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Rare Mountain Dog Guards Flocks
Only about 100 Estrela mountain dogs exist in the U.S. The ancient Portugese breed, which is well-known for guarding flocks and herds, almost became extinct when the predator population was reduced, and shepherds no longer needed the dogs. With the growth of the coyote and wolf populations, there's new interest in the breed. And, of course, some people keep them as pets.
  They are not the right dog for many people, says Cindy Martishius, the first U.S. breeder and president of the Estrela Mountain Dog Association of America (EMDAA).
  "I want potential Estrela owners to understand that Estrelas need obedience. They need a leader and a fenced yard. You can't get around those things," Martishius says. "They can be very willful. No lab can out-chew an Estrela. They'll chew the siding off the house. They can't be trusted off lead."
  That said, the Leland, N.C., breeder socializes the dogs from the time they are pups, and they love children. But they also take their job as guardian seriously and patrol her fenced yard. While her Estrelas won't bother children, she has to escort adults into her yard. Martishius says Estrelas are the purest guardian dogs in existence. They don't herd; they just guard.
  The instinct starts early. Martishius says puppies start growling at three weeks and eventually learn when it's appropriate.
  Mature Estrelas are big. Females start at 24 1/2 in. tall and weigh up to 80 lbs. Males can be up to 28 1/2 in. tall and weigh up to 110 lbs. They are not fussy eaters, but prefer natural foods (raw meat), and they require regular exercise. Estrelas come in a variety of colors, and some have short-hair coats while others have long-hair. They do well in both warm and cold climates.
  The breed is stubborn, but can be trained. Martishius has used some of her dogs as therapy dogs always on leash. The EMDAA sets standards for show dogs, and for ethical breeding practices.
  Estrelas can be imported from good breeders for about $1,000 plus $400 to $500 in shipping costs. Martishius sells them for $1,200 and has a contract to protect herself, the owner and the dog that if the owner can't keep the dog it's returned to her.
  "Make sure that you trust the breeder," Martishius says. "Be aware that with imported dogs you won't have a legal contract or warranty, but imported dogs are important for the future genetic depth of the breed. Make sure the dog and its parents have health checks by a vet. Though hip dysplasia is not a big problem in the breed, it should be checked for."
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Cindy Martishius, 2681 Mt. Misery Rd., Leland, N.C. 28451 (ph 910 371-9216; www.trailsendestrela.com).

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2010 - Volume #34, Issue #3