Old English Sheepdog

This Overstuffed Hunk of Canine Fluff Will Surely Steal Your Heart

Old English Sheepdog

This Overstuffed Hunk of Canine Fluff Will Surely Steal Your Heart

Although the Old English Sheepdog has enjoyed major Hollywood fame with key roles in such hits as Disney’s “The Shaggy Dog” and “Peter Pan,” along with Doris Day’s “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies,” the real story of this breed is as an adorable, huggable character to countless children throughout the world. Sometimes portrayed as a goofy dim-wit, while at other times depicted as the serious intellectual, all who know this dog agree it is a most lovable pet who craves lifelong affection and fun-filled activity. Kind, patient and alert to danger, this overstuffed hunk of canine fluff will surely steal your heart and provide a lifetime of pleasure to everyone in the family.

Even though its name seems to imply that this breed has been around for hundreds of years, the Old English Sheepdog has actually only been around since the late 19th century. Originally called a "Shepherd's Dog," it was exhibited in a show in Birmingham, England for the first time in 1873. While the ancestry of the breed isn't clear, it is believed by many breed experts that its origins may include the Russian Owtchar and/or the Scotch Bearded Collie.

Developed primarily to protect and herd sheep, the Old English Sheepdog was capable of working under the harshest of weather conditions and on the roughest terrains, largely because of the breed's large size and thick, dense weatherproof coat. Herdsmen engaged in the practice of breeding these dogs in an effort to achieve characteristics that would be beneficial to their need for herding and flock protection. Their goal was to develop an Old English Sheepdog, which was also called a "bobtail," that was highly intelligent, powerful, and large, as well as capable of exercising self-control. The "bobtail" name was given because many herdsmen docked their dogs' tails so that they would be identified as tax-exempt. In addition, this was done so that the dogs would move at a slower pace when herding the flock, and be less likely to run down lambs because of decreased agility and balance in the absence of their tail.

The AKC first registered the Old English Sheepdog in 1885, but it wasn’t recognized as an individual breed until 1904, when the OES (Old English Sheepdog) Club of America was founded.

Today, the Old English Sheepdog is a member of the AKC's Herding Group, and ranks 75th in overall breed popularity.

While its appearance may be a bit dishevelled and shaggy, the Old English Sheepdog has a body which is square, proportional and compact, but usually broader in the rump. An intelligent and somewhat "somber" face is surrounded by the extravagant coat which may be blue, blue merle, nearly any shade of gray, or “grizzle”—a dark overlay covering the top and sides of the body, head and tail, and the outside of the limbs.

On average, this breed will weigh between 60 and 65 pounds as an adult, depending upon whether it is a male or female (males usually weigh slightly more). Some Sheepdog puppies can grow to weigh as much as 100 pounds. A male will grow to a height of about 22 to 24 inches, while a female will typically be about 20 to 22 inches in height.

Many breeders today choose to "dock" the tail, or completely cut it off. This gives an appearance of a rounded rump, which contributes to the dog's bear-like lumbering gait, since most stand taller in the rear and lower at the shoulder.

Polite with strangers, good-natured, and sometimes humorously entertaining, the Old English Sheepdog simply loves people. If you are someone who runs a "tight ship" and demands a pristinely clean home at all times, you may be in for a surprise, as this is a breed that may make a mess, regardless of whether your pet is a puppy or an adult dog. Sometimes thought of as a walking dust mop to which every loose piece of paraphernalia and debris clings, an affectionate nudge may leave you with a little mud or dirt on your face or lap. However, most people who love this pet find this trait endearing and can tolerate a little extra dirt now and then.

Sheepdog puppies crave companionship and attention, and may not be a good choice for families who are gone the majority of the time, as the dogs can become destructive when they are bored or lonely.

Proper Environment
A moderate climate is recommended for this breed, as the Old English Sheepdog cannot function well in hot temperatures because of its thick, double coat. The ideal living environment should offer this dog a mid-sized yard to provide plenty of daily exercise and opportunities for interaction with the family, children, and possibly other pets. Without the yard, a daily walk can substitute as the physical and social activity required, giving your pet a happy life whether in an apartment, on a farm, or in a suburban area.

Generally speaking, the Old English Sheepdog has an average lifespan of about 10 to 12 years, and while healthy overall, may suffer minor health issues including PRA (progressive retinal atrophy), cataracts, gastric torsion, deafness, hypothyroidism and cerebellar ataxia. This latter condition is commonly passed down genetically through the dog's family, and occurs when the part of the brain known as the cerebellum is damaged as a result of a hereditary or congenital defect. This affliction may also be caused by tumors or infections in the brain.

Some of the more serious health issues sometimes found in the breed are canine hip dysplasia (which is common among many breeds) and diabetes. Chronic heart disease is another health issue that, while not common, should be monitored. Your veterinarian should perform routine check-ups on your pet on a regular basis.

Regular brushing will keep your pet's coat smooth and free of tangles and debris. Because of its long, dense double coat, the dog often becomes a magnet for debris, dust, moisture, and even urine and/or fecal matter. It is recommended that you thoroughly brush your puppy's or dog's coat at least once each week. This may take a considerable amount of time, but if you don’t maintain a smooth coat, matting can occur and be painful to the dog.

Start brushing when your pet is still a puppy, so that the dog becomes used to the feeling by the time it reaches adulthood. Brush from the base next to the skin so that matting and tangles can be removed. If you do not intend to enter your pet in shows, many owners choose to trim the coat with electric shears to make it more manageable. De-matting combs and rakes are good tools to easily remove matting and make the chore of grooming your Sheepdog easier.

Bathing every month or every other month helps remove the dirt, dust and other debris that can become trapped in the dense coat. Use a gentle shampoo and conditioner, then towel dry thoroughly. In winter months, consider using a blow dryer if you live in a cold climate. It's also a good idea to keep hair around the beard, eyes, feet/toes, rump and ears trimmed for hygiene purposes, and to help prevent matting.

Old English Sheepdog Breed Information.
Retrieved October 19, 2012

Old English Sheepdog.
Retrieved October 19, 2012

Old English Sheepdog Information.
Retrieved October 19, 2012

Old English Sheepdog Temperament What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em
Retrieved October 19, 2012

Cerebellar Ataxia in Dogs.
Retrieved October 19, 2012

Old English Sheepdog.
Retrieved October 20, 2012

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