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Estrela Mountain Dog Profile

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The Estrela Mountain Dog, also known as the Portuguese Shepherd or Cao da Serra da Estrela, is one of the oldest breeds of Portuguese origin. It is named for the Estrela Mountain range (‘Mountain Range of the Star’), the highest mountain range in Portugal, from which it originates. The Estrela Mountain Dog descends from indigenous sheep guarding dogs crossed with breeds that arrived with the colonizing Romans in 200 B.C., or later with the invading Visigoths in 700 A.D. The resulting breed had the traits required to provide protection in a rugged mountain environment, including bulk, strength, stamina, low food requirements, a thick coat, and a suspicious temperament. Due to the isolated nature of the Estrela Mountains, the Estrela Mountain Dog remained unchanged for many centuries. It was mostly unknown outside of its native region until the early 1900’s, when the first attempts at registering the breed were made. The first standards for the Estrela Mountain Dog were written in 1922 and 1933, but its numbers remained low because most owners weren’t interested in show standards, and many working dogs were castrated to prevent them from straying from the flock to mate. The Estrela Mountain Dog’s numbers didn’t increase until the Portuguese revolution of 1974, which made show dogs available to the middle class. Successful Estrela Mountain Dog breeding lines have now been established in America, England, and other countries. Today, the Estrela Mountain Dog is a popular guard dog and police dog in Portugal and a moderately popular pet worldwide. PLEASE NOTE: This breed has been accepted for recording in the AKC Foundation Stock Service (FSS). This is simply an avenue to maintain reputable records regarding the breed’s development. This breed is not eligible for AKC (American Kennel Club) registration.


The Estrela Mountain Dog has a shoulder height of 24-28 in (62-72 cm) and weighs 60-110 lbs (30-50 kg). It is a large breed with a deep chest. The Estrela Mountain Dog has a breed characteristic hook at the end of the tail and distinctive turned-back ears.


The Estrela Mountain Dog has a thick coat which may be long-haired or short-haired. Both have a dense undercoat and are harsh, almost the texture of goat hair. The Estrela Mountain Dog has a tuft of hair on the neck. Allowable colors are brindle, fawn, wolf-grey, or yellow, with possible white markings. All have a black mask.


The Estrela Mountain Dog is watchful, intelligent and eager to learn, but can be stubborn. It makes an excellent family pet because of its alertness, loyalty, intelligence, and instinct to nurture young, all features it needed in its earliest days. The Estrela Mountain Dog will bark when suspicious. It makes an excellent guard dog, but also loves to curl up. Due to its large size and dominant nature, the Estrela Mountain Dog may not be suitable for first time owners.


The Estrela Mountain Dog regards strangers with suspicion, but it will not become aggressive unless it believes its family to be under attack. It gets along very well with children, but should be supervised around young children as it tends to play rough. Estrela Mountain Dogs get along with cats and other pets, especially if socialized when young. They may be dominant with other dogs, but enjoy the company of other Estrela Mountain Dogs once they have established a pack order.


The Estrela Mountain Dog requires only weekly grooming with a brush, particularly behind the ears. Estrela Mountain Dogs are well suited to cold weather, but can live in hot climates if shelter is provided. They tend to be picky eaters and require a lot of water. The Estrela Mountain Dog has a lifespan of 12-16 years. It is a healthy breed, but like many large dogs is susceptible to hip and elbow dysplasia (malformed joints which can cause lameness or arthritis).


The Estrela Mountain Dog does not respond well in training if it gets bored or feels pressured. It has a strong independent streak. Socialization and early obedience training are recommended.


The Estrela Mountain Dog requires a moderate amount of exercise and needs plenty of space, both inside and out. It is not an ideal apartment dog. The Estrela Mountain Dog requires a fenced-in yard and should be walked on leash as it tends to wander.