The Estrela is a flock guarding dog, the shepherd’s faithful companion and has performed that task for centuries – although nowadays there are mostly short-hair Estrelas working with herds. His versatility made them adjust perfectly to other jobs, but mostly to farm/ house guarding. They're also the perfect choice for families who wish to have a guardian that is also sweet and patient with children.
Estrela Mountain Dog
Ponta da Pinta
The Estrela Mountain Dog
The origin of the Estrela, one of the most ancient breeds in the Iberian Peninsula, is lost in time, in the highest mountain range in Portugal, and is related to the shepherds' need of large, protection dogs that would keep wolves, other predators and thieves away from livestock. Natural selection, throughout the centuries, enforced sturdiness and a strong working instinct that includes guiding the flocks, traits that are still common. In the 20th century, political and social conditions in the country made the shepherds' activity decrease and almost led the breed to extinction. Over the last few decades, however, it became the most popular of national breeds in Portugal, even though the long-hair variety outnumbers by far the short-hair one - which, nevertheless being still favoured by shepherds, calls for preservation efforts.
Back in the 70s and 80s, the Portuguese Marines chose to train and breed these dogs, due to their great learning capacities and also their flexibility (in spite of their stout size), which allow them to succeed obedience or agility training. Some Estrelas have been successfully used as therapy dogs, visiting children and elderly people in hospitals and other places.
In spite of his independent nature, the Estrela is an exceptional companion, absolutely devoted to his owner. Loving and tender, patient and careful with children and elderly or disabled people, he's also a fearless, brave guardian. Always vigilant, held back, suspicious towards strangers, when confronted with a menace he acts dissuasively and will only show aggressiveness under extreme circumstances, to protect his human family or the animals and space he's supposed to guard. He seems to tell, among strangers, the ones who are friendly from the ill-intentioned. He's dominant, territorial and confrontational to large size energetic dogs but mostly tolerant to small sized ones and puppies. He has a strong sense of justice and does not understand nor respect too harsh and senseless a punishment. Having a strong temperament, he likes to do as he pleases, so he absolutely requires for discipline. He's laid-back, self-confident, noble, loves to be by his owner and dislikes being lonely (even though sometimes he isolates himself for a while). He's intelligent, quick-learning, hard-working, as energical as necessary in the line of duty. He's naturally drawn to livestock, even if he hasn't grown used to it from an early age.