- Activity Level: moderate
- Grooming Level: high
- Trainability: high
- Adaptability: moderate
- Kid/Pet Friendly: often
- Average Size: Large
- Average Lifespan: 10-12 years
- Prey Drive: low
- Watchdog: very alert
- Registered?: aca, akc
Old English Sheepdog Breed Profile
Did You Know?
Although the Old English Sheepdog has an unmistakable and iconic appearance, the breed’s exact history is a bit of a mystery. This dog breed was developed in England and is likely a descendant of the bearded collie. Records of this beautiful, fluffy dog don’t appear until the nineteenth century. At that time, it was named the “Bobtail”, or “Bob”, for its cropped tail. The cropping of the tail was designed to communicate that it was a drover, which was a dog responsible for herding sheep or cattle. This was done in order to tax the working dog. Across the pond, the Old English Sheepdog’s popularity grew rapidly among the upper classes. Not long after being imported into the United States in the 1880s, the OE Sheepdog was being bred and shown by half of the wealthiest families in U.S.
With its face covered with long, shaggy fur and its comical, ragdoll gait, the Old English Sheepdog is a sweet and affectionate “clown.” Yet, this unique personality belies the fact that they are one highly intelligent and innately competent worker. The OE Sheepdog’s magnificent double coat makes it a staple at dog shows. The breed has also been featured as the lovable family pet in countless movies and television shows. Yet, despite its obvious appeal, the Old English Sheepdog is not currently very popular; it ranks about 75th on the American Kennel Club’s popularity list.
“Lovable” is the best all-around adjective to describe the Old English Sheepdog. It’s hard not to be enchanted by this big, fluffy, and childlike dog. They are affectionate, curious, agile, and obedient. Some attribute their playful disposition to the fact that the OE Sheepdog experiences a prolonged adolescence until about three years old. They are a perfect family dog, sometimes referred to as the “nanny” because of the role they take on with children.
These dogs bond especially intensely with their families, often experiencing acute separation anxiety with prolonged absences. Although they will be protective of their family, the Old English Sheepdog is no real watchdog. They are not known to be irritable or aggressive and are more interested in making friends. And, despite their hard working lineage, OE Sheepdogs can be couch potatoes. Only poorly bred or abused OE Sheepdogs have been observed to have displeasing personalities.
The Old English Sheepdog is a surprisingly adaptable creature. They are comfortable indoors and make a very good house pet. Their first priority is being with their human family. However, like most dogs – especially the larger breeds – they need exercise at least once or twice per day. They won’t do well alone in a backyard.
Due to their intelligence, curiosity and outgoing nature, the OE Sheepdog requires stimulation. This makes them especially good at agility, flyball, and other herding-type activities. Although the Old English Sheepdog can overheat pretty quickly, they are sturdy in very cold weather.
The Old English Sheepdog is a generally healthy breed, but they can be susceptible to certain diseases. The OE Sheepdog is a large dog breed, and therefore, particularly susceptible to hip dysplasia, a condition where the thigh bone doesn’t fit properly into the hip joint. They can also experience eye and ear problems, such as cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, which is a gradual deterioration of the retina, and deafness. Responsible breeders will screen their dogs for genetic disorders to ensure healthy puppies, so don’t be afraid to talk to the breeder about the genetic history of the parents and to ask to see relevant health clearances.
Setting aside the time-consuming commitment required to groom the Old English Sheepdog, these dogs are beloved by their owners as the quintessential “man’s best friend.” The OE Sheepdog is a spectacular family dog. They are friendly, outgoing, warm-hearted, comical, and well-behaved, after being relatively easily trained. They are highly trainable and eager to please, which makes them a good fit for owners of all experience levels. As long as their owner understands what’s involved with keeping that enormous, shaggy coat clean and neat, the owner experience is a loving bond that lasts a lifetime.
Unfortunately, the Old English Sheepdog is a high maintenance pet because of its thick and voluminous coat. It is very difficult to keep clean and free of mats. Shedding is also a big problem for any dog owner who likes their home to be super clean. The most common reason that the OE Sheepdog is given up by its owner is because grooming is the most demanding aspect of caring for these magnificent dogs.
They require daily brushing and routine searches for matted hair that can lead to skin problems. They also need to be bathed fairly frequently; experts suggest at least every 6 to 8 weeks. Bathing a 100-pound dog about eight times a year is a challenge, indeed. Another issue is drool. The Old English Sheepdog drools on its heavy beard, staining the fur and making it look, well, pretty gross.
The Old English Sheepdog’s activity level is an interesting dichotomy. They are bred for hard work, agile movements, and energetic pursuits. But, they are also known to comfortably do nothing around the house when nothing is going on. As the OE Sheepdog ages, they prefer to be a bit on the lazy side. These dogs are easily trained and maintain close bonds with their humans. Therefore, they will follow the lead of the family and keep pace with whatever their humans are up to. In short, the OE Sheepdog is inherently energetic, but knows how to chill out when it’s appropriate to do so.
The Old English Sheepdog is a large dog breed of significant weight. Males weigh between 80 and 100 pounds, while females weigh between 60 and 85 pounds. There is usually about a one to two-inch difference between males and females, where the range in height is from 21 to 22 inches.
A well cared for, properly nourished, and healthy Old English Sheepdog generally lives 10 to 12 years.
The Old English Sheepdog has a supporting role in Disney’s The Little Mermaid and 101 Dalmatians. In The Little Mermaid, Prince Eric’s dog is an Old English Sheepdog named Max. In 101 Dalmatians, an OE Sheepdog named Colonel assists with the rescue of the Dalmatian puppies.