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Old English Sheepdog: Breed Info, Pictures, Traits & Care

Written by: Lorre Luther

Last Updated on May 28, 2024 by Dogster Team

old english sheepdog_Svetlana Valoueva, Shutterstock

Old English Sheepdog: Breed Info, Pictures, Traits & Care

Old English Sheepdogs are kind of hard to miss, with their gorgeous, long, shaggy coats and adorable bear-like shuffles. They’re incredibly smart and love to explore the great outdoors. With their charming, easy-going personality, it’s easy to see why they make such wonderful companions.

Breed Overview

Height:

21–22 inches

Weight:

60–100 pounds

Lifespan:

10–12 years

Colors:

Grizzle, blue, blue-gray, blue merle, or gray (often with white markings)

Suitable for:

Families who are fine with a bit of fur on the furniture and looking for a sweet, fun companion who is often great with kids

Temperament:

Gentle, adaptable, active, fun, and seriously devoted

Old English Sheepdogs were most likely first bred sometime in the 1700s to work as cattle drovers and keep livestock in line, but their precise history is shrouded in mystery.

They weren’t treated as a distinct breed until the 1800s. Old English Sheepdogs are muscular, strong, and surprisingly agile. They were first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1888 and were the 74th most popular breed according to the organization’s numbers in 2022.

Old English Sheepdog Characteristics

Energy
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High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Trainability
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Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Health
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Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Lifespan
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Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Sociability
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Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

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Old English Sheepdog Puppies

Old English Sheepdog puppy
Image Credit: JStaley401, Shutterstock

It’s difficult to find Old English Sheepdog puppies at shelters, but purebred adult dogs are surrendered occasionally. The easiest way to locate adoptable puppies is by working with a reputable breeder.

Breed clubs are great places to score leads, and veterinarians can sometimes provide recommendations. The American Kennel Club has plenty of good information about what to look for when selecting a breeder.

Adult dogs can be adopted through rescue organizations, and adopting grown pups can have several benefits since they’re already house-trained and socialized.

Old English Sheepdog puppies are incredibly intelligent and playful. They can start working on basic commands as soon as they come home, and they’re ready for puppy classes once they have all their required vaccinations and are old enough to participate.

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Old English Sheepdog 🧠

Easy-going and fun, Old English Sheepdogs generally love to hang out with their families. Most are laid-back, relaxed, and usually more than happy to play with children.

They’re extraordinarily smart and adaptable but are occasionally described as stubborn, and some have loud barks that sound like pots banging against each other.

Old English Sheepdogs love to hang out at home, and they’re famous for jumping fences and following kids to school. They’re happiest when their favorite people are around, and some can become irritated when not receiving enough attention.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡

Old English Sheepdogs make fantastic companions for families with children. They’re kind, gentle, loving, and devoted to their favorite humans.

Supervising them around small children is necessary since Old English Sheepdogs are big enough to injure them unintentionally.

old english sheepdog sitting
Image Credit: benwongp, Shutterstock

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets? 🐶 😽

Old English Sheepdogs get along well with other resident dogs but are sometimes less than enthusiastic about hanging out with animals they don’t know.

Many Old English Sheepdogs can also get along with cats with socialization and training to learn how to manage their herding and chasing instincts.

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Things to Know When Owning an Old English Sheepdog:

Food & Diet Requirements🦴

Old English Sheepdogs don’t have special dietary requirements. High-quality commercial formulas featuring the Association of American Feed Control Officials’ statements of nutritional adequacy feature all the nutrients dogs require.

Puppies require more protein and fat than adult dogs, so they need to eat food formulated for them. They also need to eat more frequently than adults to ensure they keep their growing bodies fueled. Adult dogs generally need to eat at least two times per day.

Most manufacturers include instructions that can be used to determine how much to feed dogs to ensure they get the nutrients they need and stay at healthy weights. However, it’s best to speak to your vet about brand recommendations and feeding portions.

old english sheepdog sitting on the grass outdoors
Image Credit: Chendongshan, Shutterstock

Exercise 🐕

Old English Sheepdogs were bred to spend their days driving cattle from place to place, and they need a few hours of exercise to keep them happy and healthy.

They enjoy going on walks, playing fetch, and exploring the woods with their owners on long camping weekends. While they’re usually pretty easy-going, Old English Sheepdogs who don’t get enough exercise sometimes become destructive and bark excessively.

Training 🦮

Because Old English Sheepdogs are so large, they must be trained to behave when meeting people and interacting with new animals. They are easy to train and eager to learn.

Obedience training can be helpful when it comes to ensuring Old English Sheepdogs can control their enthusiasm and play nicely with others. Training with positive, reward-based techniques can be motivating and fun and a great bonding activity. Old English Sheepdogs also enjoy training for agility competitions.

Old English Sheepdog hiking on rocks
Image Credit: everydoghasastory, Shutterstock

Grooming ✂️

Old English Sheepdogs have beautiful, shaggy, waterproof double coats that keep them warm and dry. They require daily grooming to keep their coats shiny and healthy.

Some sources suggest that properly grooming these gorgeous dogs can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours every week. Taking them for regular grooming sessions can sometimes make things a bit less time-consuming.

Attention must be paid to their skin to ensure dirt and debris don’t get stuck and start causing problems. Their facial fur must be checked daily to ensure little bits of food are removed. Their ears (and the fur around them) also require special attention to keep ear infections at bay.

Homes with Old English Sheepdogs require frequent vacuuming due to the amount of fur the dogs leave behind.

Health and Conditions ❤️

Old English Sheepdogs are pretty healthy; most live around 10 to 12 years. They are, however, at increased risk for a few conditions.

  • Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC) – Dogs with EIC often collapse when excited or under serious stress. Extremely warm weather and hard exercise can also trigger the condition. EIC doesn’t appear to cause pain, and rest is usually all that’s needed for dogs to start feeling better. Genetic screening can identify the condition.
  • Deafness – Old English Sheepdogs are at increased risk when it comes to continental deafness. There appears to be a link between the condition and white fur. Dogs can be born unable to hear in one or both ears. While there’s often little that can be done to improve dogs’ hearing, many deaf pups do just fine and live active, full lives.
  • Multidrug Sensitivity – Multidrug sensitivity is an inherited condition in which some medications trigger severe reactions in dogs, including vomiting, seizures, tremors, and lack of coordination. It’s linked to a gene mutation that impacts a particular molecule that helps dogs’ bodies remove toxins and prevent certain medications from crossing the blood-brain barrier. Dogs with the condition have strong reactions to common medications. Genetic testing is available to diagnose the condition. It can’t be cured, but most dogs with this condition are fine if they stay away from medications that cause problems.
Minor Conditions
  • Deafness
  • Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia
Serious Conditions
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Autoimmune Thyroiditis
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)
  • Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC)
  • Cerebellar Abiotrophy (CA)

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Male vs Female

Although male Old English Sheepdogs are a bit larger than females, that’s the only significant difference between the sexes. Neutered and spayed dogs generally don’t engage in much sex-hormone-driven behavior, and there isn’t much of a difference in temperament between altered male and female dogs.

Environmental factors and genetics strongly influence canine temperament and behavior rather than sex.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the Old English Sheepdog

1. They’ve Starred in Several Movies and Television Shows, Including Please Don’t Eat The Daisies and My Three Sons.

Old English Sheepdogs have appeared in several movies, including The Shaggy Dog, The Shaggy D.A., 101 Dalmatians, Cats & Dogs, and The Little Mermaid.


2. They May Have Scottish and Russian Ancestry.

While the precise background of Old English Sheepdogs is hard to uncover, Scottish Bearded Collies and Russian Owtchars have both been cited as potential ancestors.


3. They’re Also Known as “Bobtails.”

Old English Sheepdogs often had their tails docked so their owners could avoid paying taxes. Animals with docked tails were considered working dogs and exempt from taxation.

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Final Thoughts

Old English Sheepdogs are fun, bold, lively, and affectionate. They were bred to drive cattle to market and generally take care of business on farms, and they’re hardy, intelligent, and adaptable. They also need plenty of exercise to stay centered.

They’re easy to train and enjoy participating in agility competitions and going on long walks. Old English Sheepdogs are great family dogs and wonderful companions for older children, but they also require frequent grooming due to their gorgeous, shaggy coats.


Featured Image Credit: Svetlana Valoueva, Shutterstock

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