Genetic consistency plays a huge part in the working aptitude, tractability, and temperament of these dogs.
You are counting on the genetic footprint of your LGD for him to understand how to do his job. The quality of his character is at least as important. Can you trust him around you or your livestock or your children? Is his behavior consistent and predictable? Is he tractable – is he willing to partner with you? A dog that is difficult to train is a difficult partner.
All the training you do and all the socialization the dog had as a pup cannot undo a sketchy genetic past. It’s like building a house on a pile of marbles.
Many breeders of Maremmas, myself included, have Maremmas because of the need to protect livestock that was otherwise at risk. Having expectations of a working dog is significant enough but the consideration of using that dog as a breeding animal comes with a huge responsibility because these breeding decisions impact the future of the Maremma gene pool for years and years to come.
Not every wonderful working dog should be bred. Breeding dogs should be the best of the best in every respect; there should be no compromise. The dog standing in front of you is the phenotype, but the genotype is why he is what he is. The genotype is the most important piece in the selection of a breeding dog because this is where the likelihood is that the dogs will produce pups with the qualities of the sire or dam, and the previous generations. Breeding dogs produced from generations of productive working dogs helps increase the odds of success with the pups.
For some breeders the production of pups helps to augment their income and strives to offset the cost of supporting the dogs themselves. That’s fine as long as the breeder is also cognizant of that greater responsibility and strives for excellence in his breeding dogs.
It took me several years to create the breeding program I have in place now, and most of the pups I purchased with an eye towards breeding I placed as working dogs instead. I had a vision of what I wanted to see in my breeding dogs and I stuck to it. I bought pups from the most committed breeders I could find. These breeders had the experience necessary to evaluate their breeding dogs, a willingness to select only their best dogs for breeding, and the generosity of spirit to mentor me – Colleen Williams of Stoneybrook Farms and Kristina Lawwill of Peavine Hollow Farms are at the top of that list. I owe them much!!
Our breeding dogs have wonderful conformation. That matters for many reasons. One of them is that correct conformation is important to a dog that physically works hard. Pups produced from parents of this quality have better odds of living lives free of arthritic issues such as hip dysplasia.
The photo above shows a six month old dog. She has a lot going for her, including great hips, but I didn't feel her head met the Maremma breed standard as well as I would have liked so I placed her as a spayed guardian. She's an example of my determination to hold to the goals I had in mind. I am rewarded for this when pups like Bonavento (pictured to the left) are produced here.