Contrary to popular belief, the 'Old' English Sheepdog is in fact relatively new, only having developed around the 18th century in Devon, Cornwall or Somerset. Primarily bred as a versatile working dog used to herd, retrieve and guard the homestead, the Old English Sheepdog falls within the 'pastoral' branch of canines. Multiple theories surround the ancestry of the breed, with some recognising a likeness to the Bergamasco and Briard, and others suggesting a relation to the Deerhound and Poodle. The Old English Sheepdog has enjoyed great popularity throughout its existence, both as an agricultural aid and show dog. Exported to the United States in the 1800s, the Old English Sheepdog remains a favoured breed choice for working families.
Retaining its powerful herding instinct, it is not uncommon for the Old English Sheepdog to chase smaller animals, so early socialisation, consistent training and firm leadership is important from an early age. Despite being an illegal practice across Europe, tail 'docking' is commonly observed in the breed, although this is not a breed standard. It is also typical for an Old English Sheepdog to be born without a tail altogether. Characterised by a robust and stocky build, with strong legs, a straight topline, a broad head and deep muzzle, the Old English Sheepdog is not easily mistaken for another breed. The coat is profuse and coloured in variations of white, grey, blue, grizzle, and blue merle, either with white or grey markings.
The breed standard notes that the Old English Sheepdog should never show signs of nervousness or aggressiveness, but display calm, obedient and mannered behaviours. Devoted to children, the breed engages well in exercise and play, whilst adapting quickly to new situations and people. Highly energetic, the Old English Sheepdog is well suited to domestic living, providing its needs for regular exercise, mental enrichment and human companionship are met. The modern breed is commonly observed in dog agility, showmanship, obedience, flyball, herding and tracking. On average, a healthy Old English Sheepdog will weigh 27-30 kg depending on its gender, with a life expectancy of 10-12 years.
Despite being generally healthy and robust, various health afflictions are identified in the breed. These range from mild to more serious. As with most canines, optical disorders, allergies, skin complaints and arthritis are well documented in the breed, and the Old English Sheepdog is also susceptible to thyroid inactivity, neurological disease, cancer, and cardiac problems, including atrial septal and tricuspid valve dysplasia. Deafness is also prevalent in the breed.
Old English Sheepdogs are loyal, protective, sociable, and will go anywhere and do just about anything you want. They love long walks, play, and pubs or shops - anywhere where they can meet their public! In fact, you will get stopped regularly so they can be adored and photographed. And you will get fed-up of hearing questions about their painting ability! They are easy to train but do have a bit of a stubborn streak if they think they are right...but they give-in eventually! The one major thing to consider is the grooming: you will need about 4 hours a week for brushing their double-coats and probably need to give regular baths. Denman brushes seem to be the best - bristle and nylon, plus a de-tangling comb and lotion. You can have their coats cut annually, but this is costly unless you do it yourself, and the coat tends to knot during re-growth. In winter you will need to wash paws after every walk. In snow they benefit from booties to stop ice-balls forming in their feet. They also need weekly ear wash, possibly regular hair removal from the ear canals, and their hair over the eyes trimming or tying-up so they can see smaller objects or in poor light. They also need their bottoms trimming a bit to stop blockages! The grooming is laborious, but can be a nice bonding-activity, and they look absolutely wonderful with a knot-free full-coat! Oh, and no they don't get that hot in summer...the coat insulates from the sun and allows air flow....although a splash around in the river or sea is always fun! They will cope better with the summer than many short-haired dogs, especially dark-coated dogs.
Old English Sheepdogs are loving, easy to train, loyal, protective, and sociable. The females seem to be more 'herding', whereas the males are natural 'guards'. The males also seem to be more affectionate than the more independent, but still loving, females. They love to play, go for walks (they are especially good at long-distance treks and mountain walking), and love spending time in the pub'¦anywhere they can meet 'their public'. You will be stopped regularly by total strangers to have them adored and photographed'¦ours were even invited to pose in a wedding photo by a couple as we walked past. They also have their own Facebook page (Florence & Dylan) so people who meet them can see and post photos. You will, however, get fed-up with comments about their painting ability! They do have a stubborn streak when they think they are right'¦.but they give in eventually, with good grace. The main thing you need to consider is the grooming. Their double-coat takes about 4 hours a week (more when the coat is changing from puppy or adolescent coat) to brush using a selection of brushes for different states, plus a detangling comb and lotion. They also need regular (we do 6 weekly) baths, weekly ear wash, regular hair removal from their ear canals (about 8 weekly), paw washes every walk in the winter, booties in the snow to prevent ice-balls on their feet, their 'fringe' trimming or tying-up so they can see smaller objects or in poor light, and their bottoms trimming to prevent blockages. You can have their coats cut annually but this is costly unless you do it yourself, and the coat tends to knot up when re-growing. The grooming is laborious but it can be a nice bonding-time, and they look wonderful with a knot-free full-coat! Oh, and they do not get especially hot in summer; they cope better than most short-haired dogs, especially dark-coloured ones. The coat insulates them from the sun (although we do sun-block on the nose) and allows cooling air-flow'¦although a swim is always welcome!
Clown, mad, hyper, playful and a diva!
I have had OES for thirty five years .Love the breed as they are so loving and affectionate Hard work and long hours of grooming I also show my OES with some success. My young one who is 2 takes me 10 hours a week to keep him in show condition . If you are thinking of owning an O.E.S they require a lot of time exercise and attention .But they are worth it .
I have owned two Old English Sheep Dog bitches and they were wonderful animals. Unfortunately both are now in doggy heaven. They were such outgoing and friendly animals and are sorely missed by family and friends. You certainly need a lot of energy and commitment but they are so worth the effort. They love other dogs, people, children, everything really. What a joy they were.
My OES was the kindest, sweetest, most gentle, loving and devoted dog I have ever known. She didn't have two braincells to rub together so didn't know many commands but was so well behaved. She never stopped wagging her tail and loved life.
She was very nervous when we rehomed her as she came from a background of total neglect but turned into such a happy and friendly girl. I groomed her every day but her hair was still a nightmare! We only had her for just over two years as she died very suddenly aged 3, but she was the light of my life and I still miss her every day... I couldn't own another as I can't look at an OES now without crying.
This is my favourite breed but they do have downsides- long hair in the mud and rain for instance! They take A LOT of maintenance and grooming, even with clipped hair. Also common to have hip problems. My girl had very bad hip dysplasia and degenerative joint disease and really suffered because of it.