Choosing Maremma's; Our Journey to Livestock Guardians.
I told my mother we were ready to make the move to add sheep to our farm. She shared with me an experience recently that left her awestruck when she went to pick up a donkey on a nearby far. She started telling me about an Anatolian Shephard and how dutiful he was at watch of his goats in a nearby pasture. My mom shared that she could not enter the pasture comfortably without the "okay" from the owner. And for the next couple of weeks, all I heard from my mother was "you need to get a dog".
Brad had previously been on several sheep pages and there is a TON of mixed reviews on LGD breed dogs. He was actually a little upset that I would not drop wanting to add a dog to protect our flock and that I would be adding a huge task of training TWO new dogs as well as possibly having major issues, or worse, putting his flock in danger. "They dig" They play with the livestock" "they bark", "They break through fence"... the list went on and on. Not to mention, we didn't know anyone personally that had LGD's and were completely new to the whole thing.
So the research started. You know, the type where you lay in bed on your phone scouring the internet and spending hours in different old chats... just reading as much as you can. Screenshotting along the way. That kind.
Kangal, Antalolian Shephard, Great Pyrenees, and Maremma's kept popping up. Lots of comparing--- back and forth. Until I decided on Maremma. The price tag was high for our family, especially at the time because we were just starting out. Despite this, I had convinced Brad.
Some things that stood out to me about the Maremma breed in my research was they are very low on the barking scale. Right now, the property we are on is only 5 acres, so we have neighbors and neighbor noises. Eventually we will move to the 80 acres, but we needed something that works for NOW. We didn't a dog notorious for wandering, and I had read good things about this as well for the Maremma's. Most importantly, we have small children. Three! We needed a dog that was not overly protective regarding humans and also more on the mild temperament. We also have people over to our home, regularly. So we needed a dog okay with this as well. The Maremma breed seemed to fit our requirements when comparing to other dogs.
A year later. They have fit what we were looking for perfectly and have done everything we have asked for and more! They have never played with the sheep. The goat, well, the goat hangs with the dogs and thinks it is a dog, so there has been a little more play than we would like... and it is a work in progress. They don't mess with the hens, at all. They are free range--- and take naps in the shady grass alongside each other. Merin will sometimes put the rooster in line, I think it is because he sees the Rooster being a little aggressive toward the hens. I usually catch it pretty quick because Roxy will start barking to tell him to stop. A simple "leave it, mine" usually gets him to stop. And... the Rooster is a pretty big jerk. I have had several run in's with him that have left me screaming with broken eggs.
We have been working through the normal teenager phase of jumping... and my three-year-old has gotten knocked down a few times. I think my biggest complaints are that they have chewed boxes left on our doorsteps and they take my rabbit waterers and chew those. My mother-in law actually had to re-order my daughter's birthday present because they chewed it! I have since zip tied them, so no worries there. And we let the delivery people to put our packages on the cars or trashcans. During chores, Merlin will take a dropped hat or glove and initiate play- which can be annoying, but most times, it is all in light.
As far as barking, hardly ever. Definitely way more when they are pups and discriminating noises from threats. Only if it is their job. Which, after much research, that is their deterrent. You never expect your LGD to have to physically protect your property. I still remember the first Spring after our dogs and the beautiful yellow rose bush. It wasn't there the previous year because of all the deer eating it. So thanks for keeping my roses safe =] In all honestly, the barks alone deter predators away. We installed an invisible fence around our perimeter. This was a learning curve, but overall, we don't have issues with wandering. We have about 95% fenced, but an open driveway.
And for when it comes to guests. Well, the mailmen love our dogs and likewise. I think that's why they chew the boxes; of course the mail is for them from the mailmen?!?! Some friendly person gives me a treat and delivers me this! How wonderful! I can just see it know. We have had people on property to fix our sprinklers, fix our fridge, our pellet stove; all with no issues. Our friends come to visit and are welcomed. I would assume someone with bad intentions would not have such luck. I trust in our dog's intelligence to understand and identify threat. I have had someone randomly stop by unexpectedly when we were not home and they felt more comfortable staying in the car and eventually leaving. Both dogs made their presence very known and were at the driveway.
The pictures below are of Roxy in training with the chickens, Merlin with our "free range", guardian dog goat, and one of my close friends who enjoyed the pups on her visit from out of town.