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Maremma; Issue with Great Pyrenees; Solved

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  • Maremma; Issue with Great Pyrenees; Solved

    Any issues with wandering in this breed like the Great Pyrs? I haven't been able to find anything but wanted to check. We are having to rehome our Pyrs because they are thwarting all attempts at confinement (jumping and climbing fences) and we got them to deter coyotes and they can't do that if they aren't present. We have 18 acres fenced. Still need a good guardian dog and Maremmas, from the breed description seem very similar but without that strong wandering urge. Love the Pyrs in every way except that.
    Last edited by FatCatFarm; Oct. 8, 2009, 11:04 AM.
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  • #2
    ALL livestock guardian dogs wander as a general rule. Mine stayed in with an electrified offset wire.
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    • #3
      Ask Ray Coppinger at Hampshire college.

      He is THE expert in livestock guarding dogs.

      chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).


      • Original Poster

        The information I'm finding online says it's unusual for them to want to wander.
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        • #5
          Well, I'm not an owner of Maremma dogs, I am an irritated, two mile away neighbor of a pack of these dogs. All I can tell you is that, yes, they are quite good guard dogs - the only difficulty is that they (of course) don't understand invisible boundaries. We have had them corner my mother in her own front yard - she is a capable 80 year old woman who is very comfortable with dogs. These dogs have repeatedly been overly aggressive out of their own flock management area and are a real concern.

          I believe that the problem seems easily dealt with by notifying the owner( Done-Annie Oakley complex- believes that they need to be feral to be effective). Calling authorities is the obvious next step - very tricky considering elevated social status of everyone involved.

          In my ten years of coping with these dogs as neighbors, I would need to give their owner an "F" in being able to keep them from wandering.


          • #6
            I remember watching a tv show about them years ago, and I think they can be dangerous with strange people and best suited to large range areas. Sure I want my dogs to intimidate strangers that don't belong, but I don't want a dog that'll bite a child, neighbor, or friend that just stops in. Research carefully.


            • #7
              I have 2 LGDs; one is an Akbash and one is a Maremma. The Akbash is the one who does the main perimeter patrolling whilst the Maremma tends to be the one who stays close to home guarding the livestock. The Maremma occasionally goes off with the Akbash but will come back to the house after a short while. Although the Akbash wanders our property, apart from her morning patrol which takes about half an hour, she is rarely gone for longer than 15 minutes. The Maremma rarely participates in the morning patrol.

              Although both dogs look similar, they are actually quite different. I speak from my own experience of owning these two breeds, and from knowing a number of farmers who use them. What I've found is the Maremma is more "trainable" than the Akbash. The Maremma will come to call most of the time, whereas the Akbash will only come if there is not something more pressing going on at the farm which may need her attention. All Maremmas I have met have been far more aggressive than any of the Akbash I have met, and I'd say this could have been the case in my situation also had I not spent time heavily socialising my Maremma as a puppy. Neither of my LGDs view people as hostile and that's the way I want to keep it - they are not here to protect my property from people, they are simply here to keep coyotes/wolves/bears away from my youngstock.

              I like both of my LGDs in different ways, however for me personally, I would choose another Akbash before I would choose another Maremma, even though the Akbash is far less domesticated than the Maremma. Akbash suit my particular circumstances, as I know she will (and does) do the job expertly. I don't have so much faith in the Maremma, although she is still a lovely dog, she's just more pet-like than the Akbash.


              • Original Poster

                Thanks for the responses. We want something that will stay close to the house and barn as the coyotes are preying on the outside cats and barn cats; not the livestock so I really do not need a LGD in the truest since. But I don't need a guard dog that will guard only it's humans. We had a Rottweiler who could not have cared less what the coyotes did. And right now, all the Great Pyrenees are doing is patrolling the fences looking for a way out. So other than the aggressive tendencies, the Meremma Shepherd sounds like it might suit our situation and as you pointed out Cloverbarley, hopefully through good socialization, the aggression can be minimized. Would love more replies though.
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                • #9
                  Do you mind me asking, how long have you had your Pyrs? And what age were they when you got them? Have you always kept them at this property?

                  I don't know a lot about Pyrs to be honest, but where Maremmas and Akbash are concerned, you still have to put a lot of personal input into their "training" a number of times every day for at least a year, and even for years after then you still have to reinforce the boundaries every once in a while. LGDs really need much more room to work in than 18 acres - mine look after 200 acres but could competently deal with a slightly larger area. I'm just wondering if there is another breed of dog which may be more suitable for the job you need doing? A friend of mine has a Bouvier who does the same job on a small acreage like you and it works well. Bouviers are quite easy to train and seem content to protect smaller areas.


                  • Original Poster

                    Our female is 7mos and she's the ring leader here; the male is 5mos so is just riding in her wake. Both are from working stock and were initially kept with goats. I think we shot ourselves in the foot with the female though by getting the male. Since we're gone alot during the day, we thought having a pair would keep each other company and they have the run of our 18 acres, and we keep lots of chew toys strewn about the place for them to work on in our absence. Initially the female was great and bonded with our Miniature Donkeys and wherever they were on the property she could be found. Then we got the male and after he matured a little bit, they started escaping together first through a gate we thought neither could fit through which which subsequently fixed by covering it with woven wire, and then by climbing over the fence in the back of the property which is wooded. The female scales 5ft stall doors with ease. We do not have electric fencing in the woods. They do their job well at night as long as I'm out there to pen them back up before daybreak but I don't know how long before that changes and they choose to go wandering at night and the neighbor they like to visit is getting tired of it. You know I keep hearing, give a Pyr a hundred acres and he'll want two; and so on.

                    Anyway, I can appreciate that our property is just evidently not large enough to satisfy their need to wander, that is if that's even possible. So now we're looking for a big outdoor dog that is independent enough to be happy staying outdoors and keep the coyotes at bay and not be whining at the back door to be let in, but who also has enough sense of self and belonging, not to want to be venturing off everytime the electric fence goes down, or whatever. When home, I am outside alot with the animals so they do get alot of attention when we're home and we do have small dogs that stay up during the day too when we're gone and out when we are home and they all make a merry little pack together when the Pyrs aren't trying to take off. Like I posted above, we love the Pyrs in every way except for being such escape artists.
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                    • #11
                      Yes it's pretty much the same with the Maremmas and Akbash in that "give them a hundred acres and they'll want 200". That's part and parcel of LGDs I'm afraid. This is where YOU come in. Your dogs are very young still and LGDs do require a lot of input during the first 9-18 months and if you put in this time then you'll find that by about 18 months they have figured out where they are allowed and where they aren't. Being an owner of these dogs I do understand how people who haven't had them before could feel like tearing their hair out at the year-old stage ... persevere with a good teaching regime though and they are sooooo worth the effort in the end.

                      Your puppies have got to the age where they are working on their own but are really not equipped with "knowing", rather "thinking they know". You, as the owner really have to take some form of control here, however at this stage they are a little older and so have formed their own minds and it may be a challenge for you to regain your status. With my own dogs, I started their training at a very early age but I still ran into the same sort of issues that you are having at this 9-18 month stage, although not so much with the Maremma because by the time I got her, the Akbash knew what was what so the Maremma has learned most of her boundary restrictions from the Akbash. There is 12 months age difference between my Akbash and my Maremma, and I personally would never have two young pups of these breeds at the same time as I think it is much more difficult to teach both puppies at the same time unless there is an older dog to help you.

                      I'm not too sure what to suggest here but this is why whenever people come and meet my dogs, fall in love with them, and want to buy one, I strongly advise them not to! They are not for the faint-hearted and unless people are dedicated to giving them the time they need (EVERY day) then it will all come crumbling down, with the dog being the loser. I see so many of these dogs in rescue centers in my area and I do wish that the breeders of them would give prospective owners a bit more information on what it takes to have a good LGD before the buyers part with any of their cash.


                      • Original Poster

                        You know, I don't know but I am aware that I am not the only person attempting to keep LGD's on smaller acreage and some evidently do quite well on smaller properties and also not all seem to have such an intense need to wander. Unfortunately our clever girl seems more focused on directing her energies to escaping and taking her buddy along with her. Keeping them mostly locked up between now and the two year old mark defeats the whole purpose of having them. We've herded them back onto the property when they've escaped and scolded them for leaving and I can tell from Angel's (the female) body language that she is well aware that what she's doing is wrong; but she just can't seem to resist the urge to go visit the kids in the cul de sac through the woods behind us. Unfortunately, the kids' parents, the father in particular, are NOT amused. She's extremely bright and I've watched her inspect every inch of the perimeter fencing looking for a way out;not patrolling for intruders.

                        I have a lady coming for her on Friday who has a smaller property with higher fencing and while obviously it won't be with all the acreage Angel could wish for, at least perhaps it will be more secure and safer for her. She will be the only LGD there and will be staying with goats. We'll see if Gabe, our younger male, will then not be so tempting to himself go wander since there will be no partner in crime.
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                        • #13
                          That sounds like a more manageable solution. I DO know how you feel, I imagine everyone who has LGDs felt like this with their first one, regardless of how much research each individual did beforehand. They really are fantastic dogs but they are so unlike other dogs that they take a bit of getting used to.

                          I'm very lucky in that I don't have close neighbours so even if my dogs were to wander off property they wouldn't bother anyone as my farm is surrounded by more farmland.

                          Although I'm not in the habit of agreeing that people should get rid of their dogs, in situations like this I actually do think you are making the right choice. I think with just the younger one you will find you have more time to spend with him; he's at a good age to teach and hopefully will listen more to you without the other one around. Best of luck, and I really mean it. I hope it all works out for you and your dogs.


                          • #14
                            I have only dealt with one.

                            I am a professional dog trainer and had one in my puppy class.

                            The dog actually made me nervous in this owners hands. She ended up dropping out of puppy class when I told her that she needed to contact her breeder about how to handle her dogs growing aggressive nature.

                            I know how to deal with most breeds and I handle each differently. This is one I had no experience with. She contacted me later for help with said dog. I could have dealt with the dog in my own home just fine but I was dealing with an owner with no back bone. Who refused to listen to me about how she needed to become the leader of her dog. These folks had never had a dog.

                            From my experience I would put the Maremma in the not for new dog owners or unassertive owners.


                            • Original Poster

                              Thank you Cloverbarley. I do appreciate your insight.

                              CZ, that wouldn't be a problem here; I am alpha mare and bitch, but I do NOT want a dog that shows excessive aggression. I wouldn't tolerate that in any breed.
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                              • #16
                                Try a donkey. That will keep the coyotes at bay.
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                                • Original Poster

                                  Actually, we do have two Mini Donks and the mostly reside in the barn area and I do believe have helped deter the coyotes from taking any more barn cats, but since I like my landscaping, have not allowed them the run of the yard at the house and that's also where we need a deterrent as the coyotes have been taking the cats that go outside. We get all the kitties in at night, but quite a few do like going out for the day and we have had a few go missing even being let out for just the day. All the research shows that while donkeys and llamas do help, LGD's are the superior deterrent to coyotes.
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                                  • #18
                                    I have a maremma/pyr mix. I originally wanted a pure maremma, but the cost and rarity made that impossible. I use mine to guard my Nigerian Dwarf goats, and was introduced to the breed by a fellow Nigerian owner who had a medium sized maremma bitch. Her dog would definately try to to kill you if you went in to the goat pen uninvited, but accompanied by one of her people who told her you were OK, and she was as sweet and normal and friendly as any other breed of dog.

                                    Because of the nature of my horse business, I wasn't too sad to temper some of that aggressiveness with the Pyr blood.

                                    I bought my puppy from a commercial dairy in Oregon who had bred several generations of this cross. My guy was born in the goat barn, and when I picked him up at six months he'd already been involved (with his mother and siblings) in eradicating several coyotes and a puma.

                                    I haven't expereinced my guy particularly wanting to roam, though he does think it's funny to "escape" (through an open gate while we're carrying goat breakfast in ) from the pen, and take a few laps around the barn in this big silly bounding gait he has when he's playing. However, when I first got him, I worked daily with him on him recognizing and responding to his name, and walking well on a leash, and being handled. So I let him romp for a few minutes, but when I call him comes, and he's easy to put right back, and happy to go. I have a groomer out a few times a year to manage and/or shave the coat and he's very good for that. He's happy to hang with his flock, and agitated without them.

                                    Like I said, I made basic obedience a priority, and we did go through a case of the 13 month old sillies where I did use a remote zapper collar a few times to solidify that we do not chase/pounce on goats (something the breeder I bought him from, and the other goat breeders I talked with said is very common). I'd say I used it three times in connection with a voice command, and now it doesn't happen.

                                    Most of what these dogs do, they aren't "trained" to do. But that is not the same as saying they don't need training. Your dog may be better solo, but you most likely still need to spend some time doing other work.

                                    But another angle to consider. LGD's work by bonding with a flock or herd and making it their own, NOT a place or even really a person. It maybe by expecting your dog(s) to guard the facility (and by extension the cats) rather than keeping them bonded with a herd or flock, you maybe asking them to do a job they aren't suitable for and not triggering that bonding instinct that makes them so formidable. If you elect not to keep your second Pyr, I would consider looking into other breeds that may be more multi purpose, as I'm not sure an LGD is quite suited to the job you really want.
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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by PhoenixFarm View Post
                                      But another angle to consider. LGD's work by bonding with a flock or herd and making it their own, NOT a place or even really a person. It maybe by expecting your dog(s) to guard the facility (and by extension the cats) rather than keeping them bonded with a herd or flock, you maybe asking them to do a job they aren't suitable for and not triggering that bonding instinct that makes them so formidable. If you elect not to keep your second Pyr, I would consider looking into other breeds that may be more multi purpose, as I'm not sure an LGD is quite suited to the job you really want.
                                      No experience with Maremmas, but I think PF has a good point here, based on the additional info you've provided. I'm reading that you really want a dog (or dogs) that will be good with the cats but protect an area from coyotes, etc. during the day, could maybe come in the house at night since the cats are in? May I suggest looking at GSDs, for instance? We adopted two as one-year-olds from a GSD rescue group, so we had a pretty good idea of what we were getting. The female especially is exactly what you say you want: independent, loves doing her property patrol (we have 10 acres) several times a day, knows which animals belong on our property and which don't, and took upon herself the duty of coyote alarm system. She loves our cat, too! She even chases off large birds (turkey vultures, hawks...and cattle egrets). Our male is much more of a couch potato, but also stays on our property. Half of one side of our perimeter is unfenced, and when they were younger (they are 3 now) they would occasionally go off to explore the wilderness next door, but always came right back when called and never went too far.

                                      My only caveat is, if you leave the dog(s) alone with sheep/goats, they are a herding breed and may need training to not pester the livestock. Ours are fascinated by our 3 sheep and don't get to run loose with them, but do still patrol the perimeter for coyote.
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                                      • #20
                                        LGDs are generally able to bond with any animal, so I wouldn't say that the issue is with the type of animals (ie. the cats, donkeys) the dogs are protecting.

                                        I wouldn't say it is beyond the realms of possibility to teach the dogs to guard the place where the animals they are supposed to be guarding live. I taught my dogs to protect all of the fields that my horses reside in. I did not teach them to guard my woods where none of my animals live. The result is, my dogs tolerate coyotes in my woods/hay fields but will (fairly savagely) chase the coyotes out of my grazing fields. They will keep a wide margin of area between my livestock and the coyotes though, so if coyotes come into my pasture fields, the dogs automatically attack and chase them out and continue to chase the coyotes well into the woods, but once they are happy with the space between the two species of animals, they return to the grazing fields and remain on high alert until they are convinced the predators have left the area and then they return to their normal lookout, my farmhouse, situated right in the middle of the pasture fields.

                                        Before I had LGDs I still had my Collies and my Malinois but they were not enough to deter coyotes from coming very close to my farmhouse and into my pasture fields on a very regular basis. My Malinois went for a couple of coyotes a few years ago and they almost killed her. My collies have been stalked by coyotes and almost became lunch. Malinois/GSDs are great dogs but they really aren't equipped to deal with coyotes whereas LGDs are bred to deal with them. In all the time I only had the Malinois and the collies, I always had visiting coyotes most days. Now that I have the LGDs, coyotes are very rare visitors on my farm and the last ones I saw was about a year ago and these were 2 young dogs who clearly had no idea that LGDs lived on this property. They soon learned though and haven't been back since.