*** I am a Maremma Sheepdog Club Code of Ethics Breeder***
There are currently only four breeders in the Maremma Sheepdog Club of America that have signed this pledge. We adhere to a high standard with our breeding dogs. All are registered Maremmas who excel as working guardian dogs. Their conformation is as close to the breed standard as possible and their temperament is solid and trustworthy. Our breeding dogs are OFA or PennHIP certified. Here at Benson Ranch we certify hips, elbows, and eyes.
I only place my puppies in pairs unless the buyer already has an LGD.
The pups will be at least eight weeks old before they leave here, will be microchipped, de-wormed, and will have had their first vaccination and a health exam by my veterinarian. They will be well socialized with people and livestock and familiar with a leash and collar. Any shipping costs are the responsibility of the new owner. Transportation to the Portland airport can be provided for a fee. This is a five hour drive from the ranch; the pups ship as cargo. If you fly into the Medford airport, which is 15 minutes from the ranch, the pups can fly directly with you as companion animals. This is certainly the preferred way to transport the pups. You are also most welcome to pick up your pups directly from the ranch.
Health Testing Rebate
We believe that health testing is critical to the betterment of the Maremma breed. All of our breeding dogs have had their appropriate health testing as per the Code of Ethics, in addition to having their elbows and eyes certified by OFA. As of this writing it is estimated that only 5% of the registered Maremmas in this country have had hip testing done, as a minimum. I think this is a shame. I hope to change these numbers through my participation in the Maremma Club of America and as a breeder. I would love to see as many of the pups produced here as possible have health testing done. This would be good for the breed, since the information gained by testing goes into a data base about the breed, and it would help me to evaluate the quality of the pups we produce. We have excellent breeding dogs – only time and health testing will show me the quality of the pups they will produce. I care very much about this. To encourage the buyers of my pups to have them health tested I am offering a cash rebate for that testing, as follows:
$100 cash rebate for PennHIP testing
$50 cash rebate for mature OFA testing of hips
These rebates apply to any pup produced here of any age, as per PennHIP and OFA guidelines, regardless of whether the pup is to be used for breeding or not. Only one rebate per dog will be given, and a copy of the actual certificate, including the score, must be provided to me. This information is for my edification only. The name of the dog and/or name of the owner will not be disclosed to others. Permission for the scores to be used by PennHIP or OFA must be released to OFA and PennHIP for use in their statistical data base as pertains to the breed.
***Working Homes Only***
Maremmas were bred to guard livestock. They know this and begin to show guardian behaviors at as early as three weeks of age. They guard whatever animal lives within their perimeter, which is defined for them by the fence line. The livestock serves as an anchor. A content Maremma is unlikely to dig under a fence or try to climb over it, in part because to do so would be to neglect his livestock. Maremmas work best as pairs. If they have each other to play with and trade off guardian duties with they have rich and satisfying lives. This is especially true if they are spayed or neutered.
There is a window of opportunity to encourage your pup’s natural guardian tendencies; taking advantage of this is critical to his success and is the responsibility of the owner. For instance, if you take your new and oh so cute puppy home and raise him in the house, and then put him in the pasture when he becomes a large not quite a house pet dog this dog will be very unhappy. He will not bond with the livestock. He may dig under fences, climb out of fences and wander the neighborhood, and he may bark incessantly. If you took this same new puppy home and raised him in the area you want him to guard ultimately, spent time with him and snuggled with him in this environment, and let him live with or at least be near livestock that will not hurt him he will mature into a content and productive guardian. Maremmas are a big investment, both in time spent with them and financially. It makes good sense to take the time to raise them appropriately. If you do this they will more than earn their keep!
I strongly believe that Maremmas work best in pairs. They have each other for companionship, they coordinate their guardian duties so that their livestock are never left alone, and they are much more likely to survive an encounter with a predator. Many people want only one dog and don’t look forward to the greater responsibility and expense of having two. I know that I didn’t, early on. But as I learned more about the breed that changed. As I write this we have sixteen Maremmas here working in pairs. They are all happy and productive. When the sun goes down they get up and go to work, and it is fascinating to watch them coordinate with each other in the different fields. If one pair of dogs sees something that really concerns them the way they bark sets off all the other dogs, who will run to the closest point and bark ferociously as well. I can shine a spotlight from the house and easily see where the problem is. I feed a lot of dog food! And I don’t mind a bit. People around me have mountain lion losses, and we used to; now we don’t even find tracks. This is not an easy place for a predator to find a meal.
When you bring your new pup home
Puppies bond best with mammals. They can learn to guard chickens, turkeys, etc., as more mature dogs, but I think having a warm fuzzy mammal to sleep with and be near as a pup fosters the bonding process that is so important. Raising puppies is all about building their confidence and creating an early environment that they can be successful in. As an example, if you took two eight to twelve week old pups home and put them in with the chickens they are likely to play with them, which is very bad! These behaviors are difficult to change once they are established. In this case the fault lies with the owner and not the pups, because the living situation was inappropriate for their age. If you give young puppies a couple of steady and friendly sheep or goats to live with these same pups are much more likely to be successful. Here at the ranch I keep sheep for specifically this job. You can’t put young pups in with large livestock without running the risk of the pups becoming hurt or scared. Even if you ultimately aren’t interested in owning sheep or goats I think they are a wise investment for raising puppies in the short term.
Upon arrival your new pups may be frightened by their changed circumstance. They will appreciate a place in the barn that is warm and dry and all their own. This will be similar to how they lived with me here at the ranch. My puppies are raised across the fence from my sheep, the mini cows, and mini donkeys, from the time they are about three weeks old. By the time they are six weeks old they are spending increasing amounts of time directly in with the sheep. This is all done with my close supervision. I want to encourage the pups to like and trust the sheep while being sure they aren’t hurt or overwhelmed, so the age of the pups and timing varies with every litter. Maremmas love straw for bedding; that is what the pups are used to here. When you take your new pups home place them directly in the barn in an area near the livestock but not in with them. Do this until the pups appear confident in this new environment and become inquisitive. At this point you can begin to introduce them to the small livestock directly, with your supervision, and increase that contact over time as your pups let you know they are ready for more. If the two pups together show interest in play behavior with the sheep introduce them one at a time. If needed, I use a 20′-30′ piece of parachute cord attached to the collar. That will allow me to bump the pup and distract him if I need to without having to yell at him or chase him, both of which won’t work, by the way. I am happy to answer endless questions so please don’t hesitate to contact me. I will do everything I can to ensure that you are happy with your pups and that they have the wonderful lives they deserve.
If you would like to be considered for a Benson Ranch pup please let me know. I will send you a Puppy Questionnaire, which will help me understand your needs and expectations, and I am happy to talk with you on the phone.