Temperament

It is aloof and independent, so training, although not impossible, can be a challenge. More importantly, the breed is wary of strangers and suspicious of odd noises and anything unusual. This can be a problem in suburban areas where the breed has been known to become a nuisance barker. The Maremma Sheepdog also bonds very closely with its flock or family and the breed is not happy if left home alone.

Appearance

The Maremma Sheepdog is a large, strong breed, with males standing up to 73 cm at the shoulder and weighing between 35 and 45 kg. Females are slightly smaller, weighing between 30 and 40 kg and reaching up to 68cm in height. In order to easily differentiate the breed from predators, Maremma Sheepdogs only come in white. No other colours are permitted, although a biscuit colour around the ears and tail is acceptable. The nose and eyelids should always be black to protect them from the sun. Black paw pads are also preferable.

Maintenance

The Maremma Sheepdog has a thick, long, double coat which lies flat to the body with feathering on the tail and the back of the legs. The coat is usually straight but may have a slight wave.

Health

Being a working dog still closely linked to its Italian history, the Maremma Sheepdog is usually quite a sound breed with no real breed specific health problems. Should the breed’s nose be lacking in good pigmentation, the Maremma has been known to experience skin cancer. The breed’s life span is usually 12 to 14 years.

Suitability

The Maremma Sheepdog is loving and loyal and has a curious habit of ‘smiling’ at its owner. However, all of the things that make the breed a great stock guardian can make it problematic as a backyard pet. The breed is probably best suited to rural properties and hobby farms, or to people who can take their dogs everywhere. The breed has a natural instinct to protect, but any puppy needs guidance and training to learn what not to do. This is best done from the beginning by an experienced Maremma breeder.

Words: Rae Hennessy
Image: Shutterstock.com

In Conclusion

Now you know a little about the Maremma Sheepdog you may have think that this is the dog for you. Before you make a decision, please make contact with the breed club or your State controlling body for purebred dogs. They will be able to give you information about available puppies and also suggest dog shows where you can see the breed and speak to breeders. In this way you will gain a better perspective of the Maremma Sheepdog and its needs and whether this breed would suit your lifestyle.

 

Breeders

Glasswater

02 4681 0202 billabong@bocnet.com.au

Foxdale

02 6366 3605

Dellbianco

0420869580 c.mclean@live.com.au

@dogsnsw