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The Old English Sheepdog, or OES for short, is best for experienced pet parents who lead an active lifestyle but know when it's time to switch off, too. These dogs love a large home to lounge about in after a fun agility session. They are friendly with other people and can put on a brave face to live with other dogs or cats if they've been socialized from a young age. But be mindful that they can be nervous around younger kids who don't yet understand the importance of boundaries.
Old English Sheepdog Traits
What makes the Old English Sheepdog an Old English Sheepdog? Let's find out how they stack up.
Old English Sheepdog Temperament
Old English Sheepdogs are gentle, active and make great family dogs. They’ve been described as clownish, bounding around in a goofy manner when excited, and have a zest for life, while still maintaining an even temperament. They don’t tend to be aggressive, but they can be protective, giving a distinct bark to head off strangers. Get in their zone of trust, though, and you’ll have yourself a friendly, loyal and devoted playmate.
When it comes to compatibility with others, socialization (introducing them to different people and experiences) is key. Every dog is an individual, and temperament and personality are going to vary from dog to dog, but in general, this breed tends to do better with older children. They can get along with younger kids with lots of exposure and positive reinforcement; otherwise they may try to “herd” them or nip at them as they would with sheep. The OES can get along with cats with early introductions and, again, the right socialization. The same goes for other dogs—the more they’re around other friends, the better they do. Luckily, they can be pretty adaptable and easy-going, freely sharing their affection with their family.
Sheepdogs take their job as professional herders very seriously and love keeping busy, so make sure you’re providing lots of opportunities for stimulation. They catch on quickly and can get bored with the same old commands, so mix it up a little during your training sessions.
How to Care for a Old English Sheepdog
Old English Sheepdogs need a pet parent who has plenty of time to dedicate to caring for this energetic, lovable bundle of fur. Their plush double coats need considerable grooming. They shed all year round, too, so you’ll need to up your vacuuming game. They’ll also need a weekly ear cleaning and their teeth need to be brushed at least twice a week. This intelligent breed can be a tad stubborn, so someone who understands them and knows how they tick will be their ideal trainer. Plan on lots of regular exercise and don’t be surprised if they enjoy practicing their herding skills on you.
Old English Sheepdog Health
Old English Sheepdogs have a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years but are prone to a few health issues. It’s important for a pet parent to know about the common health conditions that can affect their dog, to help them live the longest life possible.
- Canine Hip Dysplasia: As with many large dog breeds, the Old English Sheepdog is at an increased risk for hip problems. In hip dysplasia, the ball and socket of the hip joint don’t fit together properly and can rub and grind against each other. This can cause them to break down, leading to trouble getting around, along with pain and stiffness. Treatments vary depending on the severity but can include modifying their exercise, anti-inflammatory medications and surgery in some cases.
- Eye Disease: The Old English Sheepdog is prone to eye conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma which cause blindness if not treated, and progressive retinal atrophy which can also lead to blindness and is untreatable. Entropion is a condition where the dog’s eyelid turns inwards and the eyelashes rub against the eyeball which causes irritation of the cornea and discomfort. The treatment depends on the condition and its severity, but can include pain medications or surgery.
- Heart Disease: The Old English Sheepdog can have a heart problem called dilated cardiomyopathy in which the heart has trouble pumping blood to the body because the heart has grown larger and weaker. This is a genetic condition seen in larger dogs like the OES, and symptoms include loss of appetite, weakness and pale gums. Your veterinarian will want to monitor for this at checkups. It can be treated by medications.
- Deafness: Sometimes Old English Sheepdog puppies become deaf soon after birth when the nerve endings in the ears die. There is no treatment for deafness, but you can work with your veterinarian to come up with a plan for making adaptations to help your dog live a happy, healthy life.
Old English Sheepdog History
The Old English Sheepdog has origins in the 1700s, so unlike their name, they aren’t an ancient breed like the Xoloitzcuintli. They aren’t fully English either—their ancestral history includes European, Scot, and Russian. The Scottish Bearded Collie might have played a role in this pup’s development. And you know what else? They aren’t even considered a sheepdog! Specifically, Old English Sheepdogs in the 18th century were known as a “drover’s dog” as they helped move sheep and cattle long distances from the fields to the markets, instead of herding them from the field to the barn like other sheepdog types. Fun fact: Their size, coloring and shaggy fur helped them to blend in with sheep.
Also known as the Bobtail, this breed was promoted in the US by an industrialist from Pittsburgh around the time of their American Kennel Club recognition in 1888. Within 20 years, Old English Sheepdogs settled into the homes of five of the 10 wealthiest American families, Vanderbilts and Guggenheims included.
In 1914, the OES won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. The Old English Sheepdog also made it big in Hollywood with the 1959 Disney classic “The Shaggy Dog.” You probably have also seen this shaggy dog (in animated form) in “The Little Mermaid” and “101 Dalmatians.” The Old English Sheepdog is quite the movie star!
Looking to add an Old English Sheepdog to your family? You can find reputable breeders on the American Kennel Club’s website, where the average Old English Sheepdog puppy costs between $1,000 to $2,000. For that, you usually get a dog who’s been screened for health and temperament issues, and they might come with pedigree papers. You can also adopt an Old English Sheepdog from a rescue organization or keep an eye out for Old English Sheepdogs at your local animal shelter.
Do Old English Sheepdogs shed?
Yes, Old English Sheepdogs are heavy shedders. They need three to four hours of grooming a week to keep the fur tumbleweeds under control in the home. Of course, this is not all that different from other dogs in the Herding group who have long fur and double coats. (Dogs in the Herding group were born to control the movement of other animals.) You just need an understanding of how to care for it.
How long do Old English Sheepdogs live?
Old English Sheepdogs have a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years. You can help your pup live a long and happy life with the proper diet, exercise and routine vet visits.
How big do Old English Sheepdogs get?
Old English Sheepdogs can get pretty big. They can weigh up to 100 pounds and can stand at least 21 inches tall at the shoulder.
Are Old English Sheepdogs smart?
Yes, Old English Sheepdogs are smart. They can also be independent, which can sometimes look like stubbornness. But that just means they need an experienced pet parent who understands this breed’s traits.
Do Old English Sheepdogs bark a lot?
Yes, the Old English Sheepdog does have a tendency to bark, sometimes a lot. They need a lot of socialization and training at a young age to help combat this quality as much as possible. But hey, you’ll always know when someone is at the door.
What are the most popular Old English Sheepdog names?
The most popular Old English Sheepdog names include Jake, Sammy, Zeus, Buster, Shaggy, Rosie, Misty, Duchess and Dixie. Get more dog names here.
What are the most common Old English Sheepdogs mixes?
The most common Old English Sheepdog mixes are:
- Old English Sheepdog-Poodle mix (Sheepadoodle)
- Old English Sheepdog-Golden Retriever mix (Golden Sheepdog)
- Old English Sheepdog-Labrador mix
- Old English Sheepdog-Border Collie mix
- Old English Sheepdog-Australian Shepherd mix
Old English Sheepdogs are sweet and gentle, but need a ton of exercise. They have a fierce intelligence that combines with their independence to make a dog who’s just as spectacular in a herding trial as they are playing a game of hide-and-seek with their pet parent.