Who wouldn’t love a big, fluffy companion in their home? The venerable Old English Sheepdog is a fluffy, friendly English pastoral breed that’s got a big heart in a big body. They’ll be affectionate and loyal dogs provided that they’re well cared for as puppies. Also traditionally referred to as Bobtails, this breed has many great qualities that make it an ideal puppy choice for families looking for a beautiful pet that’s also intelligent and with a superb temperament.
Some highlights of Old English Sheepdogs:
Playful: Old English Sheepdogs enjoy playtime and are great fun to be around.
Shedding: this breed requires sheds surprisingly little despite its bushy coat of fur.
Family-friendly: this breed is an ideal puppy choice for families since they get along well with children and the elderly.
Intelligent: with patience and persistence, this breed can be trained fairly easily due to its above-average intelligence.
Watchdog: Old English Sheepdogs make excellent guard and watchdogs since they’ll alert owners and ward off intruders with their loud bark.
Some downsides to the Old English Sheepdog:
Grooming: Old English Sheepdogs require a considerable amount of grooming.
Exercise: this breed requires a substantial amount of physical stimulation to remain fit and healthy.
Feeding: this breed is prone to overeating and pilfering food to satiate its hunger, leading to potential health issues.
Cost: owning and maintaining an Old English Sheepdog can be quite expensive.
The history of the Old English Sheepdog is largely shrouded in mystery. Even the origins of its name, Old English, is unclear. It has been supposed that in the 18th century, Scottish Collies or Bearded Collies were bred with dogs imported from continental Europe. Some likely candidates include the Bergamasco, Russian Ovtcharka, or, according to another theory, the Briard and the French Sheepdog. What is known, however, is that this pastoral breed excels at herding flocks and it was originally referred to as the Shepherd’s Dog. It’s also known that these dogs traditionally had their tails docked, but the exact reason is also a mystery with many convincing theories explaining why. The practice of docking tails, when it was permitted in the UK, led to the Old English Sheepdog being referred to as ‘Bobtails’, a name which may no longer be appropriate but is certainly traditional.
Old English Sheepdogs are large dogs that are recognisable by their shaggy coat of fur and their muscular (although not visible through all the fur) and square-shaped physique. It’s common that their profuse coat of fur grows so long that it covers their eyes and face.
Old English Sheepdogs are large-sized dogs. Males grow on average to 58.5 cm in height, whilst females can grow up to 51 cm high.
Fully-grown adult male Old English Sheepdogs weigh approximately 29 kg on average, whilst females weigh approximately 27 kg.
The Federation Cynologique Internationale recognises the following colours for Old English Sheepdogs:
Any shade of grey
White-coloured ‘socks’ are also common, but the head, neck, underbelly, and forequarters should be white (markings are acceptable). Brown is undesirable.
Old English Sheepdogs have a fun-loving and energetic temperament. For a dog of their size, that means plenty of regular exercise will be required in addition to the love and affection they deserve. As puppies, expect a cute, cuddly companion that will grow into a lifelong friend and protector, provided that it’s frequently groomed, well-fed, and able to roam and play in large homes and gardens. This breed is great for first-time puppy owners, but they do require plenty of maintenance. For those willing to put in the effort, the bond and affection will grow over time.
Old English Sheepdogs make excellent watchdogs due to their loud signature bark and imposing size. They are rarely aggressive, however, making them perhaps unsuitable as a guard dog.
This breed barks no more or less than most other breeds. They may bark when excited or alerted, but their barking tends to be peculiar to those who haven’t heard it before. Their bark trembles and can be unsettling at first.
This breed is easy to train. They are intelligent and capable of learning commands with a little persistence and patience. They tend to be submissive to their owners and seldom stubborn.
As puppies and well into adulthood, Old English Sheepdogs are playful and will enjoy playing with owners and family members, particularly ball games that double as healthy exercise.
Old English Sheepdogs are amongst the most child-friendly puppies to have in the home. They’re certainly outgoing and they love to show their excitement, especially whilst playing.
This breed gets along well with other dogs and cats, but smaller pets such as rodents may trigger their predatory instincts. They are territorial, however, so expect them to ward off neighbourhood cats and other animals that approach the home.
It is not recommended to leave Old English Sheepdogs alone. They require plenty of attention, so a family member should always be present to keep them company. Leaving them alone for even moderate amounts of time may lead to destructive behaviour.
Many Old English Sheepdogs enjoy swimming, but the choice should be left to the individual dog since many are frightened of water. Allow them to get their toes wet and see how they react before encouraging them to come swimming. They don’t like being on boats.
Generally, Old English Sheepdogs are expected to live anywhere from 10-12 years.
Old English Sheepdogs require plenty of exercise. Try to give them at least two hours a day of outdoor physical and mental stimulation by going for a morning or afternoon walk and playing ball games or allowing them to roam in the garden.
There are a few common health issues that affect Old English Sheepdogs, but perhaps the most important to note is primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD), a recently discovered disorder that can affect up to one in five Old English Sheepdogs. Fortunately, it’s possible to perform DNA testing to determine whether or not breeding is possible.
This breed does not tolerate confined spaces or apartment dwelling. They require, at the very least, a large home with a garden, which makes them more suitable for country living than in dense urban environments.
Old English Sheepdogs should eat 2.5 to 4.5 cups of dry food per day. Choose high-quality dog food to promote healthy development and adjust as necessary depending on his metabolism and activity levels. Avoid overfeeding puppies and regulate their daily intake to promote healthy growth without putting on too much excess weight.
This breed requires a substantial amount of grooming. Their dense, shaggy coats of fur need to be trimmed regularly. Daily brushing is also a must, as this removes dead hairs and promotes healthy growth. Due to their high grooming requirements, consideration should be given to hiring professional groomers for those unable or lacking the time or expertise to perform grooming themselves.
Old English Sheepdogs shed large amounts of fur every day. Their hairs can be found all around the home, so frequent vacuuming will be necessary.
As a rough guide in pricing: Cost to buy: roughly £400-1,000 for a well-bred Old English Sheepdog puppy Other costs (Vet, Food etc): £80-120 per month
You can read our general buying guide here, with the most important thing being going to view your Old English Sheepdog puppy, seeing it with its mother, and checking the quality of the breeder. More specifically, here is some Old English Sheepdog puppy buying advice:
Inspect the tail of all Old English Sheepdog puppies. Nearly all will have a tail, with few being born without one. If their tail has been docked, note that this is now illegal in the UK and can result in fines if documentation cannot be provided which clearly outlines the reasons for which the puppy’s tail has been docked.
Old English Sheepdogs are a popular puppy choice in the UK. Along with their popularity comes a rife selection of poor quality breeders of questionable repute. Always ensure that your Old English Sheepdog has been bred ethically and according to the Kennel Club’s standards.
A big thank you to the following sources who helped to shape this article: Kennel Club of Great Britain: https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/services/public/breed/display.aspx?id=5133 Dogell: https://dogell.com/en/dog-breed/old-english-sheepdog https://www.oldenglishsheepdogclubofamerica.org/ https://www.oes.org/ https://www.gloesc.org/