A Loving Family Dog That Can Act Like a Doting Nanny to Your Children
Around 55 BC, English Shepherds were brought to the British Isles from Rome to be used in Caesar's invasion. Sturdy, very hardy, extremely devoted and hard-working, the English Shepherd proved perfect for the hardscrabble life of the Roman soldier. The dogs' job was to maintain control of the Roman livestock, which had been brought along as a food source for Caesar's troops. As livestock decreased, however, their mission diminished and the dogs were abandoned. Local residents saw the devotion and hard-working temperament displayed by the English Shepherd, and sympathetically adopted them to serve those purposes in their lives. They further inbred Caesar's original dogs with their own local herding dogs, improving the versatility and hardiness of the breed. Later on, this disciplined and devoted canine also traveled to the New World with settlers who were to establish the American colonies.
In the United States, farmers came to appreciate the breed because they could be counted on to protect their livestock, ad well as their homestead, and most importantly, their children. Highly respected despite an ordinary appearance, the English Shepherd became the generic "farm dog" used for all purposes. A breed recognized by the UKC, it is classified as a member of the Herding Group.
As work dogs
English Shepherds almost instinctively know how to perform farm functions without much guidance. Very quick learners and greatly motivated by owner approval, they can be depended on with a minimum of training.
In addition to farm work, English Shepherds also excel in search-and-rescue expeditions, hunting, human therapy, and in competition for obedience, agility, tracking and flyball.
The English Shepherd looks much like a Border Collie, or an Australian Shepherd. Of medium size, it is usually longer than it is tall, and weighs between 40 and 70 pounds. There may be some regional variation in the breed specifically because its history is as a working dog on farms in many different areas. The coat is usually of medium length, and can have any texture from curly or wavy, to straight. There may be feathering, particularly on the legs and tail, and the color variations are usually sable and white; black and white; tricolor; and black and tan. Dogs can also be solid colored; brindle, or red-nosed with tricolors or sable; but these latter color variations are not common.
One notable characteristic that sets the English Shepherd dog apart from other working dogs is that it truly has empathy and kindness for those it is "herding," whether that be livestock or children. Although it may sound somewhat clumsy to refer to an English Shepherd "herding" toddlers and small children, this is exactly what makes it one of the most endearing of family pets. Once given the task of guarding and taking care of youngsters, that's exactly what your loving pet will do, and it will do it with the utmost care and attention to detail – but always with a focus on truly empathizing with its charges. You might even think of this dog as a slightly fussy, exacting, but extremely devoted "nanny" who wants everything to be "just so," but does so with the utmost tenderness and devotion.
Your new pet will make an excellent watchdog and general "caretaker," given that it simply wants to "take care" of every member of your family. Your pet may be a little bit bossy, but this is different from being dominant. Your pet simply wants to "follow the rules," and will be a willing enforcer if called to do so. As your dog’s owner, you must take care that your pet knows you're in charge as pack leader; if you don't, your pet may try to take charge instead. Again, this does not necessarily mean an aggressive or badly-behaved dog, but simply one who sees that there's a need that it should fill. Putting yourself in place as the alpha dog will reassure your pet and that it can follow your lead and do as you say.
Finally, keep in mind that your dog is independent, self-motivated and responsible. Don't quash this tendency in your pet. Instead, work with it and respect it by thinking of your pet as a team member who's working with you to keep you and your family safe. You are the benevolent "boss"-in-charge, and your dog is a truly devoted and loving subordinate who will use its intelligence and initiative to the best purposes possible – as long as you provide the guidance.
The English Shepherd is truly a family dog, although it is also an excellent service dog as well. A single devoted owner will satisfy an English Shepherd just as much as a large, rambunctious family with lots of attention and activity.
The main thing to remember about your pet is that it needs you. In fact, English Shepherd puppies are called the "shadow dog," because they want to be wherever their master is. If you're driving in the car, your dog will want to be next to you. If you're typing on the computer, it will want to be at your feet. If you are in the shower, it will want to lie on the rug outside the shower and keep you company.
As long as you can provide the proper attention and companionship for your dog, it will thrive in just about any environment. However, be aware that your pet is a very athletic dog that needs plenty of physical exercise, not to mention a very intelligent dog that needs a lot of mental stimulation. If your pet becomes bored, like many dogs, it can become "destructive" and chew everything in sight. As long as you keep your pet stimulated and provide enough chewing opportunities (rawhide bones, etc.), you shouldn't have a problem. If you cannot give your pet a lot of attention because of other responsibilities that keep you away from home for long periods, it is best to find a different breed. This dog cannot endure the painful confusion brought on by isolation. Although English Shepherds are independent in their work ethic, as pets, their main job is to be a companion to you.
Because the English Shepherd has not been overly inbred, it retains its hardy "mutt"-like health. These dogs are less prone to hip dysplasia which is so common in other larger breeds. Life expectancy can be as long as 15 years.
Although your pet is a shedder and should be brushed regularly, this dog should require very little other grooming. The English Shepherd's thick coat seems to have a "Teflon-like” quality, in that dirt does not seem to stick to it very easily and usually simply falls away. You can bathe your pet as you need to, using gentle non-drying dog shampoos specifically for the purpose, but you should avoid overbathing.