How to Train a Rafeiro de Alentejo

The Rafeiro do Alentejo is an excellent farm and estate watch dog. He is also a very useful livestock protector, being more vigilant at night and very serious when guarding territory or any other property entrusted to him. He has a calm and confident expression.


The Rafeiro do Alentejo is believed to descend from molosser dogs from the Middle East. On account of their size and courage, they were used by peoples whose livelihood depended on livestock husbandry, thus performing a crucial role for this type of community.

With the beginning of the transhumance in Portugal, it was noticed that the migrating herds and shepherds were exposed to many dangers during their long journeys. So on their route to the mountains in the summer and back to the plains in the winter, flocks were always accompanied by large dogs, which lead to the dogs being spread along the route from region to region. As the population settled down, the dogs eventually remained in the southern prairies, the Alentejo plains, where they adapted and began to be used to guard, not only the herds, but the big rural estates as well. The official standard of the Rafeiro do Alentejo was first established in 1953 in Portugal.

Quick Facts

Temperament: confident / calm / powerful

Height: 25-29 inches

Weight: 77-132 pounds

Life Expectancy: 12-14 years

Foundation Stock Service 


Some dogs may be faced with health challenges in their lives, but the majority of Rafeiros Alentejanos are healthy dogs. Working with a responsible breeder, prospective owners can gain the education they need to learn about specific health concerns within the breed.


Beyond regular weekly grooming, the occasional bath will keep your Rafeiro do Alentejo clean and looking his best. Grooming can be a wonderful bonding experience for you and your dog. The strong, fast-growing nails should be trimmed regularly with a nail clipper or grinder to avoid overgrowth, splitting, and cracking. The ears should be checked regularly to avoid a buildup of wax and debris, which can result in infection. Teeth should be brushed regularly.


Options for exercise could include play time in the backyard, preferably fenced, or being taken for walks several times a day. Exercise can also come in the form of indoor activities, like hide-and-seek, chasing a ball rolled along the floor, or learning new tricks. Certain outdoor activities such as hiking or retrieving balls can provide a good outlet for expending energy. If you live in an apartment, even short walks in the hallways can give your dog some exercise, especially during inclement weather. Training for dog sports like agility, obedience, and rally can also be a great way to give your dog exercise. 

Since the beginning of the breed’s history, Rafeiros Alentejanos were used in packs as hunting dogs for big game, though this function has gradually disappeared over time. More recently, the breed is a guard dog for property and livestock, watching sheep and cattle. They also often work alone in prairies and will defend the herd against any intruders. Hailing from Portugal, the Rafeiro do Alentejo is a large-sized dog, powerful, rustic, sober, and calm. He moves with a heavy, slow roll. His coat is short or medium-length and thick, straight and dense. They can be black, wolf grey, or fawn, with or without brindling, always with white markings; or white with patches of these colors.


Would benefit from a positive reinforcement-based training program starting at an early age.


The Rafeiro do Alentejo should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.