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Estrela Mountain Dog
The Estrela Mountain Dog was relatively unknown to the western world before the 1970s though they have been around for centuries tending flocks in the mountains of Portugal. Originally bred to be shepherd companions, this livestock guardian breed still has the natural tendency to be alert and protective but conversely is calm and sedate within the household. They are a lover of children and will be naturally protective, gentle, and nurturing.
The coat of the large Estrela Mountain Dog can be yellow, fawn, or wolf grey and include white markings, brindling, or shading. Both long-haired and short-haired varieties have a thick outer coat which is suitable for either winter or summer conditions. They have rose ears, a black mask, and a distinctive long bushy tail with a hook at the end.
A naturally intelligent and alert breed, an Estrela Mountain Dog will feel their place is to provide protection for the family and nurture the children. They are incredibly loyal and will likely bond with one special person in the family above all others. The Estrela Mountain Dog thrives on human interaction but is not needy. They can be both happily active and relaxed and placid when needed. This breed is ideally suited to a more experienced dog owner with training knowledge though their lovable nature would suit a novice owner willing to go through obedience training with their puppy.
Estrela Mountain Dog Key Information
Height: 24 to 29 inches
Weight: 77 to 132 pounds
Life span: 10 to 14 years
Breed family: Foundation Stock Service
Exercise requirements: Medium
Good with children: Yes
Area of origin: Portugal
Also Known As: Cao da Serra da Estrala, Portuguese Shepherd
The Estrela Mountain dog is one of the oldest dog breeds in Europe and originates from the Estrela Mountains in Portugal. The exact origin of the breed is unknown though there are theories that they were either brought in by Romans or Visigoths. Throughout the centuries, the Estrela Mountain Dog was bred to be a companion dog for shepherds that lived in the mountains of Portugal and as a livestock guardian to protect the flock against thieves and predators.
The breed was developed to be suitable for their environment and the job to be done. As such, Estrela Mountain Dogs have incredible endurance, are agile, and able to live on a relatively meager diet for long periods. Their thick coat is excellent for cold winters but also does well in mild summers. Their temperament of being both watchful but cautious served them well while guarding livestock which is still often their purpose today. The tuft of hair around their neck is a historical trait allowing them to ward off predators much larger than themselves without deathly harm.
The Estrela Mountain Dog was a relatively unknown breed outside of Portugal in the early 1900s and many shepherds used to neuter their males to ensure that they did not wander away from their flock. The first breed standard was set in 1922 and the first official breed standard in 1933 though it took until the 1970s for much of the world to know about this remarkable and loving breed. Today, the Estrela Mountain Dog still earns its place as a working dog, guarding flocks and also used as a Portuguese Police and Marine dog.
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Interaction with Children
A natural nanny, the Estrela Mountain Dog loves nothing more than to nurture any children in the home. This breed is generally wonderful with kids where their calm and gentle temperament will shine. They can be inherently distrustful of strangers and will rarely go to someone they don’t know for affection.
As with any dog breed, but in particular, for larger breeds, small children should always be watched when in the company of a dog and not left alone. This is for the safety of both the child and the dog. The sheer size of an Estrela Mountain Dog may produce unintentional knocks and bumps when playing with very small children; however, there are very few dog breeds that will be more loving and tender and happy to snuggle for hours with your child.
Interaction with other pets
Many people think that a dog needs to have another dog in the house to keep them company; however, an Estrela Mountain Dog will be happy being the only pet in your home and are naturally a bit of a loner. Early and consistent socialization is needed if you intend to bring other pets into the home though it isn’t recommended.
Estrela Mountain Dogs, though large in size, have traditionally needed to survive on a rather meager diet while in the mountains of Portugal. Combined with their moderate exercise routine, this has meant that many owners tend to overfeed this breed unnecessarily whereas, in reality, this breed does not eat a lot for their size. Consider opting for a low protein diet as this breed often does not do well with rich foods. A high-quality dog food, formulated for a large dog with a slower metabolism should do the trick though keep a keen on eye on their weight to allow you to adjust the portion size appropriately.
There have been accounts of this breed ‘self-starving’ and not eating for days at a time, for no apparent reason. Within reason, do not be worried about this behavior as it is a throwback to their mountainous days in Portugal when food was not always in ample supply.
This breed is not known to suffer from food allergies. If you think that your dog may be suffering and shows signs of vomiting, diarrhea, or continuous itching then we recommend that you contact your veterinarian.
Ideally, you will give your Estrela Mountain Dog a good brushing at least once weekly throughout the year to ensure that any debris, knots, and dreads are taken care of. Saying that, they aren’t prone to a lot of matting but do enjoy rolling in mud and dirt (and other less pleasant-smelling things) so your weekly brush might need to be increased according to the landscape they play in. The coat of an Estrela Mountain Dog should be both shiny and smooth, regardless of whether they are a short or long-haired variety. Whatever you do, don’t shave the coat of your Estrela Mountain Dog! Though their coat is thick, it is perfectly suited to either summer or winter conditions, and shaving them may lead to health issues.
Pay particular attention to the area behind their ears where matting happens much more frequently. Clean their ears from debris and wax before they get an ear infection. Twice per year, you will need to deal with a heavy amount of shedding so expect to do at minimum daily brushing but more would do your pet good. This time of year is when a good quality vacuum cleaner will certainly earn its dues. Consider investing in an automatic vacuum if you have tiled or laminate flooring. This breed is known for oral health issues so ensure that you brush their teeth at least weekly and have your vet do a thorough cleaning during routine visits.
Estrela Mountain Dogs are known for their fast-growing nails so you will need to trim them more often than you would other breeds. Their nails are also very strong, so investing in a quality nail grinder will make this job much easier and likely cause less anxiety for your pooch. Long nails are prone to splitting and cracking which can be very sore. The double dewclaws are a breed standard and will need to be trimmed regularly since they will not naturally wear down.
As a general rule if you can hear your dogs nails on the floor then they will likely need a trim. If in doubt about how to trim your dog’s nails your local vet will be able to show you how to do it.
Even though the Estrela Mountain Dog does not require a lot of energy compared to other large dog breeds, they still do need to be consistently exercised beyond being left to their own devices in the back yard. Expect to go on at least a half-hour to one hour walk minimum per day and include plenty of active play into their routine. Estrela Mountain Dogs love kids so get them involved with an extended game of fetch as a daily chore.
An Estrela Mountain Dog is best suited to a confident owner that is experienced in training a dog that requires an assertive, yet gentle, hand. Remember that training is particularly important in the first 12 weeks of a puppy’s life so don’t ignore this critical time. They tend to be a noisy dog and have been bred to bark at the slightest thought of intrusion or danger. Teaching them the ‘quiet’ command from an early age will be a worthy investment of your time.
This dog is inherently independent and stubborn so expect training to be an on-going part of your dog’s exercise and socialization routine. Early and consistent positive reinforcement training is needed which this intelligent breed should respond to well. Socialization is also needed to overcome the natural tendency of this breed to be suspicious of anyone intruding their space and their flock (which is now you and your family). A novice owner will likely do well with this breed as long as they are willing and able to commit to a program of obedience training sessions.
Estrela Mountain Dogs are more suited to a larger house with a yard to run around and patrol for hours on end. This breed has been known to jump to amazing heights in order to escape so ensure that your fence is at least six feet in height. By nature, they tend to roam so ensure that your fence is secure and gates remain locked. We would recommend that you keep your Estrela Mountain Dog on a leash when out for a walk due to their penchant for roaming and independent character.
Estrela Mountain Dogs are not suited to apartment living due to their size and need for physical and mental stimulation. An Estrela Mountain Dog is a working dog used to large, open spaces by nature and will become anxious and destructive if bored for long periods. They also are known to be barkers and very protective of their territory which may not bode well with your neighbors.
Dog Houses / Kennels
Estrela Mountain Dogs are traditionally used to braving the elements outside in the mountains of Portugal so should be fine sleeping in a dog house outside. Ensure that they have sufficient access to clean water, shade and a comfortable place to sleep. Remember that this breed loves being a member of the family so ensure that they are still able to get plenty of social interaction.
Leaving them alone
Estrela Mountain Dogs were bred to be shepherd companions and love human connection. They will be fine left at home for short periods but do tend to be vocal or destructive when bored.
The Estrela Mountain Dog is a generally healthy breed; however, not unlike other large breeds, there are certain conditions that you should know to look out for including hip and elbow dysplasia and dilated cardiomyopathy.
Daily exercise, mental stimulation, and a high-quality diet will greatly extend the lifespan and health of your Estrela Mountain Dog. Ensure that your dog has regular veterinarian check-ups throughout their lifetime which should include extensive oral health care.
Estrela Mountain Dogs are prone to weight gain throughout their life but this will become more noticeable as the breed ages and becomes less energetic. Health conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia, which large dogs are prone to develop, can be compounded by added weight so it is very important to keep this in check. Consider amending their diet to a dog food specifically formulated for a senior large breed dogs.
This breed is quite hardy and not prone to allergies.
The Estrela Mountain Dog might be large and designed to be a working dog in the peaks of Portugal; however, this big ball of fluff will instantly melt hearts and be the best companion your family could ask for. Though they are avid protectors of the children in their flock, expect your Estrela Mountain Dog to bond with one special person in your family and see them as the dominant leader. A firm and compassionate hand will be needed for training, especially in the early years, but in exchange, you will receive more lickable kisses and furry cuddles than could ever imagine.
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