In Dog Breed Corner this month is the Old English Sheepdog! Check out the OES’ stats, personality, trainability, health, grooming and more! Are you pining for someone who can care for your Sheepdog? Why not peruse our list of reliable Dog Minders near you?
Quick Facts ✔
Height – 51 – 61cm
Weight – 25 – 45kg
Lifespan – 10 – 12years
Country of origin: England
Breed type – Working dog
Best breed for:
Old English Sheepdog Breed History ♜
The only thing we really know for sure about these fluffy dogs is that originally came from the South of England. But that’s where the hard facts end. No one is sure exactly when or how Old English Sheepdogs came into being.
Despite their name, the Old English Sheepdog isn’t an ancient breed. In fact, they’ve only been around since the 1800s. In the early days of the breed, the main job for these dogs was likely to help farmers protect their livestock against wolves. And based on their long wooly coat and grey and white patterns, some experts believe this breed might have sprouted out of the Scottish Bearded Collie line. Another possibility is that the Old English Sheepdog came from the French Briard, which has a similar, although darker, coat. Or, there’s speculation about OES’s link to Russian Owtchar. All very adorable working doggos.
One of their main jobs of the OES was to be a “drovers dog.” Their large frames and gentle demeanour made them the perfect dog to drive the cattle and sheep to market. At the time, working dogs were tax exempt and could be easily identified by their docked tails. That’s why Old English Sheepdogs were often called “bobs” for their bobtail.
By the turn of the century, Old English Sheepdogs made their way across the Atlantic to become one of the more popular dog breeds in the United States. Old English Sheepdogs became the breed of choice for some of the wealthiest families in America, who held so much influence that judges at dogs shows could be pressured to favour these dogs.
From this point, a split in the breed formed between the traditional working OES’s and their show dog counterparts. The dogs that had been bred to look pretty in the ring weren’t well-suited for working with cattle and sheep. However, they did find loving homes in non-working settings.
Old English Sheepdog Personality ★
Because of their background as a working dog, The Old English Sheepdog is happiest when they can be around their Owners. In fact, there’s a tendency for separation anxiety, so it’s best not to get an OES if they’re going to be alone for much of the day. A solution could be to arrange for a trusted Dog Walker to spend some quality time with your OES, every day. But don’t expect your Old English Sheepdog to be happy for hours alone in the backyard.
When they are in the company of their families, this dog loves to show off how funny and clever they are. They love to keep their Owners laughing, so be ready for a goofy, happy doggo. In fact, this breed tends to stay puppy-like long after most dog breeds settle down into their adulthood.
But, don’t take that to mean that the OES is a dog with an unmanageable amount of energy. Provided that they get their daily exercise, an Old English Sheepdog is perfectly content to wind down with the family. Just like they might kick up their paws after a long day of driving cattle and sheep, your OES will happily relax and rest up for another day of fun.
It’s important to mention, of course, that along with the other passed-down traits of their working dog days, Old English Sheepdogs have a drive to, well, drive. They can have a herding tendency that needs to be channeled into positive activities so that they don’t spend their time trying to herd other animals or children. In most cases, the herding drive is perfectly harmless. They may walk you to your car in the morning just to make sure to give you a good send off. And, they’ll be there when you get home, ready to usher you back inside.
In general, Old English Sheepdogs are friendly with other animals and children, making them an ideal family dog. That said, you might find some male-to-male aggression with young OESs, which is something to monitor and correct as soon as possible. These dogs also have a bit of an independent streak. When they want their way, it can be a bit difficult to convince them to come around. But with consistent training, you shouldn’t have too many issues with stubbornness.
One final thing to note about the OES personality is their tendency to bark. It isn’t the case with every OES, but when you do get a chatty one, they may bark at just about everything. It’s not usually a menacing bark, just a way to let their beloved Owners know if there’s a stranger approaching or something exciting is happening. You can learn more about managing this OES behaviour by reading our article on How to Stop Excessive Barking.
Trainability and Training Tips
As we mentioned, OES’s are something of an independent dog which can be a challenge for training. The key is to start early, train often, and find that one thing that will make your OES excited about their training sessions.
If your Old English Sheepdog is food-motivated, for example, you might try switching your training sessions up with new, exciting treats every once in a while. That way, they’ll always be eager to see which new tasty treats they’ll get when they follow directions. You can check out our healthy dog treat recipes for easy-to-make treats that your OES will love.
Or, you might come to realise that your OES loves playtime with you more than treats. If that’s the case, you can make playtime the centre of your training sessions. Every time your OES wants you to throw the ball, for instance, you can work on commands like “sit” and “stay”. Don’t throw that ball until they’ve given your command a good effort.
Every Old English Sheepdog is unique and quirky which means that you might have to test out a few training tactics to see which one is the most effective. But, even if you’re having trouble with your slightly stubborn OES, don’t give up! These are big dogs that need training, even if it can be a bit frustrating to work with their independence.
Also key to managing your Old English Sheepdog’s behaviour: exercise. These are big dogs that need at least one hour of vigorous exercise daily. They’re great jogging buddies, or they’ll be content with a nice long game of fetch.
One common misconception about OESs is that, because they’re sheepdogs, they’ll feel content to stay in a backyard all day. But remember that these doggos worked closely with humans, not simply roaming the hills with a herd, but guiding the herd through sometimes densely populated areas to get to market. They’re not accustomed to being left alone, and they will not be happy to be locked up in the backyard.
That said, they’re also going to need a little more space than a small apartment could give them. OESs are not always the most graceful of pups, and you’ll save yourself and your dog a lot of stress by giving them room to stretch their legs without knocking things over.
The perfect living conditions for Old English Sheepdogs are homes with large families or other animals. Having enough social time is going to be more important for your OES than a big backyard or a big house.
Old English Sheepdog Grooming ✄
Alright, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: how in the world are you supposed to take care of that coat?
The OES coat is something truly special in the dog world. First of all, it’s a double coat, meaning that it consists of a soft, downy undercoat and a thick, long water-resistant second layer. This allowed the OES to work in the cold, wet climate of England with ease.
For Dog Owners nowadays, grooming is a huge part of owning an Old English Sheepdog. Be prepared for at least three to four hours of grooming per week. Even with your own at-home grooming routine, you will still need to budget for professional grooming services about once per month.
The reason why grooming is so extensive is that an Old English Sheepdog’s coat is rough and difficult to brush. And, if you don’t stay on top of it, all of that hair is prone to matting and tangles.
For Old English Sheepdogs with long hair, part of your grooming will also deal with keeping the coat clean, especially around the eyes and mouth. It’s also more common for long-haired doggos to get a bit stinky around the rear-end. Just something to keep in mind.
One option for an OES is to keep the coat short. This is ideal if you live in a warm climate or just want to spend less time brushing. Keeping the coat short is also a good idea for Owners who like to keep a clean house. After all, dogs with long hair tend to track water, dirt, and mud with them wherever they go.
It’s best to start grooming your Old English Sheepdog as a puppy. They have a lifetime of grooming ahead of them, so it’s important to start creative positive associations as early as possible.
As you might guess with a dog this size, the common large breed issues are prevalent in the OES. Elbow and hip dysplasia and bloat being the main concerns. PetCare has a good guide to learning how to read the signs of bloat as well as some prevention tips.
Deafness is fairly common in Old English Sheepdogs. It can occur in one or both ears and can be partial or full. Once your OES is six months, your vet should be able to tell you definitively if your pup has any issues with hearing.
As always, it’s important to be mindful about breeding practices with the OES. One of the best things that you can do for your OES is to ensure that they get good nutrition early in life to encourage healthy growth.
As your Old English Sheepdog gets older, you’ll need to monitor their weight closely. We say this because it can be tricky to notice weight-gain under all that fur. With proper exercise and a good diet, you can be sure that your OES is nice and healthy.
Fun Fact about the Old English Sheepdog ♥
Perhaps one of the most famous dogs of this breed was Martha, Paul McCartney’s beloved Old English Sheepdog. There are pictures of her on set with the band as they recorded various music videos; the bond between this adorable OES and her Owner was something special. She was born in 1966 and lived to be 15 years old.
Final Thoughts on the Old English Sheepdog
This large breed dog is friendly, easy-to-love, playful, and affectionate. In their perfect world, they’ll live in a home with plenty of people around for endless playtime and cuddles.
As adorable as these doggos are, there are a few challenges that new owners should be aware of. Old English Sheepdogs can be independent and sometimes stubborn. These dogs still have a herding instinct and like to ensure that everyone is happy and safe at all times. They are vocal and will let the whole house know when something is amiss. Grooming is also a huge part of owning an Old English Sheepdog.
While they’re not the lowest maintenance dog breed, Old English Sheepdogs atone for it by being a wonderfully loveable doggo. Your OES will make you laugh, and that long coat is just perfect for big Old English Sheepdog hugs.