The Maremma Sheepdog was brought to the United States in the 1970s as a part of a large environmental experiment. Maremmas had the perfect mix of intelligence, shepherding prowess, and a mellow temperament. They were natural protectors and fierce defenders of their flock.
The experiment was an exploration of the possibilities of ranching while maintaining the existence of wolves and other predators.
The numbers of these natural predators were quickly dwindling, as the ranchers exterminated them. When the Maremmas were introduced into the scene, they managed to ward the wolves and bears off, without causing any fatalities.
The introduction of these dogs provided protection for the farmlands and the wildlife surrounding it simultaneously. This initial success encouraged the breeding of Maremmas and popularized their usage in various farmlands.
This article is the complete guide to the Maremma Sheepdog. If you’re considering getting one of these unique dogs, read-on!
The Origin and History of Maremma Sheepdogs
Maremma Sheepdogs are natives of the scenic lands of Italy. They were often referred to as the The Maremmano-Abruzzese Sheepdogs, which is a direct reference to the two regions they were found in.
They appeared in Central Italy, mostly around Tuscany and Lazio. For centuries, this dog breed was incorporated in sheep and cattle’s herding, especially in fighting off wolves and bears.
Interestingly, they were named after the regions they came from as if they were two different breeds. So there were Maremmano Sheepdogs and their counterparts the Abruzzese Sheepdogs a few miles away.
The first registered dog from this breed was written under the name of Maremmano in 1898. It was several years later in 1924 that the first standard for the current breed was drafted. And only much later in the 1940s that a few more dogs found their way to the official registry.
Currently, these dogs are thriving in Italy, and to a lesser degree in Australia, Canada, and the United States.
Maremma Sheepdog vs. Great Pyrenees
The Maremma Sheepdogs and Great Pyrenees share plenty of traits. They even have similar appearances, with their rich white coats, dominating airs, and massive stature.
There are slight differences between both large dog breeds though. First of all, in their origins. As the names show clearly, one breed comes from the pastures of Central Italy, while the other is native to the Pyrenees mountains located between France and Spain.
The Great Pyrenees have a historical lineage that goes all the way back to the Bronze age! This deep history isn’t matched for the current Maremmas who have been around for a few centuries. There’s some evidence that close ancestors of Maremmas lived in the same area since 2000 years.
This point however, is more for trivia. But here’s a trait that’s quite significant: size. The Great Pyrenees have a significant size advantage over the Maremmas. They’re also a bit readier for a fight and wouldn’t mind at all facing a larger opponent.
Otherwise, both dogs could just as well be cousins.
Maremma Sheepdog dogs 101
If you’re considering keeping a Maremma Sheepdog as a companion dog, then read this part thoroughly. Here’s everything you need to know about caring for this unique breed.
Size, Weight, and Appearance
The average height of an adult Maremma Sheepdog is around 23.5-28.5 inches. They’re large dogs with weights ranging from 66 to 100 pounds. As for the females, they’re slightly less than that, but share the male’s appearance to the nines.
Maremmas are massive dogs with an impression of being in charge. Their stature commands respect and a little bit of awe. They’re closer to bears than they are to wolves, and yet, there’s a pleasantness about them that’s quite endearing.
It’s a heavy boned dog, with a massive head that’s largest between the ears and tapers towards the tip of the muzzle. The broad chest is rounded and extends till the elbows. Maremmas have small pointed ears and hanging tails rich in hair.
Diet and Nutritional Requirements
The Maremma Sheepdogs’ massive size often suggests a large appetite, but that’s not true at all. They’re actually reluctant eaters. This shows quite clearly in the slow rate at which they grow till they reach maturity. They often take about two years to reach their adult size.
That’s why care should be taken to avoid overstuffing them. Also, the type of food they eat is of paramount importance. In their early years up to maturity, they should be fed puppy dog food, that’s formulated for large breeds.
Puppies wouldn’t grow at a steady rate. There’ll be times when they grow like a weed, and others when they almost plateau. Feeding them should follow their growth spurts and dormant phases. Overfeeding and underfeeding could happen at these times easily if their owners aren’t vigilant.
The formative years are the times when dogs build muscle, bone, and attitudes. The first two can be managed by providing them with high protein, high vitamin foods. This should keep them fit and healthy in their older years.
An adult Maremma is rather low maintenance. While these dogs are muscular, they aren’t too active. A regular balanced diet with fair amounts of proteins, vitamins, minerals, and a few carbs should be quite sufficient.
Dogs with rich fur coats could use extra amounts of nutrients to keep their coats lustrous. These supplemented dog foods are a bit more expensive than the regular types, but their high nutrient profile enhances more than the dogs’ skin and hair. It’s a prime quality food overall.
Aging dogs often have special needs for their diets. And providing a suitable kind of older big dog breeds kebble should keep them healthy and thriving in their golden years.
Shedding is the main concern for Maremma Sheepdogs. They do so twice a year, and often need daily brushing to untangle their coats.
For the rest of the season, their coats often need minimal care. And they stay surprisingly clean and untangled. These dogs are perfect for outdoor life, despite the pristine white coats. They’re known to roll into puddles and dirt, so regular use of shampoo should be good.
Maremmas are a bit conscious with people approaching their bodies, and they don’t like anyone touching their feet. Despite these clear boundaries that this dog lays out for us, we need to keep its nails clipped and at a suitably trim length.
The dog’s ears should be inspected and cleaned once a week, in the same manner that we do with all other dogs. It’s worth noting that back in the day, Maremmas’ ears were clipped, probably to keep the dog safe during fights. Now that it has its ears in place, make sure they’re always healthy.
Dental care for canines is a part of grooming that’s often missed. Dog owners often assume that their dogs would never suffer from dental issues or need assistance in that department. Both statements aren’t correct. And it’s best to clean the dog’s mouth routinely.
To groom your dog properly, you’d need to have some of these tools:
Shepherding dogs in general, and Maremmas in particular, are pretty hard to train. They’re smart dogs, but they’re much too headstrong and charismatic to accept orders.
Traditionally, the 40-day old Maremmas were placed among the sheep or cattle to get to know them. In addition to the other dogs, horses, and a handful of farmers. They were never exposed to anyone else or to any other types of animals.
That reserved socialization primed Maremmas to be extra wary of anyone or anything outside this tight circle of familiarity. While this ancient fashioning makes incredible watchdogs, it has its downsides when these breeds leave the open lands and move into the cities.
The baby dogs also watched the older ones as they went about with their herding and guarding jobs. Maremmas learn quickly and thoroughly from their elders. This method could be duplicated by placing a dominant alpha around the young dog.
That’s why the Maremma dog owners need to show authority and kindness. It’s the winning combination that gets results from this breed. Consistency is also of paramount importance. These dogs require a bit of persuasion and repetition to learn proper behavior.
Health Concerns and Life Expectancy
Maremma Sheepdogs are sturdy strapping dogs that generally go through life in good health. There were very few reported cases of Patellar issues or hip dysplasia. The only real concern is these dogs’ sensitivity to anesthesia.
Most vets are well aware of that and take extreme caution as they operate on Maremmas. Luckily, these situations aren’t frequent at all. Normally, they only need routine visits to the vet.
Maremmas often live from 11-13 years. Proper care and good living conditions are known to extend dogs’ lives a bit beyond that.
Maremma Sheepdog Temperament
The Maremma Sheepdog has a strong personality, which is the dominating trait of shepherding dogs. It’s also affectionate without being needy, and protective to the very end. There are a few more things about Maremmas you’d want to be aware of.
Independent and Assertive
Shepherding dogs should be able to keep the herd in line and protect it from any dangers. They’re usually alert, watchful like modern-day bodyguards, and they jump to action the minute a sheep or cow gets into trouble.
They don’t need to take anyone’s permission to do their job, and they’d probably become very cross with anyone who tries to step in their way.
Maremmas are always ready to fight off a threat. An intruding wolf is naturally the ultimate enemy, but they might also perceive any unfamiliar creatures as interlopers. This includes other tame animals, neighbors, visitors, or anyone they haven’t seen in a social context before.
A Bit Reserved Around Strangers
Guard dogs are naturally doubtful of the intentions of others. Historically, they were trained as puppies to only see a handful of people. They were even socialized to a few other farming animals only.
This made them extra alert whenever an ill-willed person or beast trespassed on the grounds. This level of priming to possible dangers served the farmers well. And it’s still a fine trait for a guard dog. But care should be taken to socialize Maremmas to the point where they woudn’t pose any harm to others.
They’re More Into Action Than Show of Force
Maremmas aren’t hostile dogs, and they wouldn’t go into a fight at the drop of a hat. And when they face an uncomfortable situation, they’d bark to ward off the opponent. This often works.
During a real threat though, things play out differently. They aren’t big barkers, so don’t expect them to intimidate by creating a noise only. Also, they’re not large enough to use their daunting frame to scare away the offender.
That’s why when they decide to attack a stranger or a wolf, they’d strike right away. This lack of preamble for the fight is great in the wilderness and icy mountains. It’s not as practical within the bounds of the city.
The best way to deal with that tendency in Maremmas is to socialize them. When they get to see a wide variety of people and pets, this often puts a lid on the aggression. It might detract from their efficiency as guard dogs, but that’s still a plus, all things considered.
Maremmas Are Natural Leaders
Shepherding dogs are natural alphas of their pack. When they’re placed among sheep or cattle, this is a wonderful trait. And they’ll keep their flock well protected, regardless of how big it is. They rule the pastures well.
This trait needs to be in check when they’re among humans. They’ll also claim their position as the leader of the pack. And if they get away with that, they would express their power by growling at and biting any misbehaving member.
This is of course, unacceptable. And the Maremma owner needs to establish the ranks early on. Authority, consistency, and kindness are the perfect mix to create a good relationship with a herding dog. For these breeds, the dog’s loyalty, affection, and respect can only be earned.
That’s why it’s recommended that a Maremma Sheepdog owner should be a seasoned breeder. First-time dog owners, or those who have only been around obedient dogs, would find being around a Maremma rather challenging.
Dogs often fuss around their friends, and they’ll show their affections in all sorts of ways. And when their owners are away, they could slide into anxious states. And some of them would show disruptive behavior to express their separation angst. Well, the Maremmas aren’t like that at all.
Maremma Sheepdogs are affectionate but in a muted way. They’ll let you understand that they like you in a reserved Victorian manner. And if you happen to leave the house, they have enough confidence and self-reliance to stay calm.
In short, they’re not needy and clingy dogs. If showing love is a trait you like in your dog, then you’ll miss it with a Maremma. On the other hand, if public displays of affection aren’t your thing, then you’ll find the perfect companion in this chill dog.
They Like to Have Meaning in Their Lives
Never leave a herding dog with nothing to do. While being alone in the house doesn’t rattle the Maremma, being bored would.
A shepherding dog is traditionally left with a huge responsibility. And when it’s not taking care of a flock, it’s usually protecting the domain from wolf and bear attacks. A dog conditioned for that kind of life would hardly take to a sedentary lifestyle.
Always provide your Maremma with physical and mental stimulation. Otherwise, they’d wreak havoc around the place.
Maremma Sheepdog Shedding
Dogs with rich coats like the Maremmas often shed profusely. Some are seasonal shedders, and some continuously drop their hairs.
Maremma Sheepdogs shed twice a year. And at these times, it’s best to pay extra attention to their grooming. Use a brush every day to dispose of the fallen hairs and to untangle the undercoat.
After that, you could use a metal comb to make sure that there are no matted or coiling spots. Regular brushing and combing is essential to avoid irreversible entanglement and excessive shedding.
While grooming your Maremma’s coat, you might want to check it’s pads as well. They might need a bit of a trim to keep the dog’s paws clean and comfortable.
Maremma Sheepdog Pictures
Maremmas are fine-looking beasts. That’s why you’d see numerous pictures of them.
They were also depicted profusely in the arts, to the point that they were imported to courts just to be included in a royal portrait. Sculptures of Maremmas are also abundant around Italy. The Renaissance seems to favor its massive stature and eye-catching appearance.
Having a large dog breed as a companion is highly pleasing. These dogs are loyal beyond belief. And they show their friends how far they’d go to keep them safe and protected.
If you have a ranch, they’ll assert their command over the flock and make sure every member stays in line and doesn’t get into trouble. Intruders will always be warded off, even if they’re larger and wilder.
The one condition to have a Maremma is this: you need to stay in charge. Shepherding dogs are hard-headed. And they’d never offer their affection or loyalty without a good reason. You always need to earn their respect.