Old English Sheepdog

Old English Sheepdog Sticking Out Tongue
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Whether you need a working farm dog or a cuddly family pet, you’ll be happy with an Old English Sheepdog by your side. At the dog park, Old English Sheepdogs always steal the show thanks to their adorably messy hairdos. Their bubbly personalities only makes them cuter.

Underneath their shaggy coat, these dogs are all muscle. Old English Sheepdogs emerged from early types of herding dogs in England, where they historically helped farmers drive cattle and sheep to market.

Old English Sheepdogs are the original “shaggy dog.” They are adorable, playful, sociable, and obedient. But before you go looking for a breeder, do some research on this breed’s unique needs. As with any pet, Old English Sheepdogs require an attentive and responsible owner who will give them the love that they need to thrive.

Breed Overview

  • Group: Herding Group (AKC)
  • Size:
    • Weight: 60 to 100 pounds
    • Height: 22 inches & up (male); 21 inches & up (female)
  • Colors: The Old English Sheepdog is commonly white with gray markings, but individuals may also show grizzle, merle, and any shade of blue coloring.
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

Characteristics of the Old English Sheepdog

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness High
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding High
Grooming Needs High

History of the Old English Sheepdog

Experts speculate on the pedigree of the Old English Sheepdog, arguing over which breed it descended from in Europe. There are a handful of dogs, like the Scotch Bearded Collie and French Briard, that could play a role in the sheepdog’s ancestry, but a definitive bloodline hasn’t been decided.

The Old English Sheepdog is a fairly modern breed that first emerged in England in the 1800s. Farmers used them as “drover dogs,” driving livestock to market as well as pulling carts and wagons. Drover dogs are known for their stamina, steadiness and courage.

Owners often docked their tails to prove that they were working dogs, which gave Old English Sheepdogs the nickname “bob” or “bobtail.” Old English Sheepdogs are born with a tail, but breeders often dock them when they are a few days old.

The American Kennel Club recognized this breed as a member of the herding group in 1888 and Old English Sheepdogs quickly became a successful show dog and beloved pet.

Old English Sheepdog Care

Exercise requirements vary among Old English Sheepdogs. This breed is by no means a couch potato, but is happy to laze around most of the time. Despite that, they do require some regular exercise—as in, at least once a day.

Daily walks will keep them happy and an added outdoor play session is even better for this bouncy breed. Old English Sheepdogs love working and herding, so a rousing game of fetch or keepaway is one of their favorite activities.

These dogs typically have great inside manners, so their playfulness is not usually a problem when it’s time to wind down indoors. There’s a hard line between play time and relax time and Old English Sheepdogs know it well.

They get along well with kids and other animals when given proper socialization training during puppyhood. They have a friendly demeanor and are not typically seen barking or guarding territory, but can be protective when necessary.

In regards to other behavior training, Old English Sheepdogs are fairly responsive to training that gives positive feedback using rewards like treats or love. This breed is an alert and responsive one, which makes training easier, but it’s also a breed of independent thinkers. Old English Sheepdogs may eventually come up with a way to behave the way they prefer rather than the way you’ve trained them. When training the Old English Sheepdog, it’s imperative to be a firm leader and practice consistency during exercises, so independent thinking is less likely.

Just looking at the voluminous mop of the Old English Sheepdog is enough to make a groomer shudder. In actuality, grooming these dogs is just as difficult as grooming any other long haired dog.

Their coat is high maintenance and grooming can be time-consuming but is crucial for maintaining a happy and healthy sheepdog.

Prospective Old English Sheepdog owners should keep in mind the commitment to regular grooming required.

Because their hair is long and prone to tangles, daily brushing is encouraged. This will keep your dog’s coat healthy and free of knots and matting that can collect dirt and bacteria. Daily brushing will also help you manage their heavy shedding. Regular brushing will also prevent you from eventually having to go to an expensive, professional groomer. If mats do appear, they often must be cut out or shaved. Those potentially dangerous tasks are best left to a pro.

Many owners still do prefer to take their Old English Sheepdogs to a professional, as bathing these big pups can seem daunting. Just make sure to find a responsible groomer experienced with long-haired dogs.

Common Health Problems

Some health problems that can occur in Old English Sheepdogs include hip dysplasia, eye conditions, and hypothyroidism. Good breeders will have their puppies screened for these conditions and be able to certify the health of the dog’s parents, so it’s important to pay attention to these results when picking out your Old English Sheepdog.

Regular grooming can also prevent health issues, like joint problems and infections, so it’s important to keep your sheepdog clean and brushed. Their hair can often block their vision, so keep this area trimmed as needed.

Bloat is a concern with most large breed dogs. The condition causes a dog’s stomach to twist and contract, leading to death. It often occurs when dogs eat too quickly. If you notice fast eating is an issue with your pet, look into slow feeder bowls or consider feeding them smaller, more frequent meals to allow for slower digestion.

Health conditions are often difficult to detect in a growing puppy, so choosing a breeder dedicated to health is the best way to assure your Old English Sheepdog is in good shape.

Diet and Nutrition

Staying conscious of your Old English Sheepdog’s diet is incredibly important. The dog’s shaggy coat can often make it difficult to see weight gain, so keeping them on a consistent and nutritious diet will tremendously help prevent obesity and other adverse health effects related to weight gain.

Checking out the dog food aisle can be scary—there are so many brands, but which one is best for your pooch? It can be difficult and time-consuming to settle on one. You can determine whether or not a food will be suitable for your Old English Sheepdog by looking at the ingredients and protein content. The best diet will include lean meats high in protein, like chicken or turkey, and other whole foods. Because Old English Sheepdogs are not exceedingly active, fat content should be minimal.

The choice between feeding your dog wet or dry food can be a challenging one. Dry kibble encourages chewing and cleans your dog’s teeth while they eat, and canned wet food is easier on their digestive system and is an efficient way to get more water into your pet’s system.

Veterinarians often recommend using canned wet food as an addition to dry kibble. Using the two in combination will satisfy your furry friend while maintaining his or her health.

The amount you can feed your pet varies. Some owners stick to a one-feeding-a-day routine while others lean towards multiple small meals throughout the day. This will depend on your individual dog’s preferences. Some dogs actually vomit from hunger when they are only fed once a day, but others will refuse to eat so often. Talk to your vet about the best routine for your dog and experiment with them to make sure their diet is a good fit.

If you find yourself needing to switch dog foods, make sure to do it slowly over a period of a few weeks, to allow their digestive systems to adjust.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Is this bouncy, protective herding dog the best fit for you? Consider your lifestyle and commitment level before choosing your next furry friend. Old English Sheepdogs make wonderful pets, but also require time and resources for training and grooming.

Check out a few of our other dog breed profiles for similar pets before you choose:

Why stop there? There are plenty of dog breeds to learn about before you fall in love with your own.