Estrela Mountain Dog: Herding and Guarding Mastiff

The Estrela is a breed that was developed to herd and guard livestock. Uncommon outside Portugal where the breed originated, they have been slowly increasing in numbers in North America. This is another breed that is now part of the AKC process of maintaining a centralized registry before becoming an officially recognized (eligible for bench shows) breed.

Big, confident, but reasonably gentle, the Estrela is a natural guardian of those entrusted to his care. This breed has successfully worked as a cart dog and is really a multipurpose working breed. But this is decidedly a working breed, that does best when they have a job. This is a breed used to having some activity, and a lot of outside time with people and other animals.

 Estrelas have traditionally worked alongside people, unlike some livestock guardian breeds which were predominately left alone to guard livestock. Estrela were expected to help herd the sheep and could move to a position of leading a flock if necessary. When the flock and shepherd stopped, then the Estrela stood guard over human and animals.

Powerful yet agile, this is not a breed that wants to spend the day confined in a small space. They can be trained to take part in obedience and agility and will do best when they are kept engaged. Like all intelligent, working breeds, this is not a breed that a person should leave to become bored and under-exercised. Estrela do however, fit in well with small multipurpose farms and are reliable around a range of livestock, making this a good breed for those choosing to homestead or keep a hobby farm.

 I am very pleased to see that the Estrela Mountain Dog in America Association – EDMAA – has a code of ethics that includes health screening for all breeding stock, including hip and elbow certification, and specific limitations to how often in a lifetime a female should be breed: no breeding before 2 or after 8 years; no more than one litter a year; no more than three litters in a lifetime.

 As always happens, the more known and popular a breed becomes, the more likely they are to become available for adoption. The EDMAA actively participates in breed rescue and has some very devoted members who have helped move dogs part way across the country to make sure they end up in the right home. The club also has had reports of at least one backyard breeder producing a dog that needed to be rehomed – if one is interested in obtaining a member of this breed I strongly recommend working directly with the parent club.

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