The Old English Sheepdog dog breed, often referred to as OES for short, is a distinctive-looking working dog that has later acquired family dog status because of their easy going and friendly nature. Though ideal for rural settings, they can adjust to even apartment living if owners ensure plenty of outdoor activities to keep them in good health and cheer.
The Old English Sheepdog was originally used in England for guarding sheep from wolves. They are thought to have evolved from either the Bearded Collie breed or a Caucasian breed called Ovtcharka. In the 19th century, their working roles changed to herding sheep and cattle, especially driving them to market with their resounding barks similar to that of a cracked bell. They were known as ‘Bobtail” because the tails of the working dogs were customarily docked in those days to avail of tax exemptions.
Dogs with magnificently groomed coats began to appear in dog shows towards the end of the 19th century. Even though the breed was recognized by AKC in 1905, they largely remained show dogs. However, many advertisements and TV commercials featuring them eventually contributed to their popularity, and by the 1970s they were being preferred as family dogs too.
The Old English Sheepdog dog breed is large in size, typically measuring 24 inches and above at the withers, but still taller at the rear end. They weigh around 100 pounds, but the females may be lighter. The fluffy tail is usually docked in countries where it is not yet illegal.
These dogs have compactly built body covered from head to tail in a double coat of long hair. The color is usually in a black and white combination, but grey, silver, and blue combinations as well as merle patterns also occur. The puppies are born black and white, and the adult coloration appears only later. The floppy ears are completely covered in long, shaggy, hair as is the face, obscuring all their facial features except for the black button nose.
The Old English Sheepdogs are easy going and well-behaved. Nothing gives these dogs as much enjoyment and satisfaction as herding sheep or other animals, but they are highly people oriented and love to spend time with their human family. They are affectionate and demonstrative of their feelings. They get along well with all kinds of animals and people, but can act as excellent watch dogs as they are naturally protective of their family as they are of the flock under their care.
These dogs have a long puppyhood and it is a good time for obedience training. Even though they are well mannered, they may not always obey command unless they recognize the authority of the person trying to control them.
Grooming and exercise
The long coat of the Old English Sheepdog breed quite obviously requires extensive grooming to look good. The double coat should be brushed deeply every two days with a long-toothed brush to remove tangles and matting. A more extensive and thorough grooming is recommended at least once a week as the dog can develop many skin problems unless the coat is taken good care of. Many owners prefer to keep it short by professional or machine clipping once every 2 to 3 months. In fact, working dogs used to be routinely shorn along with the sheep they herd.
These dogs require regular exercise, but it does not have to be very extensive or strenuous. Long, brisk walks and jogging on the leash may provide the minimum physical stimulation required, but opportunities to herd would be the best bet for these dogs since it offers mental stimulation too. Given half a chance, they would gladly herd any animal, including ducks, sheep, cattle, horses and even people, but they do it by nudging rather than nipping.
The thick and long coat of Old English Sheepdogs protects them from cold, but they cannot tolerate heat. They can live outdoors round the year in mild climates, but access to indoor is necessary for the dogs to take refuge from hot afternoon sun and to cool off whenever necessary.
Common health issues of Old English Sheepdog dog breed
The Old English Sheepdog dog breed is relatively healthy, but may have a few disorders such as Canine Hip Dysplasia and Progressive retinal atrophy. Other eye disorders occurring in this breed are cataracts and retinal detachment. Deafness and ear infections are occasionally seen. Being a large sized breed, these dogs are prone to gastric torsion, a life threatening condition requiring immediate medical attention. Cerebellar ataxia, hemolytic anemia, and hypothyroidism also occur in this breed. The life expectancy is 10 years on the average, but healthy dogs may live longer.