Bonding a maremma or any livestock guardian to their flock is the most critical factor in acheiving an excellent guardian. The bonding has to go in both directions - the dog has to bond to the livestock, but it is equally important that the livestock bond to the dog. In other words there has to be a relationship! For your dog to live happily with and guard his charges, your dog must be a part of that flock or family.
So let's follow the process that was taken to bond an adult maremma to chickens - this dog had never been with chickens before and the chickens had never seen a dog before. The only real concern in this bonding process was distress to the chickens - chickens tend to die from distress a little too easily. The maremma had not been with chickens before, but he was a mature dog, known to be trustworthy with other dogs, cats and various livestock.
The chickens are living in a backyard in an Australian city and were attacked by crows with one young chicken killed and one severely injured.
When the maremma arrived, even though he had never seen chickens before, he took little notice of them. He was kept separated from them - maremma in the backyard, chickens in the pen at the end of the backyard.
The chickens however were not impressed with a dog appearing in the backyard and were quite distraught causing much flapping and squawking. Still the maremma did not take much more notice than to look at them as if to say - strange thing to do ...
The calm behaviour of the dog was brilliant, because the chickens began to settle as he made no real attempt to approach the pen, did not display any predator behaviour such as 'eyeing' them like a border collie would, did not crouch or stalk, and certainly did not bounce around barking.
Over the first week, when the maremma would walk into the backyard the chickens would flap and squawk, but as the week passed they would settle more quickly. The owner began picking up a chicken at a time and holding them for the dog to sniff (much to the chickens disgust of course), and he would politely sniff a little, but again seemed mostly disinterested in them.
Again, this behaviour was brilliant - the dogs indifference to the chickens meant that he did nothing to actually 'make' the chickens nervous, they simply were naturally scared of dogs.
During the second week there was a marked difference in the fright reaction from the chickens - they did not flap and squawk on his appearance, only if he made a sudden movement or gave a bark, and again they calmed more quickly.
In the third week the pen was opened one day, and under supervision of the owner, the chickens were allowed out into the backyard which they were accustomed to doing. After a little while chickens began to venture out, and still the maremma remained fairly disinterested in them.
This was repeated daily as possible, and with no fence separating them, the chickens began to accept the dog more and more as they began to walk close to him in their foraging.
By 6 weeks after the maremma arriving, the chickens were able to be left out in the backyard with him during the day without any concern that they would become too distressed, and the chickens were not only walking right up to him, but attempting to pick at bones whilst he was eating them!
10 months down the track, at the time of writing this case study, the chickens will lay right alongside the maremma, hop over his back if he is laying down, and barely raise any kind of fuss even if he makes sudden movements or barks.
Just as importantly, there have been no crow attacks and the chickens are safe, and the maremma is happy with 'his' flock!