Above all aspects concerning the welcoming of a new friend, a responsible attitude at the beginning is certainly the most important one.Before you make the first step it is necessary to evaluate all aspects. You must keep in mind that your new friend is a living creature and not a“thing “, and will need to be understood. He will also need lots of caring, loving, and affection. Before you surrender to his magnificence and beauty, you must gather all the ideal conditions.
The Estrela Mountain dog needs a good environment to grow healthy, a certain amount of freedom to move easily, and a lot of your spare time.
With the knowledge of the breed, and to fit with your life style, it is important to choose a good breeder (never buy in Pet Shops or by the road side). Writing to the APSCE or Licrase for their list of associated breeders is highly recommended; or referring to the Portuguese Canine Club (Club Português de Canicultura). It is also advisable to visit the breeders to see the dogs’ living environment, as well as to ask to see their progenitors and to get all possible documents, especially the X RAYs concerning hip dysplasia.
Being a rustic dog he requires quite a bit of brushing to maintain his beautiful fur in good shape (Once a week). The brushing, which we could call a ritual, enables you to improve the relationship between you and your friend. In spring, and at the beginning of summer, when they lose part of their fur, use a metallic brush. He is an animal who is very resistant to both wind and rain. He enjoys living in the open air and running over the fields. On the hottest days he loves the shade, but never stops being vigilant when necessary.
The dog’s behavior relies strongly on his education, although we know that every breed has his own character .The Estrela Mountain, being a Shepherd dog, is used to remaining on his own with the flock, while the Shepherd has to sometimes go to the village. That is why he has developed a strong sense of independence, which he uses now whilst he patiently waits and defends the property until his Master’s arrival. His sociability is the key factor to healthy growth. A less sociable dog is more likely to become afraid and aggressive. Within his first months it is important that he is able to socialize with all, including his fellow dogs. If this educational process is not taken seriously, it will prove to be more difficult or even impossible in the future to change his behavior, and he may become aggressive. To attempt to socialize him when he is becoming adult is more complicated, because he will try to be dominant, and will see the other dogs as challengers. These confrontations never are very easy to deal with. Just bear in mind that only after 7 months, will the puppy have the necessary focus to take advantage of all the training.
Before we focus on the education, we first of all need to have a good relationship with our new friend, to establish the hierarchical order (although you will remain friends, “the owner“, will always stand as superior ). To educate a dog doesn’t mean that any physical strength or pressure will be of any use. Only good energy and a firm grip at the exact moment, is required for him to understand who is in charge. It is very important to use the appropriate attitude, as our dog’s memory is stimulated in a different way than ours. He should be told whenever he doesn’t respond in the correct way. We need to get him used to familiar words, through signs that he will understand and obey. Calmness and coherence are essential! Also important are; the loving, patience and persistence…The coherence between all family members towards the puppy is very important. Dogs react to words such as; sit, come here, no, etc…Not because they understand their meaning, but because they associate them with sounds, when used frequently and always in the same situation. When we wish him to learn a certain behavior, we have to encourage him to associate it in a positive manner (reinforcement, lots of praise, and some eating reward…). For more information I recommend the reading of “The Dog Listener “, from Jan Fennell; “…dogs will never understand our language…to be successful in communicating with them, it relies on us to try to understand their language. That is a task that requires an open mind and a great deal of respect for them. We will simply end up nowhere if we persist in considering them lesser than us. They have to be respected as they are. “