ALL DOG BREED PROFILES

Old English Sheepdog

Old English Sheepdog
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The Old English Sheepdog was developed to be a herding type of dog. The breed has helped farmers to move livestock, especially sheep and cattle, over long distances and usually to the market.

The Old English Sheepdog is a huge breed, but that doesn’t mean that he is sluggish. In fact, this dog is quite active and can be really helpful in a variety of tasks, including herding and rescuing. The Old English Sheepdog is an intelligent, obedient, and charming dog. With his wonderful temperament, he will prove to be a worthy addition to a patient and fun-loving family.

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityHigh
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingHigh
All Around FriendlinessHigh
Exercise NeedsHigh

Dog Breed Group:Herding Dogs
Height:Generally 1 foot, 9 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight:Generally 80 to 100 pounds for males, and 60 to 85 pounds for females
Life Span:10 to 12 years

Why is the Old English Sheepdog called a Sheepdog? Is it because he might be mistaken for a sheep because of his big shaggy coat? No. The Old English Sheepdog is called as such because in the early times, the breed was used in helping shepherds tend their sheep, hence “Sheepdog.” This goes without saying that the breed is an obedient and trainable one. Oh, and intelligent too! But aside from being smart and reliable, the Old English Sheepdog is charming and playful too.

Now you may think that because of the breed’s herding heritage, it is fine to let these dogs be by themselves in the backyard for a long time. Please don’t do that. Doing so would only make your dog feel lonely, and he might even experience separation anxiety. This breed loves being with his family and is wonderfully affectionate to them. He also loves acting funny in his own funny dog ways. But even when he has this brilliant sense of humor, he also does a good job of protecting his family.

The Old English Sheepdog looks like a very adorable cotton candy dog from afar because of his distinctive shaggy coat. This breed’s coat needs grooming more than the others. The coat has to be brushed on a regular basis because if not, the coat would sideline as a trap for dust, fecal matter, urine, and moisture.

There is an option to cut the coat short for easier grooming, but if your Old English Sheepdog would participate in dog shows, his coat must be kept long. Grooming could take a couple of hours a week, and occasionally, you would have to give your dog professional grooming services. Taking care of this breed’s coat is not a breeze and would require patience and tolerance to the mess.

The Old English Sheepdog is not picky when it comes to housing. Even though it is a large breed, it can do well in an apartment if he is given enough avenues for activity and exercise regularly. This is breed is used to doing different tasks and can be trained easily with a loving, but firm and consistent owner. He is also able to mingle well with other dogs and pets, and will be able to live harmoniously with your family.

Main Highlights
  • The Old English Sheepdog was used in the earlier times for helping farmers move their livestock to the market.
  • Grooming the Old English Sheepdog is not easy, and would require regular brushing (preferably once a week) because the breed’s coat is prone to matting.
  • The breed loves to be with his family, and can serve as nannies to small children. It advisable to not leave the Old English Sheepdog for long periods of time, as this can make the dog feel lonely, causing him to become destructive.
  • The Old English Sheepdog, aside from being obedient and hard-working, is also funny and playful.
  • This breed needs a lot of exercise. If given regular exercise, he will do just fine in an apartment despite his large size.
  • The Old English Sheepdog is one of the larger dog breeds. The breed stands at around 21 inches tall at the shoulder, and can weigh from 60 to 100 pounds.
Breed History

The exact origin of the Old English Sheepdog is not really known, and remains an interesting question to those who fancy them. There are traces of evidence though, that point the breed’s origin to the early nineteenth century, in the Southwestern Counties of England. Others believe that Old English Sheepdogs had the Scottish Bearded Collie as an ancestor, but others claim that the Russian Owtchar had a big part in the foundation of the breed.

Writings referred to the Old English Sheepdog as a “driver’s dog” whose job is to help transport livestock such as sheep and cattle to the market. It is said that these dogs were exempted from taxes because of their working status. To prove that they were indeed working dogs, the owners of old English Sheepdogs docked their tails. This is the reason that the breed is nicknamed “Bob” or “Bobtail.”

The Old English Sheepdog became popular when he was promoted in the United States in the late 1880s. The breed was first owned by W. Wade, a Pittsburgh industrialist. By the start of the 1900s, the breed was owned, bred, and exhibited by five wealthy American families, namely the Morgans, Vanderbilts, Goulds, Harrisons, and Guggenheims. The breed was acknowledged by the American Kennel Club in 1885.

The Old English Sheepdog Club of America had been founded in 1904 by Henry Arthur Tilley, who, with his brother William Tilley, first created the breed standard of the Old English Sheepdog. Until the 1950s, the Old English Sheepdog was still deemed to be a luxury dog, or a rich man’s dog. But by the 1960s, the breed has started to become more common and has been recognized as a family pet.

Size

The Old English Sheepdog is one of the larger dog breeds. The males generally stand at around 22 inches tall at the shoulder, and weigh from 80 to 200 pounds. The females on the other hand stand at around 21 inches tall at the shoulder, and weigh from 60 to 85 pounds.

Personality and Character

The Old English Sheepdog is an intelligent and independent dog. He is also obedient, powerful, and hardworking. Despite the fluffy appearance, this breed can be strong-willed and would need a loving but firm owner who will guide them accordingly. They are funny dogs, but sometimes, their brand of humor may not always be something you’ll find hilarious. Sometimes they could just poke fun at your dismay on something they have done. But with training, your Old English Sheepdog can learn the difference between the “really funny” from the “not at all funny.”

The Old English Sheepdog cannot really be regarded as a guard dog. However, some old English Sheepdogs can be protective of their families. They bark loudly and some of them develop the habit of barking which can be annoying. This breed needs regular mental and physical stimulation. Not getting enough of those could lead to digging and chewing.

Aside from being reliable, funny, and obedient, the Old English Sheepdog is also playful and active. Even when they are already well into adulthood, they will still preserve their playful streak, which makes them a good companion for children. Because of the breed’s intelligence, they are able to do various tasks including herding and search & rescue.

The Old English Sheepdog loves being with his family and cannot be left alone for long periods of time, unless you want a lonely and potentially destructive dog. With good breeding, this dog is one who has a wonderful temperament, and can prove to be an amazing family dog. He can entertain and make the family laugh, and at the same time help the parents take care of the kids.

Health and Potential Problems

This is a generally healthy breed, but still, it is important to know and understand the possible health problems that your dog may acquire.

  • Cataracts – This health problem causes the fibers in the lens of the eyes to break. This results to the lens becoming opaque, and makes the eye appear cloudy. Cataracts usually come with old age and are generally painless. This condition can eventually lead to blindness, but can also be treated through surgery.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy – This is a health condition concerning the eyes, in which the retina deteriorates. Dogs affected by this condition start to lose vision in the night, and can lose their vision in the day eventually. In most cases, affected dogs will be able to adjust to their impaired vision.
  • Hypothyroidism – It is the condition wherein the body does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Symptoms include hair loss, weight gain, aggression, and fearfulness. However, another symptom of this is infertility. This condition is usually treated by hormonal pills.
  • Loss of Hearing — Loss of hearing or deafness is a common condition. This can be very challenging for both the dog and his family. Most of the time, this condition cannot be cured, but there are some cases where deafness can be treated with medication and surgical procedures. There already a lot of technologies which can help a deaf dog as well as the owner adjust to the condition. However, a deaf dog would need patience from his owner or family in order for him to enjoy life even with the loss of his hearing.
  • Hip Dysplasia – Hip dysplasia in dogs occurs when the thighbone doesn’t fit quite well into the hip socket. It is a common cause of limping in dogs. In severe cases, it can cause lameness and painful arthritis. Since this is a condition which is usually inherited, and is usually affected by environmental factors, it is important to find a reputable breeder who will be able to show you proof that the puppy’s parents are healthy and free from hip dysplasia.
Care Features

The Old English Sheepdog, having a working-dog heritage, is usually athletic and active. He requires regular exercise and physical challenge. This is very true when it comes to puppies. They have so much energy that if not given enough play and exercise, may become bored and exhibit destructiveness. The older dogs though are okay with chilling around the house and may even become a couch potato, which means that they may require a little nudge to exercise. The breed can adjust to a low-exercise kind of life, but for maximum wellness, it is suggested to incorporate exercise into your dog’s daily routine.

During the summer or whenever the weather is warm or humid, caution must be taken in doing outdoor activities with your dog. The dog’s coat tends to be really warm, and because of this, your Old English Sheepdog may overheat easily.

This breed hates being alone. He can take it for a short period of time, but too much of alone time will make your dog very lonely. This dog is sensitive and thrives better in a family who can spend a lot of time with him.

In your dog’s first year, he may weigh up to 60 pounds. A full-grown Old English Sheepdog can even weigh as much as 100 pounds. Because they grow fast, it is possible for them to develop bone disorders. To prevent this from happening, it is important that your puppy gets fed with low-calorie (but still nutritious) food in order to keep him from growing too rapidly.

Also, it is crucial to wait for your dog to turn two years old before letting him jump or jog on hard surfaces such as concrete in order to ensure that his joints already are fully developed, and that it’s already safe for him to engage in such activities.

Feeding Schedule

Recommended daily amount: 2.5 to 4.5 cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.

The best diet for Old English Sheepdogs includes lean meat and whole foods. Yes, this dog is a big one, but he’s still only about half the size of most people, and thus requires a diet smaller than a human’s. It is important to always observe and check your dog if he’s already becoming overweight. Because of his thick coat, it is hard to tell if he is gaining weight, thus overfeeding him is a tendency.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The trademark for the Old English Sheepdog is usually his hair. Well, who wouldn’t notice him with his big, shaggy coat? This dog has an outer coat, and a soft undercoat which tends to be warm. The coat can come in a number of colors including gray, blue, brown, fawn, and usually has white sections or spots.

This breed’s coat is not easy to maintain. Grooming can take a couple of hours per week, and occasionally, you would have to bring him to a grooming salon. Brushing the dog’s coat can be tricky and would require knowledge in grooming. This breed is most certainly not for people who need their homes to be neat and clean all the time. The Old English Sheepdog sheds a lot and would require frequent brushing in order to get rid of dead hair and prevent matting from happening. This breed also drools a lot. Because of this, the area surrounding their mouths tends to appear yellowish. Washing your dog’s mouth especially after eating can address this issue.

Grooming is a tremendously important part of an Old English Sheepdog’s routine, hence it is crucial to get your dog accustomed to grooming as early as his puppy days. Grooming should be a relaxing experience for your dog in order to be able to handle him easily in the succeeding grooming sessions.

Since the Old English Sheepdog’s coat is prone to forming tangles, brushing him should be done gently in order to prevent him from getting hurt. Brushing should be done not only on the outer coat, but all the way to the undercoat as well. Applying conditioner on the coat can help the brushing process become smooth. Aside from brushing, your dog also needs bathing at least once in two months. His nails also need to be clipped monthly, and his ears need to be checked for signs of irritation or infection. Brushing his teeth will also help keep his mouth healthy.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

For those of you who have read Peter Pan, you might remember “Nana,” the Old English Sheepdog who serves as a nanny for Wendy and her brothers. Well, yes, that’s fiction, but the breed’s knack when it comes to dealing with children is not fictional at all. If trained and socialized well, the Old English Sheepdog can be a great companion for children.

Be it keeping the children in a certain area, alerting the parents if something is wrong, or helping little ones learn how to walk, the Old English Sheepdog can be a great help in supervising kids. In some cases though where irresponsible breeding resulted in dogs who are a bit on the crazy side, leaving the children with them may not be a good idea. But as always, it is of great importance that the children be supervised when interacting with dogs.

When it comes of Old English Sheepdogs who are well trained and socialized, there should be no problem in having them mingle with other dogs and pets. They’re friendly!

The Old English Sheepdog is intelligent, obedient, hard-working, playful, and funny. He can be great as a working dog and even more so as a family dog. He loves being with his humans, therefore it is important to spend time with him every day. Grooming is not an easy task, but the trouble would all be worth it because a healthy Old English Sheepdog is definitely a loving and reliable companion.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

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