Estrela Mountain Dog - An Owners Perspective

The Estrela Mountain Dog, also known as the Cão Serra Da Estrela, is a large, noble, majestic breed from the wild and rugged Estrela Mountains of Portugal. Independent, intelligent and resilient, they are used to protect livestock from wolves but also make excellent family pets and guardians in a more domestic environment.

They are believed to originate from an ancient breed and were probably brought to Portugal by the Romans when they invaded the Iberian Peninsula, although very early history of this breed remains a little unclear. Because they were almost unknown outside Portugal until the 19th century and due to their isolated regional existence in the Estrela Mountains they are one of the purest of all dog breeds.

The Estrela has been used by Portuguese farmers for many centuries to protect their livestocks as they are alert, courageous and extremely protective of anything they see as their family or property. When roaming the mountains, they would often wear a large spiked collar to protect their necks during any confrontations with hungry wolves. They have been carefully bred to be strong, agile, courageous, with plenty of stamina and capable of surviving in harsh mountain conditions due to their insulating thick double coats.

More recently they've been used for search and rescue, probably due to their high levels of intelligence, incredible sense of smell and ability to work independently in cold mountain weather and rough terrain.

They are generally a rare sight in the U.K, often mistakenly identified as Leonbergers but in  recent years, Estrelas appear to be gaining in popularity and have a loyal following by those fortunate to have experienced the enjoyment of owning this wonderful breed. There are usually waiting lists with the limited number of K.C. registered breeders operating in the U.K. and as a result if you are interested in owning an Estrela it would be advisable to register your interest well in advance with a reputable breeder to be notified when puppies are available.

Breed Information 

Lifespan 10 - 14 years

Country of origin - Portugal

Category - Large breed / Pastoral Group

Height Male 63 - 75 cm / Female 60 - 71 cm

Weight Male 45 - 60 kg / Female 35 - 45 kg

Characteristics

Courageous, affectionate and loyal to their owners

Protective and gentle with children

Very intelligent

Instinctively and naturally caring

Distrusting and suspicious of strangers

Stubborn and independent

High prey drive

Powerful, athletic and surprisingly fast

Generally calm and gentle when in the home environment

Tendency to bark due to their alertness

Throughout many years of owning my Estrela I have witnessed her display all the typical breed characteristics quite naturally to varying degrees, with many of the behaviours positive and why I was attracted to the breed in the first place. 

Below I have broken down the various stages and responsibilities of owning my Estrela from an adorable 8 week old puppy through to her more sedate and senior years with some of my own personal experiences and useful points on occasional problems encountered and remedies during our many happy years together.

Accommodation & Living Space

The Estrela Mountain Dog is certainly large and for a while I debated whether my modest 2 bedroom home with large garden would be sufficient to accommodate such a large breed and airing on the side of caution, I opted for a bitch which are generally smaller and of similar size to a German Shepherd or Golden Retriever. 

Despite their size, the Estrela is very adaptable and doesn't seem to require huge amounts of open space when indoors, appearing quite content to relax and sleep, saving their energy for play in the garden and whilst out on walks. 

Initially, I was confident my garden was secure and fully enclosed with a 6ft high, albeit weathered wooden fence. What I hadn't realised was how as my Estrela grew older, bigger and stronger she would simply punch a hole through the fence with her head due to the enthusiasm, power and momentum with which she would run at the fence trying to protect her property from people and dogs passing by. My solution was to have a new stronger fence fitted which she managed to punch her head through yet again resulting in further reinforcements with marine plywood which finally put an end to this gratuitous doggy vandalism.

I have found over the years, as long as my Estrela can relax around the house and has access to fresh air and a reasonable sized secure garden space as well as getting a couple of nice walks each day she has been a very happy dog and my modest 2 bedroom home has been sufficiently big enough to comfortably accommodate her. I would even go so far to say it would comfortably accommodate a larger male Estrela.

Puppies

Estrela puppies are adorable and at 8 weeks old my new puppy reminded me of a cute little baby bear with the sweetest nature and captured my heart from day one.

Making sure the home was puppy proof prior to arrival was difficult as this was a surprise addition to the family so changes signifying the arrival of a puppy would have given the game away although I had checked around for any obvious risks and the house was mostly free of any hazards such as poisonous plants and loose electric wires which some puppies might chew.

To give my puppy time to adjust and settle into her new home I restricted her movements to the tiled kitchen in case of any toilet accidents which are inevitable in the early days. She was also given some dog toys, a food and water bowl and I fitted a simple baby gate to prevent unsupervised exploring around the house until we had established some basic ground rules and toileting habits.

As hard as it may be when a new puppy arrives it is important to give them plenty of time to rest and sleep because puppies very quickly burn themselves out after short periods of play, excitement, exercise and mental stimulation. There is a huge amount of information, new experiences, sounds and sights for a young puppy to take in and it can be overwhelming for them often leading to lots of snoozing throughout the day during which time they should remain undisturbed.

As the owner of a new large breed puppy it is imperative to make sure they are not over exercised as this can lead to serious joint problems in later life. This also includes limiting activities like jumping around, running up and down stairs and jumping on and off furniture, all of which can cause damaging impacts for a puppy's growing and susceptible bones and joints.

Any recommendations on food and frequency of feeding suggested by the breeder should be followed at least until the puppy has settled into their new environment. Once everything has settled down it is then possible to change onto other foods but any changes should be done gradually whilst watching for any adverse reactions to the new foods. Whenever I switched foods, I usually did so over the space of 3 to 5 days and did not encounter any problems.

Having a puppy in the home is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly and requires hard work, vigilance, commitment, patience and a sense of humour. What you get in return is a hugely entertaining and enjoyable experience that sets the foundations for the future bond and relationship between you and your dog. During these early stages, it is important to give your puppy a positive and welcoming start, making them comfortable and confident they're in the hands of a competent owner as you have now become the focus of their entire world and they will be looking to you as leader of their pack.

Socialising

Knowing my sweet adorable puppy was going to grow into a large and powerful dog, socialising was something I wanted to do well to avoid any adverse reactions or behavioural problems later on in life. From very early on we attended puppy classes and I slowly introduced my puppy to as many different sounds, situations, animals and people as reasonably possible, trying to ensure all encounters and experiences were controlled with a positive outcome.

Although I have found my Estrela to be very good and playful with the majority of dogs, there are a few breeds and characteristics of other dogs she has taken a particular dislike to due to some negative experiences in her younger years which despite my best efforts I have been unable to reverse. Fortunately, when off the lead she always stays reasonably close to me and if she sees a potential threat, she initially stands still, watches and assesses the situation for a moment giving me time to take hold of her and put her on the lead before any altercation can take place. Generally speaking, if dogs are friendly and playful towards my Estrela she will reciprocate and therefore I would say she is generally very good with other dogs, large and small as long as she does not view them as a threat.

When it comes to cats, my Estrela is very respectful towards cats when visiting other peoples homes and when out on walks, usually opting to give them a wide birth when passing them on the street but I don't think she would afford the same politeness to a cat intruding into her garden which she guards and protects fearlessly.

People

My Estrela is absolutely true to her breed in how she behaves with people. Aloof, standoffish, mistrusting and suspicious are just some of the words I would use to describe how she reacts to strangers. However, once she is comfortable with a person she is friendly and welcoming and will happily play or take a biscuit without taking an arm too.

She lives her life to protect and I notice how protecting her family and property comes above all else in her world. I have seen her abandon a half eaten dinner after hearing a noise outside,  immediately reacting, trying to bark with a mouthful of food to deter any would be intruders but spitting out food everywhere and almost choking in the process. This determination to guard and protect at all costs is deeply ingrained in the Estrela's psyche and I feel confident and safe having her in the home and as my travelling companion especially when camping alone in the wild and well away from civilisation.

The typical Estrela greeting for a stranger arriving at my home would be an intimidating display of barking with an apparent determination to tear the stranger limb from limb although I feel this is more for show rather than any real intention of doing so. That is of course unless the stranger made any threatening or aggressive moves in which case I believe my Estrela would react accordingly to protect her home and family. Once a stranger has been welcomed into the home the dogs response becomes more muted and a case of suspicion and distrust, watching movements and behaviour until they are comfortable the person poses no threat.

Children & Estrelas

One of the most heartwarming displays of character I have regularly witnessed is the gentle interaction between my Estrela and small children. Watching my dog adapt her behaviour from playful, rough and bouncy with adults to calm and extremely gentle in order to accept a treat from the small hand of a young child is a sight to behold.

I certainly trust my Estrela with young children and babies but as with any dog, they should never be left unsupervised and children must also be taught to be gentle and respectful around animals. 

Exercise

As a young puppy, the amount of exercise given to an Estrela should be carefully controlled and slowly increased to prevent unnecessary damage to bones and joints which as with all large breed dogs can lead to serious problems and disability in later life. Combining a healthy exercise program with a healthy diet and maintaining an appropriate weight are probably the most important aspects of giving a dog a long, healthy and active life.

There is often a misconception that large dogs eat huge amounts of food and require lots of exercise every day which is simply not the case. Whilst it is important to have a healthy active life for the dog, it is equally important not to overexercise and overfeed as this will be detrimental to their health.

In the early months of owning my Estrela, being cautious about the amount of exercise I was giving her to protect her joints I didn't realise she was slowly gaining weight which left unchecked over the long term would probably cause just as much damage as overexercising. Fortunately during the first year my dogs breeder pointed out my puppy was getting a little chubby and from then on I have tried to carefully monitor her weight making sure to keep it within an acceptable and healthy range through appropriate levels of exercise for her life stages and feeding the recommended levels of food for size and activity level with flexible adjustments when necessary.

Over the years I have established a routine of a guaranteed 2 walks per day, morning and evening which has worked very well and my Estrela never goes to the toilet in the garden, instead saving it for her walks. This in turn keeps the garden free from any dog poo and I collect and dispose of her waste while out on our walks.

As well as physical exercise, it is also important to provide mental stimulation for the Estrela and I usually do this by either allowing her some off lead time to explore her environment when out on a walk or playing hide and seek with treats around the home.

Although many dogs love to swim, I have found my Estrela is very cautious around water and whist happy to go between paw and belly deep in water, anything more than that sends her into a blind panic and a desperate scramble for dry land. This is both a blessing and a curse because whilst on one hand I feel confident she will not go jumping into deep water and getting into trouble, there are times when she may have either rolled in something smelly or be covered in mud and I wish she'd go for a little swim just to clean off. The strange thing is, for all her fear of being out of her depth in water, she absolutely loves being on a boat travelling along the canals just watching the world pass by.

I would say my Estrela is generally very happy with about 2 hours exercise per day as an adult dog and I make sure I always feed her at least one hour before exercise to prevent the risk of stomach bloat, a very dangerous and sometimes fatal condition with rapid onset requiring urgent veterinary intervention. 

Training

I was surprised how quickly the Estrela learns new games, tricks and commands and as a puppy in her new home she adapted very quickly and learnt her basic rules of obedience and toileting habits within just a few weeks of arrival. With a competent owner, there should be very little trouble in teaching an Estrela new things and the more likely problem is getting the Estrela to continue doing those things if the Estrela gets bored.

There are a number of ways around this and I've found my Estrelas obsession with food is her weakness, as she will immediately and without question react positively when there's a treat at stake. The other method often involves a little reverse psychology, making the Estrela think it was their idea in the first place because the Estrela does not respond well to being dominated like some other breeds. I have found the Estrela likes to work with you rather than for you.

When my Estrela first arrived home as an 8 week old puppy, I gave her a few days to settle in and become familiar with her new surroundings before setting some basic expectations. I made clear very early on that the new puppy must sleep in the kitchen, in her bed and although the first night there was a lot of crying and whimpering (the puppy not me), I stood my ground and she very quickly settled and accepted being on her own at night.

Although I was dedicated to training my puppy in those early days, nowadays she is free to roam the house and sometimes I'm happy when she jumps on the bed and sleeps next to me as she has usually sensed I'm not having the best of days. Most of the time she sleeps on the floor at the end of the bed or wanders around the home, randomly settling in various parts of the house for short periods almost like she is patrolling through the night. I feel confident giving my Estrela the freedom of the house as an adult dog because she was well trained as a puppy and I know I can trust her in any area, day or night, whether I'm there or not.

During the first few months and years I would randomly leave my dog on her own for varying lengths of time, from a few minutes to a few hours and even the whole day on very rare occasions. As long as she always has her 2 or 3 walks each day she has never gone to the toilet in the house and has always been well behaved. She does not suffer from any kind of separation anxiety apart from the first few minutes when she will bark in an attempt to remind me she has been left behind but after those few minutes she will just settle down and sleep for most of the day.

When out for walks, initially my puppy pulled a great deal on the lead and rather than pulling back harshly or using choke chains or any other methods of force, I simply used my puppy's eagerness to move forward against her and just stopped walking as soon as there was any tension in the lead. Initially my puppy was confused as to why we kept stopping and sometimes we wouldn't get very far at all, but she very quickly realised a tense lead meant no walking and has walked calmly with a loose lead ever since.

Estrelas are definitely strong willed and stubborn at times and recall is not 100% unless I have some tasty treats in my pocket. I have found when calling my Estrela, she will first look at me and then spend a moment trying to analyse why she is being called, taking a good look around and weighing up what's in it for her. She will then slowly walk towards me, deviating slightly  left or right to have a sniff of some grass, just to make a point she wasn't coming to me on my command, instead coming on her terms and in her time. All this changes when there is a treat in hand and obedience is instant and unquestioning. As an owner of an Estrela you just get used to these stubborn streaks of character and have to devise tactics that work best around the dogs interests.

I believe Estrelas are probably most suited to owners with at least some experience although with commitment, patience and a good sense of humour most people are probably capable of being good competent owners.

Although my Estrela is generally very quiet and calm around the house, she will react without hesitation to noises, alarms, people's voices, cars or somebody knocking at the door. At this point the quiet, gentle Estrela becomes very animated and vocal in alerting her owner and attempting to confront the perceived threat. She will usually continue barking until the sound or threat has disappeared. Although sometimes a little noisy and inconvenient, i'm appreciative of her efforts to protect and feel it's important not to punish a dog for doing what's inherently a breed characteristic, as one day her alertness and barking may prevent an intruder with ill intentions.

Generally speaking, unlike some dogs, I find the Estrela doesn't endlessly bark for no reason  and with a little investigation you can usually find the source of their disquiet whether it be a person loitering nearby, the postman, or a squirrel helping itself to the bird feeder in the garden.

Whatever behaviours you want to control or adapt with an Estrela, like all breeds it is important to start early and be consistent and fair with training and expectations. Looking back to the earlier years, there are some behaviours I am sure I could have changed had I wanted to but I have generally found the Estrela to be an excellent all round dog and as long as the basics are firmly in place I am quite happy for the Estrela to display their natural instincts because well grounded adult Estrelas are usually intelligent enough to regulate their responses appropriately to most situations.

Food & Diet

Over the years I have been surprised at how little my Estrela actually needs to eat in order to maintain a healthy body weight. I believe this is down to her calm and placid nature as throughout the day she probably burns very little energy compared to a much more lively, energetic or highly strung dog.

I strongly believe that diet and quality of food can hugely influence the long term health and life expectancy of a dog and therefore spent a great deal of time researching and trialling various dried foods available on the market combined with fresh raw food and bones which I have found to be hugely beneficial in keeping my dogs teeth clean and breath fresh.

I do not feel confident enough to home prepare my dogs food from scratch in its entirety so in order to fulfil her basic nutritional needs I use a "complete" dried food and adjust feeding amounts depending on how much additional raw meat and treats she receives, obviously keeping treats to a minimum.

I learnt early on that "cheaper" foods don't necessarily result in significantly lower feeding costs as it's often a false economy and can negatively impact a dogs health due to low quality ingredients often bulked out with fillers that have minimal nutritional value. I have found using a high quality food can mean reduced daily feeding amounts so even though the food might be more expensive, it lasts longer than the same sized bag of lower quality food. Aside from cost, I take comfort knowing I am feeding a quality diet and thereby giving my dog the best chance of living a long and healthy life and hopefully minimising visits to the vet.

On average I would estimate feeding my Estrela costs around £50 - £60 per month for her standard daily feeding requirements and I am confident she is receiving a good quality food suitable for her dietary needs. 

Something to also note is just because a food is the most expensive with the highest quality ingredients, doesn't necessarily mean it is suitable for your dog. Some breeds require different qualities or quantities of certain components of a complete food so there is an element of trial and error until a suitable food is found. Some dogs may actually thrive on a cheaper food and from my personal experience I have found foods at the very top of the range have been too rich or too high in protein for my Estrela and she is much happier and thoroughly enjoys a food   which is rated in the mid to upper range of dog foods, certainly not the cheapest but not excessively expensive either.

As a puppy my Estrela was initially fed 4 small meals a day, gradually reduced down to 2 meals as an adult, once in the morning and once in the evening, both at least an hour before or after exercise to minimise the risk of stomach bloat. Two meals a day with a small treat around lunch time I've found to be adequate and convenient as it fits in with my own personal eating times and avoids having to feed large quantities in a single meal.

Generally speaking, it's important to monitor weight continuously throughout the dogs life and adjust daily feeding amounts accordingly in small increments to try and maintain optimum target weight which can vary between dogs. It's easy for weight to creep up if exercise is reduced due to lifestyle changes or restrictions due to health or age, whether that be of the dog or the owner, but most situations can be overcome by regulating food intake appropriately.

I give my Estrela occasional dental chews but I've found nothing keeps teeth clean and fresh like a good solid raw beef marrow bone from the butchers which I try to feed my dog every 1 to 2 weeks usually as a weekend treat to keep her entertained for a few hours. Fortunately my Estrela is very good with raw bones but this could be an issue with some dogs who can be  aggressive towards other animals or people when they have raw bones. 

Every owner should also be aware of potentially harmful foods which can be fatal if accidentally ingested by dogs such as  dark chocolate, onions, raisins and palm oil etc.

Health

The Estrela Mountain Dog is generally a very healthy breed with no known health problems and as a result have quite a long life expectancy compared to a number of other similar sized breeds.

Although there are supposedly "no known health problems" any owner can still find themselves in the vets for reasons of illness or accident and I have found myself in the vet a couple of times over the years with some minor problems but fortunately nothing too serious.

My Estrela had a small lump which turned out to be a harmless cyst, a dust mite allergy affecting her ears and some other minor injuries caused by playing and running around with other dogs when out on walks. Now entering her senior years I am much more cautious about allowing her to play with younger, stronger, agile dogs and instead opt for a more sedate walk in woodlands, hills or open countryside with the occasional trip to coastal sandy beaches for a roll in the sand and paw deep paddle in the sea.

I am aware that being a large breed, the Estrela may be more prone to bone and joint issues and the potentially very serious gastric torsion condition which can affect large breeds in particular. Fortunately with proper care and being aware of the dangers, the risks of developing these issues can be considerably reduced.

During the early years, I delayed having my Estrela spayed but was eventually convinced by the vet that the potential for serious health problems of not having her spayed outweighed the risks of the operation so I agreed to go ahead as I wanted what was best for my dogs health and wellbeing. I opted for keyhole surgery which is a much less invasive technique with faster recovery although comes at  increased cost.

I learned from this experience that in future I'd probably opt to have my dogs spayed / neutered somewhere between 9 and 12 months old. I am sure there are arguments from all sides on this subject but I feel the health risks of not being spayed were too great to ignore.

Now in her senior years, I have noticed my Estrela slowing down and sometimes showing signs of stiffness when getting up from her bed. Out on walks however, any signs of age  immediately evaporates with the sight of a squirrel running across her path, at which point she goes from 10 years old to 2 years old in an instant with no sign of any age related mobility issues.

To support her mobility and joints in her old age I use YuMove and Turmeric each day with her food which seems to help keep her mobile and healthy, hopefully for a good number of years to come.

Grooming

The Estrela has either short or long coat, my personal experience being of the latter variety which has an unbelievable ability, on wet and muddy days, to pick up and retain a huge amount of mud for later distribution around the home. In fairness, I'm sure this is similar for most long coated breeds but it's certainly something to be aware of for anyone considering owning a large breed with a long coat.

Generally speaking the coats are easily maintained, requiring a good brush about once a week, although more brushing would probably reduce shedding of fur around the home on a daily  basis which although not excessive, does become noticeable if I don't vacuum for a couple of days.

To ensure all my dogs grooming needs are met I also book her into a professional groomers every 3 - 4 months to ensure ears, nails and more difficult to reach areas are adequately trimmed and clean to help the Estrela maintain her personal hygiene.

I generally use a slicker brush and grooming gloves which I find easier for getting underneath the tummy and inside the legs but overall if brushing is done on a regular basis from an early age then it should be an easy and positive experience between owner and animal and regular grooming can help uncover any potential health problems such as lumps or injuries that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Vets & Insurance

When my Estrela puppy arrived home at 8 weeks old, I made every effort to cover all eventualities and registered with a vet for a full health check, injections and arranged a comprehensive insurance package to give peace of mind should there be any mishaps or health problems with my new family member.

Unfortunately, my experience with pet insurance has been quite simply dreadful, and knowing what I know now, if I was to repeat the process of owning another dog from a puppy I would  save a reasonable sum of money each month to build up a reasonable sized fund to cover any unexpected vet bills over time and if you don't end up using it, at least the money still belongs to you rather than the insurance company. Most insurance companies use low premiums to entice owners and then very quickly increase the premiums to unaffordable levels especially if you have been unfortunate to make a claim on the policy.

After taking out my initial pet insurance policy with a large provider and having a couple of minor visits to the vets in the first couple of years, the insurance company decided it was no longer providing pet insurance to its customers and offloaded this branch of its business to a third party insurance company. The problem was the extortionate renewal price from the new company in order to provide continuation cover for existing conditions. As a result I had to shop around and chose another large high street bank to provide my pet insurance, accepting the fact that existing conditions would no longer be covered. My dog then developed an allergy with her ears requiring ongoing treatment and the same also happened and the bank ceased offering all customers pet insurance, now leaving me high and dry for the rest of my dogs life on several conditions that would no longer be covered as they would be classed as pre existing conditions.

I again searched for another big brand insurance company, by now having a growing number of minor conditions I would not be covered for in the event of a claim for treatment. I have now been with my current insurer for a good number of years and have never claimed from them but the cost of insurance has risen at a considerable rate, especially once the dog passes 7 years of age, and the older the dog, the more restrictions are introduced on the policy, and the levels of cover diminish, whilst the premiums accelerate ever upwards.

Unfortunately, these insurance policies become prohibitively expensive at the point you are most likely to need them and having experienced such a poor service from insurance companies, I would definitely prefer in future to save money towards unexpected bills knowing I take good care of my dog, hopefully minimising the likelihood of visits to the vet.

I would continue to take out basic third party liability insurance to protect myself legally in the event of my dog causing damage, accident or injury to another person or property but I feel the health aspect of insurance is prohibitively expensive especially for older large pedigree dogs.

Vaccinations & Pet Passport

I have always had my dog vaccinated on a yearly basis ever since she was a puppy and usually combine it with her annual health check at my local veterinary clinic during which the vet will check her weight, teeth, eyes, ears and generally look for any signs of illness. I also medicate my dog each month against ticks, fleas and other parasites that can cause serious and potentially fatal illnesses such as lungworm.

I have made considerable savings over the years by obtaining prescriptions from the vet (usually at a small cost) and then ordering a 12 month supply of medication online from a reputable company. The process is simple and the savings have been substantial.

Several years ago I decided to take my Estrela Mountain Dog to visit her ancestral homeland in the Serra Da Estrela of Portugal. For this adventure I registered for the Pet Passport scheme  and had my dog vaccinated against rabies and received the pet passport a few weeks later after a blood test confirmed she had developed sufficient rabies antibodies. The process was straight forward in the UK but some of the requirements and procedures whilst over on the continent initially caused me considerable anxiety but ultimately with some appointment planning and timing of travel the process was a lot less stressful than I'd envisaged and many vets will usually have some staff who speak at least some English.

Quite often the closer the veterinary clinic is to the port, the more expensive the appointment tends to be, and using vets recommended by travel companies has resulted in bills approximately three times the amount for the equivalent service and medication elsewhere. 

Travel With An Estrela

Most of the time travel is without problem but I have learnt over the years to plan well ahead and pay special attention to some aspects when booking accommodation and using public transport. When searching for pet friendly accommodation it's important to check the small print or contact the venue directly to confirm whether they really are "dog friendly" and what their pet policy is. I have previously booked a hotel only to arrive late evening to find they have  a maximum weight limit of 10kg for dogs. With an Estrela weighing over 40kg there was some frustration from both sides but ultimately we managed to secure a room for a few hours before moving on to a different venue.

Another method of exploitation from some venues is the "additional cleaning charge" which can vary wildly in how it's applied. I've encountered places that charge an additional £20 per night and you can be sure they won't be giving the room £20 worth of extra cleaning each morning. For most responsible pet owners, it's unlikely the cleaning staff would have to spend barely any extra time cleaning the room. 

Fortunately there are many places very happy to accommodate us, making us very welcome and whenever possible we always return to those venues, becoming good loyal customers and because my Estrela is such a sweet and funny character, she's made many friends both human and animal, often becoming the focal point for many people fascinated by such an unusual breed. 

When travelling on public transport it's always worth getting confirmation in writing from the travel company stating they accept dogs before travelling to avoid any difficulties with staff who may not want a dog onboard. Personally I'd rather wait for another bus than get into any kind of argument with an awkward employee these days but its useful to have written confirmation as back up in case the situation becomes desperate and to avoid being left stranded. 

Common sense dictates that it will never be a good idea to travel at peak times with a large dog on crowded buses or trains and I suspect doing so would be extremely difficult and unpleasant for both dog and owner.

When my Estrela was about 7 years old we set off on a road trip to the Estrela Mountains in Portugal on an adventure to her ancestral homeland. This was definitely a trip I will always remember and hopefully one day we will return to spend more time exploring this beautiful region.

My Estrela is a very well travelled dog and has certainly enjoyed some excellent adventures over the years in both the UK and Europe. We have been on walking holidays, wild camping, boating adventures and road trips to some interesting and remote locations and for me there is no better travelling companion than my four legged, faithful friend, the Estrela Mountain Dog.

The Final Years

After spending virtually every day over the past 10 years with my dog, I'm acutely aware she's beginning to slow down and enter the latter stages of her life. I find this incredibly difficult, often feeling like I'm counting down the days, but then tell myself to enjoy and make the most of whatever time we have left.

Rather than going for adventurous, physically demanding and energy consuming mountain walks in the Lake District, we now spend our days walking in gentle countryside, woodland or along the canals, with plenty of opportunities to stop, rest and watch the world pass by.

Hopefully my Estrela will continue to enjoy her life, spending time with her family and friends for many years to come, but one day we'll eventually have to say a heartbreaking goodbye and whether I can ever be strong enough to deal with such sadness again only time will tell. Meanwhile, there are still plenty of adventures that await us and hopefully we can continue to create, photograph and document many more happy memories together.


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