If you’re considering adding an Estrela Mountain Dog to your family, you’re probably wondering if this majestic breed is the right fit for you. With their steady character, expressive eyes, and regal bearing, Estrela Mountain Dogs are certainly head-turning. But they also have some unique characteristics you’ll want to consider before making a decision. So what are the pros and cons of the Estrela Mountain Dog breed that you need to be aware of?
Estrela Mountain Dogs’ biggest pros are loyalty, intelligence, character, and beauty. They are patient giants with calm and patient personalities and are gentle with children. The downside of Estrela’s includes their independence, barking, digging, and shedding, as well as the need for space to exercise. They can be stubborn and devoted to their guardian instincts.
The Estrela Mountain Dog, also known as the Cao da Serra da Estrela, was initially created as a livestock guardian to protect flocks of sheep from predators such as wolves and bears in the Serra da Estrela mountains of Portugal.
Today, Estrela Mountain Dogs are still used as livestock guardians, companions, and therapy dogs in their native country. But they are also popular as companion animals all over the world due to their gentle and thoughtful personalities.
As the proud (and crazy) owner of a pack of Estrela’s, I’m qualified to spill the secrets of owning a large breed that only an owner can share.
Here’s a look at the Estrela Mountain Dogs’ pros and cons and what you can expect from owning one of these loyal, strikingly gorgeous dogs. Let’s get started!
Estrela Mountain Dogs Pros and Cons
There are good and bad things about owning an Estrela Mountain Dog – as there are with all dog breeds. A potential owner of one of these dogs needs to consider both sides before getting one from a breeder or a rescue.
The following is a more in-depth look at what makes the Estrela Mountain Dog a wonderful working and companion animal and the aspects of the breed that need to be managed by a handler and owner.
Here’s a Cliff notes view of the pros and cons of the Estrela Mountain Dog.
|Estrela Mountain Dog Pros||Estrela Mountain Dog Cons|
|Estrela’s are a healthy, rustic breed.||Estrela’s are suspicious of strangers|
|Estrela’s are excellent guardians||Estrela’s bark, a lot|
|Estrela’s are loving and affectionate||Estrela’s need socialization and boundaries|
|Estrela’s are intelligent and want to please||Estrela’s are stubborn and independent|
|Estrela’s do not require extensive grooming||Estrela’s are moderate to heavy shedders|
|Estrela’s love children||Estrela’s need space to run and dig.|
|Estrela’s excel as good therapy dogs||Estrela’s are also independent thinkers|
Pros and Cons of the Estrela Mountain Dog
Estrela Mountain Dogs are family-focused dogs, and they look to their owners for love and direction. However, they’re independent thinking and very responsible. They take their responsibilities as guardians very seriously They are NOT always easy to teach to recall.
So, let’s dive into their advantages first.
Estrela Mountain Dog Pros
Estrela Mountain Dogs are wonderful companion animals, highly trainable, and love having a job. The temperament of an Estrela Mountain Dog is calm and relaxed, but they don’t hesitate to take action against a threat when detected. How capable are they of neutralizing threats to livestock? Very, very capable. They are resourceful and determined and will hold their ground no matter what. I hear a lot of guard dog owners wondering if their dogs are up to the task of facing large predators. Serra da Estrela owners have nothing to prove. These dogs would give their lives for their stock and they are dependable and companionable.
Males can be as tall as 32 inches at the shoulder and easily reach 130 pounds and more in weight. Although Serra da Estrela’s are large dogs, they are athletic, quick, and strong without appearing domineering.
Estrela Mountain Dog Temperament
The breed has a reputation for being happy wherever its owner is. They also can be left alone for significant lengths of time as adults without showing separation anxiety. In Portugal, dogs are often sent out with the herds during the day and the dogs bring the herds back at night. They do prefer companionship and will enjoy a pack atmosphere if it is managed with oversight from the owner.
The Serra da Estrela loves children with its whole heart. They choose children, tolerate children, and follow them around. I know everyone says that about the guardian breeds but kids are the Estrela Mountain Dogs’ kryptonite. I’ve had many visitors, and adult dogs are not always overly fond of adult human strangers. But I would always catch the Serra’s trying to slide around the group to make friends with the children, hoping that the adults would ignore them
They have a deep tolerance for the young, elderly, sick, and disabled. Their wise and knowing characters understand where their flock or their humans are most vulnerable, and they pay special attention to meeting this need.
An adult Estrela Mountain Dog is a wise and patient individual, one that’s happy to accompany its herd and family and attend to its welfare.
Serra da Estrela’s Guardian Instinct
This breed needs adequate socialization while young to form a positive association with other humans and a variety of environments. The breed is not a primitive, feral herd dog. Owners take them with them into cities, and many celebrities choose them for companionship and as a touchable piece of culture from their native land. But the Serra da Estrela has a strong protective instinct. They will bark and try to deter threats they consider significant. They have no lust for attacking humans, and instead prefer to diffuse and deter dangerous situations. But they are large dogs, and must be respected as such.
“The character of this dog was shaped over the centuries by solitude, freedom, companionship, and responsibility towards the shepherd and his flock. He was born into the adversity and grandeur of the mountains that gave him his name. This heritage made him the special dog he is today.
For everything he gave us, for his undying character and love, he will always be my favorite dog.”
– Teresa Azevedo Gomes
The Serra da Estrela is an excellent companion for someone who wants to enjoy a rare large breed dog with a lot of energy and a great off button. They have the genetic capability to hike, walk, and travel long distances. However, they are also happy to stay at home and watch over the backyard or chill at their owners’ feet indoors.
Cons of the Serra da Estrela
The Estrela Mountain Dog has existed for centuries as a working and companion rural dog. It will not do well living in the city or urban environments where it is over-stimulated and under-exercised. It needs space to run and exercise and it will not be happy cooped up in small places or kennels.
The Serra da Estrela’s soul is as big as the mountains it comes from, and care should be taken to give it a fulfilling and purposeful environment.
This can be confusing because the breed is known for being patient and tolerant. But it also has a propensity for being destructive and chewing or escaping when it is bored and under-stimulated. I’ve found that mine need at least 30 minutes of exercise once a day and preferably twice if they will be accompanying us indoors for therapy work. They are able to relax with this amount of exercise and either chill or show affection as their job requires.
Keeping this breed in an urban environment would not be impossible. However, it would require an owner dedicated to the dog’s exercise, stimulation, and quality of life. This breed is too much dog for apartment environments.
Manners are Important
If this breed is not trained and socialized they may show aggressive tendencies towards unknown dogs and animals. They are very loyal and dedicated to their owners, and this may be shown as a negative trait if they are unsocialized with other people and dogs.
There is a possibility that male Serra da Estrela’s may be very dominant and may not accept another dominant male dog in their environment. They intend to romance the ladies all by themselves thank you very much. But Serra’s work all over Portugal in mixed-gender packs with their shepherds. Some of their personality traits must simply be managed for optimal pack relationships.
The sheer strength of the breed can make it difficult for inexperienced owners to handle. It’s imperative to establish proper leash manners, respectful behavior and recall during the puppyhood period in order to have an adult that’s respectful and responsive to commands.
Weather and Climate Considerations
The coat of the Estrela Mountain Dog is one of it’s greatest pros and cons. This breed has both a short and long coat variation, making it incredibly versatile for a wide variety of climates. Its double-coated nature allows it to thrive in the extreme cold and not be affected by extreme weather temperatures.
The native habitat has extreme weather variances and the breed can tolerate living in regions with moderate to excessive temperatures year-round. But they should be protected in regions where heat is excessive for long periods of the season. Shade, fresh air, water and AC are all important for helping these large dogs stay comfortable in extreme heat. The Serra will often dig a hole to stay cool in hot temperatures.
Double-coated dogs are also moderate to high shedding, so although little grooming is required, they do need regular brushing. In the the spring and fall when they shed their undercoat, they will require a daily brushing when the coat “blows”.
Estrela Mountain Dog Health Issues
The Serra da Estrela is surprisingly healthy for being a large, mollosoid-type breed. But they are at risk of the typical musculoskeletal conditions and heart disease that are commonly found in large dogs. Ethical breeders do their best to test for and eliminate genetic disease factors. But unfortunately, it’s not always possible to prevent health issues. Certain things can be caused by environmental and diet factors and dogs can develop health issues regardless of health testing and genetics.
The breed has a long lifespan of 10-16 years and has valiantly attempted to overcome the large breed health issues plaguing other giant breeds.
Common health concerns for the Estrela Mountain Dog include:
- Hip & Elbow dysplasia
- DCM ( Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy )
- Neurological disorders
Ethical breeders of the Estrela Mountain Dog typically have the parents checked and evaluated for the potential to develop hip and elbow dysplasia before producing a litter of puppies.
This breed is susceptible to genetic Canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), all breeding stock should be tested to minimize and prevent this life-threatening condition.
The risk of bloat in the Estrela Mountain Dog is high. Therefore, we encourage all breed owners to learn about diagnosing the signs of bloat and be able to take emergency action if an incident occurs.
Quality of Life and Health Maintenance of a Serra da Estrela
In spite of these issues, the breed is landrace and hardy. A balanced diet formulated for giant breeds will help ensure health and longevity. The diet should not be overly high in protein or fat. The Serra gains weight easily. He does not need to eat as much as some of his large-breed cousins.
By visiting a veterinarian regularly, dog owners can prevent adverse health conditions and make sure their dogs live as happy a life as possible.
Scheduling a checkup with a veterinarian after bringing your new puppy home is critical to establishing a healthy life for the dog. Dogs need preventative vaccines, deworming medication, flea & tick preventatives, and routine checkups.
Health insurance is another smart way to protect your dog’s future. We have a Guide to Health Insurance for Large Breed Dogs that will give detailed information for making the right health insurance choices for your dog and lifestyle.
Let’s conclude this.
The Estrela Mountain Dog pros and cons are pretty straight forward. The breed is patient and loving, but committed to their family and reponsibilities. If not guided appropriately these traits could manifest in nuisance barking, destructive behavior, resource guardian and other negative behavioral issues.
A large guard dog breed, the Estrela Mountain Dog is a patient and intuitive canine representative of these types of dogs. They are the stalwart companions and guardians of their native shepherds, herds, and homes. It’s a dog breed that’s been developed to diffuse and deter predators rather than actively guarding a perimeter.
They have a loud bark, they need space to dig and enjoy being a dog. They’re patient, loving, affectionate, and quiet in their homes. They especially enjoy children and other small creatures. The preferred owner for an Estrela Mountain Dog would be an experienced owner who understands the importance of providing a safe and loving environment. We think the Estrela is a true representation of the quintessential larger-than-life, loving guardian breed.
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