The basis for trustworthiness is the absolute total absence of predator
This is absolutely critical in appraising the worth of your livestock guarding dog and there are signs that can be seen from when puppies are young. We can handle in a pack situation having some dogs not so attentive to the livestock. Some dogs will roam boundaries and known danger zones of a property, urine marking and ensuring there has been no trespassing predators. We can handle that some dogs are less protective but will instead help lead the herd away from danger whilst more protective dogs make the stand. But what we must have faith in every dog is that it is can be trusted to be alone with the animals it is protecting.
Basic behaviour traits to look for to identify that your dog can be trusted with his livestock
No matter what breed of dog you own, start watching your dog keeping in mind that dogs behave from motor patterns. How does your dog behave in different situations, with different people and with animals? There are many negative behaviour traits that a dog can display and too often these are interpreted incorrectly.
livestock, the trustworthy Maremma will behave submissively. Dog behaviour mostly consists of body language rather than vocal behaviour. Start watching the way your dog behaves when you are walking him and people or other dogs come into view and approach. What do you notice? Does you dog try to make himself look bigger and make a lot of eye contact? Does your dog cower or show other signs of fear?
A well adjusted livestock guardian will approach livestock with squinted eyes, ears laid back against the head, avoiding
direct eye contact and may even go as far as laying down on their back.
They will often be interested
in 'investigating' the livestock. This is observed as the dog licking
the livestock around the mouth, anal area and udder. Livestock that bond back to their guardians accept and even seem to enjoy these greetings. However you should be aware that when introducing your first livestock guardian dog to you livestock, they may react quite aggressively towards the dog as they are likely to have a fear of dogs that overrides their understanding of the signals the dog is giving them to indicate it is not a threat to them.
The dogs in the photos below are all displaying beautiful calm attitudes - notice the goats are as calm with a dog amongst them as the dog is?
This is very different
to the way a predator would approach livestock. The intention of the behaviour is to
put the livestock at ease, showing them that the maremma is no threat.
It often confuses people not used to maremma behaviour to see the way
the maremma interacts with his flock, but the body language is complex
and gives many important messages to the livestock. All good livestock guardians will display this behaviour as do the maremma sheepdogs.
The following 2 videos are not only cute, but in reality they are excellent examples of the trustworthy nature of the maremma.
Obviously the magpie knows and loves this dog well ...
Behaviour traits that should be missing to identify that your dog can be trusted with his livestock
Total lack of 'eyeing' the livestock. This is seen clearly in the sheepdog breeds that are used to round your animals up. Their attentiveness is a very different thing.
Lack of chase behaviour. This is a motor pattern stage that follows on from 'eyeing'. It is worth noting however that chase-play behaviour in pups is often seen, and is most common when the livestock guarding pups are actually bonding well to their herd. This is discussed further in the section on raising pups and correcting undesirable behaviours.
Aggressive behaviour should be quite absent in your dog. Read the section on protectiveness to understand the important difference between the two.
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