Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Maremma Sheepdog
Average Cost to keep/care for a Maremma Sheepdog
The Maremma is a highly intelligent dog and one that forms extremely strong bonds with their owners. They have always been highly prized for their herding abilities in their native Italy, but they are also known to be kind and gentle family pets and companions too. Maremmas are noble, proud dogs that enjoy being part of the family and involved in everything that goes on around them which is why since they first appeared in the UK, they have found their way into the hearts and homes of many people. However, anyone wishing to share their home with a Maremma would need to register their interest with breeders because these handsome dogs remain quite rare.
The exact origins of the Maremma Sheepdog are a bit of a mystery, but what is known is that these majestic dogs have been used by shepherds in Italy for centuries. Some people think they are the descendants of white dogs that were around at the time of the Magyars. Other people think that at one time two there were two types of dog, namely the Maremmano and the Abruzzese with the latter dog being longer in the body and used in the more mountainous regions of the country. It was not until the 1950s that the two were officially recognised as one breed and given the name Maremmano-Abruzzese.
The Maremmano-Abruzzese is thought to be a descendant of white sheepdogs seen in Eastern Europe two thousand years ago. The Maremma however, evolved to be that much smaller than other sheepdogs that were around at the time, but they retained their strong, independent herding instincts and their aloofness. These noble dogs are still highly prized in Italy for their herding skills, and although the first Maremma arrived British shores way back in 1872, they remain quite rare in the UK.
Height at the withers: Males 65 - 73 cm, Females 60 - 68 cm
Average weight: Males 35 - 45 kg, Females 30 - 40 kg
The Maremma is a large and majestic looking dog that boasts having a bear-like head. However, although massive, Maremmas are surprising light on their feet. They have quite conical shaped heads that are large in relation to the rest of their bodies. Their skulls are wide between a dog's ear but narrower at the foreface. They have a medium stop and the area under a dog's eyes is nicely chiselled. They have powerful muzzles and jaws with tight fitting lips. A Maremma's nose is black and their eyes are dark being a good size, neither small or large and almond shaped with black rims.
They have small V-shaped ears in relation to their heads which are set high which are covered in short hair. A dog's ears lie flat to the side of their head, only moving forward when they are alert or excited. The tip of a dog's ear goes to a point and should never be rounded. They have a perfect scissor bite where the upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones.
They have strong, moderately long necks without any sign of a dewlap and their forequarters are powerful. Shoulders are well muscled, sloping and long with a dog's front legs being muscular and showing a good amount of bone without being too heavy. Maremmas have strong, well developed and muscular bodies with their withers being slightly higher than their backs which are broad and straight before rising to a gentle arch over a dog's loins. Rumps are broad and strong. They have full ribcages that let down well to a dog's elbow. Sternums are long before they gradually curve up to the abdomen which adds to a Maremma's athletic look.
Hindquarters are powerful and wide with dogs having well-muscled back legs. Their feet are almost round and large with a dog's back feet being a little more oval-shaped than their front ones. Tails are set low which dogs carry level to their backs and gently curved at the tip when alert, but down when relaxed. Their tails are well covered in hair, but without any fringes.
When it comes to their coat, the Maremma Sheepdog boasts having a thick, harsh, slightly wavy coat that forms a dense collar around their necks. The hair on a dog's muzzle, head, ears, feet and front legs are is short, but they do have a little feathering on their back legs. They have a very dense, close lying undercoat which tends to be thicker during the colder winter months than in the summertime. The only acceptable colour under their breed standard is as follows:
The Maremma Sheepdog is known to be a gentle giant and one that thrives in a home environment. They are good around children of all ages, but care has to be taken when they are around toddlers simply because of their size and because when young playtime can get a little boisterous. They form strong bonds with their families and love to be involved in things that go on around them. They are, however, quite independent by nature, often seeming quite aloof. As such, the Maremma is not the best choice for first time owners and are better suited to people who are familiar with the needs of this type of large, herding dog.
They are also known to be extremely protective of their families and their property which in short means they are good watch dogs, only barking when necessary and when they perceive any danger. They are reserved around people they don't know, but once they get to know a person, they are generally alright and will accept their presence. It's extremely important for these dogs to be well socialised from a young age so they grow up to be confident, well-balanced mature dogs. Their socialisation has to include introducing them to lots of new situations, noises, people, other animals and dogs once they have been fully vaccinated.
It's also crucial for their training to start early too and it has to be consistent throughout a dog's life. A Maremma is never happier than when they know their place in the pack and who they can look to for direction and guidance. If they don't know who is the alpha dog in a household, they may quickly take on the role of dominant dog which can make them harder to live with and handle which is why they are not the best choice for novice dog owners. They are, however, ideally suited to people who live in a rural environment and who lead active, outdoor lives.
The Maremma is an extremely smart dog and a fast learner. The downside to this is they are just as quick to pick up bad habits as they are the good. As such, their training has to begin early and it has to be consistent and always fair throughout a dog’s life so they understand what's expected of them. They need to be handled with a firm, yet fair hand or they might to take on the role of dominant dog which is why they are best suited to people who are familiar with this type of working dog.
The key to successfully training a Maremma Sheepdog is to make things as interesting as possible and to avoid too much repetition. It's also a good idea to keep training sessions short which helps dogs stay more focussed on what it’s being asked of them, bearing in mind that the more intelligent a dog is, the faster they get bored, bearing in mind that Maremmas are extremely smart dogs and that they are independent characters by nature which can make training them challenging.
They do not answer well to harsh correction or any sort of heavy handed training methods, but they do respond extremely well to positive reinforcement which always brings the best out of these intelligent and quick witted dogs, especially when there are high value rewards involved in a training session.
Maremmas are known to be extremely good around children thanks to their gentle, placid natures. However, any interaction between toddlers and a dog should always be well supervised by an adult to make sure playtime stays nice and calm which is especially when dogs are still very young which is when they tend to be a little boisterous and thanks to their large size, they could easily knock a smaller child over, albeit by accident. Care has to be taken when the kids have friends over to play because Maremmas are very protective of their families and need to accept visiting children as being “friends”.
When dogs have been well socialised from a young enough age, they generally get on well with other dogs they meet and if they have grown up with a family cat in a household, they usually get on well together. However, a Maremma might decide to chase off any other cats they encounter in their environment. They generally get on with other animals and smaller pets, but it’s always advisable to keep an eye on dogs when they first encounter any smaller pets.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Maremma Sheepdog is between 10 and 13 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
The Maremma is known to be a healthy breed, however, they are known to suffer from the following hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about when planning to share a home with one of these handsome dogs:
Maremmas need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
The Maremma boasts having a very thick, harsh outercoat and a much denser and soft undercoat. As such they are medium maintenance on the grooming front. A twice weekly brush is needed to remove any dead and loose hair and to prevent any knots and tangles from forming. They shed steadily throughout the year only more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when they tend to shed quite heavily which is when more frequent grooming is usually necessary to stay on top of things and to remove dead and shed hair from a dog's coat.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure with ear infections.
The Maremma is an intelligent dog and need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. They need at least 2 hour's exercise a day with as much off the lead time as possible, but only in a safe environment. If they are not given the right amount of mental stimulation and exercise every day, a Maremma would quickly get bored and could even begin to show some destructive behaviours around the home which is their way of relieving any stress they are feeling and not necessarily because they are being naughty.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must with as much off the lead time as possible. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these active, high-energy dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they would soon escape and could get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, Maremma puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious and painful problems later in their lives.
If you get a Maremma Sheepdog puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy eaters, but this does not mean they can be given a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
If you are looking to buy a Maremma Sheepdog, you would need to register your interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list because very few puppies are bred every year. You would need to pay anything upwards of £500 for a well-bred pedigree Kennel Club registered puppy.
The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Maremma in northern England would be £28.54 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £83.08 a month (quote as of Sept 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £40 - £60 a month. On top of all of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Maremma and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £1400 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Maremma Sheepdog would be between £80 to £150 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree puppy.
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