May 3, 2023

7 Reasons NOT to Own an Estrela Mountain Dog

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7 Reasons NOT to Own an Estrela Mountain Dog

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Are you thinking of adopting an Estrela Mountain Dog? This rare, large dog breed is also known as the Cao da Serra da Estrela. It is an excellent breed choice for certain lifestyles, but not for everyone. From our experience, there are many reasons why you shouldn’t own an Estrela Mountain Dog.

Here are 7 Reasons Not To Own an Estrela Mountain Dog that you will want to consider before falling in love with an Estrela Mountain Dog Puppy.

Fawn Estrela Mountain dog in the united states climbing in the mountains

Estrela Mountain Dog Breed Description

The Estrela Mountain Dog breed is a large, powerful, working breed with a responsible guardian character. It was first utilized in landrace livestock guardian dog roles in Portugal’s Serra da Estrela Mountains. They are low-mid energy, with minimal prey drive excellent independent problem-solving skills, and a desire to bond with their shepherd ( or family ) and do a good job. Their character is a tremendous asset but can cause issues if not understood or managed. This is the quintessential ‘large landrace dog’ package: smart, suspicious of strangers, OCD about their environment, and averse to change. They bark, shed, and dig. They need space to exercise and an environment that fulfills their working needs.

 The Serra are as intelligent as the most intelligent races, even having a strong sense of justice, which shouldn’t be overlooked. That which, as a rule, generates it, is pointed out as a defect, that is, its character is independent, and yet an appreciable virtue there.

­– Colonel Costa Campos in his book “O Cao Militar” 

In this article, we will discuss the characteristics of the Estrela Mountain Dog breed and why they are not the right choice for everyone. You will also learn what the Estrela Mountain Dog needs from its owner and its environment to be physically and mentally fulfilled.

By the end, you’ll have all the info to know whether you want to continue considering the breed as a suitable match for you or if you would prefer to research a more fitting breed for your needs.

Let’s get started!

Seven Reasons Not to Get an Estrela Mountain Dog

  • They are independent thinkers
  • They’re suspicious and will bark
  • They require secure fencing
  • They shed a lot of hair
  • They enjoy digging
  • They’re expensive to care for
  • They don’t live forever

1. Estrela Mountain Dogs Are Independent, Strong-willed Thinkers

Short haired brindle estrela mountain dog puppy

Estrela Mountain Dogs are intelligent thinkers, and this superior intelligence appears as a strong stubborn character at times. This can be frustrating for the Estrela Mountain Dog owner if the dog isn’t following commands or listening. As my mother used to say, when they handed out the “POSITIVE Character Trait Awards” at the end of the school year, all the synonyms for Stubborn were used except the actual word. For 12 years her 5 ninos came home with traits like Determined, Resolute, Tenacious, Steadfast, Perseverance… and when my first grader proudly stood up holding a plaque that read Resolute I laughed too. She acquired that trait honestly.

And this is the experience an Estrela owner will need to be ready for. They tend to be smart, opinionated, and steadfast. It is what you make of it. You can call it stubborn, you may want to threaten them with a chankla, and at the end of a lifetime, you wouldn’t change that trait about them for the world.

The Instincts of The Estrela

We must remember that Estrela Mountain dogs were not necessarily created by humans. We say the mountains created the wolf, and then the wolf created the Serra da Estrela. They were formed by the beauty, the grandeur, and the harshness of nature and the mountains. They were a resolute defense between the pastor and the herd, and nature’s predators. Now it is a myth that the dogs did not receive human interaction and worked alone without a shepherd. As long as the Serra da Estrela has existed, it has been a companion and partner to the shepherd and flock. But to do their job effectively, they had to think independently to outwit predators and rely on their instincts.

The independent instincts have stuck with the Estrela Mountain Dog breed through the centuries. This makes them harder to train if they do not think the “Ask” is necessary or meaningful. They respond well to gentle, firm, and empathetic guidance. We were always taught to treat them like a child, fairly and with love and affection. In this way, they would become the most valuable guardians and companions for life. But if you are looking for a push-button breed, the Serra da Estrela is not the most suitable choice.

2. Estrela Mountain Dogs are Suspicious and will Bark

Estrela Mountain Dogs at a Portuguese Exhibition

Estrela Mountain Dogs are known to be suspicious of whatever they determine is suspicious (socialization and life experiences will determine what they determine to be suspicious). And they will bark. This is another common trait they exhibit as a working dog, more specifically, a livestock guardian dog. Originating from the Serra da Estrela mountains, the Serra is not an aggressive breed. They are defense breeds. And they defend their owners’ flocks with a loud and authoritative bark. 

If you are interested in an Estrela Mountain Dog Puppy you will need to consider how you will socialize your puppy as it grows. You will also want to consider if you are prepared to manage such a large dog with a big bark. We have found it very helpful to take our adolescents along on public outings and teach them how we want them to respond.

Estrela Mountain Dogs Can Bark

This loud barking can affect your neighbors too. Unfortunately, their reputation for barking may lead owners to surrender their gentle giants to a shelter or Estrela Mountain Dog Rescue. Their barking can seem cute when they are just puppies, but once they become adult dogs, their bark gets much louder. You will want to look into your township and county noise ordinances. You will need to decide if you will allow your Estrela outside at night to protect your property. If not, you may need to bring them in to avoid noise complaints. This is becoming an issue in some areas of the United States with any large dog. Whether we like it or not we must be responsible for our dog’s wellbeing. Even if our neighbors are intolerant or unfamiliar with large dogs.

It is our experience that our dogs are not incessant barkers. However, if the coyotes want to ‘talk big’ they are always ready to return the favor and talk bigger. They don’t mind joining our neighborhood dog gossip chain that starts randomly either. As a means of dissuading boredom barking, we go out and check if it is important, and tell them, “Good job” or “That’s not a threat. You can leave it”. And by now, we know what they communicate through their different barks. It brings us all a sense of security to hear the pack make their dusk and dawn patrols and randomly bark at our native predators.

3. Estrela Mountain Dogs Need Secure Fencing & Space to Exercise

Brindle Gray Estrela Mountain dog standing with sheep

Large, working dogs are known for their poor recall, escape artist abilities, patrol potential, and need for sufficient space to exercise. The Serra da Estrela is no exception. The Estrela Mountain Dog will want to stay with his owner and his flock if he is bonded properly. But his instincts will also guide him to patrol a larger territory than the owner might own. They do this in order to scope out the area and “keep everyone safe.” In the modern United States, it is irresponsible to allow any dog to patrol property without a secure perimeter fence. Non-secure fencing is one of the safety reasons not to own an Estrela Mountain Dog.

Part of the Estrela Mountain Dog’s job as livestock protector was to deter predators from reaching their flock. Some dogs would stick close to the flock and others would patrol around the flock and sit on lookout points as sentries. Their territory was as far as their eyes could see. These native instincts are deeply engrained into this breed’s character and they are traits appreciated by native shepherds.

They Struggle with Recall

Due to this instinctual behavior, Estrela Mountain Dogs aren’t the most suitable breed for someone who wants a dog who can instinctively be taken for a walk off-leash. They can also walk on hiking trails while heeling unleashed. This breed wants to patrol and check out unknown territory. That’s what its instincts encourage it to do. It doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t teach them to heel properly or train them to walk off-leash. It just means that it will take some effort on your part.

Estrela mountain dogs don’t require strenuous exercise but they do need space to run and exercise if they feel like it. This breed patrols mountain ranges, and while they are content to oversee their owners’ backyards, they need secure space to run and play in. This will keep them from getting bored and developing unwanted behaviors.

Learn from their history. If you plan to get an Estrela Mountain Dog, make sure your yard or property is secured with a strong fence. This is for their safety and your peace of mind. Teach them to recall, and do not allow them off–leash in unknown areas unless their recall is 100 percent solid and proven. It is the owner’s job to keep their dogs safe and fulfilled.

4. Long-haired Estrela Mountain Dogs Shed A Lot

Estrela Mountain dog standing in orange leaves

The long-haired Estrela Mountain Dog is a giant breed, and they have lots of hair. Due to this, during the shedding season, they shed a lot, and we mean A LOT! Like, all of the insulated undercoat comes out in a giant cloud of hair that coats your world in the spring.

If you want an Estrela Mountain dog as a companion dog, this could be a negative if you are not prepared. For the most part, the Estrela Mountain Dog coat is easy to care for but during shedding, they need extra care. Shedding season doesn’t bother us much, but it can be a challenge if you don’t have the right tools. 

Although our Estrela Mountain Dogs work outside regularly and love to swim and get muddy, we still take care to ensure their hair doesn’t get matted.

Here are some of the grooming tools we use to maintain our Estrela Mountain dog’s coat.

5. Estrela Mountain Dogs Dig

As we discussed before, the Estrela Mountain dog is very instinctive and hardworking. This combination can result in a dog with industrious digging skills. The Estrela will dig a hole to bury its treasures, they will excavate a comfortable cool bed in the summertime, and native females will even dig dens to birth their pups in.

Digging is a natural dog trait. It shouldn’t be a deal breaker for dog owners. Digging comes with the territory. But we have recently noticed large breed dogs being rehomed for “digging” and this is a selfish reason to dispose of a companion. Summary: If you do not want a dog that helps you landscape your lawn, the Estrela Mountain Dog is not the right breed for you.

6. Estrela Mountain Dogs Are Expensive

Brindle Short Haired Estrela Mountain Dog puppy lying beside a Christmas tree

Within Portugal, both short haired and long haired EMD versions are popular and accessible. Outside of Portugal, the Estrela Mountain dog is rare and challenging to find. And if you find Estrela Mountain Dog puppies for sale, health-tested puppies are not cheap. How much does an Estrela Mountain Dog cost?

An Estrela Mountain Dog puppy costs an average of $500-$2,000 worldwide and an average of 3,500$ in the United States. This figure is based on a random sample of breeders. EMD puppies range in price from $800 to $5,000. However, we calculated the lowest price in the range to get the average. Puppies with the highest prices are from special pedigrees or places where the Estrela Mountain Dog is rarely found. Importing an Estrela Mountain Dog puppy from Portugal comes with additional costs. Since Covid, import costs have doubled.

How Much Does it Cost to Own An Estrela Mountain Dog?

And even after all the initial expenses, the real cost of an Estrela Mountain Dog is the ongoing cost of caring for a large breed dog. As a proud owner of Estrela Mountain Dogs, I can certainly relate to that. Potential new owners often ask me, “How much does it cost to buy and own an Estrela Mountain Dog?”

The cost of owning an Estrela Mountain Dog can be around $130 per month once you have paid for your pup (the average initial buying cost is $2000-$4000). Therefore, the lifetime cost of owning an Estrela Mountain Dog over 12 years can be up to $22,200 USD. This is for both the puppy cost plus all food, medical, and care expenses. 

Buying a puppy is only the beginning of many ongoing costs of large-breed dog ownership. You might be happier with a smaller breed, or choose to wait if the costs of an Estrela Mountain Dog are not affordable. Cost of dog ownership is one of many valid reasons not to own an Estrela Mountain Dog.

7. They Cannot Live Forever

Perhaps the most cliché yet tragic reason not to own an Estrela Mountain Dog is that they do not live forever. When Estrela Mountain dogs become part of the family, they are loved just like any family member. Losing them so quickly (a decade is never long enough) after becoming attached to them can be devastating for both young and old family members.

I know firsthand that letting go of them is an awful part of the “life process” and the process does NOT get easier. Understandably, this might be an experience that many individuals would be more than happy to avoid altogether. Research has confirmed that loosing a dog for most people is, in almost every way, comparable to the loss of a human loved one. 

Loving a Breed vs. An Individual Dog

We challenge you to consider loving the breed as a whole if you commit to an Estrela Mountain Dog. Some personally have found this easier than emotionally committing to one single animal in the breed. Each one has its place, and can never be replaced.

And it has taken me some dog losses to come to this conclusion. I am aware that their individual time with us is fleeting, and while I love them all dearly and individually, I hold them each with an open hand. And I chose to love them as an entire breed rather then one dog or another wholeheartedly, it makes the loss of them a little less brutal.

Summary of the Reasons NOT to own an Estrela Mountain Dog:

Many of the Reasons NOT to own an Estrela Mountain Dog are the same for any large breed dog. A few reasons may be specific to the Estrela. Our purpose with this article is not to dissuade anyone from researching the Estrela Mountain Dog breed. We only want to provide education, for your benefit and the breed. Just because we think they are our ideal cup of “dog breed” tea, doesn’t mean they will be everyone’s. There is always someone, who doesn’t prefer tea. We think this breed deserves owners who will love them as genuinely as they love their owners, unselfishly, quirks and all.

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