Dog show organizers primarily look for canines that can show the best physical and psychological characteristics of their breed, which should not be difficult for Estrela Mountain Dogs. Over many centuries, they have retained their distinctive coloring, weight, height, and appealing personality.
A well-bred Estrela is a strong, sturdy, and athletic animal. Its coat may be anything from reddish gold and wolf gray, to a burnt yellow color and is most often similar to goat hair. Its bones are not overly large and despite growing to be about 110 lbs, this dog usually remains quite agile.
Other characteristics of the breed include a black mask, black lips and nose, and black-rimmed eyelids, strong teeth, medium-sized alert eyes, small and high-set rounded ears. Its body should include a solid, strong neck, sturdy chest, and muscular legs.
A special feature of an Estrela is a tuft of hair on its neck and chest areas. There may be some white fur on the feet, chest and tail. When walking in the show ring, an Estrela appears to be a proud and lofty animal. When jogging, his gait must be easy, but full of purpose. The dog's temperament should be calm and affectionate, with an air of aloofness. He should not show signs of being overly aggressive or weak.
His master must be able to keep him under control at all times. Use technique, patience, and love to let your Estrela know that you are his master and he must listen to you. The breed is quite intelligent but often independent minded and stubborn, so you will need to train your Estrela to respond to your commands in and out of the show ring. However, when put to the test, these dogs learn quickly, especially if training begins when they are puppies. Never use harsh training methods, as your Estrela will rebel and possibly even run away.
One thing you will have to watch out for during dog shows is that Estrelas do not get along with other dogs of the same sex because of their inbred territorial instinct. At best, they will tolerate their presence.
Breed standards for Estrelas were first recognized in Portugal in the early 1920s, with dew claws being a distinctive feature of this type of dog. Before World War II, farmers and shepherds were the only people breeding these dogs. These owners were, for the most part, illiterate and unaware of Estrelas as possible show dogs.
In 1933, Estrelas also became recognized for their laid-back ears and low set hooked tails. A few dog shows called Concursos were organized by the wealthy in Portugal to primarily test their working abilities, but it seems that foreign breeds got much more attention.
It was not until the early '70s that the first purebred Estrelas were imported to the United Kingdom and United States. In 1998, the Estrela Mountain Dog Association of America officially recognized them.