Updated: Nov 25, 2021
Biddability is about a dog’s willingness to be directed, particularly to be directed to do something in which the dog sees no personal value. I hear my mother’s words in my head when I read this: “Do it because I said so!”
Many companion dog breeds have been selectively bred to have a high degree of biddability; Border Collies are a great example of this. They have the strong, instinctive drive to do their job, as livestock guardian breeds do, but they are also quick to look for direction from their handler. “You say so? OK, good enough for me!” Maremmas, on [EA1] the other hand, generally don’t feel the need to look to a human for instruction about how to do their job. Many owners of LGDs are frustrated by this truth – I see it as a strength! The complexity of how an LGD understands his job and his ability to make management decisions at 4:00 am when I am comfortably sound asleep are wonderful traits. But are there trade-offs? Maybe. Does this mean you can’t teach a Maremma to respond to cues? No, certainly not, but your requests of the dog must be reasonable to the dog – realistic expectations of the dog, with his inherent degree of genetic biddability kept in mind.
Biddability is not the same thing as a dog being willing to do something he enjoys. Rather, it is his willingness to stop doing something he is happily doing and do something else instead, just because you asked him to. Again, let’s go back to the Border Collie/LGD example. A well-trained Border Collie, chasing sheep at top speed, can easily be redirected by a skillful handler; the same cannot be said about most LGDs! Is that a “fault” of the LGD? Not a chance.
I have found Maremmas to be sensitive, easily trained dogs. However, much of that successful training comes from managing the environment the Maremma works in to create a likelihood that he will give me the behavior I am looking for. I can pretty much promise you that ordering an LGD to do something or not to do something will result in you largely being ignored. LGDs are willing, working partners with their humans if the human’s expectations are reasonable to them, but they are not ac