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Definitely the best book I've ever read and could recommend on dog origins and behaviour by Ray Coppinger

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The maremma as protector

When they reach adulthood they always try to defend anything that needs protection, this is also why they are such fantastic guardians of children, puppies and domestic animals. In their common life, they always have a great sense of hierarchy, probably due to the fact that they have always lived in packs. There is always a boss in the pack which is usually the older, stronger adult dog. but there will come a time when he is beaten by a younger stronger dog. This social organisation is still very common in the dogs of the shepherds and you can very often see the marks left on the dogs from fierce battles for domination. For this reason I would absolutely advise anyone that would like to keep two male dogs together, even if they have grown up together or are brothers, that when they reach adulthood they may well have a serious dangerous battle. In the females, the sense of hierarchy normally obtains an equilibrium which is very often positive. Another thing is that bitches normally recognise for all their lives, daughters. Often treating them, even as adults as though they were still puppies, cleaning their eyes and ears and in a way teaching them to live. I have assisted, more than once, mothers that assist their daughters when they whelp and these bitches accept the help of grandmothers of their puppies, even to defending the puppies when they start to explore the territory.

typical maremma sheepdogs working together to guard goats in Australia

As I have said before, Maremmas do not need training to do their work as guardian, their proud and independent temperament can react very negatively to those constrictions and impositions which are tolerated by breeds selected to be trained, because they have a temperament which is more malleable, less reactive, practically lacking in initiative.

Unfortunately, the great majority. of trainers, being used to the more biddable breeds, do not know how to treat our breed, which need a different approach to training. Consequently they are not able to obtain any positive results from a Maremma. There are however some exceptions, some dogs for instance have been trained for work within the National Protection Service and also for attacking as in the German Shepherd. These dogs being trained by people who have understood the different approach to the training that was needed. Having said all this, and having talked about the particular temperament of our, dogs, one must absolutely not believe that our dogs do not need discipline. A dog without discipline is like a car without any brakes. I have already said that one has to create the correct relationship, and from that moment you can obtain anything, providing that this anything is a reasonable request, in other words, you cannot expect your dog to become a marionette!

Differing from other dogs, a Maremrna does not like to go out from his property, he does not like to go in the car or be on a lead. It is therefore necessary to acquaint him with those at a very early age. Once he reaches the weight of 40kg it will not be easy to do this. It is not only to go to shows that this training is required, as he may require a car trip to visit the vet or such like. I can guarantee that a dog weighing 40kg who does not wish to get into a car seems to weigh 200 kg if you are trying to persuade him/her. In the same way they must learn to walk on a lead amongst people or other breeds of dogs. Otherwise it will be an all round fight between owner, other handler and dog, and on this it should be remembered that sometimes its the Maremma that wins.

In conclusion I would like to say that since I970, in the USA, our dogs have been used with great success for the defence of thousands of sheep, sheep which in the past had been killed by the Coyote, which resulted in losses of over I0 million dollars. Very wisely, Dr Coppinger from the University of Massachusetts came to Italy and then imported into the USA stock which was directly from our working dogs. Trials have been a great success along with trials of other breeds, namely the Anatolian Karabash and the Komodors. To end I can only wish that this Magnificent Italian breed will continue its' climb in quality and popularity, especially in countries where it is not known. But we must all be very careful not to make the breed become a 'Breed of Fashion'. Nothing con be more dangerous and harmful to a breed such as ours if it happened. We must therefore hope that in each Italian property, in the nice villas that we have in our country, there can be a nice Maremmano-Abruzzes as a guard- maybe there could be two. This would be the nicest declaration that a park could have.

This article has been broken down into sections for your convenience

 

male maremma playing with his pups displaying the loving nature of these livestock guardian dogs

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