Breed Type:  Herding
Country of Origin: England
Size: Large
Also known as:  Bobtail, OES
Males: Height: 56-61 cm Weight: 29-45 kg
Females: Height: 51 cm Weight: 27 kg
Exercise Requirements: Medium
Care Requirements: High
Lifespan: 10-13 Years
Best Suited as: Family Pet

If you are looking for a new furry friend, you have found him! The Old English Sheep Dog is covered with fur from nose to tail and is known as one of the shaggiest breeds around. Sweet and obedient, they are as great to cuddle with as a large teddy bear.

The Old English Sheepdog (OES) is easily recognized by its large size and its long, thick, shaggy coat. The OES usually has brown or blue eyes, and sometimes one of each, but good luck finding them – their hair usually hangs long over their eyes, leaving many to wonder how they can see at all. They have medium size ears that are carried flat to the head and a medium size black nose.

Despite their large bodies, they have small feet with well-arched toes. Their hind legs are round and muscular and their front legs are straight. Their impressive double coat is long with a soft waterproof undercoat and a long hard textured overcoat. Old English Sheep dog puppies are born with black and white coats but after the first coat is shed, the black turns to any shade of grey, grizzle, blue, blue-grey, or blue merle.

In the past, the breeds’ tail was often docked but now that many countries prohibit docking, more tailed OES’s can be found.

The Old English Sheep dog is a bright, intuitive and humorous dog that wants to be with at all times. Described as “clowns” with their funny antics, these guys will entertain just about any family member or guest. They are also highly intuitive and sensitive to their owner’s mood. While their sheer size may scare off intruders, the worst problem an intruder may encounter is being licked to death!

They are rarely aggressive or nervous, and are more likely stable and happy-go-lucky.  Although they are active and love to play, they are just as happy lying at their owners feet (or in their laps if allowed) in front of the television.  Because they are happiest wherever you are, they are mostly adaptable and are willing to join you on any adventure.

They are friendly to all and are known to be good with children. While they sometimes try to herd people and animals by bumping against them, you can teach your OES that this is unacceptable behavior. They are easy to train with a commanding trainer but may not easily follow commands if they see themselves as the “top dog”.

It is believed that the Old English Sheepdogs first ancestors came from the very old pastoral type dogs of England.  Paintings found in the late 1700’s show dog similar to the OES and in the early 19th century, other dogs were noted as possible ancestors.These breed are the Poodle, Bearded Collie, Deerhound and the Russian Owtchar.

In the 18th century, English farmers used Old English Sheepdogs to herd their sheep and drive their cattle to market. The OES did this quite successfully and earned their place in the world of working dogs.  During this time, farmers docked their tails to identify them as working dogs in order to get tax exemptions. Due to their new look, they earned the nickname “Bobtail”. Herding was not the only use the OES had for their working companions. They would often sheer the dogs in the spring alongside the sheep in order to make clothing and blankets.

The Old English Sheepdog was first shown in Birmingham, England in 1873. The breed was exported to the United States in the 1880s, and by the turn of the 20th century, five of the ten wealthiest American families bred and showed them. They continued to be popular pets and show dogs in other parts of the world, as well. They started to make appearance in television shows, movies and commercials in the 1960’s and became the Delux Paint mascot in Australia.

Care and Grooming
While the Old English Sheepdog is easy to train and easy to love, grooming is a completely different matter. The OES’s long coat needs regular care including a daily to weekly brushing (which can take hours).  Those who do keep up on this task may find that their Old English Sheepdog is full of painful mats and may develop skin problems and parasites due to the dirt, urine and moisture that can be trapped in their coats.

Many owners find that an electric shear helps to keep their pets coat at a manageable length.  In fact, historically, OES’s were sheered at the same time as the sheep they herded. Some owners use a hairband to keep the dog’s fur out of its eyes. If their fur is matted, groomers recommend that a scissors be used to cut them away carefully. A blunt nosed scissors is also good for trimming around the eyes and genital areas.

While mostly healthy, there are some diseases that are more commonly seen in the Old English Sheepdog. These include, eye issues such as cataracts, glaucoma, and PRA. They may also suffer from thyroid problems, deafness, diabetes, and skin problems. Some owners report that their OES’s have developed cancer in their older pets.

Suitability as a Pet
In general, the Old English Sheepdog makes a wonderful pet.  An ideal owner is someone who has the time to devote to their pet, especially when it comes to grooming. They like to be an active member of any household and require lots of love. Old English Sheepdogs are generally very good with children and should be socialized as puppies with all family members.

Your Old English Sheepdog will provide you with hours of entertainment. Known to clown around and act like perpetual children, it often catches people off guard when at the end of their lives, they finally slow down and act their age.

While highly active dogs that love to play, Old English Sheepdogs are well suited for any size home, including an apartment if they are sufficiently exercised. They do enjoy an average size yard if allowed to romp around outside. They should be taken on a daily walk, run or hike. They can also compete in dog agility trials and herding events if so desired.

The herding instinct in an Old English Sheep dog is strong and they make great farm dogs. They do need to be trained not to herd people due to their sheer size. Any owner needs to show their OES who is boss so that this gentle giant does not take the lead.

Veterinary Surgeon, London at Blue Cross UK | + posts

A London based Veterinary surgeon, Sanja is also an avid writer and pet advocate.