Families on farms, families with children
Protective, loyal, intelligent
This rare sheepdog is native to Italy and was once used as a livestock guardian dog. It was originally indigenous to only parts of Italy, such as areas of Tuscany and Lazio, where it was used to protect livestock against wolves.
Their name is derived from the Maremma marshland, where these dogs and their shepherds historically overwintered. Today, these dogs are still quite abundant in these areas. However, the sheep farming that these dogs once took part in has decreased significantly. They are mostly used as companion animals today.
That said, they are used as guardian animals in rural areas where sheep farming is still essential.
Maremma Sheepdog Puppies — Before You Buy
What’s the Price of Maremma Sheepdog Puppies?
These dogs are extremely difficult to find outside of Italy, where they are also decently rare. Finding puppies that someone is willing to sell you is nearly impossible, especially if you’re in the United States. In most cases, you’ll need to import these dogs, which costs quite a bit of money.
Puppies are typically at least $1,500. However, it isn’t odd to find them above $2,500. This doesn’t include transportation and any other fees associated with getting these dogs.
They are quite large, so shipping one as an adult is often quite expensive, not to mention the length of the flight necessary from Italy.
Even if you have the budget, you should still expect it to take a while to track down a puppy.
3 Little-Known Facts About the Maremma Sheepdog
This breed likely shares a common ancestor with other herding breeds in the area. For instance, they are likely related to the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Polish Tatra Sheepdog, and Akbash of Turkey. All these dogs are similar and have been used for similar purposes.
2. They have never been extremely popular.
These dogs have been mostly used as working dogs throughout history, but they have never been extremely popular as companion animals. Furthermore, attempts to make a standard and registry have been met with resistance.
3. They have been utilized as guard dogs.
While they are mostly used as sheepdogs, they have been used to guard animals in Australia, Canada, and the United States. They do have guarding instincts, which is essential for guarding sheep.
Temperament & Intelligence of the Maremma Sheepdog
The Maremma Sheepdog is a guard dog, first and foremost. These dogs were bred to guard sheep from predators and thieves alike. Typically, they worked in groups of three or more. However, most of their encounters would have ended without any actual violence. Their presence was often enough to deter any potential thieves or predators.
Today, they still have strict guarding instincts. Even if they aren’t given livestock to guard, they will attempt to guard their house and people. Sometimes, these dogs will even bond with cats or other household animals and attempt to guard them. These dogs have even been utilized to guard endangered penguins from predators!
Due to their guarding drive, they require significant amounts of socialization. Otherwise, they may see all strangers as a threat and potentially become aggressive. With the correct socialization, they can be somewhat accepting of strangers in their personal space.
However, they are never going to be as friendly as some other dog breeds out there. They do bond closely with their family, but they will always be aloof with strangers.
While these dogs are intelligent, they aren’t the easiest breed to train. Instead, they tend to follow their own instincts rather than listen to their people. They are intelligent and can pick up on commands quite easily — the issue lies with them actually obeying the command when the time comes.
Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪
The Maremma Sheepdog is a solid option for most families, assuming that they are socialized correctly. They bond closely with their family members and are not particularly aggressive toward them. However, they are aloof around strangers, which can be a problem for families that commonly host houseguests.
They are great with children due to their gentle nature and large size. The odds of a child injuring these dogs is quite low due to their size, which also limits the amount of fear-based biting. Most dog bites in children are caused by the child hurting the dog, which is most common in small breeds.
These dogs are somewhat active. However, they don’t require huge amounts of exercise. Therefore, they don’t necessarily need an active family to adopt them.
Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets?
They can with the correct socialization. On the one hand, they were bred to work in groups and have a pack mentality. Traditionally, they were usually kept in groups of three or four in order to be effective against predators.
On the other hand, they were also bred to guard their flocks against stray dogs and wolves. Therefore, they aren’t instantly trusting like some other dog breeds. Instead, they tend to require plenty of socialization to accept other dogs into their family.
They are usually fine with dogs that they are raised alongside. However, they can be quite aloof toward canines outside the household. Socialization can correct this to a certain extent, but they likely won’t be as friendly as some other dogs out there. It just isn’t in their genetics.
They can get along with cats and other animals because they don’t have a high prey drive. Instead, they were bred to guard what would typically be seen as prey animals. Therefore, they don’t usually have a problem with chasing cats or similar animals.
Things to Know When Owning a Maremma Sheepdog
Food & Diet Requirements 🦴
Maremma Sheepdogs don’t have many specific dietary requirements. However, since they are rather large dogs, they will eat a large amount of food. You can expect to spend quite a bit of money on their diet, so be sure to budget accordingly.
As large dogs, they should be fed large breed puppy food while they are growing. Otherwise, they may develop health problems later. Due to their rapid growth, large breed puppies need different nutrition than smaller dogs. For instance, too much calcium can cause hip dysplasia and similar health problems as the dog grows.
They should continue eating specialized dog food until they are done growing, which will take over a year. It is best to keep them on puppy food longer than they need it instead of switching to an adult food too soon. When in doubt, speak with your vet.
When these dogs reach adulthood, it is recommended to keep them on a large breed food. Most of these formulas include nutrients that can help with common health problems, like omega fatty acids for joint health.
However, a large breed food is not as essential in adulthood as it is during puppyhood. Any high-quality dog food is often suitable for these dogs when they are fully grown.
While these dogs are quite large, they don’t need much exercise. Instead, they tend to be more laidback than most people expect.
However, they still require brisk daily walks. You should plan on exercising them multiple times a day. One short walk typically isn’t enough.
A fenced-in yard is highly recommended, simply because these dogs are quite large and need an area to sprawl out in. However, you don’t necessarily need a fenced-in yard if you provide the exercise that they need in another format.
You also can’t put them in a fenced-in area and expect them to get all the exercise that they need. Instead, they tend to lie around and be a bit lazy when left to their own devices — only to get excited and energized when you interact with them. Therefore, you should plan on regularly exercising them yourself, even if they are allowed to roam in a fenced-in area.
When these dogs are provided with the correct amount of exercise, they are typically well-behaved indoors.
These dogs are quite intelligent. However, that doesn’t necessarily translate to training. This breed was bred to guard animals independently, which doesn’t require input from their owner. Therefore, they weren’t bred with much obedience.
Even today, they tend to follow their own instincts rather than listen to their owners.
These dogs usually don’t have a problem learning new commands. But they may have an issue obeying those commands in real-world situations.
Generally, you can’t trust these dogs to develop a reliable recall or more difficult commands. It isn’t that they won’t understand you; they just won’t respond in the moment. For this reason, off-leash work is a huge no-no with this breed.
That said, you should still train them. We highly recommend getting these dogs into training classes starting at a young age. These classes provide them with socialization and mental stimulation, along with training.
Due to their intelligence, you’ll need to provide them with plenty of mental stimulation. Puzzle toys and training can often provide this for these canines. However, you should also consider allowing them to sniff whatever they want on their walks, as this can be quite mentally stimulating for them.
Generally, these dogs don’t need too much grooming. Their coat does a good job of staying clean by itself. As a double-coated breed, they have a fluffy undercoat and a smoother topcoat.
This undercoat can shed quite heavily, though. You’ll need to use something like a slicker brush to reach this fluffy undercoat and remove the dead fur. Regular brushing will help prevent this fur from ending up all over your house and help keep your dog clean.
You should never shave your canine. While their fur may be thick, it is built to protect them in the heat and cold. Shaving can interfere with their ability to regulate their body temperature.
That said, their tail and belly fur may need a small amount of trimming to help keep them clean. If their belly fur gets too long, it may drag against the ground and pick up extra dirt and debris.
You may also need to trim their ear fur. It can trap moisture and dirt in their ears, which can cause ear infections. Their ears are much easier to keep clean if you keep the fur inside them trimmed.
You’ll also need to trim their nails. While regular activity can help wear down their nails, dogs rarely get enough exercise on rough ground to accomplish this themselves. Therefore, trimming is almost always necessary.
You’ll likely need to trim their ears and nails more than you need to give them a full grooming.
These dogs are well-known for liking dirt and mud. Therefore, they will probably need a bath occasionally. Their double-coat does a good job at keeping the mud on the outside of their coat, but it can still get caked on. Fortunately, removing the dirt from their fur is quite easy and straightforward.
Health and Conditions 🏥
These dogs are quite healthy, likely because they were bred as working animals. A sickly dog isn’t going to be a good guard dog, so only the healthiest dogs were typically bred together. Over time, this led to an extremely healthy breed, unlike some other purebred dogs out there.
That said, they are prone to a few different health issues, mainly due to their large size.
For instance, they are prone to hip dysplasia. This condition occurs when the dog is growing and is caused by a malformation in the hip joint. For one reason or another, the joint stops fitting together properly. Over time, this causes excessive wear and tear, leading to arthritis-like symptoms when the dog is still young.
Eye problems are somewhat common too. Many of these conditions are genetic, even though there aren’t many genetic tests for them.
The large size of these dogs also makes them prone to bloat. This condition occurs when the stomach swells up and potentially twists. Without proper treatment, this condition can quickly be deadly. It is an emergency that requires veterinary attention straight away.
We don’t know exactly what causes bloat, but larger breeds seem to be the most affected.
Male vs. Female
The males of this breed are typically larger than the females. However, beyond that, these dogs do not differ much due to their sex.
Males may be slightly more aggressive, but this is common throughout all dog breeds. Other sex-specific behaviors that tend to affect all dogs will also affect this breed. For instance, the males may be more likely to wander, especially if they smell an in-heat female.
Females will go in heat and males will not. You also have to worry about your female dog becoming pregnant.
Females are more expensive to get fixed, since they require a full surgery. However, males aren’t that much cheaper. Therefore, you typically don’t have to worry about this factor too much when choosing a dog.
Since these dogs are so rare, you may not want to get committed to any particular sex. There just aren’t that many puppies available.
The Maremma Sheepdog is extremely rare. These dogs are only around in Italy, where they are native. Originally, they were used to guard flocks of sheep, as you might have guessed from their name. However, sheep keeping has declined significantly over the last few decades and so has the availability of the Maremma Sheepdog.
These dogs can make great companion animals as long as they are socialized regularly. However, this isn’t their main purpose, and they still aren’t popular companion animals today. Usually, you have to import them from Italy if you’re set on adopting one.
They aren’t exceedingly expensive for a dog of their size. However, when combined with the shipping and transportation cost, they can be quite pricey!
Featured Image Credit: Anastasiia Cherniavskaia, Shutterstock