Working Dogs Need Jobs - And Mine Didn't Have One

Working class dogs need jobs. They were bred for working – meaning it is in their genetics to have specific qualities or traits.

For instance, a Border Collie was developed to gather and control sheep in the hilly border country between Scotland and England. They’re known for their intense stare, or “eye,” with which they control their flock. They’re dogs with unlimited energy, stamina, and working drive, all of which make them herding dog. They also nip, run in circles, jump up on things if they had a job, it would be sheep or cattle.

Fortunately for me Maremma’s do not have that kind of energy. As I mentioned previously, I am a slow mover in the mornings. They do however have other traits that I am going to explain.

Maremma’s are an ancient breed of livestock guarding dog, bred in Italy for centuries to guard large flocks of sheep on the plains and in the mountains. They originally lived day and night with their flock. They were bred to take responsibility for keeping the flock safe from predators, primarily wolves.

Their favorite past times includes staring out into the distance, barking, staring out in distance observing, barking, and staring out into the distance some more looking for changes in the landscape.

They are extremely affectionate dogs and can be very physical about it.  The dogs lean on you, body block you, paw you; and some even want to hug you or nibble you affectionately.  They love children, babies, and baby animals. This is part of their genetic makeup – live with the flock protect the babies. This means that they make up their own minds, and decide for themselves, how best to deal with a potentially dangerous situation that could endanger those babies.

For example, if you decided to live with a Maremma they are likely to think a delivery person is stealing from you. They may think a contractor with a tool in their hand plans to attack you or your property; or they may think that a contractor at a neighbor’s property is a robber, or someone that is going to attack them. These dogs spend hours upon hours surveying everything around them. If there are any changes in that scenery and the alerting starts.

When I brought Denali into our home, I did not understand exactly how strong this drive would be and it didn’t take long for her to find appropriate windows in house to be able to watch everything outside. Including our neighbors’ and their children.

In the mornings she kept going to couch and looking out the front window of the house at the same exact time every morning. She was watching the little girl across the street wait for the school bus. I thought that it seemed harmless enough the first time and seemed like she liked watching the little girl. While the little girl was out there, she could see the giant white fluffy dog in the window and the little girl would wave at her and smile, Denali would wag her big giant tail. Then the school bus would come down the street. I would have thought after the snowplow incident that she would bark at the bus when it came down the street. But she didn’t. Instead, it was when the bus pulled away. Denali would lose her mind. The child disappeared. She would frantically bark, paw at the windows, the curtains, and run all over the furniture. She was panic stricken and then would eventually fall over on the couch and be depressed for hours.

This was happening every day that there was school and every day she couldn’t understand – it was like the movie Groundhog Day for her, repeating over and over again. But it was also causing other issues, because in her mind everyday the bus was stealing/eating the child, at least that is how she acted.

Because she didn’t have a job every day she was failing a job that she assigned to herself. She was depressed, she would act out, she was jumping on people, knocking me down, became a paper eater – she was actively seeking out paper in the house to chew and shred. I know you are thinking it’s just paper, but it was anything that was like paper – books, homework, toilet paper, drywall, wallpaper.  She ate our daughters senior project which is a requirement to graduate in state of Pennsylvania. Telling the school board, we need longer deadline because our livestock guarding dog was having a mental breakdown wasn’t cutting it. I tried seeing if our vet could give advice but when we met them for the first time, and they said “are you sure this breed is called a Maremma Sheepdog?” because I have never heard of such a dog. I knew they were not going to be much help.

At this point I really started to research. I joined Facebook pages, reached out to people that owned livestock guardian dogs and finally someone pointed me in the direction of the Maremma Sheepdog Club of America. They were life savers, and I learned a lot from the people that belong to this club. But no matter how much I learned Denali still needed a job and in suburbs on a .25 acres goats and sheep were not in our future. And if you remember from my last post, she is a chicken killer – backyard chickens were also not an option.

While all of this was going on our 17-year-old daughter had been secretly begging me for a puppy for months. She was working at a doggy day care and working for a trainer. She wanted her own dog to train and take with her everywhere that she went. Now please remember in my last post I promised my husband that we had enough pets right now and due to the fact that Denali was being a handful at the time he was not going to be open to a puppy. Let alone a tiny baby puppy.

But my mind started to think maybe if Denali had a little one to watch, and take care of, it would give her a job. You must understand I was and still am in love with Denali. Not only do we share the love of powdered donuts. But I needed her, and she needed me. I needed her to find a purpose that wasn’t self-assigned that she was failing at. It was breaking my heart that she was happy to be in a house, and to be loved but also unhappy because she couldn’t help herself from her own instincts. So, I made the decision that Denali was getting job and that job just so happened to be a puppy for our daughter.

I waited till the time was right and my husband was busy working on the computer and I just said” Hey Drew wants a puppy to train at her job.” He said something like “that would be a good thing for her to do”. Still to this day I don’t think that it registered with him what I said. Or maybe he was just saying things to appease me and thought that I would just let it go. But about a week later this happened.

 

It was a match made in heaven. She was in love. And he was the cutest little thing I had ever seen.

 

Now this didn’t solve all our problems, but it solved 1/2 of them. We still had much learning to do about raising a 13-month-old livestock guardian dog and a baby German Shepherd. There are many tales to tell and how we ended up with a Coffee Company.


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