Maremma Sheepdog Husbandry

   The incorrect handling of the Maremma Sheepdog is particularly acute in Australia and has led to the development of chronic problems in these dogs through no fault of their own. Too many dogs, taken on as companion animals, are eventually surrended and left to rescue organisations who need to treat the dogs' neuroses and rehome them. A full and complete understanding of the innate character of a Maremma Sheepdog, and a willingness to make concessions towards the dog's needs, is a mandatory attitude for prospective Maremma Sheepdog owners.  

Managing Barking

In order to curb barking to an acceptable level the Maremma owner needs to be actively involved with the dog. I cannot emphasize enough that the Maremma is a Shepherd's dog and they need to be shepherded in everything they do, just as much as a shepherd and the working dog will shepherd sheep. That involvement is paramount. I use a 4 step procedure to manage barking.

!. Attend. Owners must go out to the barking dog at whatever time they start barking. The Maremma barks for two reasons. One is to notify the threat that the area is protected, and the other is to alert and call the shepherd. If owners do not go out to the barking dog, they will just keep barking.

2. Acknowledge. Asking the dog what they are barking at, and waiting to see what has triggered the barking, is both an active participation with the dog which will bring the dog closer to you, but also shows an appreciation and understanding of how the Maremma works with the shepherd.

3. Praise. Once an owner has ascertained what has caused the barking, the dog must be praised for doing a good job. My dogs always feel so proud of themselves that I am pleased with the job they are doing.

4. Stand down. Owners must get the dog to stand down which is easier than it sounds. I send them to bed or to their pen and they always waddle off very pleased with themselves.

So; Attend, Acknowledge, Praise and Stand down. Of course, owners should not allow the dog to be in places that are going to elicit barking like in the front yard of a busy street.   

   Linda van Bommel has produced a best practice management manual for the handling, management and raising of Maremma Sheepdogs and other Livestock Guardian breeds. Quote: "The manual is aimed at people in Australia who are interested in getting dogs to guard their livestock, and gives guidelines for the best way to raise/handle/manage working livestock guardian dogs. "I hope the manual will make it a bit easier for people who are looking at using a livestock guardian dog with their stock. And thereby hopefully prevent some problems that can arise from wrong handling/managing of dogs." end quote.

The manual has been published, and is freely available online at:  

   An understanding of a Maremma Sheepdog's innate ability and need to behave as a livestock protection animal must lead to concessions being made for its health and welfare. The practices and processes adopted by puppy owners wishing to raise their dog as a companion animal or a show dog need to allow the puppy to be a Maremma Sheepdog first; i.e., a working, guardian dog, and a pet second.

   The Maremma Sheepdog does not respond to, or cope with, having its role as a guardian dog being usurped. Maremma Sheepdog owners must be prepared to make an extra effort towards managing the dog's barking and its active protection behaviour, particularly the assertive guarding of its owner, family or livestock.

Contact Details

Paul E Withers BSc, DipEd, MA.
Lismore, NSW, Australia
Phone : 0413 245 125
Email : [email protected]