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Maremma Sheepdog

Nicole Cosgrove

June 18, 2021
The Maremma Sheepdog is a large Italian dog bred to be a livestock guardian. It has a variety of names it is known by including Maremmano Abruzzese, Abruzzese, Cane da Pastore, Abruzzese Shepherd Dog, Abruzzenhund, Pastore Maremmano, Pastore Abruzzese, Italian Sheepdog and is mostly nicknamed Maremmana. It has a life span of about 11 to 13 years and is similar to other livestock guardian breeds like the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, the Kuvasz from Hungary or the Cuvac from Slovakia.
The Maremma Sheepdog at a Glance
Name Maremma Sheepdog
Other names Abruzzese, Cane da Pastore, Abruzzese Shepherd Dog, Abruzzenhund, Pastore Maremmano, Pastore Abruzzese, Italian Sheepdog, Maremmano Abruzzese
Nicknames Maremma, Maremmano
Origin Italy
Average size Large
Average weight 66 to 100 pounds
Average height 24 to 29 inches
Life span 11 to 13 years
Coat type Long, thick, wavy
Hypoallergenic No
Color Solid white with shades of ivory, orange and yellow
Popularity Not yet a registered member of the AKC
Intelligence High
Tolerance to heat Good
Tolerance to cold Good to very good
Shedding Above average to heavy – expect a lot of hair in the home, on surfaces and on clothing
Drooling Above average
Obesity Average – measure food and make sure it gets enough activity
Grooming/brushing Above average to frequent – brush every other day or daily
Barking Occasional – does bark but should not be constant
Exercise needs High – needs active owners
Trainability Moderate – experience helps
Friendliness Good to very good
Good first dog No – best with experienced owners
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Good to very good with socialization
Good with other pets Good to very good with socialization
Good with strangers Moderate – essential to have good socialization and supervision and introductions
Good apartment dog Low – need space and a large yard or a rural setting with land
Handles alone time well Good – can handle being left alone for short periods
Health issues Somewhat healthy some issues can include hip dysplasia, eye problems and bloating
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $260 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $245 a year for toys, basic training, miscellaneous items and license
Average annual expenses $990 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $800
Rescue organizations Maremma Sheepdog Rescue, Gentle Giants Rescue, also check local rescues and shelters
Biting Statistics Attacks doing bodily harm: 1 Maimings: 1 Child Victims: 0 Deaths: 0

The Maremma Sheepdog’s Beginnings

The Maremma Sheepdog is from Italy and though its origins are unknown it has been around for thousands of years, being used as as a livestock guardian in mostly central areas such as Abruzzo and the Maremma region, hence its name. Italian shepherds and farmers would keep it to guard their livestock from predators like wolves and from thieves. It had to be intimidation by appearance but also hardy, brave, protective and hard working. It can be found in ancient sculptures, Roman paintings and in writings by authors such as Pallasius, Varro and Columella.

Later evidence includes a church fresco dated to the 14th century, ink drawings from the 17th century, writings from the time of Lois XV in the 18th century, and a magazine illustration in the early 19th century. It was first registered in 1898 and its first standard were created in 1924 by Giuseppe Solaro and Luigi Groppi. There were actually two types that for a while were seen as two breeds, the Maremma and the Abruzzo. Eventually though these were recognized to be the same breed in 1958 by the ENCI, the Italian national dog association.

New Lease on Life

While the first registrations happened in 1898 the next ones were not until 1940. Today in Abruzzo the breed are still used to guard sheep and are used by many Italian sheep farmers. However there are also places now in the UK, Canada, the US and Australia where they are also kept as working farm dogs. Environmentalists have estimated that these dogs reduce the chance of livestock being taken by predators like wolves, fox and coyotes by between 70 to 80 per cent. It is not yet recognized by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

The Maremma Sheepdog is a large dog weighing 66 to 100 pounds and standing 24 to 29 inches tall. It is a solidly built dog, muscular and strong with a deep chest and a thick tail that is set low. Males are larger and have a more obvious ruff. It can be confused with the Great Pyrenees but its head makes it stand out being very large and bear like. It has a black nose, strong jaws, almond shaped and dark eyes and small ears set high that are v shaped and pointed. As well as a black nose it should have black eye rims, foot pads and lips. The coat is double with a thick undercoat and a weather resistant, harsh and long outer coat that can be slightly wavy. Common colors are white with possible markings of yellow, orange, or ivory, all pale.

The Inner Maremma Sheepdog


The Maremma is a very loyal and devoted dog that can make a great family companion in the right home. It is friendly and affectionate and is also very protective, those instincts that make it a hardworking and dedicated flock guardian also makes a good protector of the home. Socialization is important though as its wariness or reservation of strangers could turn to over protectiveness and suspicion. It is also a good watchdog as it will bark to let you know of a stranger approaching or entering and it is brave, it will act to defend you when needed. It needs firm and experienced owners as it can be independent minded meaning it has stubborn moments.

It is a hard working dog when kept in its traditional role. It is intelligent and with socialization and training it should be gentle and calm in the home. It should be noted though that if it is not being kept as a working dog it can transfer that territorial instinct to its toys, its home and its owners which means it might not like to share any of them. It does bark occasionally but it should not be constant. From its guarding days it can stand to be along for short periods but would not like being alone for long periods.

Living with a Maremma Sheepdog

What will training look like?

When being used as a livestock guardian farmers often place the puppies as young as 7 to 8 weeks so that they bond with their charges. More commonly they are used to protect sheep and goat but some have even bonded them with chickens and some environmentalists have used them to protect endangered species like penguins. In terms of obedience training it takes experienced owners really, the dog is intelligent but has its own ideas about things. Be consistent, firm and confident in your leadership. Stay patient and use treats, encouragement and rewards to motivate it. Sessions should be kept short and interesting. If the dog is lacking good leadership it can become difficult to live with, aggressive or snappy, overly demanding, destructive and over protective. Make sure when it is still young (hopefully if you have bought from a decent breeder it will have been started from a few weeks old) that it starts socialization. Bring home different people and animals, take it out to experience different places, sounds and situations.

How active is the Maremma Sheepdog?

The Maremma Sheepdog is a very active and is not an apartment dog. It does best in rural settings where it has land to run and explore on, but at least needs a larger home with space and a large yard. Committed and active owners are needed, this is not a couch dog. Your dog will be calmer and behave better when it gets enough. Ideally it is working every day and it gets good mental stimulation too. But if it is not kept as a full time working dog it will need at least an hour a day, preferably more which is made up of two long walks, play time with you, off leash time somewhere safe a few times a week and it can also join you for hikes and such. Keep in mind it is not the best with strangers so keep it leashed unless you are sure. Short walks are certainly not going to be enough with its high energy levels.

Caring for the Maremma Sheepdog

Grooming needs

The Maremma Sheepdog is at least above average if not high in terms of maintenance and care needs. It will need brushing at least three times a week if not daily to stay on top of its fairly heavy shedding, and you can expect there to be hair around the home that will need vacuuming and hair on your clothing. Be prepared for seasonal shedding to be very heavy with clumps often coming out. Make sure you only bathe it though when it really needs it, bathing too often can have a negative impact on its natural oils, as can using a shampoo that is not designed for canines.

Other jobs will include nail trimming when they get too long using proper canine nail clippers, teeth care using canine toothpaste and a toothbrush and careful ear care. Its ears need to be checked weekly for infection and then give them a wipe clean and avoid putting anything into the ear as it can hurt. Its teeth should be brushed at least two to three times a week and take care with its nails as there are nerves and blood vessels in the lower part called the quick of the nail. Clipping them will hurt you Maremma and cause bleeding.

Feeding Time

How much exactly any pet needs to eat really depends on its how big it is, its metabolism, health, activity level and age amongst other things. Generally a dog of this size when eating a good quality dry dog food should be fed 4 to 6 cups a day, but that should be split into at least two meals. Make sure it has water and that it is freshened fairly frequently.

How is the Maremma Sheepdog with children and other animals?

This dog can get along very well with children when socialized and raised with them especially so. It can be affectionate, playful and it is certainly protective but watch out for its time as a rather large, clumsy and rambunctious puppy as toddlers can easily get knocked over! As it is reserved with strangers this goes for strange children too so spend some time getting it used to your children’s friends coming over. Take the time to ensure children are taught acceptable ways of handling, touching and playing with the dog. Around other dogs and pets it can get along with them though socialization is important.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The life span of the Maremma Sheepdog is 11 to 13 years. It is a somewhat healthy breed. A few possible health issues that it can be prone to include hip dysplasia, bloat and eye problems.

Biting Statistics

When referring to reports of dogs attacking people that caused bodily harm in Canada and the US over the past 35 years, there is just one incident that a Maremma Sheepdog was involved in. That attack was a maiming, so the adult victim was unfortunately left with permanent disfigurement, scarring or loss of limb. But there are no deaths or child victims reported. This is not an aggressive dog but should it have an off day or not be well trained and socialized its size means it can do damage if it does react. All dogs though have that potential, no dog regardless of size or breed can be guaranteed to never be drawn in, over react or such. Make sure your dog is mentally stimulated, well exercised, gets good socialization and training and has the attention and diet it needs and you can lessen the chances but never remove them.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

It is important when you are looking for a new dog that you take very careful consideration over where you intend to buy from. A Maremma Sheepdog puppy at pet quality level will cost about $800 from a breeder with good reviews and a good reputation. If you are hoping to raise a show dog or event dog and are wanting to use top breeders of such dogs expect to pay a great deal more. There are other options of course, some less savory than others. Please avoid puppy mills, backyard ignorant breeders and even some pet stores. Do consider though adoption from either a breed specific rescue or from a local shelter. Adoption costs are cheaper and medical concerns are dealt with too, expect to pay between $50 to $400.

When you are happy with the breeder you have found and have a dog or puppy ready to come home there are some other costs to cover. There are some things most dog owners get for their new companions like a crate, carrier, bowls, collar and leash and so on and these will be at least $200. Then if the initial medical needs have not been dealt with, think like blood tests, shots, deworming, physical exam, micro chipping, neutering or spaying for a cost of around $290.

Now once you are a pet owner you are responsible for other costs that will last as long as they are with you. Feeding a good quality dry dog food and giving some doggy treats too will be about $260 a year. Annual costs for basic health care and for pet insurance for those medical emergencies that do happen can come to $485. Then there will be other costs like licensing, basic training, miscellaneous items and toys for another $245 a year. This gives a yearly cost of about $990.


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The Maremma Sheepdog is an ancient breed used to hard work, rural settings and being useful. It has very strong protective instincts and is very active so needs active and experienced owners. With good socialization it can be a devoted and affectionate companion, but it is not good with strangers and owners need to make sure that is well as being well socialized it also is properly introduced and allowed time.

Featured Image Credit: Anastasiia Cherniavskaia, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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