There is one school of thought that says you should not form a relationship with your Livestock Guardians. If they bond with people they won’t bond with their flock. To that I say, Hogwash!
We have a strong and wonderful relationship with our dogs, they love us, respect us, and protect everything we give to them; horses, sheep, chickens, turkeys, puppies, and occasionally small children.
Although they greet us each time we enter the pasture they do not follow us through our chores. They say a quick hello then jog off to continue their duties. They keep an eye on us, and come check on us while we are working but they don’t follow us like a Labrador would.
Most days they are more interested in their sheep, except for Al, who guards sheep but adores chickens and “his” little girl.
Mia insists on counting every nose and greeting every new lamb. She’s so good with the ewes they don’t even mind her checking out their newborns.
People ask all the time if I teach them to guard? No. That is all instinct. The guarding, the perimeter patrols, the affection they show their flocks, that’s all good genetics. I teach them to come when called, and walk on a leash, and to leave things that are not appropriate for them to mess with.
Our Maremmas spend about 98% of their time in the pasture. I don’t bring them in the house. Ever. But I do kennel them occasionally and feed them inside the barn so it’s less stressful for them when I need to contain them and when they have to go to the vet.
Maremmas really are happiest outside, regardless of the weather, they can’t guard if they can’t see so they prefer to be out where they can watch all around them. Even at 8 weeks of age their coats are plenty warm for most weather conditions as long as they have some hay or straw to snuggle down into.
Even though these are independent hard working dogs they are still very much a part of the team. I don’t know how I could ever work without them.