Let's talk Old English Sheepdogs

Old English Sheepdogs are full of contradictions, which only adds to their charm. Playful yet protective, easy-going but hardworking, they may look like one giant furball but are incredibly athletic and nimble. They are equally content learning new tricks as they are hanging out with their family. An Old English Sheepdog does well in apartments, so long as they’re getting sufficient exercise, and makes for an affectionate addition to an active household that includes children. And a good dog brush (or ten).

Official name: Old English Sheepdog

Other names: Shepherd's Dog

Origins: U.K.

Side view of Old English Sheepdog in black and white
 Drooling tendencies

 High

 Warm weather?
 Shedding level  Medium  Suited to apartment living ? High
 Energy level *  High  Family Pet? * Medium
 Compatibility with other pets  High  Can stay alone? *

* We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behavior. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication.

For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs).

Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.

Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice.

All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company. However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

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Illustration of Old English Sheepdog
Male
24 - 25 cm Height
36 - 45 kg Weight
Female
22 - 23 cm Height
27 - 39 kg Weight

 Baby age  Birth to 2 months
 Puppy age  2 to 15 months
 Adult age 15 months to 5 years
 Mature age  5 years to 8 years
 Senior age  From 8 years

Old English Sheepdog looking away from camera panting

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Get to know the Old English Sheepdog

All you need to know about the breed

Old English Sheepdogs look like bumbling, gentle giants but there’s much more to them than their fluffy appearance. They are great house dogs, as they are watchul, playful and friendly. Old English Sheepdogs have a good-natured temperament that goes beyond humans - all household pets that behave respectfully (including dogs) will be taken under the breed’s paw. Training and supervision around young ones is required, due to the breed’s enthusiastic energy. And size.

While this canine can adapt well to apartments, they need more than a back garden to satisfy their exercise needs. Your Old English Sheepdog will be content to join you on a daily walk or run, and rarely refuses the opportunity to play. When you’ve both had enough outdoor time, they’ll hit their “off” button to be a calm companion around the house.

Hair. So much hair. Their coat is perhaps the most high maintenance quality of the breed, as it traps everything from the outside and brings it indoors. An Old English Sheepdog requires daily grooming to prevent matting - the bedraggled look is never in. If you’re not too precious about the furniture and enjoy an active lifestyle, then the loyal Old English Sheepdog may well be your perfect canine match.

Two Old English Sheepdogs, one lying, one sitting, on grass

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2 facts about Old English Sheepdogs

1. All by myself (don't wanna be)

A kind of separation anxiety is common in Old English Sheepdogs. They live to protect their family and are equally loyal to each household member. If you leave your Old English Sheepdog alone, limit it to an hour or two, and keep them occupied by leaving out their favourite toys. Or they might just leave your house looking like a bored, 75-pound furry wrecking ball passed through.  

2. Hollywood is calling 

The Old English Sheepdog saw a surge in popularity from the 1970s onwards, thanks to frequent appearances on both the big and small screen. Who can forget Max, Prince Eric’s adorable canine sidekick in The Little Mermaid? If you hail from the UK, you’ll know Dulux paint is synonymous with the Old English Sheepdog, who has been the brand mascot since the 1960s. And Sir Paul McCartney famously had an Old English Sheepdog called Martha (and her offspring). Despite its starry reputation, the breed remains a down-to-earth, laidback canine companion. Just no autograph requests, please.

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History of the breed

The Old English Sheepdog is not that old compared to other breeds, first appearing in the 18th century. They’re also not 100% English, with Scottish, European and Russian blood running through their veins. And they’re not exclusively a sheep-herding dog, but more of a drover, bred for moving cattle from the fields to marketplaces. Basically, their name is a mystery.

The breed was officially recognised by the AKC in 1885, just five years after arriving in the United States. The Old English Sheepdog proved to be a natural in the show ring with their lush coat, friendly temperament and powerful gait making them an instant hit.

Twenty years later, the Old English Sheepdog Club of America was founded by Henry Arthur Tilley and his brother, William Steeds Tilley, who can be attributed as  pioneers in creating the breed standard that is still seen today.

The breed was long favoured by wealthy American families, as recently as the 1950s. The Old English Sheepdog gradually became more popular as a family dog, due to their frequent appearances in media and have since gone on to win over many human hearts.

Old English Sheepdog facing camera in black and white

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Old English Sheepdogs

1. Body

Body is sturdy, muscular and compact

2. Head

Square-shaped skull with a well-defined jaw

3. Eyes

Eyes are either brown or blue (or one of each) and carry an intelligent expression

4. Coat

A shaggy double coat, with a waterproof undercoat, that is grey, grizzle, blue merle, or blue in color

5. Tail

Tail sits low and hangs downwards

Old English Sheepdog puppy standing on rock

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Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Old English Sheepdog
Old English Sheepdog standing in grass looking at camera

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Caring for your Old English Sheepdog

Grooming, training and exercise tips

With their shaggy double-coats, grooming an Old English Sheepdog takes commitment. Methodical brushing should be done daily (if possible). Nails should be trimmed regularly to avoid discomfort. It’s best not to keep your Old English Sheepdog’s eyes covered by their fur from day to day - tie it up to prevent minor eye infections such as conjunctivitis from developing. When it comes to exercise, the Old English Sheepdog requires mental stimulation as well as physical. Put aside 1-2 hours for daily exercise to keep your dog at an optimal weight but be smart when the weather is hot, as your Old English Sheepdog will overheat quickly due to their thick coat. When it comes to training the Old English Sheepdog, it’s important to keep things fun - they learn quickly and can become easily bored. Obedience training is a must for this breed because of their size, which can cause unintentional havoc indoors, as well as their inbuilt habit of herding animals - which can extend to humans, if they think they can get away with it.

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All about Old English Sheepdogs

Grooming challenge accepted! With their beautiful shaggy coat, the Old English Sheepdog does indeed shed a moderate amount, all year round. Prepare for daily brushing to help remove dead hair, as well as all the twigs and dirt they collect during walkies. Grooming your Old English Sheepdog is a lovely bonding moment, and your arm muscles will be in their best shape ever.

If you’re worried about your Old English Sheepdog making too much noise, you’re barking up the wrong tree. While some Old English Sheepdogs make great watchdogs, they exercise caution in regards to barking. When well trained, the breed behaves politely towards strangers, with some Old English Sheepdogs even displaying timidness. 

Other breeds that might interest you.

Sources

1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/