“ Animal Species: Dogs „
The Maremma Sheepdog, or Maremmano-Abruzzese as it is known in Italy, is an Italian flock guardian dog. It originated in the Abruzzo and Maremma areas of Italy where it has been used for generations to guard flocks from predators and thieves. It is still used for this purpose in Italy, Australia and the USA, but in the UK it is mainly kept as a pet and/or show dog.
Its heritage as a flock guard means that the Maremma is intelligent, independent, courageous and loyal, with a healthy suspicion of strangers. It will therefore be protective of its owners and aloof with strangers. However this does not mean that it should be aggressive or nervous - and anyone trying to tell you that a cowering Maremma is "aloof" or one trying to attack you is "protective" is doing the breed a disservice! They should never be aggressive or nervous.
The Maremma Sheepdog is a big dog - up to 28 inches at the shoulder for males, 26.5 inches for females - and some are even bigger. They should give the appearance of being strong and majestic - remember these dogs are designed to see off wolves and bears! The coat is always white with no patches - and its nose, lips, eye rims and pads should be black. This gives it a dramatic beauty - and the Maremma expression should be soft and gentle making them very appealing to look at. It has a double coat. This means it has a harsh, water resistant outer coat and a very thick, warm undercoat. This means they are generally happy to be out in all weathers - and the coat is largely self-cleaning - they can get very muddy but when they dry the mud drops out leaving them white again. However they do need to be groomed regularly to avoid matting.
In terms of exercise, once adult, they can take as much as you are prepared to give them but need around an hour a day to keep them happy and healthy. Puppies should be exercised gently while their bones and joints are developing. They are relatively quiet dogs in the house unless they are barking at something going on. Certainly they are not hyperactive or constantly demanding of attention, being quite happy to curl up and sleep after their exercise or when you are busy with something else. But even when asleep they are on guard and will leap up in an instant if they perceive a threat!
Being a relatively natural breed, Maremmas are generally healthy. Adults and breeding dogs should be xrayed for hip dysplasia as with all large breeds but otherwise they are not prone to any diseases. They are also quite long lived for their size. My current Maremma is 12 years old and my previous ones have lived to over 14 and 13 respectively. The average life expectancy is 11-12 years.
So is a Maremma a good dog to choose as a pet? Well if you are looking for a perfectly obedient, easy going dog who will be friends with everyone they meet, probably not. They are very intelligent and can be trained if you motivate them - but they can find the whole obedience training thing rather tedious and their independence means they will work with you not for you. So they can be a challenge! But they are fabulously loyal and often have a real sense of fun and have great personalities. They can also be noisy (though they bark only at perceived threats - not generally for the sake of it), suspicious of strangers (though not aggressive), sometimes intolerant of strange dogs particularly of the same gender and selectively deaf!
If you have the space for a large breed, and want a dog with beauty and character, then this is worth considering. Certainly I have lived with them for nearly 18 years and wouldn't want to be without one.
But be prepared to wait for your new friend. There are only perhaps a few hundred in the UK and puppies are few and far between - contact the Maremma Club of Great Britain (www.maremma-sheepdogs.co.uk) for details of any puppies available. There is also a breed rescue run by the Maremma Club of Great Britain which occasionally have Maremmas in need of a new home. Rarely if ever do they turn up in general rescue centres.
To buy a puppy: £750-850
To feed: around £10 a week depending on diet
Other: usual costs - vaccinations, worming etc. No special needs.