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rafeiro do alentejo dog breed pictures 3 - Rafeiro do Alentejo

Rafeiro do Alentejo

The Rafeiro do Alentejo dog breed originated in Portugal where they served as hunting and guardian dogs. Today, people know dogs of this large-sized breed as strong and confident protectors.

The breed is sometimes also known as the Portuguese Watchdog or the Alentejo Mastiff. Although these are purebred dogs, you may still find them in shelters and rescues. Remember to adopt! Don’t shop, whenever possible, if this is the breed for you.

Rafeiro do Alentejos originally assisted their humans as hunting dogs. As the breed developed, they have come to be guardian dogs and often work as livestock guardians. Befitting such a large dog, they are powerful and strong, They will not hesitate to ward off any intruders. Due to a combination of the breed’s stubborn tendencies and physical prowess, they don’t usually make a good fit for novice dog parents. This is a breed that will require a steady and experienced training hand.


Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn’t necessarily an apartment dog make. Plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents are all good qualities in an apartment dog.

Some dogs are simply easier than others; they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They’re also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies.

Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time dog parent to manage. You’ll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.

If you’re new to dog parenting, take a look at 101 Dog Tricks and read up on how to train your dog!

Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called “easygoing,” “tolerant,” “resilient,” and even “thick-skinned,” can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.

Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive–barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.

Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks. You can find a great jacket for your dog here!

Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can’t pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, your dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you’ll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.

All Around Friendliness

Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they’ve been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn’t the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.

See Dogs Less Affectionate with Family

Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who’s on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (which are considered Pit Bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren’t always so family-friendly.

**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they’re not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.

Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs, even if they’re love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn’t the only factor. Dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least six to eight weeks of age and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.

Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with wagging tails and nuzzles; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was socialized and exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult. Remember that even friendly dogs should stay on a good, strong leash  in public!

Health And Grooming Needs

If you’re going to share your home with a dog, you’ll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds. Some dogs shed year-round, some “blow” seasonally, some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you’re a neatnik, you’ll need to either pick a low-shedding breed or relax your standards. To help keep your home a little cleaner, you can find a great de-shedding tool

Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you’ve got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you’re a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog who rates low in the drool department.

Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog who needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.

Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn’t mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they’re at an increased risk.

If you’re adopting a puppy, it’s a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you’re interested in. You may also want to ask if your shelter or rescue has information about the physical health of your potential pup’s parents and other relatives.

Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that’s prone to packing on pounds, you’ll need to limit treats, make sure they get enough exercise, and measure out their daily food servings into regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.

Ask your vet about your dog’s diet and what they recommend for feeding your pooch to keep them at a healthy weight. Weight gain can lead to other health issues or worsen problems like arthritis.

Dogs come in all sizes, from the world’s smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if they’re compatible with you and your living space. Large dog breeds might seem overpowering and intimidating, but some of them are incredibly sweet! Take a look and find the right sized dog for you!


Easy-to-train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word “sit”), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training.

Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a “What’s in it for me?” attitude, in which case you’ll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.

Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don’t get the mental stimulation they need, they’ll make their own work–usually with projects you won’t like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.

Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in Retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn’t puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or “herd” their human family members, and they need training to learn that it’s fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a toy that’s been stuffed with kibble and treats.

Dogs who were bred to hunt, such as Terriers, have an inborn desire to chase–and sometimes kill–other animals. Anything whizzing by, such as cats, squirrels, and perhaps even cars, can trigger that instinct. Dogs who like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you’ll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren’t a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won’t chase, but you’ll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.

Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how often the dog vocalizes with barks or howls. If you’re considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you’re considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious “strangers” put your pup on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby? Then you may wish to choose a quieter dog.

Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they’ll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses–or that bunny that just ran across the path–even if it means leaving you behind.

Physical Needs

High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they’re more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells.

Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you’ll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.

A vigorous dog may or may not have high energy, but everything they do, they do with vigor: they strain on the leash (until you train them not to), try to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who’s elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.

Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise, especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, like herding or hunting.

Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don’t like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.

Some dogs are perpetual puppies — always begging for a game — while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.

Vital Stats:

Dog Breed Group:Working DogsHeight:25 to 29 inchesWeight:77 to 132 poundsLife Span:12 to 14 years

bark rotating


More About This Breed


  • The Rafeiro do Alentejo most commonly comes with a coat that can be a combination of black, fawn, or brindle. The medium-length coat is straight and dense. Brushing the dog’s coat once a week should suffice.
  • Make sure that you can commit to at least one hour of outdoors exercise every single day with this dog.
  • The Rafeiro do Alentejo can do well living in a household with children; although, it is imperative that the children know the dog’s boundaries so that the animal does not act aggressively.
  • The Rafeiro do Alentejo can sometimes form protective bonds towards other pets and domestic animals; although, this is a dog that might do better on their own.
  • The breed has sharp danger instincts and is often seen more as a guardian dog than a traditional family pet.


When it comes to the background story of the Rafeiro do Alentejo, there isn’t too much certified information about how the breed originated. Most accounts of the history of the breed route back to the Alentejo region of Portugal, where they were popularly used to help move cattle around.

Over time, the Rafeiro do Alentejo was also used as a guardian dog for people owning large properties. Records show that, in 1953, Antonio Cabral and Filipe Romeiras decided to take steps to develop the official breed standard for the Rafeiro do Alentejo.

The Rafeiro do Alentejo was threatened with extinction in the 1980s, but due to the efforts of a group of dedicated champions of the breed, their popularity has increased lately.

These days, the American Kennel Club officially recognizes the Rafeiro do Alentejo as part of its Foundation Stock Service class.


Most Rafeiro do Alentejos stand 25 to 29 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 77 to 132 pounds. Female Rafeiro do Alentejos are often noticeably smaller than male Rafeiro do Alentejos.

That said, some dogs can be smaller or larger than average for their breed.


If you’re weighing up whether the Rafeiro do Alentejo will be a good fit for your family, you might be wondering exactly what sort of personality the breed has. First, this is considered to be a strong and confident dog. The breed has sharp danger instincts and is often seen more as a guardian dog than a traditional family pet.

The Rafeiro do Alentejo will require dedicated training and socialization efforts throughout their life, and the breed is not seen as being very suitable for a novice dog parent. You’ll also need to provide the Rafeiro do Alentejo with access to a lot of outdoor space and satisfy their exercise requirements.

There’s no denying that taking in a Rafeiro do Alentejo involves a very large commitment to training and caring for the dog, but a successfully socialized dog will become a valued guardian for the family.


Rafeiro do Alentejos are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they can be subject to certain health conditions. Not all Rafeiro do Alentejos will get any of these diseases, but it’s important to be aware of them if you’re considering this breed.

Some of the more common health problems Rafeiro do Alentejos suffer from include:

  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Hip dysplasia


If you bring home a Rafeiro do Alentejo, you’ll need to be able to provide the canine with a lot of space to live and exercise in. This is a large breed of dog, and they have a heritage as a working animal. So make sure that you can commit to at least one hour of outdoors exercise every single day.

You’ll also need to ensure that the dog receives regular training throughout their life. Adding smart interactive toys and challenging ball games to your daily routine can help satisfy the breed’s needs. Also, make sure that any fences around your property are large enough so that the dog cannot easily escape.

Other needs for the Rafeiro do Alentejo include dental hygiene and nail care. Brush your dog’s teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the accompanying bacteria. Daily is better.

Check your Rafeiro do Alentejo’s nails once a month and see if they need to be trimmed. Although if a Rafeiro do Alentejo is given sufficient outdoor time, there’s a strong likelihood that their nails will stay in great condition naturally. Also, make sure to check the dog’s ears for signs of debris or dirt that might have accumulated there.


An ideal Rafeiro do Alentejo diet should be formulated for a large breed with high energy levels.

The Rafeiro do Alentejo has a tendency to gain weight if they’re not given a high level of daily exercise. Keep your dog in good shape by measuring their food and feeding them twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time.

As with all dogs, the Rafeiro do Alentejo’s dietary needs will change from puppyhood to adulthood and will continue to change into their senior years. You should ask your veterinarian for recommendations about your Rafeiro do Alentejo’s diet, as there is far too much variation among individual dogs — including weight, energy, and health — to make a specific recommendation.

Coat Color And Grooming

The Rafeiro do Alentejo most commonly comes with a coat that can be a combination of black, fawn, or brindle. The medium-length coat is straight and dense. Brushing the dog’s coat once a week should suffice.

The Rafeiro do Alentejo can usually adapt to many conditions and climates. During the warmer summer months, make sure that your dog has access to enough fresh water to stay cool and hydrated.

Children And Other Pets

The Rafeiro do Alentejo can do well living in a household with children; although, it is imperative that the children know the dog’s boundaries so that the animal does not act aggressively. Make sure that early socialization takes place and that boundaries are properly set on both sides, and always supervise play sessions that involve very young children, especially when they involve such a huge dog.

The Rafeiro do Alentejo can sometimes form protective bonds towards other pets and domestic animals; although, this is a dog that might do better on their own. Always supervise early interactions between a new dog and a resident pet.

Ultimately, early socialization really pays off with this breed. Always make sure to reward your Rafeiro do Alentejo for good behavior and adhere to a proper training regime.

Rescue Groups

Rescues specifically for Rafeiro do Alentejo dogs might be hard to come by. However, you can always check with your local shelter, and you may want to try a rescue that caters to all kinds of dogs. You can take a look at the following:

  • Wright-Way Rescue
  • Angels Among Us Pet Rescue

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