The Maremma Sheepdog is considered an “Old World European” breed, sharing ancestry with other Eastern European livestock guardian dogs, especially mountain-dwelling dogs, like the Pyrenean Mountain Dog and Kuvasz. Maremma Sheepdogs can be traced back at least to ancient Roman times. Originally bred in Italy, they are still very popular there, and their original purpose continues on: to guard livestock.
Maremma Sheepdogs are also known by many other names. Some of these names come from the idea that there used to be two breed varieties of these dogs from two different regions in Italy. In the 1950s, they were officially recognized as the same breed (Maremmano-Abruzzese). Other names for these dogs include:
Although these are purebred dogs, you may find them in shelters, so if you are looking to add this dog to your family, please opt to adopt, saving both their life and the one you make room for in the shelter!
Maremma Sheepdogs are very devoted to their jobs, so they would fit best in a farm setting where they can look after livestock. Bred to be independent thinkers, these dogs are confident protective, though not easy to train or socialize. Their large size and free spirit also require a lot of outdoor space to roam with fencing to keep them from going too far. If these dogs are socialized at a young age, they can become good family dogs, while still needing lots of space and dedication to training. They do get along well with other dogs and their own human family, but not with strangers or anyone with whom they’re not familiar — making them well-suited as watchdogs, too.
Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn’t necessarily an apartment dog make. Plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents are all good qualities in an apartment dog.
Some dogs are simply easier than others; they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They’re also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies.
Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time dog parent to manage. You’ll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.
If you’re new to dog parenting, take a look at 101 Dog Tricks and read up on how to train your dog!
Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called “easygoing,” “tolerant,” “resilient,” and even “thick-skinned,” can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.
Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive–barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.
Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.
Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can’t pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, your dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you’ll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.
All Around Friendliness
Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they’ve been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn’t the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.
See Dogs Less Affectionate with Family
Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who’s on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (which are considered Pit Bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren’t always so family-friendly.
**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they’re not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.
Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs, even if they’re love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn’t the only factor. Dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least six to eight weeks of age and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with wagging tails and nuzzles; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was socialized and exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult. Remember that even friendly dogs should stay on a good, strong leash in public!
Health And Grooming Needs
If you’re going to share your home with a dog, you’ll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds. Some dogs shed year-round, some “blow” seasonally, some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you’re a neatnik, you’ll need to either pick a low-shedding breed or relax your standards. To help keep your home a little cleaner, you can find a great de-shedding tool.
Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you’ve got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you’re a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog who rates low in the drool department.
Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog who needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.
Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn’t mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they’re at an increased risk.
If you’re adopting a puppy, it’s a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you’re interested in. You may also want to ask if your shelter or rescue has information about the physical health of your potential pup’s parents and other relatives.
Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that’s prone to packing on pounds, you’ll need to limit treats, make sure they get enough exercise, and measure out their daily food servings into regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.
Ask your vet about your dog’s diet and what they recommend for feeding your pooch to keep them at a healthy weight. Weight gain can lead to other health issues or worsen problems like arthritis.
Dogs come in all sizes, from the world’s smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if they’re compatible with you and your living space. Large dog breeds might seem overpowering and intimidating, but some of them are incredibly sweet! Take a look and find the right sized dog for you!
Easy-to-train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word “sit”), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training.
Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a “What’s in it for me?” attitude, in which case you’ll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.
Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don’t get the mental stimulation they need, they’ll make their own work–usually with projects you won’t like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.
Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in Retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn’t puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or “herd” their human family members, and they need training to learn that it’s fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a toy that’s been stuffed with kibble and treats.
Dogs who were bred to hunt, such as Terriers, have an inborn desire to chase–and sometimes kill–other animals. Anything whizzing by, such as cats, squirrels, and perhaps even cars, can trigger that instinct. Dogs who like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you’ll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren’t a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won’t chase, but you’ll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.
Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how often the dog vocalizes with barks or howls. If you’re considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you’re considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious “strangers” put your pup on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby? Then you may wish to choose a quieter dog.
Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they’ll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses–or that bunny that just ran across the path–even if it means leaving you behind.
High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they’re more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells.
Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you’ll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.
A vigorous dog may or may not have high energy, but everything they do, they do with vigor: they strain on the leash (until you train them not to), try to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who’s elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.
Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise, especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, like herding or hunting.
Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don’t like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.
Some dogs are perpetual puppies — always begging for a game — while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.
Dog Breed Group:Working DogsHeight: 23.5 to 28.5 inchesWeight:65 to 100 poundsLife Span:11 to 13 years
More About This Breed
- Maremma Sheepdogs are white, with some variation of shading allowed. Their fur is long, thick, and coarse. These dogs do shed quite a bit and may not be best for allergy sufferers.
- Maremma Sheepdogs are known to do very well with children within their own family. They may have trouble with children outside of the family, as they do not do well with strangers, and they will be particularly protective over their family’s children.
- It’s a good idea to have a space ready to confine your Maremma if you’re expecting company. They typically don’t enjoy having lots of company over.
- Maremma Sheepdogs are great guardians for all types of animals, not just sheep. Their ideal environment would be a farm, where they can put their genetic gifts of livestock guarding to good use. They do not do well being alone for long periods of time.
- They can get along well with cats and other dogs, including other Maremmas, particularly if there’s not more than one dominant dog in the relationship.
- Maremma Sheepdogs are loyal do best when allowed lots of space to be active and independent. Early training and socialization can help them to adapt to your house and family, but keep in mind, while they’re not particularly destructive or mischievous, they are independent thinkers.
Maremma Sheepdogs date back at least to ancient Roman times 2000 years ago, and possibly earlier. They are closely related to other Eastern European livestock guarding dogs, and they all are thought to be descendants of the Tibetan Mastiff, a breed that dates back even more millennia. Archaeologists have discovered bones from these types of livestock guarding dogs next to bones of livestock dating back 6000 years.
Maremmas were bred in two separate regions of Italy for the express purpose of guarding livestock. This is slightly different than being herding dogs, as Maremmas were responsible for keeping their herds safe from predators, like wolves, and indeed are well-known for doing so, with a nickname of “wolf-slayers.”
This is where their independent thinking comes from, as they were bred to be able to problem-solve on their own, rather than being trained to behave a certain way. This is also why they love to spend so much time outdoors; their ancestors lived and slept with the livestock outside, rather than cushy indoor living.
World War II was a difficult chapter in Maremma Sheepdogs’ history, too, as invading German soldiers often shot these dogs. That, coupled with war grounds being non-ideal for dog-breeding, meant this breed almost disappeared.
Interestingly, the very traits that caused this breed to take foothold (paw-hold?) in ancient Rome were also what caused its re-emergence after WWII. Starting in the 1970s, government agencies around the world began deploying Maremma Sheepdogs in areas where they wanted to protect livestock, or even wildlife populations, from predators, using non-chemical means.
Despite “sheep” being in their name, they are now known to guard all sorts of animals, including llamas, geese, and even penguins. A single Maremma Sheepdog is credited with saving the Little Penguins population on an island off of Australia, after many other attempts, and even other dogs, could not keep away the invasive, predatory red foxes that were killing the penguins. The population is now on the rise, thanks to the Maremma!
Maremma Sheepdogs are a large breed. Males tend to range from 25.5 to 28.5 inches tall, and females 25.5 to 26.75 inches, with some being smaller. Weights are usually 77 to 100 pounds for males and 66 to 88 pounds for females.
Maremma Sheepdogs are loyal, as dedicated to their job as they are to their families, human and animal. They do best when allowed lots of space to be active and independent. Early training and socialization can help them to adapt to your house and family, but keep in mind, while they’re not particularly destructive or mischievous, they are independent thinkers.
A popular training method is for older Maremma Sheepdogs to assist in training younger ones. Formal obedience programs are also helpful. It’s important to establish your leadership for your Maremma to have the best hope at obedience. But as with all dogs, you must use non-hurtful means; harsh physical discipline is a very bad idea and will only backfire.
Maremmas are known to be watchdogs, so they typically won’t respond well to strangers. They’re not particularly violent, unless something or someone is attacking them or their families, but they may bark and create a barrier with their bodies. After an unknown person is introduced to them as a “friend,” they may accept the person in the home, but they will probably not be affectionate or friendly to them.
It’s difficult for these dogs to distinguish between play and danger with unknown people. A tickle attack on the kids from a relative they haven’t met before may look like a dangerous situation, and they may charge in. It’s a good idea to have a space ready to confine your Maremma if you’re expecting company. They typically don’t enjoy having lots of company over.
Maremma Sheepdogs are great guardians for all types of animals, not just sheep. Their ideal environment would be a farm, where they can put their genetic gifts of livestock guarding to good use. They love to work hard and be social with other animals and their own family. They do not do well being alone for long periods of time.
Maremma Sheepdogs are generally pretty healthy dogs and may never develop issues during their lifetime. However, there are a few health problems to watch out for in this breed, which are more common among larger dogs.
Some of the more common health problems this breed may suffer from include:
- Hip or elbow dysplasia
- Eye problems
- Sensitivity to anesthesia and tick/flea sprays
It’s important to note that dysplasia may be avoided if your Maremma is fed properly — not too much — while young, so they don’t grow too quickly. Overly rigorous exercise at a young age can also lead to dysplasia problems.
The sensitivity to tick/flea sprays can be helped by bathing every so often to avoid too much build-up in the coat.
Proper training early on is especially important for Maremma Sheepdogs. You must help them not to over-exert themselves while they are growing, as this can lead to hip and/or elbow dysplasia in their later years. Shorter periods of free running or play are best while young, and shorter walks on leash to prevent them from running off are also good. When they’re adults, they’ll want to be very active, which is less of a concern, because they will be done growing. Proper feeding is also important to avoid their becoming overweight, which can lead to the same health problems.
Their thick fur makes Maremmas handle cold pretty well and heat less well; make sure they have plenty of water and shade in the summer. Maremmas love to be outside, even to live and sleep outside, and they generally choose their own ideal spots for where they’d like to sleep, so try to work around their preferences, if you can.
As with all dogs, regular dental care — brushing their teeth a few times a week or other brushing alternatives — and nail trims one or two times per month are important. Also be sure to check your dog’s ears regularly for irritation or debris.
Keeping up with annual vet check-ups is also important, so you can catch health concerns before they become big problems.
An ideal Maremma Sheepdog diet should be formulated for a large breed with high energy. It’s very important to feed this dog the right amount and type of food for their age and breed, as they have a tendency to weight gain and bloat, as well as growing too quickly when young, leading to health problems later on, like hip dysplasia.
As with all dogs, the Maremma Sheepdog’s dietary needs will change from puppyhood to adulthood and will continue to change into their senior years. You should ask your veterinarian for recommendations about your Maremma Sheepdog’s diet, as there is far too much variation among individual dogs — including weight, energy, and health — to make a specific recommendation.
Coat Color And Grooming
Maremma Sheepdogs are white, with some variation of shading allowed. A tinge of yellow, peach, or orange is acceptable.
Their fur is long, thick, and coarse. They have a dense undercoat that sheds twice a year and helps to repel debris. Regular brushing will help your dog’s coat stay nice, as well as helping to control shedding. These dogs do shed quite a bit.
Maremma Sheepdogs’ thick coats are great for keeping them warm in the winter, but less ideal for keeping them cool during the summer. However, these dogs do pretty well in all temperatures, provided they have some form of shade or shelter from extreme heat, cold, sun, and precipitation.
Children And Other Pets
Maremma Sheepdogs are known to do very well with children within their own family. They may have trouble with children outside of the family, as they do not do well with strangers, and they will be particularly protective over their family’s children.
Maremmas often do very well with other animals, too, especially livestock like sheep, llamas, geese, pigs, etc., as well as cats. They can get along well with other dogs, including other Maremmas, particularly if there’s not more than one dominant dog in the relationship.
Rescues specifically for Maremma Sheepdogs might be hard to come by, as this is a somewhat rare breed that is used for a particular task. However, you can always check with your local shelter, and you may want to try a rescue that caters to all kinds of dogs. You can take a look at the following:
- Wright-Way Rescue
- Angels Among Us Pet Rescue