Maremma Sheepdog (Abruzzenhund) Breed Caring and Family, Social Life, Physical Traits, Diet Information

Maremma Sheepdog (Abruzzenhund) Breed Caring and Family, Social Life, Physical Traits, Diet Information

The Maremma Sheepdog, commonly known as the Maremmano-Abruzzese or just the Maremmano, Maremma Sheepdogs are ancient Italian livestock guarding dogs. They are also called the Italian Sheepdog. The breed has been used for centuries by Italian shepherds to guard sheep against wolves. Its name originates from the Maremma marshlands in central Italy, particularly Abruzzo and the Maremma region of Tuscany and Lazio, where the breed historically worked for years. This dog breed is also famous for its thick, luxurious white coat and bravery. The literal English translation of the name Maremma-Abruzzese is “shepherd dog of the Maremma and Abruzzo.” The Maremma Sheepdog is classified as a large breed in the working dog group. 

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What are the Breed Traits and Characteristics of Maremma Sheepdogs?

The Maremma Sheepdog might remind people of Golden Retrievers and Labradors, but they soon realize that the traits and characteristics are unlike their lookalikes. Maremmas are certainly no cuddly house pets, instead, they are independent canine companions.

Abruzzenhunds are typically stoic, sometimes stubborn, and more accustomed to working than most other breeds. But don’t be mistaken, the Maremma Sheepdog is a large gentle giant. They have an astoundingly calm demeanor, whether with their flock or their family. Maremma Sheepdogs are known for their independent, self-reliant, and protective temperaments. 

Despite their aloofness, they cannot hide their love for children and can turn into a rambunctious playful pup in the blink of an eye. 

Below is a list of breed traits and characteristics of the Maremma Sheepdog breed.

Maremma Sheepdog (Abruzzenhund)

Characteristics

Relationship with family

Loyal, loving, and sweet dogs

Relationship with children 

Friendly, affectionate, playful

Relationship with other dogs

Sociable

Shedding Level

Low but more excessive when the seasons change twice per year

Drooling Level

Low

Coat Type

Double coat, the outer coat is long, thick, and coarse and the undercoat is dense 

Coat Color

White, with some variation of shading, allowed A tinge of yellow, peach, or orange possible

Grooming Frequency

Low, brushing once per week

Smelly

Low

Barking frequency

High

Relationship with Strangers

Suspicious and wary at first

Playfulness Level

Love playing with children and pets

Affectionate

Yes but not demonstrative

Adaptability Level

Average

Intelligence Level

High

Trainability Level

Difficult due to stubbornness 

Energy and Activity Levels

Moderate 

Exercise needs

High

Mental stimulation requirements

High

Protective of territory and family

High

Guard dog ability

Excellent

The Maremma Sheepdog is strong-willed, and training it could be challenging. The dog’s owner must be firm enough to prevent the Abruzzenhund from taking the attitude of a pack leader. The Italian Sheepdog typically chooses one person to be its master. 

This breed takes guarding their flock seriously, and their love for their family’s children is believed to be because they see the kids as part of the flock they must protect. Parents should not leave their children and playmates alone where the Abruzzenhund is present. The most insignificant action of a visiting child could trigger the Maremma to step in and protect his human child.

What is the Temperament of the Maremma Sheepdog?

The Maremma Sheepdog is highly dedicated to its career, and although they make excellent house pets, they are best suited on a farm where they can take care of livestock. Maremmas are independent thinkers and protective dogs, although they can be difficult to train or socialize

Their large size and free spirit make them require a lot of outdoor space with fencing to keep them from wandering too far. Socialized at an early age, Abruzzenhunds can make good family pets even though they require a lot of space and training to be successful. While Italian Sheepdogs have a good relationship with other dogs and their human family, they don’t like strangers or anyone unfamiliar with them, making them excellent guard dogs.

What are the Social Behaviors and Nature of Maremma Sheepdog?

While most people think of Maremma Sheepdogs as outdoor dogs, mainly interested in protecting their flock, nothing could be further from the truth. Abruzzenhunds love their people, especially children, and miss human companionship when they’re not around. 

They should certainly have access to a securely fenced yard, but the Maremma Sheepdog should be with the family when home. Maremmas are good-natured, low-maintenance hounds, and their social traits are listed below.

Abruzzenhund Social Traits

Breed Information

Relationship with family

Maremma Sheepdogs are loyal, and although they are affectionate, they are not too demonstrative. Abruzzenhunds will show affection by leaning against their human family members, and they might put a paw on the person’s knee or lap. Maremma Sheepdogs tend to choose a favorite human, often the person it regards as pack leader.

Relationship with strangers

Maremma Sheepdogs are wary and suspicious of strangers. They typically take their cues from their owners, ready to go into protective mode if necessary. Once they are satisfied there’s no threat, they will warm up to strangers.

Relationship with other dogs

Italian Sheepdogs have innate pack tendencies that make them sociable with other dogs. Maremmas will be happy in families with more dogs.

Relationship with older people

Although Abruzzenhunds interact well with older people, their high exercise needs might be overwhelming for seniors.

Relationship with children

Maremma Sheepdogs love children, and some say they see kids as part of their flock. Although they will allow the kids in their family to pull their ears and play rough, parents should be aware that their sheepdog is very protective and might not be as patient with other children.

Adaptability level

Abruzzenhunds adapt easily to different circumstances, as long as they always have enough space to play and exercise with their human playmates and other house pets.

What are the Physical Traits of the Maremma Sheepdog?

The Maremma Sheepdog has a solid and muscular dog with a thick white coat and a black nose on a large head. The Abruzzenhund’s thick, long coat has a rough feel and forms a thick collar around the dog’s neck. In Italy, the Maremma’s country of origin, they are named based on the villages and provinces where they work. Names include the Maremmano, the Marsicano, the Aquilano, the Pescocostanzo, the Maiella, and the Peligno. They are all Italian sheepdogs bred for centuries for their skills as flock guardians.

Physical Trait

Description

Size

Large

Weight Range

Male between 77 and 99 pounds

Females Between 66 and 88 pounds

Height at the withers

Males between 25 and 29 inches

Females between 23 and 27 inches

Body

Longer than height, deep well open chest, large, strong neck, well-sprung ribs, Powerful, muscular croup, rectangular back

Head

Large, with a conical shape, similar to the heads of polar bears 

Muzzle

Broad and square, well proportioned in width and length with the skull

Ears

Relatively small, triangular-shaped ears set high on the head

Eyes

Almond-shaped small eyes in relation to the rest of the body, Ocher or dark brown in color

Legs

Straight from elbows to feet

Tail

Set low, covered thick hair, carried low when relaxed and at the level of the bach with the tip curved up when alert.

Exercise Need

High 

Coat

Solid white, sometimes with cream-colored, ivory, lemon or orange nuances Double coat – thick undercoat in the winter.

Hair

Thick, 2.5 inches on the body and fringes on the back of the legs, short on the head.

Litter size and frequency

Average 5 to 7 puppies once per year

Life Expectancy

10 to 14 years

What is the General Information about Maremma Sheepdogs?

The Maremma Sheepdog is believed to be an ancient breed. Marcus Terentius Varro, the “most learned” of the Romans, wrote about a breed of white dogs as early as 100 BC. Like most European Molossian types, this breed’s roots can be traced to the shepherd dogs of central Asia that arrived in Western Europe with the Mongols. Since then, Maremma Sheepdogs have been bred to protect the flocks of sheep farmers against wolves, foxes, bears, and wild dogs.

Abruzzenhunds have thick white double-coats, coarse to the touch. The hairs on the Maremma’s back and the back of its legs are about 2.5 inches long but short on the head. The undercoat grows thick during the winter.

The Maremma Sheepdog is one of five white working dogs, the other being the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Slovenký Cuvac, Polski Owcarek Podhalanski (Tatra Dog), and Turkish Kuvasz. The Pyrenean is the only one in this group with Hubertus claw (double dewclaw), an extra separate toe on the back of each hind leg. If the Maremma or any of the other three in this group has double dewclaws, it would be seen as a breeder’s fault. 

Due to the nature of their jobs as guards and protectors, Abruzzenhunds bark at anything new, strange, potentially hazardous, or frightening. They will bark before sunrise, sunset, and at random intervals during the night. When it comes to drooling, potential owners will be happy to learn that Abruzzenhunds do not drool excessively.

The Maremma Sheepdog Club of America (MSCA) is dedicated to protecting, promoting, and preserving the working Maremma Sheepdog by providing breed and educational information to farmers, ranchers, breeders, and owners. People considering adopting a Maremma Sheepdog pup can seek the necessary guidance at the MSCA, whether they want a rescue dog or a breeder’s dog. The prices of Abruzzenhund puppies range between $600 and $1,000.

How to Feed a Maremma Sheepdog?

Maremma Sheepdogs do best on high-quality dog food, whether homemade with veterinarian guidance or commercial dog food. Any diet should be life-stage appropriate, like Abruzzenhund puppies, adults, or seniors. Dog parents should note that Maremmas love food and if their feedings are not measured or controlled, obesity might be on the horizon. Italian sheepdogs have a tendency to weight gain and bloat, as well as grow too quickly when young, leading to health problems like hip dysplasia later on. 

Dog parents are advised to feed their Maremma Sheepdog Adults between 1,500 and 2,000 calories or 4 to 5 8-oz cups of good quality kibble per day in two separate meals. Puppies need between 2,000 and 2,500 calories and their daily food in two or three measured meals instead of one meal per day or free-feeding all day. Although treats are necessary aids in training your Maremma Sheepdog, over-treating can also cause weight issues and obesity.

  • Food for Maremma Sheepdog Puppies
    • Fresh Food Option: Nom Nom veterinary nutritionists offer four recipes, including beef, pork, chicken, and duck, combined with real, fresh foods, good enough for people to eat, and developed for your Maremma Sheepdog’s unique needs.
    • Dry Kibble Option: Wellness Complete Health Puppy Deboned Chicken, Oatmeal & Salmon Meal Recipe Dry Dog Food is natural dry food for puppies, specially formulated to provide a balanced, healthy dry dog food for your Abruzzenhund puppy. It is designed to encourage healthy brain development, optimize energy levels and ensure healthy skin and coat while promoting whole-body health. It is developed without any GMOs, meat by-products, fillers, or artificial preservatives, and you can be sure your pup always gets the right food.
  • Food for Adult Maremma Sheepdogs Adult
    • Fresh Food Option: Ollie’s 100% human-grade recipes step up to the plate with real, high-quality ingredients for happier, healthier mealtimes for Adult Maremma Sheepdogs.
    • UnKibble Option: Spot & Tango’s UnKibble recipes are made with 100% fresh, whole ingredients and contain no artificial preservatives, fillers, or additives. Unlike kibble, UnKibble is not extruded and contains no meat meals or powdered “mystery meats.” They offer three GMO and hormone-free recipes gently dried using our unique Fresh Dry™ process, maximizing nutritional integrity. Recipes: Duck & Salmon, Beef & Barley, Chicken & Brown Rice.
  • Food for Maremma Sheepdog Seniors 
    • Fresh Food Option: Farmer’s Dog Choose from a variety of fresh, personally portioned recipes, including chicken, beef, turkey, and more.
    • Dried Kibble Option: Senior Abruzzenhunds need uniquely formulated food like AvoDerm Natural Chicken Meal & Brown Rice Senior Formula. It contains ample protein for lean muscle mass with moderate fat for energy, and it is supplemented with glucosamine and chondroitin, and essential nutrients for balanced nutrition.

What are the nutritional needs of the Abruzzenhund?

The nutritional needs of an Abruzzenhund include high levels of specific nutrients. The essential nutrients for Sheepdogs are listed below:

  • Protein: Maremma Sheepdogs need natural animal protein, valuable for the amino acids they contain that are essential for sheepdog health. Equally important is the fact that protein builds lean muscles and provides energy.
  • Fat: Animal protein also provides adequate fat, an additional energy source that boosts the Maremma Sheepdog’s metabolism. However, there is a fine line between enough and too much. Excessive fat levels in the dog’s daily diet could result in weight gain and, ultimately, obesity. Most importantly, adult and senior Maremmas need lower fat levels than puppies.
  • Carbohydrates: Although carbs are not essential nutrients, they are crucial energy sources. Giving the Maremma Sheepdog sufficient carbs will provide energy, encouraging the body’s protein absorption to build lean muscle. Beware, though, too much carbohydrate can lead to obesity.
  • DHA: DHA is one of the components of omega-3 fatty acids. It promotes proper eye and brain development in Maremma Sheepdog puppies. DHA develops cognitive development in puppies and slows cognitive decline in older dogs. Furthermore, omega fatty acids benefit aging dogs by treating chronic kidney disease and canine arthritis. Omega-3 oils improve the coat health of Abruzzenhunds.
  • Micronutrient: Taurine is one micronutrient that aids heart health, and other valuable micronutrients for the promotion of strong joints in Maremma Sheepdog are chondroitin and glucosamine.
  • Minerals: Beneficial minerals for a sheepdog’s growth include a healthy balance of phosphorus and calcium. Pre- and probiotics and chelated minerals provide additional health to the diets of Maremma Sheepdogs.

How Much Should a Maremma Sheepdog Puppy Eat?

The Maremma Sheepdog is a large breed. Guidance for feeding puppies is listed below.

  • Maremma Sheepdog puppies need slow, sustained growth to help prevent orthopedic problems, such as hip dysplasia. Raise them on a diet designed for large-breed puppies. Whatever diet you choose shouldn’t overemphasize protein, fat, and calorie levels.
  • Maremma Sheepdogs should be fed according to a schedule, spreading meal times over three or four meals per day. Getting the puppy accustomed to meals at specific times is better than leaving food out to allow feeding throughout the day.
  • Maremma Sheepdogs with medical conditions like hypoglycemia or low blood sugar are the exceptions because they need to nibble bits of food throughout the day.
  • Never feed your puppy from the table. It only encourages begging. Everyone in the family must follow this rule.

Maremma Sheepdog Puppies should eat a healthy, balanced diet because of the intense exercise they need every day. Maremmas tend to become overweight as they get older, so it’s important to monitor how much food they’re consuming from the time they are puppies. In addition, they have a risk for hip dysplasia, and joint supplements can keep them feeling healthy.

What are the Common Health Problems of Abruzzenhunds

Maremma Sheepdogs are a healthy breed, but 6-monthly veterinarian checkups remain essential. 

The amount of time Maremma Sheepdogs spend outdoors increases their risk of heartworm, and preventative care is crucial. Abruzzenhunds are predisposed to several health problems, some of which are listed below.

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy, also called PRA, is an inherited progressive disease of the retina that leads to blindness in affected Abruzzenhund.
  • Hip dysplasia is a deformation that occurs and develops as Maremma Sheepdog puppies grow. It is caused by loose joints that prevent the ball part of one bone from sliding smoothly in the socket of the other joint bone. Instead, it grinds and rubs in the joint, causing painful wear and tear damage as the Maremma grows and becomes heavier. Although it could start in puppyhood, it usually only becomes evident in adult dogs, making annual medical examinations crucial.
  • Achondroplasia is a type of dwarfism caused by a cartilage growth defect. Affected Maremma Sheepdogs will grow an oddly shaped skull with short limbs, considered a natural trait of some breeds.
  • Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) or Gastric Torsion – often known as ‘bloat.’
  •  This life-threatening disorder happens when an Abruzzenhund’s stomach fills with gas and becomes twisted. This is an emergency and requires urgent veterinary attention.

Maremma Sheepdog owners are recommended to have the following three health tests done:

  1. Hip Evaluation
  2. PRA Optigen DNA Test
  3. Ophthalmologist Evaluation

Maremma Sheepdogs do not spend nearly as much time running as hunting dogs, and therefore they do not need as much exercise. However, please take note of their independent streak, and accept that your Abruzzenhund will not likely be the perfect jogging companion. A long walk is more to their taste, and any extra exercise they like to get involves playing with their canine and human playmates. 

How intelligent is a Maremma Sheepdog?

Dogs like Maremma Sheepdogs are typically highly intelligent. Herders, guard dogs, hunters, and other working dogs must be smart enough to maintain concentration and not be distracted, and make their own decisions because they spend many hours without their owners by their sides. 

Are Maremmas (Abruzzenhund) Good Guard Dogs?

Yes. Maremma Sheepdogs have an innate protective instinct which they will carry with them even if they live in a family. This dog is a strong and noble breed that has evolved through generations as a result of its tough solitary environment. Farmers continue to utilize the Maremma-Abruzzese to protect their flocks since no other animal can guard them and the Abruzzenhund.

How to Train a Maremma Sheepdog (Abruzzenhund)?

It is essential to train Maremma Sheepdogs properly because such large dogs will instinctively try to be the pack leader. A human with a strong character should train this breed to help them understand that although they are in charge and the decision-makers while guarding their flocks of sheep, back at home, there is another master. Despite the Abruzzenhund’s friendly and easygoing disposition, training them can be a patience-testing exercise as they can be stubborn and independent. They tend to favor one person and see them as ‘master,’ and once they have accepted their master the training becomes less challenging.

Physical exercise is not enough for highly intelligent dogs like Abruzzenhund and they need mental stimulation as well. 

However, the only way the Maremma Sheepdog can maintain high intelligence levels is frequent mental stimulation to exercise their brains, similar to dogs who spend their days running need to exercise their bodies. If Abruzzenhunds do not get the necessary mental stimulation, they’ll make their own work, usually with projects you won’t like, such as digging and chewing.

How to Name a Maremma Sheepdog?

The Abruzzenhund and Maremma Sheepdog are the same breed but named after two adjacent areas in Italy where they were used as working dogs. When naming a new dog, owners are advised to take their time and consider various things. Remember, the name itself matters to humans in the dog’s life, and it is only that unique sound of its name that matters to the canine companion. 

There might be a specific inspiration like history, a movie, nature, or even the night sky to help you choose a name, but follow these building blocks. Maremma Sheepdogs respond best to two-syllable names that are not short enough to be confused with single-syllable command words like “sit,” “come,” and “down.” However, the names should not be long enough to become puzzling. You may want to wait a while to study your new pup’s personality before naming him. Look at this and other examples to inspire a name for your Abruzzenhund.

  • There is a small island about 150m off the Australian coast where a colony of a small type of penguin lived. Foxes crossed a permanent sandbank to the island to catch the penguins. When their numbers dwindled to only ten by 2005, an Australian chicken farmer nick-named Swampy trained a Maremma Sheepdog to protect the penguins on the island like this breed protects his free-range chickens. The project was a great success, and the penguin numbers increased. A 2015 movie titled “Odd Ball and the Penguins” was made about the Abruzzenhund called Odd Ball. That was the name her owner gave her, most likely after observing her for a while before naming her. So there you are, why not call your Maremma Sheepdog “Odd Ball,” or honor her owner and call your boy Maremma “Swampy?”
  • Staying on that subject, a permanent penguin protection project resulted, and when Odd Ball retired, Eudy and Tula took over. By the time they were eight years old, two rookies were ready and trained to take over. Eudy and Tula are two more potential names for your Abruzzenhund. Odd Ball died at a ripe old age of 15, but not before the small village near the island erected a statue in her honor.
  • Another source of inspiration is your Abruzzenhund’s origins. Pay homage by selecting an Italian name. Choose a name like Alessandro (defender of men) or Cario (caring man). You can choose Sofia (wise woman) or Cameo (sculptured jewel) for a girl. 

If you choose short names, try to stretch them into two-syllable words when you call for your Maremma, like Gia (God is gracious), into Ghee-ha or Mea (she belongs to me) into Mee-Ha. Remember, dogs love you more if you call their names in a sing-song way. Develop a call-tune that your Maremma Sheepdog will recognize from far.

What are the Different Types of Maremma Sheepdogs?

From Italy, where big, white dogs have been protecting sheep for centuries, sheepdogs were moved with their owners to other countries, where they have come to be valuable contributors to the success of sheep farmers. They are known as the “5 White Ones.” Distinguishing the five white sheep dog breeds challenges even expert breeders. Although there are some minor differences when it comes to appearance, they are very similar with regard to their everyday tasks. The 5 White Ones are listed below.

  1. Pyrenean Mountain Dog
  2. Maremma Sheepdog, real name, Cane da Pastore Maremmana-Abruzzese (CPMA)
  3. Slovenký Cuvac
  4. Tatra Dog, real name, Polski Owcarek Podhalanski 
  5. Hungarian Kuvasz

What Dog Breeds are Similar to the Maremma Sheepdog?

Although the Maremma Sheepdog or Abruzzenhund is quite rare in the U.S., you can find several similar breeds across Europe. Some breed similarities are listed below.

  1. Great Pyrenees: There are few similarities between the Maremma Sheepdog and the Great Pyrenees, except that they are both large dogs. Although both their coats can be white, both breeds can have shades of cream and biscuit tints in their coats. The Pyrenees and the Maremma dogs both have long-haired coats with moderate shedding and grooming needs. Both breeds are family and child-friendly.
  2. Polish Tatra Sheepdog: The Maremma Sheepdog and the Polish Tatra Sheepdog are large and share similar heights, but the Polish dog is heavier. The Polish Tatra is always white, while the Maremma’s coat might include shades of cream. Both require moderate grooming, and both breeds are family and kid-friendly.
  3. Hungarian Kuvasz: When comparing the Abruzzenhund and the Hungarian Kuvasz, you’ll find some similarities. Both breeds are large, and although their heights agree, the Turkish dog is heavier. Both breeds have white coats with similar shedding and grooming levels. They have the same litter sizes, and both breeds are kid and family-friendly.
  4. Slovak Cuvac: This Slovakian sheepdog and the Abruzzenhund share similar weights and heights. Both breeds have white coats and require moderate maintenance and grooming. They also both have 6 to 9 puppies per litter, and they live for 11 to 14 years.

What are the differences between the Maremma Sheepdog and the Great Pyrenees?

The exact history of the Abruzzenhund or Maremma Sheepdog was lost in the pages of history. However, the Abruzzenhund is assumed to be related to the Pyrenean Mountain Dog due to similarities and work duties. The Maremma Sheepdog breed is relatively rare, and they’re mostly found on farms. 

One of the differences between the Great Pyrenees and the Abruzzenhund is their origins. The Maremma Sheepdog breed originated in Italy, while the Great Pyrenees came from France. Further differences involve their sizes. The Pyrenees dog’s average height is about 4 inches higher at the withers than the Maremma Sheepdog, resulting in the weight of the Great Pyrenees exceeding the Abruzzenhund’s weight by about 20 pounds.

The lifespan of the Great Pyrenees is 10 to 12 years. In comparison, the Maremma Sheepdog is expected to live for 12 to 14 years, and Mama Pyrenees dogs have 7 to 12 puppies per litter, compared to the Mama Abruzzenhund’s 6 to 9 puppies per litter. The maintenance level for both breeds is moderate.

Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady is an animal lover and the proud dog-mom of a Golden Retriever named Brody and an Italian Greyhound named Jessup. Unfortunately, Jessup developed serious allergies to many different types of dog foods and ingredients when she was just a puppy. Meanwhile, Brody could eat seemingly anything and carry on as healthy as could be. Sarah spent hours of time researching and testing different foods and brands before finding something that worked for little Jessup. She wants Dog Food Care to simplify this experience for future dog-parents who face food allergy or tolerance issues of their own.