All About the
Estrela Mountain Dog
The Estrela Mountin Dog or Cao Da Serra Da Estrela, as the breed is know in its native Portugal, is a guardian breed which originates from the Estrela Mountain region in the North of the country. The breed is old and is thought to have evolved from the Mastiff dogs the Romans took with them into the Iberian Peninsula, this theory can not be proved or disproved, it is however safe to say that the breed is very old.
The development of the breed was in the hands of the local farmers who highly prized the dogs' guarding ability. As the sheep and goats were often the sole source of livelihood for the farmer, only the dogs who excelled in guarding were kept and bred from, this meant that the breed could be quite formidable and not to be taken lightly.
As transportation in the mountain region was difficult, the breed was kept fairly pure by the use of only dogs that occurred locally. The breed has developed over hundreds of years and is still a good guard dog as well as a family pet to this day. The Estrela had to be capable of dealing with a full grown wolf and so it developed into a strong and powerful dog who is supple and agile, and should show no signs of being cumbersome and slow, the breed has a fair turn of speed.
They are also capable of clambering over very tough terrain. In the times before the wolf was wiped out, the dogs often wore heavy spiked collars to protect them against attacks.
We hope this page has given you an insite into this lovely breed, and in the future if you are looking for a new breed that you consider the Estrela Mountain Dog.
Estrelas as Pets
As a breed they are wonderful with children, many believe that an Estrela bitch would protect a baby with its life, which makes them the perfect guarding and companion dog. Estrelas love human contact but they are not a demanding breed and will adapt to your household quite happily and fit in with you. The guard instinct is strong and so the breed can be noisy. This may be considered a draw back, however can be managed/controlled.
Being an agile breed it does require good high fencing to keep them in, but we have found that if they have never gotten out then they do not try, but once they have done it once, it's likely they will do this again and again given the chance.
An Estrela pup grows relitivly quickly and so they do not cost a lot to rear, if it is done properly.
As an adult they do not eat a huge amount, and in fact getting weight on them is often a problem. The breed seem to do well on a low protein diet and they do not tolerate very rich food well. You may find that they 'self starve', as in the mountains they may not be fed regulary and as they have developed as a breed, this has stayed with them. You will often find an Estrela won't eat for a few days and then all of a sudden will again.
Training should start as soon as you get your new puppy home, start as you mean to go on and you will have a great relationship for many happy years. The average lifespan is about 10 years and even up to 14 years old which is a good one for the larger breeds.
Frequently Asked Questions
Wow, isn't your dog big?
No, the Estrela isn't a huge dog, it gives the illusion of size, but all of of this can be due to their coat. As an agile breed still, they should not be overly heavy.
You could do with a saddle to ride that dog?
Don't be silly, you should never sit on a dog, you'd break its back!
Bet he/she eats a lot?!
No, the Estrela for its size is not a big eater, they don't cost a lot to rear as puppies, if done in the correct manner. As adults they on a whole are not a greedy dog (there are exceptions of course). The breed does much better on a low protein diet so expensive high protein foord aren't as a rule, for them.
I bet their coat is a problem and takes allot of maintenance?
No, if the dog has the correct coat texture (it should resemble goat hair), then the coat is very easy to live with. A rake comb to get to the skin and a slicker brush are essential grooming tools. A good brush weekly and a thorough grooming every couple of weeks should be enough to keep a pet Estrela in good condition. This does however depend on where the dog lives and how it is exercised. Obviously dogs that are shown need more intensivly grooming and/or bathing on a relitively regular basis.
You must have a hugehouse to keep one of these!?
No, the Estlrea doesn't take up loads of room, it is amazing what a small space an Estrela will get into. A decent garden is ideal along with daily walks.
Do I need a big garden to have one?
No, not necessarily, as long as you are willing to take the dog for decent, regular exercise then acres of space at home is not essential. An Estrela will be happy, as an adult with walks from 40 minutes plus daily.
Do I need good fencing to keep one in?
Most definitely yes, the breed is very capable of jumping to quite dizzying heights. If they have good fencing from day one and your pup has never gotten out of your garden, they they don't seem to want to try. 6ft is considered good height for the breed. Although there are plenty of the breed that are confined within much lower fences than that.
Bet he is quick?
Yes, you'd had better believe it!! An Estrela at full speed is a spectacular sight!
Can you let them off the lead?
Of course you can, you can let any dog off the lead. What you really mean is, is the breed good off lead and are they easy to get back? On the whole the breed is not known for its obedience off lead, they have a very independent character and will roam if given the chance. It depends very much on the dogs individual personality, you may find that males are less likely to be able to be let off lead.
Can you train them?
Yes, the breed is trainable, but they will never give you slavish devotion like a Border Collie for example. You will get back what you are prepared to put into training your Estrela. The breed has a strong stubborn streak, a very good sense of humour is a must when training the Estrela. There have a been a few Estrela's who have worked to high standards in obedience, agility and a few have been used as rescue dogs, working trials and scent trials.
Do they mix with other dogs/animals?
An Estrela is is no different to any other breed of dog, they accept as the norm the things they have grown up with and are comfortable with. It is essential that from a young age your pup is introduced to as many different sights, sounds and smells as possible in a positive way so that they will grow into a well rounded adult, who is accepting of things it will encounter in every day life. Care must be taken that all its encounters with adult dogs are good ones, so it doesnt see other dogs as the enemy. Every dog will develop their own personality, and some may decide for themselves which dogs they do like and don't like.
Are they noisy?
Yes, they do have a tendency to like the sound of their own voices. It has to be understood that they are a guarding breed, so they do tend to let you know if there is someone around, even if it's half way down your street and you're not interested in knowing.
If left for long periods of time, they can get very bored and become a serious noise pollution problem.
Is the breed good with children?
Yes, they instinctivly love children, the breed seem to be drawn to kids. In their native Portugal they are known as the guardians of the child. They will protect who they consider to be their own children, an Estrela bitch would attack to protect 'it's' child. This said, not matter how good any dog is with children, no matter the breed, no dog should EVER be left alone with a child.
Bet he needs loads of exercise?
As an adult, I doubt you'd ever wear one out. The breed is designed to work all day at a steady pace. As pups you must be very careful how you exercise, you need to be aware of young joints and rapid growth, two elements which if not treated properly can lead to problems when adult. Advice from the breeder is probably your best course of action. Usually 5 minutes for every month old they are is advised.
Do they slobber?
No, unlike allot of bigger breeds, the Estrela is not a slobbery dog. As they have quite tight lips, you will not usually get a full scale bath of drool from one.