The aim of this program is to place puppies of the Transmontano Mastiff breed with herds in the region that lack dogs that can defend them from wolf attacks. The puppies come from farms where good quality dogs of this breed can be found.
The Transmontano Mastiff Dog Distribution Program was created by Montesinho Natural Park in 1994. At present, this program is fulfilled through a protocol signed in 2005 between the Transmontano Mastiff Breeders Association and the Montesinho Natural Park.
Inscriptions to apply for receiving Transmontano Mastiff dogs must be made at the offices of the local protected areas (Montesinho, Douro Internacional or Alvão Natural Parks) or with the Park rangers that inspect the reported wolf attacks.
The distribution of the puppies follows a waiting list kept and permanently updated by Montesinho Natural Park. This list includes some priority criteria, which are, in decreasing order of importance: i) great need of dogs due to high number of wolf attacks; ii) associates of the Transmontano Mastiff Dog Breeding Association; iii) farms within a Protected Area; iv) time elapsed since the inscription.
Handling the litters begins with the identification of the parents and the selection of the puppies. When a litter is accepted on the program, the following protocol applies:

  • The litter is checked on the first week after its birth and food is provided for the puppies and the nursing bitch throughout the next 2 months;
  • At 2 weeks the puppies are photographed and individual charts are made; they are de-wormed and measured;
  • At 4 weeks they are de-wormed and measured again, and sprayed to stay free from fleas and ticks;
  • Between 7 and 8 weeks they are vaccinated and given identification electronic chips; they are measured one more time and they will stay with the breeder for a period of about ten days to monitor the reaction to the vaccination;
  • Around two months of age the puppies are placed in herds, according to the order in the waiting list. Upon receipt of the puppy, the new owner is given its Health Bulletin
  • The registration certificate issued by the Portuguese Kennel Club is later sent to the new owner.
A Litter Registration Bulletin and Individual Charts (database of Montesinho Natural Park) are filled and sent to the Portuguese Kennel Club.

Dogs are only purchased from breeders that accept the terms of the protocol for the distribution program and these are:

  • The whole litter must be submitted to the protocol described above;
  • At least one of the puppies of each litter will be purchased by the program;
  • Puppies cannot be given or sold before the end of all foreseen health treatments;
  • Blood samples are taken from the parents and all puppies in the litter, in order to allow DNA analysis (since these dogs do not live in confined spaces, meeting other dogs from neighbouring farms, it is possible that the bitches have mated with a male different from the one the breeder assumes to be the parent of the litter; thus, a paternity test is done routinely to one puppy from each litter).
The following figures illustrate the localities where puppies were delivered in herds since the start of the programme, alongside the parishes where wolf attacks occur.

The strong increase in the number of dogs in herds of cattle seems to have given a significant contribution to the reduction of damage caused by wolf. However, there are several factors that may contribute to the decline registered: the existence of more natural areas due to the abandonment of agriculture and the consequent presence of more natural prey (deer and wild boar) for the wolf, or a slight reduction in the number of herds of sheep and goats, leaving available better pastures (in this case there is no need for such zones as, closed vegetation and forests where there are more attacks).

So, in the past 5 years there has been a continued decline in the number of losses in all the districts of Bragança, Vinhais, Vimioso, Macedo de Cavaleiros and Mirandela. That certainly will have some connection with the supply of the dog breed of the Transmontano Mastiff Dog in herds such as can be seen in the Figures aside.

An important aspect of handling the puppies used in the program, making them more apt to perform their job of protection, is the fact that they are born on farms, often inside of the corral that shelters the sheep, and they are placed directly in another farm. In many cases, the dogs do not know where their owner lives, the herd is their home. So, since birth, they develop a strong bonding with the herd he has to accompany and protect throughout its life.
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