Updated: Nov 14, 2021
I truly feel that most of the success of LGD management involves management of the environment the dogs live in, in a variety of ways. One of the key factors in managing Maremmas is safety, for the livestock they live with, certainly, but also for the dogs themselves. An LGD that does not stay home is not safe.
LGDs that wander are often shot, or hit by cars. They can simply get disoriented and lost, and then are unable to return home. Dogs that climb over fences, or dig under fences, drive their owners crazy! Once learned, these behaviors are nearly impossible to train past. Typically, dogs that do these behaviors are viewed as "bad" LGDs. What is actually true is that a good LGD is a problem solver. The dog in the photo above is a fourteen month old pup. So, right on target for adolescent behavior is challenging everything, just like human teenagers do. In the photo, the dog is not challenging anything - he is doing his job, which involves ridding the field of squirrels and squirrel holes, which are dangerous to my livestock. The dog has his nose in a squirrel hole. The squirrel started outside the fence and tunneled into the field. In digging into the tunnel in search of the squirrel the dog can easily find himself digging out of the field, all in innocence; not a bad dog, a problem solving dog. But once outside the fence a grand adventure would be had. The dog would remember that, and remember how he made the adventure happen. Dogs are not "disobedient', in my opinion. They do what is immediately reinforcing to them. So, if a dog learns that there is more adventure to be had outside the field than there is inside the field, why would he pass up that opportunity?! This is particularly true for single dogs because their social needs are not being met. They often go looking for a dog, any dog, some sort of dog, because they are lonely or playful.
I am often asked how high a Maremma fence needs to be. For me, that really isn't the issue, or at least not the whole issue. In the photos below you'll see several issues that deserve great consideration that are often overlooked in the "how high" question. What also needs to be considered is what kind of livestock the fencing is to be used for. A fence needs to be tall enough that the livestock can't reach over it in an effort to eat what is on the other side, because this creates a damaged fence that an LGD is more likely to consider jumping or climbing.