Rafeiro do Alentejo Temperament and Personality (6 Traits AND MORE)

The Rafeiro do Alentejo temperament isn’t ideal for everybody. But he has traits some owners will find appealing. After all, he’s a massive guard dog with an affectionate side that shows he loves his family.



The Rafeiro do Alentejo (RDA) combines these fantastic traits with a stubbornness that makes training him difficult. His temperament is a mixed bag, which will require full understanding before bringing him home.

So, keep reading and let’s figure out whether you’re a good fit for this somewhat gentle giant.

The Rafeiro do Alentejo Temperament and Personality

1. Protective

The Rafeiro do Alentejo temperament features protective instincts that make him ideally suited for being a guard dog. There’s little he won’t do to protect his family against something he perceives as a threat. His massive size helps in this regard as well.

There isn't an intruder that would actively choose to enter a house with Rafeiro do Alentejo inside it. It also helps that he will bark loudly when he sees someone who he doesn’t know walking toward your home.

This protectiveness does have a downside though as it makes him reserved with strangers.

2. Stubborn

A stubbornness lies within the Rafeiro do Alentejo temperament that can make training him problematic. Most of the time he tends to value his opinion more than yours, which isn’t great for training sessions.

This trait also makes him capable of resisting common training techniques. It’s why you need to get ahead of the stubbornness and train/socialize him as soon as possible. His hard-headedness does seem to disappear when a treat appears though.

3. Sensitive

The Rafeiro do Alentejo size might be imposing, but he’s quite sensitive on the inside. You see he tends to react poorly toward any harsh punishment. It can be something as mundane as yelling at him for chewing your shoes.

His reaction to this type of punishment often makes him distant. You’ll have to gain his trust back, which is quite hard considering his independent nature. It’s best to find other disciplinary tactics with this breed.

4. Moderately Active

One of the least challenging parts about this breed is his activity requirements. The Rafeiro do Alentejo exercise needs require only 60 minutes of activity per day. This amount of time might seem like a lot, but he’s happy working it off by himself indoors.

All it takes on your part is one daily 15 to 20-minute walk, and he’ll do the rest pacing around your home. You see he loves staying indoors where the temperature is stable, and he can focus on keeping everyone safe.

5. Affectionate

Maybe the least talked about part of the Rafeiro do Alentejo temperament is his affectionate side. He loves his family and isn’t afraid to show them with loving acts. His tender side is entirely reserved for his family or pack and doesn’t extend to people he doesn’t know.

This part of him comes out most around children he sees as part of his pack. You still must watch all his interactions with kids though as he’s much bigger than them. He could accidentally knock them over without doing it on purpose.

We should also note that he’d even be affectionate with other pets as long as he grew up with them. It’s a little weird seeing a massive dog be nice to a cat, but he will as long as they have his respect.

6. Aggressive

The Rafeiro do Alentejo temperament can turn aggressive when he doesn’t receive proper training. This trait is the reason why first-time owners shouldn’t consider getting him as a pet. He instead needs someone with experience to bring out his good behaviors.

We should note he could become aggressive toward overly pushy children who don’t respect him as well. You should always watch the interactions between an RDA and kids to ensure nothing ends up happening.

A Quick Look At Rafeiro do Alentejo History

The Rafeiro do Alentejo’s origins are a bit of an unknown. You see experts can’t seem to agree where his bloodlines begin. The argument comes down to one of the two following theories:

  • He descends from massive ancient dogs found in Tibet’s highlands
  • His bloodlines start with dogs that migrated into Asia Minor with the Roman legions

But it’s quite clear that he developed his own set of traits over the centuries. This evolution ended up with him becoming a massive livestock guardian dog. He would fearless protect cattle and sheep from predators.

His evolution would continue when breeders introduced two breeds into his bloodlines:

The additions of these two breeds led to the Rafeiro do Alentejo temperament we know today. He would thrive in the livestock guardian role for centuries within his home country of Portugal. His travel would often take him between the regions of Alentejo and Douro.

Everything started to change when two men, Filipe Romeiras and Antonio Cabral, took an interest in him around 1953. Their fascination led to his first ever breed standard. But it wasn’t all great as his numbers would start decreasing in the 1960s and 1970s.

This issue became such a problem that he was close to extinction in the 1980s. Some breeders took notice and led an effort to save the breed. Their efforts attracted the United Kennel Club’s attention. He received recognition from them in 2006.

Rafeiro do Alentejo Appearance

The Rafeiro do Alentejo, also known as the Alentejo Herder and the Portuguese Watchdog, has a massive physique. His large body type results in some impressive measurements:

  • The Rafeiro do Alentejo height varies between 25 and 28 inches
  • The Rafeiro do Alentejo weight ranges from 77 to 99 pounds

It’s no surprise that these measurements belong to a dog with a massive head. But his standout feature is his expressive dark brown eyes. He’ll also have average sized triangle ears, which have rounded tips.

These ears will hang down a little past his eyes. His eye rims, nose, and lips will all have a black coloring. He’ll have a muscular, bulky body with a short neck, which reflects a sense of him being powerful.

His tail will have a curve and be somewhat long. It should also line up with his spine and fall between the hock joints while not resting on the ground. His coat will be thick, and the topcoat should be harsher compared to his undercoat. The accepted Rafeiro do Alentejo colors include:

  • Fawn
  • Brindle
  • Yellow
  • Grey
  • Black

He can have a spotted white pattern on his coat as well.

Rafeiro do Alentejo Vs. Estrela Mountain Dog

Both these breeds feature similar measurements and originate from the same place. It’s not shocking they often get confused for each other. Understanding the following differences will help ensure you don’t make the same mistake.

The first thing to know is the Estrela Mountain Dog’s measurements are a bit smaller:

  • Weight: 66 to 88 pounds
  • Height: 24 to 27 inches

It’s not a big difference, but it’ll give you a starting point. These three differences concerning their coats will be a little more noticeable:

  1. The Estrela Mountain Dog’s coat can’t come in black.
  2. His coat will be wavy, not straight like the Rafeiro do Alentejo’s.
  3. He can’t have spotted on white markings.

A Brief Rafeiro do Alentejo Training Guide

Training a Portuguese Watchdog isn’t an easy process. He should only be taken in by experienced dog owners that have the time to socialize him. If he doesn’t receive the proper attention, it could result in him becoming a potential danger to others.

It also doesn’t help that he tends to mature slowly, which makes him less trainable. His independent nature isn’t an ideal training feature either. It gives him a stubbornness that’s hard for an inexperienced owner to overcome.

This trait is the reason that training him early becomes such a vital step. You want to get those commands and concepts in his mind before the independent nature takes over. Eight weeks would be a good starting age for this breed.

You should also understand traditional harsh training methods don’t work with him. He’ll react to these techniques with aggression, and your bond will quickly break. Positive reinforcement techniques instead have shown to be most effective with the Rafeiro do Alentejo temperament.

Helpful Dog Training Resource:

For help with training your Rafeiro do Alentejo dog, you should take a look at The Online Dog Trainer by Doggy Dan. Doggy Dan is an expert Dog Trainer based in New Zealand. His online resource contains Hundreds of Excellent Dog Training Videos that will take you step-by-step through the process of developing a healthy, happy well-behaved dog.

Rafeiro do Alentejo Grooming Requirements

This breed might have a double coat, but his grooming requirements are minor. He’ll require a weekly brushing, which should increase during his two seasonally shedding periods. Daily brushing should keep the shedding from becoming too problematic.

This daily brushing should continue until his entire undercoat has shed. The following three tools will be useful during these brushing sessions:

  • Deshedder
  • Metal comb
  • Pin brush

His bathing requirements aren’t extensive either. He’ll typically need about two baths a year taking place during his shedding periods. If you do wash him, use a mild shampoo to avoid skin irritations.

The hair between his footpads needs trimming as well. This action will keep dirt or knots from affecting his movements. The remaining grooming requirements will fall under basic care:

  • Trimming his nails monthly
  • Brushing his teeth weekly
  • Checking his ears for build ups regularly

Relevant Rafeiro do Alentejo Health Issues

The Rafeiro do Alentejo lifespan is much longer than most large dogs, 12 to 14 years. But this doesn’t mean he won't have health issues. There are still conditions that appear more frequently within the Rafeiro do Alentejo community:

Keeping these conditions in check won’t be too difficult. Staying up-to-date with your vet visits should do the trick. Experts recommend going every six months to ensure your dog’s on the right track.

If you plan on purchasing a puppy, there’s something else you need to do. You see puppies with parents that have OFA certified elbows and hips are less likely to get these conditions. Making sure your breeder has these certifications readily available is a crucial step.

Note: Our Health is #1 Priority. It should be no different or your Rafeiro do Alentejo. But you need to help him. The Ultimate Guide to Dog Health is the answer. This handy guide will help you recognize the symptoms of the health problems above. Get the knowledge to stay ahead of these terrible issues that can rob your lovely dog from vigor and life. Help your friend make it to 14 yrs+ without pain and suffering.

Finding Your Rafeiro do Alentejo

Rafeiro do Alentejo For Sale

Finding a Rafeiro do Alentejo within the United States will be difficult. There has been a recent upswing of this breed getting imported into the states, but it's still quite rare. This process will take some time and effort on your part.

If you go forward with this process, there’s some good news. This breed is apart of the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service. Their inclusion in this group means you can use the AKC’s marketplace.

This marketplace will quickly get you into contact with any reputable breeders that have Rafeiro do Alentejo puppies. It’s also helpful because the people listed on this site have to follow specific AKC's breeding rules.

These rules make it improbable that you’ll end up contacting a bad breeder. If you don’t find any available puppies, you'll have to use sites like Puppyfinder.com. It seems there isn’t an official Rafeiro do Alentejo kennel club in the United States that you can go to for advice/guidance at the time of this writing. This means you'll have to use these unsanctioned websites.

Using these sites will make it more probable you may run into lousy Rafeiro do Alentejo breeders. This issue makes it essential you set up a meeting at their breeding facilities beforehand. It’ll allow you to see whether everything is legitimate.

Average Cost of a Rafeiro do Alentejo Puppy

If the breeder you contact passes the test, a Rafeiro do Alentejo's price will range between $800 and $1000. The cost could be higher or lower depending on factors like:

  • DNA
  • Medical issues
  • Shipping costs

Rafeiro do Alentejo For Adoption

Adopting an Alentejo Herder isn’t going to any easier than buying one. You see there isn’t a single reputable Rafeiro do Alentejo rescue in the United States. As a result, you’ll have to surf through sites like Adoptapet.com.

These sites will locate the nearest RDA and provide the contact information. From there, it’s all a simple matter of contacting the organization that’s holding the dog. If these websites don’t work, you have one more option to pursue.

Taking a trip down to the nearest shelter and looking through their selection. There’s not a high chance you’ll end up finding an RDA at these places. But it doesn’t hurt to at least look, and you might end up getting lucky.

If you do find an adoptable RDA, make sure you ask a whole slew of questions about him. These questions should cover anything you feel might be useful in making the transition into your home easier:

  • Training
  • Previous situation
  • Temperament
  • Medical history

These are some examples of the topics you should ask about before bringing him home. This exercise will ensure you feel comfortable about his fit inside your home. After all, you don’t want to be the person that returns a dog.

Average Cost of Adoption Fee

The adoption fee will cost anywhere between $30 and $300. This price could be higher or lower depending on a few crucial factors:

  • Age
  • Medical expenses
  • Boarding costs
  • Type of organization

Conclusion: Is the Rafeiro do Alentejo a Good Fit For Your Home?

If you’re an experienced owner looking for a loving, guard dog, the Rafeiro do Alentejo temperament will be perfect. His protective nature will keep you safe at night, and his affectionate side will provide you comfort during the day.

But if you’re a first-time owner, stay far away from this breed. His stubbornness will overwhelm you, and he can become aggressive when he’s not properly trained. Owners with smaller children should look somewhere else as well.Rafeiro do