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TRUSTWORTHINESS

The basis for trustworthiness is the absolute total absence of predator behaviour.

This is absolutely critical in appraising the worth of your livestock guarding dog and there are signs that can be seen from when puppies are young. We can handle in a pack situation having some dogs not so attentive to the livestock. Some dogs will roam boundaries and known danger zones of a property, urine marking and ensuring there has been no trespassing predators. We can handle that some dogs are less protective but will instead help lead the herd away from danger whilst more protective dogs make the stand. But what we must have faith in every dog is that it is can be trusted to be alone with the animals it is protecting.

Basic behaviour traits to look for to identify that your dog can be trusted with his livestock

No matter what breed of dog you own, start watching your dog keeping in mind that dogs behave from motor patterns. How does your dog behave in different situations, with different people and with animals? There are many negative behaviour traits that a dog can display and too often these are interpreted incorrectly.

  • When approaching livestock, the trustworthy Maremma will behave submissively. Dog behaviour mostly consists of body language rather than vocal behaviour. Start watching the way your dog behaves when you are walking him and people or other dogs come into view and approach. What do you notice? Does you dog try to make himself look bigger and make a lot of eye contact? Does your dog cower or show other signs of fear?
  • A well adjusted livestock guardian will approach livestock with squinted eyes, ears laid back against the head, avoiding direct eye contact and may even go as far as laying down on their back.
  • They will often be interested in 'investigating' the livestock. This is observed as the dog licking the livestock around the mouth, anal area and udder. Livestock that bond back to their guardians accept and even seem to enjoy these greetings. However you should be aware that when introducing your first livestock guardian dog to you livestock, they may react quite aggressively towards the dog as they are likely to have a fear of dogs that overrides their understanding of the signals the dog is giving them to indicate it is not a threat to them.

The dogs in the photos below are all displaying beautiful calm attitudes - notice the goats are as calm with a dog amongst them as the dog is?

maremma sheepdog livestock guardian in shade of tree showing correct behaviour with a herd of goats. maremmas guard their stock and shold always be given good veterinary care to ensure a long healthy life for your dog. Maremmas will bark but should not display biting behaviour. You will need to groom your maremma during change of seasons. It is best to raise your pups with your livestock from as young as possible. Dog breeders allow their puppies to be whelped with the livestock.
maremma sheepdog or maremmano aburzzese standing calmly with his herd of goats showing how a healthy livestock guardian should look with the animals he looks after, always feed your dog well with a high protein feed and raw bones when possible.  farmers often feed bones to their dogs when out working with their livestock, checking on fencing or when livestock are being shorn
maremma sheepdog puppy with herd of goats displaying good calm temperament and attitude to her herd at only a few months of age. A young pup must be fed a quality high protein diet, wormed for internal parasites regularly, fully vaccinated and microchipped and have access always to clean water. Many breeders will whelp their pups in livestock barns so that the puppies first impressions are of living with livestock. Whelping areas and whelping boxes are simple to place in barns. All dogs need careful raising and guidance as they grown from puppies, whether they are police dogs, companions, therapy dogs, disability assistance dogs, sheepdogs, retrievers, or livestock guardians, but no dog-training will replace a good solid temperament from good bloodlines

This is very different to the way a predator would approach livestock. The intention of the behaviour is to put the livestock at ease, showing them that the maremma is no threat. It often confuses people not used to maremma behaviour to see the way the maremma interacts with his flock, but the body language is complex and gives many important messages to the livestock. All good livestock guardians will display this behaviour as do the maremma sheepdogs.

The following 2 videos are not only cute, but in reality they are excellent examples of the trustworthy nature of the maremma.

Obviously the magpie knows and loves this dog well ...

Behaviour traits that should be missing to identify that your dog can be trusted with his livestock

  • Total lack of 'eyeing' the livestock. This is seen clearly in the sheepdog breeds that are used to round your animals up. Their attentiveness is a very different thing.
  • Lack of chase behaviour. This is a motor pattern stage that follows on from 'eyeing'. It is worth noting however that chase-play behaviour in pups is often seen, and is most common when the livestock guarding pups are actually bonding well to their herd. This is discussed further in the section on raising pups and correcting undesirable behaviours.
  • Aggressive behaviour should be quite absent in your dog. Read the section on protectiveness to understand the important difference between the two.
  • This article is broken into topics for your convenience:

    Intoduction to temperament Basic of livestock guarding temperament
    Nature of a guardian The characteristics of guarding livestock
    How your livestock guardian pays attention to the animals it protects
    Livestock guardians must be trustworthy to not harm the animals it protects
    Your livestockguardian must protect the animals it lives with from all predators
    What do these breed traits mean together to show the behaviour of a good guardian?
    Not all livestock guardian individuals behave the same way - why not?
    How do livestock guardian puppies tend to behave?
    How much dog behaviour is true intelligence and how much is driven by motor patterns?
    Typical behaviour traits used by dogs that 'round up' their livestock
    Typcal behaviour of retriever dog breeds
    A fascinating breeding trial with fox behaviour
male maremma playing with his pups displaying the loving nature of these livestock guardian dogs

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