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Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Maremma Sheepdog
Average Cost to keep/care for a Maremma Sheepdog
Breed Specific Buying Advice
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 for Kennel Club registration is as follows:
It is worth noting that the accepted breed colours for Kennel Club registration can differ from those set out in the breed standard which are as follows:
When a Maremma Sheepdog moves, they do so with a free and active gait always giving the impression of being light and nimble on their feet. For such large dogs they move easily being able to turn quickly when needed.
The Kennel Club frowns on any exaggerations or departures from the breed standard and would judge the faults on how much they affect a dog's overall health and wellbeing as well as their ability to perform.
Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums and it is worth noting that a dog can be a little lighter or heavier as well as slightly taller or shorter than set out in the Kennel Club breed standard which is only given as a guideline.
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 and extremely wary around people they don't know, but once they get to know a person, they are generally alright and will accept their presence, bearing in mind that a Maremma will decide if a person is to be trusted or not. 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 must 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 the alpha dog is 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.
Maremma Sheepdogs are not a good choice for first time dog owners because they must be socialised, handled and trained by people who are familiar with the needs of such a large, independent thinking dog that was bred to guard livestock. A Maremma could quickly get the better of a novice owner and start to show a more dominant side to their character making them harder to handle and live with.
Maremmas are known to be good around animals which includes livestock, birds and other animals. As such, they do not typically have a high prey drive. With this said, care should always be taken when a Maremma meets a new animal for the first time, bearing in mind that it is in the breed’s psyche to chase off any animal they deem dangerous that dares trespass on their property,
Maremmas have a very playful side to their natures more especially when young, but as they mature they take a more serious outlook on life which is to keep an eye on their families and their property.
Maremmas are better suited to households with well-fenced, secure back gardens that a dog can safely roam in whenever possible to really let off steam and to prevent boredom from setting in.
Maremmas are independent dogs and even though they form strong ties with their families, they are not generally known to suffer from separation anxiety, providing they are never left to their own devices for long periods of time. Any dog that finds themselves on their own for a long time could develop some unwanted destructive behavioural issues which includes incessant barking.
The need to bark is a trait that is deeply embedded in a Maremma’s psyche having been bred to guard livestock from predators and poachers. With this said, a Maremma only barks for good reason which is typically because something they don’t like is going on around them.
Most Maremmas like swimming and will take to the water whenever they can more especially when the weather is hot. However, if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said, care should always be taken when walking a Maremma off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing because they cannot get out of the water on their own.
Maremmas are very effective, natural watchdogs and therefore they do not need to be trained to guard and protect. Their size alone is enough to put most wrongdoers off, but the fact they will stand their ground and not let anyone passed means that nobody would normally even try. Maremmas like to stay on the boundary of a property so they can keep an eye on things. They rarely show any sort of aggression towards strangers unless they are provoked that is.
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, bearing in mind that no owner should expect that their Maremma would show the same sort of obedience they may get from other breeds because they like to “think” about a command before obeying it.
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.
Like all puppies, Maremmas are incredibly cute when young and it is all too easy to spoil them when they first arrive in new homes. As soon as a puppy is nicely settled owners must start out as they mean to go on by laying down ground rules and boundaries so that a Vallhund puppy understands what is expected of them. It helps establish a pecking order and who the alpha dog is in the household. The first commands a puppy should be taught are as follows:
Maremmas are known to be extremely good around babies and very young children thanks to their gentle, placid natures although they are definitely not “gentle giants” like many other large breeds. 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:
It is worth noting that thanks to a Maremmas thick coat, care should be taken when using flea and tick sprays which could result in an excessive build-up in a dog’s heavy coat.
Maremma puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old.
Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said, many breeds are different, and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered.
Like all other breeds, some Maremmas gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight, it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older dogs too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart which could prove fatal.
Maremmas are not typically known to suffer from allergies but it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:
All responsible Maremma Sheepdog breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following schemes:
Apart from the standard breeding restrictions that are in place for all Kennel Club registered breeds, there are no other breed specific breeding restrictions in place for the Maremma Sheepdog.
It is mandatory for all Kennel Club Assured Breeders to use the following test on their dogs and all other breeders are strongly advised to follow suit:
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.
Maremma puppies are boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to pick a puppy up when people are going to be around for the first week or, so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including Maremma puppies. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out resulting in them being withdrawn, timid and shy.
As previously mentioned, Maremma puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be fully up to date.
Older Maremmas need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically, a dog's muzzle may start to go grey, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Living with a Maremma Sheepdog in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include looking at their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older Maremmas need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older dogs is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:
Older Maremmas don't need the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
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. Owners should pay special attention to the calcium/phosphorus ratio of a puppy’s feed making sure that it is 1.3: 1.
Puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious, good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide, a Maremma puppy can be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
Once a puppy is 15 months old they can be fed adult dog food.
Once fully mature, an adult Maremma Sheepdog should be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult dog can be fed the following amounts every day:
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 £31.18 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £85.76 a month (quote as of April 2108). 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 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 well-bred, healthy Kennel Club registered pedigree Maremma Sheepdog puppy.