Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Estrela Mountain Dog
Average Cost to keep/care for a Estrela Mountain Dog
Breed Specific Buying Advice
The Estrela Mountain Dog is a large, attractive and noble dog that hails from Portugal where they were bred to herd and guard livestock and the homes of their owners in the Estrela Mountain regions of the land. They are known for their courage, their loyalty and their intelligence as well as their kind, affectionate natures which is why they have always been so highly prized in their native Portugal
The breed is lesser known breeds in the UK although they are finding a fanbase and as such, their numbers are slowly rising with more puppies being registered with the Kennel Club, as such anyone wanting to share a home with an Estrela Mountain Dog would need to register their interest with breeders first bearing in mind that waiting lists can be long.
The Estrela Mountain Dog is the descendant of an ancient breed that was specifically bred to guard flocks of sheep in Portugal’s Serra da Estrela mountain range. However, there are no written records of the breed which has led to many debates on whether these dogs first taken to Portugal by the Romans when they invaded the Iberian Peninsula or whether it was the Visigoths who bought the dogs with them much later on. The only thing that everyone agrees on is that the breed is one of the oldest in Portugal.
They are known as the “Cao Da Serra Da Estrela in Portugal where over hundreds of years, the Estrela was developed by shepherds to become the dogs we see today. They did so by crossing particular guarding and herding dogs with an end goal being to produce a dog capable of fulfilling their specific needs and one that would be able to work in a specific environment. The characteristics needed included strength, size, agility and stamina combined with the ability to survive on little food in some of the most challenging situations and climates. The result of their endeavours was a dog capable of withstanding even the harshest of conditions thanks to their thick, dense double coat and one that was able to keep working for long periods of time. These dogs also boasted a distrusting nature which when all added up made them excellent guard dogs.
The region of Portugal where these dogs first appeared is isolated which meant the purity of the Estrela Mountain Dog was not interfered with by man and because these dogs were relatively unknown outside of their native Portugal right up to the 19th century, they are very much one of the purest breeds on the planet. However, because many of the male dogs were castrated in order to prevent them from wandering off, at one point in time, their numbers dropped dangerously low, so low the breed was at risk of vanishing off the face of the earth forever.
Attempts were made to establish a breed standard in 1922, but this was revised 11 years later and a standard was finally agreed. However, there are no records of any of these dogs existing outside of Portugal until 1972, and none of them were taken over to America until 1998. Today, the Estrela has a small number of dedicated breed enthusiasts here in the UK, but these proud and noble dogs still remain relatively unknown. As such anyone wishing to share their home with such a large and impressive dog would have to register their interest with a breeder and agree to be put on a waiting list.
Height at the withers: Males 63 - 75 cm, Females 60 - 71 cm
Average weight: Males 45 - 60 kg, Females 35 - 45 kg
The Estrela is a powerful, yet athletic looking dog that boasts a very distinctive coat. There are two coat variations, both of which have the texture of goat hair. When a dog has a long coat, the hair can either be slightly wavy or straight, but never curly. Dogs have thick undercoats which is typically lighter in colour than a dog's topcoat. They have long, broad and powerful looking heads which are slightly domed and dogs have a moderate stop found halfway between their nose and the back of their heads. Their muzzles taper a little, but its topline is virtually level with dogs boasting a slightly aquiline appearance to it. Noses are large and black in colour with nicely opened nostrils.
The Estrela has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Their eyes are oval shaped, amber or darker in colour and moderately large with dogs boasting an intelligent calm expression which is enhanced by their prominent eyebrows. Ears are quite small in relation to the rest of a dog's body, they are triangular in shape and quite thin to the touch, but nicely rounded at the tips. Their ears are set quite high which dogs carry close to their heads.
Necks are short and well-muscled with dogs having a thick ruff of hair under their throats. Their front legs are well-muscled, strong and straight with lots of round bone. Chests are moderately broad and deep with dogs having relatively short backs which are higher at the wither. They have well-muscled loins and a slightly sloping croup. Their ribs are well sprung with dogs having a slight tuck up to their belly. Their back legs are strong, powerful with well-muscled thighs. Feet are oval shaped with dogs having thick, pads and tight closed toes with plenty of hair between their pads. Nails should be as dark as possible, but preferably black. Their tails are set quite low and they are well feathered forming a hook at the tip. Dogs carry their tail low when relaxed, but they raise it when excited or alert.
When it comes to their coat, there are two varieties with some dogs having long coats whereas others have short ones. Whether long or short, the Estrela boasts having a double coat that consists of a harsher topcoat and a much softer, denser undercoat. Long coated dogs have lots of thick, smooth hair around their neck and on their chest, which forms their distinctive ruff with this being more prominent in males than their female counterparts. Their front legs and thighs as well as their back pasterns and tails are well feathered. Accepted breed colours for Kennel Club registration are as follows:
It is worth noting that the accepted breed colours for Kennel Club registration can differ from those set out in the breed standard which are as follows:
When an Estrela Mountain Dog moves, they do with a powerful, easy and free moving gait covering a lot of ground when they do. They can show a remarkable turn of speed when they need to and tend to carry their heads level with their toplines when they do.
The Kennel Club frowns on any exaggerations or departures from the breed standard and would judge the faults on how much they affect a dog's overall health and wellbeing as well as their ability to perform.
Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums and it is worth noting that a dog can be a little lighter or heavier as well as slightly taller or shorter than set out in the Kennel Club breed standard which is only given as a guideline.
The Estrela Mountain Dog may be an imposing character, but they are gentle giants when they are in a home environment. They have a lot of energy and like nothing more than to be kept busy. Because they are so intelligent, they also need to be given lots of mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-balanced dogs which in short means they do well in a home environment where the families like to spend as much time in the great outdoors with a canine companion at their side.
They are known to be a little vocal and will soon let an owner know when they are unhappy about something or when there are strangers about. They have a strong instinct to protect their families and their property which means they make good watch dogs. They tend to be rather wary and aloof when they first meet people but would rarely show any sort of aggression towards a stranger other than barking at them, preferring to just keep their distance until they get to know someone. With this said, the Estrela is known to like the sound of their own voices and will bark just for the sake of it when the mood takes them.
They are also known to have a bit of a stubborn streak and even when well socialised from a young age, an Estrela is often unhappy when they are find themselves in new situations or around new people. With this said, the more they are socialised, the easier it is for a dog to accept new things. They are independent thinkers by nature and as such their training has to start early and it has to be consistent throughout their lives so these large dogs understand what is expected of them.
Estrela Mountain Dogs need to know their place in the pack and who to look to for direction and guidance for them to be truly well-rounded, obedient dogs. As such they are not the best choice for first time owners because they need to be trained and handled by someone who is familiar with the needs of such a large and intelligent dog.
Most Estrelas are good around other animals providing they don’t see them as being a threat. With this said, an Estrela would think nothing of chasing off a neighbour’s cat if they dared venture into a garden. However, care should always be taken as to where and when an Estrela Mountain Dog can run off the lead just to be on the safe side.
Estrelas have a playful side to their natures and love to entertain and be entertained more especially when young, although playtime tends to be a bit boisterous. They love playing interactive games and are known to enjoy taking part in working trials.
Although a large breed, Estrelas do not take up a lot of room in a home. However, they are better suited to households with secure, well-fenced secure back gardens that a dog can roam in whenever possible to really let off steam.
Estrelas thrive on human contact which is why they make such wonderful companions and family pets and providing they are not left to their own devices for too long, they do not generally suffer from separation anxiety. However, like all dogs when left for extended periods of time, all dogs could develop unwanted and destructive behaviours around the home which includes barking incessantly to get some attention.
Some Estrelas are known to like the sound of their own voices which means they can be quite noisy when the mood takes them. With this said, if puppies are gently taught not to bark just for the sake of it, they generally grow up to be quieter dogs by nature and will only bark when necessary or when they are not happy about something that is going on in their environment.
Most Estrelas love swimming and will take to the water whenever they can more especially when the weather is hot. However, if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said, care should always be taken when walking an Estrela off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing because they cannot get out of the water on their own.
Estrelas are natural watchdogs and would protect and guard their owners and property without a second thought. They would stand their ground and not let anyone passed them until they are satisfied that everything is alright.
Estrela Mountain Dogs are intelligent and quick to pick up on new things which in short means that in the right hands and in the right sort of environment, they are easy to train. With this said, early socialisation is essential with such large dogs and their training has to start as early as possible. It also has to be consistent and always fair so these dogs understand their place in the pack and who is alpha dog in a household. It's worth noting that Estrelas will learn the "basics" very quickly, but they are not the sort of dog that enjoys retrieving toys, balls or any other object because it is just not in their nature to do so.
Although large, the Estrela is a sensitive character by nature and as such they should never be corrected harshly or trained in any sort of heavy handed way because this would achieve a negative response. They do answer very well to positive reinforcement which brings the best out of these intelligent and loyal dogs.
Like all puppies, Estrelas are incredibly cute when young and it is all too easy to spoil them when they first arrive in new homes. As soon as a puppy is nicely settled owners must start out as they mean to go on by laying down ground rules and boundaries so that a puppy understands what is expected of them. It helps establish a pecking order and who the alpha dog is in the household. The first commands a puppy should be taught are as follows:
Estrela Mountain Dogs are gentle, placid characters by nature and they love being in a family environment. As such they do make great family pets and if anything they have a real affinity with children. However, because of their larger than life size, it's always a good idea to keep a close eye on any interaction between the kids and an Estrela to make sure playtime does not get too boisterous which could well end up with someone getting frightened or hurt albeit by accident.
If an Estrela has grown up with a family cat in the house they generally get on well together, but they would think nothing of chasing a neighbour's cat if it dared to get too close to them. However, care has to be taken when one of these large dogs meets another dog they don't know, even when they have been well socialised from a young age. It would not be a very good idea to trust an Estrela with small pets and animals, as such any contact is best avoided.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of an Estrela Mountain Dog is between 10 and 12 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the Estrela Mountain Dog is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these large and impressive looking dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
Estrela Mountain Dog puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old.
Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said, many breeds are different, and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered.
Like other breeds, some Estrelas gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight, it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older dogs too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart which could prove fatal.
Estrelas are prone to suffering from skin allergies and hot spots which means it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:
All responsible Estrela Mountain Dog breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following schemes:
Apart from the standard breeding restrictions that are in place for all Kennel Club registered breeds, there are no other breed specific breeding restrictions in place for the Estrela Mountain Dog.
It is mandatory for all Kennel Club Assured Breeders to use the following test on stud dogs and all other breeders are strongly advised to follow suit:
As with any other breed, Estrela Mountain Dogs need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Estrela puppies are boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to pick a puppy up when people are going to be around for the first week or, so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including Estrela Mountain Dog puppies. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out resulting in them being withdrawn, timid and shy.
As previously mentioned, Estrela puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be fully up to date.
Older Estrelas need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically, a dog's muzzle may start to go grey, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Living with an Estrela Mountain Dog in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include looking at their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older Estrelas need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older dogs is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:
Older Estrelas don't need the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
Estrelas have long, thick double coats, with the outer coat being coarse whereas the undercoat is soft and very dense. The hair lays tight to the body although it is longer around a dog's neck and they have nice amount of feathering on their tails. With this said, they are quite high maintenance when it comes to keeping their coats tidy and tangle-free whether a dog has a long or short coat.
Like many other breeds, Estrelas shed throughout the year only more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent brushing is generally necessary. It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
Estrelas are known to be athletic, energetic, intelligent dogs as such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise combined with as much mental stimulation as possible. This also has to include lots of "off the lead" time so they can really express themselves. However, as with any other breed, the areas a dog is allowed to run free has to be extremely secure and care has to be taken when they are around dogs they don’t already know. Estrelas need a minimum of an hour's exercise every day, but the more they are given the better.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure and high to keep these large, energetic dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence or it is too low, they will soon escape or jump out and get into all sorts of trouble. It should never be forgotten that an Estrela Mountain Dog is an expert when it comes leaping great heights and as such back gardens must have extra high fences to keep these large and athletic dogs safely in.
With this said, Estrela puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a dog a few problems later on in their lives. They should not be allowed to jump up or off furniture nor should they be allowed to run up and down the stairs for this very reason.
If you get an Estrela puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Because Estrelas are prone to suffer from bloat, it is important that they be fed twice a day instead of giving them just one larger meal a day. It's also a good idea to invest in a stand to place their feed bowl which makes it easier for these large dogs to eat comfortably without having to stretch their necks down low to reach their food. Dogs should never be exercised just before or just after they have eaten either because this puts them more a risk of suffering from bloat.
It is worth noting that some Estrelas can be occasionally be fussy about their food and will even refuse to eat for a little while which breeders say is not detrimental to their health.
Puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious, good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide, an Estrela Mountain Dog puppy can be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
Once a puppy is 15 months old they can be fed adult dog food.
Once fully mature, an adult Estrela Mountain Dog should be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult Estrela can be fed the following amounts every day:
If you are looking to buy an Estrela Mountain Dog, you would need to register your interest with a breeder because very few puppies are bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would also need to pay upwards of £1000 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Estrela Mountain Dog in northern England would be £48.21 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £85.13 a month (quote as of October 2018). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £50 - £60 a month. On top of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with an Estrela and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £1500 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for an Estrela Mountain Dog would be between £100 to £150 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a well-bred Kennel Club registered pedigree Estrela Mountain Dog puppy.
When visiting and buying any puppy or dog, there are many important things to consider and questions to ask of the breeder/seller. You can read our generic puppy/dog advice here which includes making sure you see the puppy with its mother and to verify that the dog has been wormed and microchipped.
Estrela Mountain Dogs are rarely seen in the UK which means that well-bred puppies can often command a lot of money. As such, with Estrelas there is specific advice, questions and protocols to follow when buying a puppy which are as follows:
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