Breed of the Month: Old English Sheepdog

Bobtail Old English Sheepdog

Description: The Old English Sheepdog is a medium sized, compact dog with a square frame. The dog has two coats, a textured and hard outercoat and soft waterproof undercoat. The coat color comes in various shades of blue, grizzle, and grey with white markings. The dog has straight front legs and arched and muscular back legs. It has a deep and broad chest. Eyes are blue, brown, or one of each. Teeth close in a level or scissor bite. Its medium sized ears are carried close to the head.

History: There are two theories concerning the ancestry of the Old English Sheepdog. One possibility is that is that it descended mainly from the Bearded Collie while others contest the Russian Owtchar. Regardless of the breed’s progenitor, the Old English Sheepdog was bred in the counties in southwestern England as a drover’s dog and herding dog. British owners of Old English Sheepdogs avoided a dog tax by docking the dog’s tail, showing they were working dogs which were tax exempt. Having the docked tail resulted in the nickname “bobtail.” Before the Old English Sheepdog was old, it was first  known as the Shepherds Dog or Sussex Sheepdog.

Size: Males: 22–24 inches at the withers, weighing 70-100 pounds. Females: 20–22 inches at the withers, weighing 60-80 pounds.

Temperament: The Old English Sheepdog is definitely a very bubbly and excited dog that loves to play. While playful and loving, it can be willful and independent with a strong herding instinct. This breed is said to be good with kids but, play should be supervised as the Old English Sheepdog can be clumsy in its excitement and can inadvertently knock over small children. The Bobtail can exhibit puppy-like energy for many years even into adulthood when age can hit the breed suddenly.

It is said by trainers that his breed can’t focus on tasks for an extended amount of time. As previously mentioned, the Old English Sheepdog was bred as a herding dog and flock guardian, making it very protective of its family. The breed is usually friendly towards strangers but, if it feels the stranger is harming their family, the dog will tend to stand its ground and possibly attack. Because they are a herding breed, the Old English Sheepdogs are typically friendly with other animals in the household and usually get along well with cats.

Grooming: The Old English Sheepdog is known for its unique shaggy fur but, those smashing good looks come with a price. This dog requires frequent brushing with some owners suggesting at least one hour each day. Owners note the Old English Sheepdog can drag in grass, mud, sticks, and other debris that gets caught in its fur. Some owners find that this breed needs special attention after defecating, as fecal matter can collect in the long hair around its backside. Trimming hair around the rear can help resolve this issue.

It is the extensive grooming that is one of the causes the Old English Sheepdog ends up in shelters and rescues. If you plan on adopting or buying a Bobtail, understand they require extensive grooming and will need a monthly visit to a groomer.

Health: The Old English Sheepdog is prone to canine hip dysplasia and bloat. Retinal detachment and deafness are other health issues that this breed may be susceptible to. In the warmer months the heavy double coat could cause issues with heatstroke.

Exercise: The Old English Sheepdog has lots of puppy-like energy and needs to be active for at least one hour a day. A daily pack walk is a good way to achieve mental and physical exercise.

Lifespan: About 10 to 12 years.

Trivia: Paul McCartney of the Beatles had a dog Martha. The song ‘Martha My Dear’ was about Paul’s Old English Sheepdog.

The movie ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ stared an Old English Sheepdog called Edison.

The Disney motionpicture, The Little Mermaid, featured an Old English Sheepdog named Max.

An Old English Sheepdog played Ambrosius in the film ‘Labyrinth.’