Old English Sheepdog

Breed Group: Herding

Temperament and Behavior

An Old English Sheepdog (OES) is a social, affectionate, and intelligent breed, but they are more than willing to play the clown. A well-bred OES is loving of family on whom they depend for companionship. The dogs enjoy the company of children, especially those they are raised with. They get along reasonably well with other dogs, and very well with other pets. And, although they will use their reverberating bark to let you know a stranger has arrived, most enjoy having strangers visit. In fact, they are apt to assist a thief to the car with their ill-gotten gains. A loving, faithful, and intuitive companion with a zest for life, the Old English Sheepdog is highly affectionate, even demanding of attention, and has earned the title of “babysitter.” As their name indicates, they were bred to herd sheep Not a sign of aggression, they may attempt to herd small children by nudging, bumping, or nipping their heels. They also love to run. They need at least an hour of strenuous activity every day. An OES needs at least an average-sized, fenced yard. But simply shooing an Old English Sheepdog out the door won’t do; this happy go lucky breed needs a playmate to get the exercise they need. They are highly social and fare best indoors with its family. Apartment life is not recommended. They are not for fastidious housekeepers as an Old English Sheepdog’s coat acts like a magnet for dirt and debris. He loves splashing in his water bowl, then affectionately thrusts his soaking wet beard in your lap, and some drool.

Physical Characteristics

The Old English Sheepdog is a large dog. Males weigh an average 70 to 100 pounds and stand up to 26 inches tall at the shoulder. Females weigh 60-80 pounds and stand at least 21 inches tall. A strong, compact, dog best known for its shaggy grey and white coat that covers its face and eyes. Puppies are born with jet black and white fur giving them a panda bear appearance. After their puppy coat sheds, their adult color appears which can be grizzle, blue, or blue merle, often with white markings. The Old English Sheepdog’s hallmark shaggy coat needs at least 30 minutes of daily brushing to prevent matting which can result in skin problems. The dense undercoat between the pads of their feet, behind its ears, and at the base of its legs are all areas that are prone to matting. An OES has no seasonal shed; instead, they shed lightly throughout the year. For pets, shearing the dog’s coat short in spring and summer significantly reduces their need for grooming and helps the dog stay cool. They do well in cool temperatures but less well as temperatures increase.

Trainer's Notes

Most Old English Sheepdogs need no more than an average socialization effort. But some lines are skittish and these dogs need more effort dedicated to socializing them. Smart and strong-willed with a mind of his own, an OES needs a confident owner with a take-charge attitude who uses positive motivation techniques. Even so, they are a challenging training partner with a strong tendency to want to do things their own way. This makes them too much of a challenge for a first-time dog owner. Unlike most breeds, females tend to be bossier than males.

Photo © by Томасина available under the CC 3.0
Old English Sheepdog

Old English Sheepdog


With almost 1 in 5 dogs has affected, the Old English Sheepdog has a relatively high incidence of Hip Dysplasia. Bloat is also relatively common in the breed and maybe their leading killer. Other, less frequently seen problems include Elbow Dysplasia, Otitis Externa, Cataracts, retinal detachment, deafness, and IMHA (Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia), a condition where the dogs' immune system begins attacking their own red blood cells. Ask the breeder about Thyroiditis in their line. The life expectancy of an Old English Sheepdog is 10 to 12 years.


The Old English Sheepdog ranks 69th on the American Kennel Club’s list of most popular dogs with about 1,400 yearly registrations.

Breed History

The origin of the Old English Sheepdog can accurately trace his ancestry back only to the 1870s. But there are several theories about its origin. The first theory says the Old English Sheepdog is related to the Barbone and the Deerhound. The second is that it is related to the Briard and the Bergamasco. The next theory is the breed descends from a hairy Russian dog called the “Owtchar.” The Old English Sheepdog is also thought by some to have been created through crosses between Bearded Collies and animals brought to England from Russia, the Baltics, or France. In any event, the Old English Sheepdog was developed in England’s West Country by local farmers who needed an alert, swift cattle driver and sheepherder to take their animals to market. The breed soon became widely used in agricultural areas. The Old English Sheepdog was highly praised for its expertise with livestock and the double coat that protected it from the rain. The talents of this breed were herding, retrieving, and as a watchdog. The breed was first shown in Britain in 1873. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1905 and has since become quite popular.

Additional Information

Famous Old English Sheepdog owners include U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and broadcast journalist Charles Osgood. The National (US) Breed Club is The Old English Sheepdog Club of America.

Is An Old English Sheepdog THE BEST Dog For YOU?

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