Onde Vive

Protecting the flock
Relation to the environment
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The characteristics that can be observed in the Transmontano Mastiff today seem to have been defined by its ability to prevent wolf attacks to the kind of sheep and goat herding practised in the northeast of the Portuguese Trás-os-Montes province and also by its adaptation to the rural society he lives in.
The home of the Transmontano Mastiff is the herd. Contrarily to other breeds, this dog doesn't really have a territory to defend, but a herd instead. This herd has several - usually many - pastures, which change along the day and the year, and it also has several places to spend the night or rest during the day. The fact that the herd is not attached to a single territory has a strong influence on the dog's behaviour. When taken away from his herd, the dog loses a bit of his nobility, his imposing character and, especially, his aggressiveness. On the other hand, if the herd is led to a new place with the dog, he gets on with his work, as if nothing peculiar had happened.  Therefore, it doesn't come as a surprise that it is a common practice in this region to sell a herd together with its dogs and that in spite of moving to a new place and a new master, the dogs keep doing their work with the same perfection.
The relationship between the Transmontano Mastiff and the shepherd too, is somewhat different from that usually associated to master and dog. Most shepherds rarely touch their dogs and seldom put them on leash. In many cases, they even find it very hard to hold them, either to have them vaccinated, treated for some disease, or for any other end. Their affection, when it is present, is transmitted to the dogs through a few words and the sharing of some treat during the meal. Very often, the only person who manages to hold the dogs when needed is the shepherd's wife – the one who usually feeds the dogs. In other instances it is the shepherd's children the ones who the dogs trust more and who are able to do anything they want of them.
The attitude of a Transmontano Mastiff Dog towards the sheep varies, essentially depending on the good or bad experiences he had with these animals while growing up.  If he was unlucky to grow up near sheep with new-born lambs, he certainly suffered a few strong butts that made him grow to fear their proximity, or at least to fear some of the sheep, since the dogs perfectly identify each individual animal of the herd. Although this seldom occurs, some pups can even be killed by sheep butts. Other dogs, born in a time of the year where there were no newborn lambs, behave differently and try to play with the sheep and lambs, without fearing them. Their playing can even be too violent and inadvertently result in the killing of the lambs. The experienced shepherd always intervenes to prevent this to happen or, in case a pup does kill a lamb, he promptly punishes him so that the incident does not happen again. Adult dogs usually have an affective relationship with the sheep and the herd. They can be frequently seen licking or grooming the sheep, and, when the shepherd tries to hold them, they seek refuge among the sheep. An adult dog that grew up without lamb death incidents has a relationship with these similar to that he has with other pups. For instance, it is possible to watch lambs a few days old that get lost in the herd and can't find their mothers, trying to follow, sometimes even trying to suckle from him, who awkwardly tries to move away.
As to wild animals, the reaction of the Transmontano Mastiff is usually the same whatever the species he meets: he persecutes and tries to catch the animal, whether it is a wolf, a red fox, a wildboar, a roe deer, a red deer, a lizard, a snake, a rabbit or a hare, the reaction is always aggressive, ending up with the animal's escape or kill. Almost every Transmontano Mastiff dog of the region has captured some of these animals. When the hunted down animal is a wolf or a wildboar, the ending can be different, though. It is frequent to find Transmontano Mastiff dogs wounded by wildboars, some of them even dying from them. Those that survive learn to avoid the biting or, while persecuting them, avoid the final confrontation. As to the wolf, when confrontation happens, it usually results in the death of the dogs, if they are not using a spine-collar. Wolves kill around ten Transmontano Mastiff dogs every year.
As all the herds, the Transmontano Mastiff dogs live in a strongly humanised area, where meetings with other people often occur. The frequency of these meetings is so high that it would be impossible for a shepherd to own dogs aggressive enough to bite someone. For this reason, there was certainly along the way a selection that progressively eliminated the dogs with a degree of aggressiveness towards people to the point of biting. Even today, when a Transmontano Mastiff dog shows aggressiveness towards people, the shepherd seeks to get rid of him. Such encounters between people and dogs, although not at all pleasant, especially because of the size of the dogs, do not go beyond a few warning barks. As it is, it seems probable that it was the surrounding environment that led these dogs to impose to strangers more through their impressing presence than by their aggressiveness and that, after their reserved temperament barrier is crossed, they become docile and quite affectionate.
The same thing does not happen in relation to other dogs. Generally, when a Transmontano Mastiff meets another dog, he primarily tries to impose himself through his presence. The next steps essentially depend on the other dog's reaction. If this adopts a submissive stance, shows fear or just stands still without reacting aggressively, he is almost immediately ignored. However, a dog that reacts aggressively trying to impose as dominant, or even bites, is rapidly attacked, sometimes even killed. This is one of the reasons why many Transmontano Mastiffs bear shot wounds, since when they persecute hunting dogs, hunters often have the irrational reaction of shooting at the Transmontano Mastiff dogs. As a matter of fact, the most important cause of death of these animals is of human origin. Apart from the one already mentioned, other frequent death causes in their area of origin are running over by cars and death by asphyxiation or haemorrhages caused by illegal snares aimed at wildboars.
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