Frequently Asked Questions FAQ – The Estrela Mountain Dog

Q. Where are they from?

The Serra Da Estrela Mountains in Central Portugal. More information on our History of the Breed page

Q. Can you still see dogs in the mountains?

Yes, there are still many dogs in the mountains some of which are working.

Q. When did the breed come to the UK?

The first litter was born in quarantine on 14th May 1974

Q. When was the breed first recognized by the UK Kennel Club?

14th May 1975 on the first litter’s 1st birthday

Q. What is their job?

They are a flock guardian (also known as livestock guardian dog, LGD), which means that in the warmer months they will go into the high plateau with the shepherd and live there. Their job is to protect the shepherd and the flocks from any predator which could include wolves or bears.

Q. Aren’t they big?

They are substantial but are not as cumbersome as some of the mountain breeds. They are very agile and tend to be longer lived. This should be a fairly large, substantial dog.

Q. Are they aggressive?

Not normally although upbringing and life experiences play a part in this. They will trust most people that their family trust, if they don’t like someone then beware.

Q. Are they good with children?

They are usually fabulous with children as long as they do not have any bad experiences.

Q. Are they good with other dogs?

As long as they are well socialized with other dogs from an early age they should be good. Once again lack of socializing or bad experiences can affect this. Some may be rather on their toes as teenagers but soon grow through this with age and firm handling.

Q. Are they good with other animals?

They usually pose no threat to other animals unless those animals are a threat to the dog’s family or home.

Q. What is their lifespan?

The average lifespan would be 10 yrs to 13 yrs which is quite good compared to some giant breeds. Due to the fact that the Estrela is not a cumbersome dog they will stay quite active into old age.

Q. Do they have any known health issues?

As with all large breeds Hip Dysplasia can be an issue and elbow problems are less common. The Estrela Mountain Dog Club (UK) strongly recommends health testing for Hip Dysplasia (CHD) and Elbow Dysplasia (ED) especially in breeding stock. See our Health page for more information.

The breed can also suffer from some skin problems of which hot spots are the most common; this can often be helped by a change of diet.

Q. Are they intelligent?

Very, often so intelligent that they try to convince you that they are stupid. With that intelligence also comes a mind of their own which is usually easy to control as they love to please you. It does make for a fun relationship.

Q. Is it true that they can be stubborn?

Yes, they can be but much of this comes from their working instincts and having to be sure that everything is OK. They may refuse to leave a strange smell until they are happy that it doesn’t indicate a threat. If you understand the purpose of the dog it is easier to understand them.

Q. Do they need a lot of exercise?

They will do as little or as much as you want to. If you like to walk miles they will be happy to go with you but if you like a less active life shorter walks are fine. They do love a garden as they love to lie outside, often in all weathers.

Exercise should be very restricted to mostly off lead for short distances and on lead for socializing and lead training until they are at least 6 months old.

Q. Are they noisy?

They can be, usually they will be in guard mode but they have fabulous hearing and sight. If you start to teach control from the beginning it can be controllable and not all Estrela are noisy.

Q. Do they eat a lot?

Generally they are quite modest eaters for their size. Occasionally they can be quite fussy eaters and some will self starve for short periods of time, this is never detrimental to them.

Q. Do they need a lot of grooming?

Usually a good brush once a week will keep them in good condition although it does no harm to groom more frequently. As they have a double coat the work starts when they moult. The loose coat is easy to remove and generally a few minutes a day keeps things under control. Essential tools are a slicker brush and a rake.

Q. Would they guard me or my family if we were in trouble?

Yes, that is what their instincts tell them, they would take as much action as was necessary to alleviate the situation.

Q. Are they destructive?

Some puppies can be and smaller items are favourites but this passes with maturity. If you are having problems you can train them to stay in a cage while you are out, until they grow out of this. Build up leaving them from the time they arrive and you can leave a TV or radio on which helps. Another animal in the house is also helpful.

Q.  Are they OK to leave in kennels if necessary?

There is no reason for this to be a problem.

Q.  Are they good in the car?

Once again if you train with short spells from the beginning they should travel well.

Q. Do you recommend Dog Insurance?

Yes, it means that you have the security of knowing that at any time your dog can have all the veterinary care it needs (obviously subject to limits).

Q. Do you recommend puppy training?

Yes, this helps the puppy and you to bond and is also great for socializing.

Q. Is the breed any good at obedience?

There are many Estrela who have passed Good Citizen awards and many owners enjoy doing obedience with their dogs. Due to the independent nature of the breed it may take patience but as we now have our first Working Trials (CDX) qualified dog in the world in the UK, much is possible with time.

Just remember Estrela are addictive – one is never enough and if you do it right you will have the best soulmate ever.