Characteristics and Care of the Old English Sheepdog

Old English Sheepdog sitting on the grass

The Old English sheepdog, a robust and athletic breed famed for its fluffy hair, is the first "shaggy dog." This friendly dog, on the other hand, is all muscle, having descended from early forms of herding dogs in England, where they helped farmers bring livestock and sheep to market. This social, lively, and obedient breed deserves a caring and who will provide it with the attention and grooming it needed to thrive.

Breed Overview


HEIGHT: 22 inches and up (males); 21 inches and up (females)

WEIGHT: 60 to 100 pounds

COAT: Double coat

COAT COLOR: Commonly white with gray markings and dogs may also show grizzle, merle, and any shade of blue coloring

LIFE SPAN: 10 to 12 years

TEMPERAMENT: Intelligent, playful, sociable, bubbly, loving, adaptable


ORIGIN: England

Characteristics of the Old English Sheepdog

You'll be delighted with an Old English sheepdog at your side, whether you require a or a loving family companion. The delightfully disheveled hairdos of Old English sheepdogs always steal the show at the dog park. Their outgoing personality just add to their cuteness.

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness High
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding High
Grooming Needs High

History of the Old English Sheepdog

Experts debate the Old English sheepdog's genealogy, disputing over which European breed it evolved from. There are a few canines that might be related to the sheepdog, such as the Scotch bearded collie and the French briard, but no conclusive lineage has been established.

The Old English sheepdog is a relatively new breed that originally appeared in the 1800s in England. Farmers utilized them as "drover dogs," pulling carts and wagons as well as transporting animals to market. Drover dogs are noted for their endurance, stability, and bravery.

Old English sheepdogs were given the moniker "bob" or "bobtail" because their tails were frequently clipped to signify that they were working dogs. Although Old English sheepdogs are born with tails, they are frequently docked by breeders when they are only a few days old. In 1888, the American Kennel Club classified this breed as a herding dog, and Old English sheepdogs immediately became a popular show dog and pet.

Old English Sheepdog Care

Because these dogs normally have excellent indoor manners, their lively nature is rarely an issue when it's time to unwind. Old English sheepdogs are well aware of the distinction between play and relaxation time. They have a gentle temperament and are rarely seen barking or protecting their area, but when required, they may be protective. Prospective Old English sheepdog owners should keep in mind, however, that grooming is necessary on a regular basis.


Old English sheepdogs had different exercise requirements. This breed is far from being a couch potato, but it does enjoy lounging about. Regardless, they must engage in regular activity for at least an hour once a day. Daily walks will keep them happy, and adding an outside play time will make them even happier. Because Old English sheepdogs like working and herding, one of their favorite hobbies is a thrilling game of retrieve or keep away.


A groomer can't help but shiver when he sees the Old English sheepdog's huge mop. Grooming these canines is actually no more difficult than grooming any other long-haired dog. Their coat is high-maintenance, and grooming them can be time-consuming, but it is necessary for keeping them happy and healthy.

Daily brushing is recommended since their hair is lengthy and prone to knots. This will maintain your dog's coat healthy and free of dirt and bacteria-collecting knots and matting. Brushing them on a daily basis will also help you regulate their shedding. Brushing on a regular basis will also keep you from having to see an expensive professional groomer in the future. If mats do form, they must frequently be shaved or cut away. duties that are possibly risky and should be left to the professionals

Many owners prefer to take their Old English sheepdogs to a professional groomer experienced with long-haired dogs, as bathing these big pups can seem daunting.


When offered positive reinforcement in the form of food or love, Old English sheepdogs are fairly amenable to behavior training. When given sufficient socialization training as puppies, these dogs get along nicely with children and other animals.

Although this breed is attentive and receptive, making training easier, it is also a breed of independent thinkers. Old English sheepdogs may ultimately figure out how to act in their own manner rather than the way you've taught them. It's critical to be a firm leader and adopt consistency during exercises while training the Old English sheepdog, as autonomous thinking is less common.

Common Health Problems

Some health problems that can occur in Old English sheepdogs include:

  • Hip dysplasia: This is the abnormal formation of the hip joint that can lead to lameness.
  • Cataracts: Cloudy eye lenses may afflict your Old English sheepdog and cause blindness.
  • Hypothyroidism: Low thyroid function can cause problems with a dog's coat, skin, and activity level.
  • : This is a condition that causes a dog’s stomach to twist and contract, leading to death.

It's crucial to pay attention to these results when choosing your Old English sheepdog since good breeders will have their puppies examined for these issues and be able to confirm the health of the dog's parents.

Other health issues, including as joint difficulties and infections, may be avoided with regular grooming, so keep your sheepdog clean and combed. Keep their hair cut as needed because it can often obscure their eyesight.

Health conditions are often difficult to detect in a growing puppy, so choosing a breeder dedicated to health is the best way to assure your Old English sheepdog is in good shape.

Diet and Nutrition

It's critical to pay attention to an Old English sheepdog's nutrition. Because a dog's shaggy hair can hide weight gain, keeping them on a consistent and healthy diet can go a long way toward preventing obesity and other weight-related health problems.

Feeding properly can also help prevent difficulties, particularly those caused by eating too soon. If your pet has a problem with quick eating, consider using slow feeder bowls or giving them smaller, more often meals to allow for longer digestion.

The dog food aisle may be intimidating—there are so many brands to choose from, but which one is best for your pup? Choosing one can be challenging and time-consuming. Examine the components and protein level of a food to see whether it is suitable for your Old English sheepdog. Lean meats strong in protein, such as chicken or turkey, and other entire foods will make up the healthiest diet. Fat content should be kept to a minimum because Old English sheepdogs are not particularly active.

It might be difficult to decide whether to feed your dog wet or dry food. Dry kibble stimulates chewing and cleans your dog's teeth as they eat, but canned wet food is gentler on their digestive tract and a good method to get extra water into their system. Adding canned wet food to dry kibble is frequently recommended by veterinarians. Using the two together can gratify your pet while also keeping him healthy.

The amount of food you may give your pet differs. Some owners feed their dogs once a day, while others feed them many tiny meals throughout the day. This will be determined by your dog's tastes. When dogs are only fed once a day, some will vomit from hunger, while others will refuse to eat. Consult your veterinarian for the ideal regimen for your dog, and experiment with them to ensure that their diet is right for them.

If you find yourself needing to switch dog foods, make sure to do it slowly over a period of a few weeks, to allow their digestive systems to adjust.

Where to Adopt or Buy an Old English Sheepdog

Consider your lifestyle and commitment level before picking your next animal buddy to see if this exuberant, protective herding dog is the right choice for you. Old English sheepdogs make lovely companions, but training and grooming them takes time and money.

The Old English Sheepdog Club of America (OESCA) advises buying puppies from responsible breeders that rear their dogs according to AKC guidelines. Verify that the breeder will replace or refund the puppy's fee if it is discovered to have a life-threatening condition.

Breeders will provide written instructions regarding feeding, health, training, and grooming, as well as ensure that the puppy is:

  • Free of hip dysplasia, eye defects, and internal parasites
  • Up to date with vaccinations from common diseases
  • At least eight weeks of age
  • Guaranteed against hereditary faults

The OESCA provides referrals to responsible breeders as well as a directory of rescue organizations throughout the U.S.

Old English Sheepdog Overview

  • Great family pet

  • Tolerant of cold climates

  • Fast learner

  • Extensive grooming needs

  • Hard to recognize weight gain under its voluminous coat

  • An independent thinker; may deviate from trained behaviors

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Check out a few of our other dog breed profiles for similar pets before you choose:

Why stop there? There are plenty of  to learn about before you fall in love with your own.

  • Is an Old English sheepdog a good apartment dog?

    Although they might be couch potatoes at times, the Old English sheepdog is not a good dog and does not belong on the list of breeds that are suitable for living in confined spaces. The breed is huge and requires exercise, training, and care, and it despises loud sounds, which are common in metropolitan areas.

  • Would an Old English sheepdog be good for a first-time dog owner?

    This adorable puppy may appear to be the ideal first dog for new parents, but it may not be the greatest decision. This breed requires a strong hand and much training. Did we mention how much grooming it necessitates?

  • Are Old English sheepdogs good with kids?

    This breed is huge and lively, and children like tugging on its shaggy coat, which irritates it. That said, this dog is friendly and tolerant with children, making it an excellent family dog. This dog has a balanced temperament and may only show hostility with other dogs of the same gender.