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Recognized by their shaggy coat and bobtail, Old English Sheepdogs are smart and independent, but they’re most known for their fun personality. These dogs require tons of exercise and early socialization, but they can make a great family dog that’s affectionate with young children if you’re willing to put in the time to train them.
Since Old English Sheepdogs were primarily used for driving sheep, they have tons of energy but don’t need farm life to be happy. Even though they’re relatively large dogs, they don’t need much space as long as they can burn off their excess energy with walks or playtime. Wondering if an Old English Sheepdog is the right pet for you? Then, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to learn more about Old English Sheepdogs.
- History & Origin Of Old English Sheepdogs
- Physical Attributes
- Behavioral Characteristics
- Health & Care
- Old English Sheepdog FAQs
- Final Notes
History & Origin Of Old English Sheepdogs
Unfortunately, no one knows the true origin of the Old English Sheepdog. However, evidence shows they may have originated in the early nineteenth century in Southwest England. The Old English Sheepdog may have been known as a “drover dogs,” which were used for sheep and cattle driving and had a portion of the tail removed, also known as a docked tail.1
The Old English Sheepdog first appeared in the US with Pittsburgh industrialist William Wade in the late 1880s, and many wealthy American families began owning and breeding them.2 In 1888, the AKC registered its first Old English Sheepdog, and the breed made its first appearance in the winner’s circle at Westminster Kennel Club in 1914.3
Today, Old English Sheepdogs are no longer working dogs. Instead, they’re bred for their beautiful coats and warm personalities.
Old English Sheepdogs weigh anywhere from 60 to 100 pounds. Females are 21 or more inches in height, while males are 22 inches or taller.3 Old English Sheepdog size shouldn’t prevent you from getting one; they actually don’t need a lot of indoor space to be happy as long as they’re getting enough exercise. Since they’re big dogs, they may not be ideal for apartment life.
Old English Sheepdogs have long, double coats, so they have tons of fur that needs to be groomed regularly. They should be brushed at least weekly, depending on how long you keep their fur. They should also receive trims at home and regular haircuts. Pet parents can trim or cut their dog’s hair at home or pay a professional, depending on the look they’re going for. For example, if you want an Old English Sheepdog with short hair, they’ll need to have their fur trimmed regularly to keep it that way. Their coat color comes in blue and white, blue merle and white, blue gray and white, gray and white, and grizzle and white.3
The Old English Sheepdogs’ coat is special because it adapted to the environment over the years when they were working dogs. Their coat is insulated and waterproof, so they stay warm in cold and wet temperatures and protected during hot summers.2
The Old English Sheepdogs’ temperament is outgoing and fun-loving. They’re affectionate with their families, including young children. However, not all of them are good with other dogs.3 Since they’re a working breed, they need plenty of exercise to burn off excess energy. Therefore, they might not be the best dogs for first-time pet owners, especially if you’re not able to provide them with the mental and physical stimulation they need to be happy.
Other than the need for exercise every day, they’re incredibly playful, but they have a protective nature and aren’t as open to strangers as some other types of dogs.3 Therefore, training will be necessary to help them get comfortable around others.
Luckily, these highly energetic dogs can tailor their behavior to their surroundings. For example, if you’re playing with them outside and decide it’s time to come inside, they’ll calm down from playing relatively quickly.3 Old English Sheepdogs are also relatively easy to train and eager to please, so house training a puppy should be simple, but you should also engage in obedience training, which can prevent some forms of anxiety. Old English Sheepdogs are not commonly anxious dog breeds, but any dog can develop anxiety, so training them is a great way to help them feel safe in their environment.
Since these dogs have such high energy, they need more than physical activity; they should be mentally stimulated for their mental and physical health. Luckily, many dogs can be mentally stimulated during physical activities. For example, letting your dog sniff on walks can keep them mentally stimulated as they use their nose to learn about the world around them. Training can also be mentally stimulating and help your dog burn off extra energy by making them focus on a specific task.
If you’re worried about barking when looking for a pet, the Old English Sheepdogs barks, just like any other dog, but they’re not incredibly vocal, compared to other breeds. But, of course, all dogs bark, so you can expect some barks when they’re enjoying themselves, being protective, or trying to communicate with you.
Health & Care
Old English Sheepdogs typically live up to 10 or 12 years, but they’re prone to various health conditions pet parents should be aware of. These breeds are prone to:
- Hip dysplasia: A condition in which the hip joint hasn’t formed correctly, with some dogs experiencing pain and lameness in the rear legs. Testing for this condition can and should be done by the breeder, so pet parents should ask for proof that testing indicated no hip dysplasia or issues in puppies.
- Autoimmune hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is caused by improper hormone production, and symptoms may include lethargy, weight gain, obesity, and dog hair loss.
- Heart disease: Old English Sheepdogs are prone to a type of heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).4 This condition makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood throughout the body.
- Deafness: Deafness is fairly common in dogs as they age, but Old English Sheepdogs are at a higher risk of hearing loss. Some forms of deafness can be treated but can’t be cured.
The Old English Sheepdog Club Of America (OESCA) offers guidelines for when breeders should test these dogs for different health concerns, but in most cases, you should have your dog tested for all of them throughout their lives. Of course, not all Old English Sheepdogs will have these conditions, but feeding your pet a healthy diet, ensuring they get enough exercise, and keeping up with regular vet visits can support their overall health.
Old English Sheepdog FAQs
Are Old English Sheepdogs good pets?
Old English Sheepdogs make great pets because they’re easygoing and affectionate with the entire family. Of course, this is a generalization about the breed, and your dog’s temperament and behavior will depend on many factors, including their history, specific health conditions, and training. These dogs are ideal pets anywhere in the world because their coats protect them from harsh weather. Additionally, while all dogs deserve tons of space to run around in, Old English Sheepdogs don’t need a large backyard, as long as you provide them with enough daily activity that’s both mentally and physically stimulating.
These dogs are also great guards and will protect your home with their loud bark. Of course, some may bark more than others. Even though they’re not known to bark a lot, they bark loudly, so it can irritate pet parents who aren’t used to the sound. Luckily, you can train your dog not to bark fairly easily since Old English Sheepdogs are highly trainable and love pleasing their pet parents. They respond best to firm and consistent training, so if you’re getting a puppy, you might want to enlist the help of a dog trainer who can help you maximize your training efforts.
Do Old English Sheepdogs shed?
All dogs shed, but Old English Sheepdogs are particularly heavy shedders because of their thick, long coat. If you want to prevent shedding, you should aim to brush an Old English Sheepdog every day. Of course, this won’t completely stop shedding, so if you don’t want fur on your clothes and furniture or you have allergies, this dog might not be right for you.
Of course, if you’re willing to clean your home a little more and use a lint roller to remove pet fur, you shouldn’t let this dog’s shedding prevent you from adopting them. These dogs are only high maintenance when it comes to their coat, which requires daily brushing and regular trims and haircuts. However, they’re low maintenance when it comes to everything else since they’re incredibly loving and know when it’s time to settle down.
Do Old English Sheepdogs bark?
Yes, all dogs bark. While Old English Sheepdogs don’t bark constantly, they have a louder bark. These dogs can bark for any reason, such as when they’re being protective, feeling tired, trying to play with you, dealing with separation anxiety, or seeking attention.
Providing your Old English Sheepdog with mental and physical stimulation can help prevent barking in some situations. For example, a dog that has played in the yard is less likely to stare out the window waiting for something to bark at. Instead, they may cuddle up on the couch and nap beside you.
How much is an Old English Sheepdog?
Old English Sheepdogs can cost anywhere from $1200 to $2000 or more, depending on where you get them. They’re purebred pets, so they’re more expensive than mixed breeds, especially if you get them from an experienced breeder. You may be able to find these dogs in animal shelters, but it’s rare, especially since there are fewer of them in the world. According to the Kennel Club, there is a decrease in the number of Old English Sheepdog puppy registrations,5 so these dogs are becoming rare, making them more expensive. If you can find one of these dogs at a shelter, they’ll be much more affordable since adoption costs cover basic medical care, including vaccinations and spaying and neutering.
Of course, when adopting a dog, there are other costs to consider, such as pet supplies, food, and healthcare. Therefore, even after the initial one-time costs of adopting or buying an Old English Sheepdog, there are still other recurring costs to consider.
Old English Sheepdogs are great companions for many pet parents. They have beautiful shaggy coats everyone will love to pet and fun-loving personalities with adults and children. But, of course, like all dogs, they need proper care, including providing them with mental and physical stimulation and taking them to the vet for regular checkups. Unfortunately, getting a big dog into a car and going to the vet can be difficult for pet parents and their pets.
Dutch makes it easy to help your pet get the care they need. Not all vet visits must be in person. Our telemedicine for pets services allows us to take care of your pet from the comfort of your own home to reduce the anxieties and challenges associated with traditional vet visits. We can help you care for, train, and ensure the health and happiness of your Old English Sheepdogs to help you become the best pet parent you can be.
“History Of The Old English Sheepdog.” Old English Sheepdog Club of America, 10 July 2020, https://oldenglishsheepdogclubofamerica.org/history/.
Reisen, Jan. “10 Things to Know about the Lovable Old English Sheepdog.” American Kennel Club, 4 Feb. 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/dog-breeds/10-interesting-facts-about-the-old-english-sheepdog/.
Young, Sean. “Old English Sheepdog Dog Breed Information.” American Kennel Club, 6 Nov. 2017, https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/old-english-sheepdog/.
“Heart Disease.” Old English Sheepdog Club of America, 10 July 2020, https://oldenglishsheepdogclubofamerica.org/about-us/other-illnesses/heart-disorder/.
“Old English Sheepdog Reaches Historic Low and Risks Extinction.” The Kennel Club, https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/media-centre/2019/june/old-english-sheepdog-reaches-historic-low-and-risks-extinction/.