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Old English Sheepdog Dog Breed Information

General Information:

Height: 21+ inches
Weight: 60-75 pounds
Life Span: 12-13 years
Coloring: Blue, Blue Merle, Gray or Grizzle with or without white markings. Brown or Fawn is not to be permitted.
Area of Origin: England
Similar Breeds: Bearded Collie, Briard, Lowchen, and Puli.

History and Origin:

The Old English Sheepdog truly is one of the older herding dogs. Originally shown in England back in the 1870s, this dog was already well-established and at home across England in the fields doing what they were bred for: tending sheep. These dogs were bred to have a long coat that would protect them from the elements whether wet and cold or hot and humid; these dogs were well adapted.

Once these dogs made their debut in the show ring, the Old English Sheepdog started making its name known in the show circuits as well as in pet homes. These newfound enthusiasts fell in love with the dog’s unique coat and saw plenty of potential to shape and groom these dogs to their hearts content. These dogs finally crossed the seas to the United States in the early 1880s and were equally adored there as they were back in the United Kingdom.

The breed itself was first recorded by name in England in 1873 and officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1905.

Personality and Temperament:

The Old English Sheepdog is an active, loyal companion who loves to play and be with their family. These dogs may be somewhat slow to train yet this is not due to a lack of intelligence, rather due to the dog testing their owner as these dogs will not blindly follow anyone.

This breed is first and foremost a herding dog, and sometimes this includes children, and careful attention should be given to ensure the dog displays no sign of this. These dogs are fiercely protective of their family and will not allow harm to fall on any member, particularly the smallest members as these dogs often are very fond of children.

This breed also considers other animals including dogs, cats and whatever other animals you have as a part of their family and will be highly protective of these members as well. However, just like with children, careful attention to avoid the dog herding other animals should be given.

These dogs are well suited to a variety of tasks. Tasks such as agility, flyball, Schutzhund, tracking and, of course, herding are all areas this dog can excel in. They also offer a good way for an owner to get out and active with their dogs. This activity is particularly important with the Old English Sheepdog as they are prone to being satisfied spending their days laying on the couch rather than exerting energy to go for walks.

Overall, the Old English Sheepdog is a herding dog with a tendency of being lazy. The American Kennel Club does make a point of mentioning that these dogs should not display any signs of aggression, nervousness or shyness. This mention is very important as these dogs if improperly socialized or poorly trained and bred can be quite aggressive and this should be avoided at all costs.

Exercise & Training:

While the Old English Sheepdog is a large, shaggy dog, as long as they receive adequate exercise and stimulation these dogs can do well in a suburban to an urban environment. As these dogs love being with their people, it is important that these dogs not be left outside unattended for extended periods of time.

A daily walk in both the morning and evening for at least 45 minutes is required. It is important that these dogs be permitted to run off-leash at least twice a week to allow them to burn off energy.

As these are a larger, heavier dog, it is important to start an exercise program slowly to prevent joint issues that may seem minor when they are young yet will plague the dog as they age. It is also important to avoid overfeeding these dogs as they do love food and are just as happy to sleep a good portion of the day.

As the Old English Sheepdog is very independent and intelligent, they will require consistent and firm training as they often will want to do their own thing. With their stubborn attitudes, this training is needed to ensure a well-behaved dog that will listen to their family and not try to rule over them.

These dogs are very happy to spend much of their day laying around and to prevent that they should be kept active. Due to this, it is important to keep your dog active, and there are plenty of activities and jobs this dog can excel at. Herding is one of the areas where this dog will excel as their name would suggest. This takes many years of specialized training, and if it is something you are interested in as a hobby there are often clubs that can be joined even if you live in the city. Other areas this dog can thrive are agility, retrieval and as a watchdog.

Even though, the Old English Sheepdog can make an intimidating watchdog this should be approached with caution. Due to this dog’s stubborn streak, if they are not carefully trained in this area and their aggression controlled they can be very difficult to control.


The Old English Sheepdog’s characteristic and instantly recognizable long, fluffy coat requires a fair amount of care. Many pet dogs are shaved to reduce the amount of work required and to keep their coats clean and tidy.

It is important to brush them thoroughly at least every other day to prevent matting. If the undercoat is allowed to get matted, it will often need shaving to prevent further matting, skin issues and possible parasites.

Like most dogs, bathing your Old English Sheepdog should not be done more than every 3-4 months unless they get very dirty. Their nails should be trimmed once a month and their teeth cared for at least once a week to prevent dental disease.

Many owners choose to shave their Old English Sheepdog, and while this is effective in cutting grooming sessions down from an hour or more to 10-15 minutes, it also changes the overall appearance of the dog. Shaving can also cut down on the amount these dogs shed, and they do shed a lot. To keep the dog’s shape when shaved, they will need to be trimmed every 2-3 months as the dog’s hair grows up to an inch a month.

As these dogs do require a fair amount of grooming, it is important to get them accustomed to this while they are still very young. They should be introduced to a groomer’s table by the time they are 3-4 months old. They should then be introduced to the different brushes, sounds of clippers and the idea of standing still and permitting the groomer to touch them anywhere.

Health and Wellness:

Overall, the Old English Sheepdog has been carefully bred to prevent major hereditary issues. There are a few issues that are inevitable with any dog, and one of the main causes of medical issues for this dog are when the coat is not properly cared for.

The British Veterinary Association requires dogs to be tested for Cerebellar Degeneration, Hip Dysplasia, and Progressive Retinal Atrophy to be tested for prior to breeding.

The issues most commonly seen in this breed are:

  • Hip Dysplasia
    • A genetic condition where the dog’s hip joint is shaped incorrectly causing painful rubbing and tearing of the surrounding tissue. This is usually treated with medication, physiotherapy, massage therapy and diet for mild cases. Severe cases may require surgery to either fix or replace the affected joint. This can be tested for by the parents.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy
    • A genetic condition that causes the dog to slowly lose their vision until they eventually go blind. There is no treatment; however, there is a simple DNA test that can be taken by the parents prior to breeding to prevent the likelihood of this being passed on to any offspring.
  • Cerebellar Degeneration
    • This is a hereditary disease that will present itself between 6 months and four years of age. Dogs with this condition will lose muscle co-ordination and the ability to balance. The first sign is usually a broader than normal stance where the dog’s legs will be splayed out, and they will often step on their own feet or trip. There are DNA tests available for this condition and dogs who test positively should not be bred.
  • Multi-Drug Resistance
    • Dogs with Multi-Drug Reactivity are sensitive to certain drugs that are generally well accepted by other dogs. Drugs such as analgesics (Butorphanol), pre-anesthetics (Acepromazine), dewormers (Ivermectin) and antidiarrheal (Loperamide) medications are all poorly tolerated by these dogs and can cause severe symptoms including death.
  • Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia
    • A genetic disorder that causes issues with the respiratory and reproductive tracts of dogs. Often displaying first as a persistent cold this can progress to deafness and infertility issues later in life. This is another disease that can be screened by DNA testing prior to breeding.

It is important to know the health of the dog’s lineage to ensure there are no hereditary diseases. Ask the breeder to see the results of the tests for their hips, eyes and other known testable diseases.

Interesting Facts About the Old English Sheepdog

  1. There are many theories on the origin of the Old English Sheepdog, but all conclude with a noble herding dog that can stay out with their sheep at all times protecting them fiercely from anything that threatens them.
  2. While the Old English Sheepdog can be considered lazy in some ways, they are quick to respond when their herd or family is threatened.
  3. Providing the Old English Sheepdog with an outlet such as agility is a great way to both exercise and bond with your dog while having fun.
  4. While trimming an Old English Sheepdog will save many hours of grooming, it comes at the expense of the dog’s classic appearance.
  5. The Old English Sheepdog has been portrayed in many films throughout the year in instantly lovable roles such as Ambrosius from Labyrinth, Nana from Peter Pan, and Max in The Little Mermaid.

Organizations Dedicated to the Old English Sheepdog

Breeds Similar to Old English Sheepdog Dogs:

Dog Breed Info Old English Sheepdog

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