Estrela Mountain Dog
The Estrela has been a working flock guard in the Serra Da Estrela Mountains of Portugal for many centuries. This is a primitive breed with all the pros and cons that come with it. This is a Molosser breed but is not a massive breed. For centuries the shepherds have taken the flocks onto the plateaus for the summer, being away from home for many months with only their dogs for company and from this comes the wonderful relationship that is possible to achieve with the breed. The shepherd would return to his village from time to time to collect supplies and the dog would be left to guard the flock which developed the highly intelligent dog we have today.
During the winter months whilst the flocks came back to the farm he would spend time with the children and family and so his adoration of children has become legendary.
In the early 70's the breed was seriously threatened with extinction and Roger Pye, a gentleman from Portugal with dual British and Portuguese nationality decided to send one of his bitches to the UK in whelp and depend on a bin the Breed Note section of the dog papers and the British love of dogs to do the rest. We are very pleased to say that this mad idea actually saved the Estrela from likely extinction.
The Estrela is probably one of the less heavy mountain breeds bit should be a mountain dog through and through both in temperament and type. In Portugal they are often called 'lazy dogs' but do not be fooled, their speed and agility can be surprising and they can turn on a sixpence. They love to play and will walk for miles if you want to. It is possible to gain a quite reasonable level of obedience but always in their time and we now have our first ever CDX qualified Estrela who lives in the UK. Everything in this breed is governed by if they want to and instinct. They are known as a stubborn breed but much of this comes from their strong working instinct, this breed was little known outside the mountains until less than 40 years ago. One of the great delights of this breed is that there are still many working dogs in the mountains and lots of breeding kennels to visit. The breed holds an annual Monografica which has an entry of about 100 dogs and is a wonderful chance to see the breed in Portugal for yourself but don't expect the level of presentation and handling from some that we all know, many of these are still used to work. It is a wonderful experience to see all these dogs in one place with barely a cross word.
This is a fairly healthy breed but as with any giant breed needs careful rearing.
Hips can be a problem and it is strongly advised to ask for the parents hip scores if looking for a puppy.
Elbows are usually good but should still be scored to maintain this status. Estrelas can be susceptible to hot spots but this is quite easily remedied with a benzole benzolate spray. The breed can be somewhat timid and early socialization is a must.
You can take a puppy out to busy places if you carry them even prior to vaccinations.
Exercise should be kept to a minimum as far as lead walking is concerned until the age of 6 months but free play is fine. So far there has been a low incidence of cancer and most dogs live to over 10 years with several making 12 or 13 yrs.
Dew claws have habitually been removed but with the new attitude to this by vets it is becoming more common to leave them on. The breed does not have a requirement for dewclaws and there can be from no dewclaws to large double dewclaws in one litter.