Famous for a certain brand of paint, the Old English Sheepdog is one of the most well-recognized breeds out there. The ‘Dulux’ dog is big, fluffy and quite simply, adorable.
The history of the breed is shrouded in mystery, although they are believed to have existed in the south-western counties of England in the early nineteenth century. A docked sheepdog nicknamed the ‘bobtail’ became well known for its sheep and cattle herding abilities and appears to be the ancestor of the sheepdog we know and love today. Found in traditional colours of grey, grizzle or blue combined with white, they were finally recognized by the Kennel Club at the end of the nineteenth century.
Personality of the Old English Sheepdog
Old English Sheepdogs are people dogs; they dislike being left alone for long periods of time. Intelligent and loyal, they are happiest by your side. They dislike being kennelled, instead preferring the warmth of the indoors.
Playful and active, they make great family pets. They are intelligent and easily trained. Just keep in mind their sensitive nature, they may resort to destructive or attention seeking behaviour if cut off from family life. Separation anxiety is a common problem in this breed.
Grooming an Old English Sheepdog
If you are not a fan of grooming, then an Old English Sheepdog is not for you. This breed is high maintenance; its distinctive coat needs work to keep it looking great.
Each day the hair around the eyes and mouth will need to be checked for signs of matting using a fine comb. Make sure the eyes are clean with no debris or gunk around them. If not removed, it could get infected especially if your sheepdog paws at it.
At least once a week (if not more) your sheepdog will need a thorough grooming session. By initially using a comb to break up the matts followed by a slicker brush to remove them entirely, your sheepdog’s coat will be kept spotless.
Take extra care in hard to reach areas such as the armpits, stomach, and bottom. Of course, if you prefer you can always send your dog to a professional groomer each week, however, this can be quite expensive. Another alternative is to keep your sheepdog clipped. This will need doing at regular intervals and make the in-between grooming more manageable, yet your sheepdog will look rather different!
Size of the Old English Sheepdog
Old English Sheepdogs are a large breed. At the withers (the top point of the shoulder at the base of the neck) males can reach up to 22 inches whereas females are a maximum of 21 inches. Keep in mind that underneath that fluffy coat is a big, solid working dog.
How much exercise does my Old English Sheepdog need?
Your Old English Sheepdog will need free running every day; they were originally bred to work and despite the fluff they still have this instinct! The normal two walks a day, with a total amount of one to two hours will be necessary. Longer walks will be appreciated, but bear in mind that puppies and elderly dogs will need less.
If the weather is very hot, however, avoid exercising your sheepdog. Their dense coat can leave them prone to over-heating. Take them out first or last thing instead when the temperature drops.
Diet – what should I feed my Old English Sheepdog?
The Old English Sheepdog is a large breed, with males maturing at around 80 to 100 pounds with females slightly smaller at 60 to 85 pounds. As such they take slightly longer to reach maturity and should, therefore, be fed a specialized large breed puppy formula while growing. This is to ensure that they receive the correct amount of calcium and phosphorus in their diet, too much or at the wrong ratio and they can develop skeletal abnormalities as puppies.
There are many brands on the market that cater for this and also have a large breed adult version. Look for a good quality formula made with real meat. Avoid cheaper brands that contain large quantities of carbohydrates or ‘fillers’.
These have little nutritional value for your dog and may cause them to gain weight. Be guided by the brand as to how much to feed and if you have any concerns always speak to your vet.
Finally, as a puppy they can be fed three times a day, cutting back to twice a day as an adult. Avoid feeding once a day if you can as this can lead them prone to a condition called bloat. Here the stomach fills with gas and can twist; it is a serious condition that needs immediate veterinary care. Although the exact cause is unknown, vets recommend against feeding one large meal to big breeds as it may contribute to the condition.
Breeders – Where can I get an Old English Sheepdog?
The success of the breed as the Dulux dog has meant that there are, sadly, unscrupulous breeders out there just looking to make money. When searching for a sheepdog puppy, do your research and try and find a reputable breeder. Ideally, puppies should be raised in the home, with the care and love lavished on them by the breeder easy to see. Never buy from a pet shop (these puppies often come from puppy farms) and never meet anyone half way or in a car park to collect a puppy. You should always be able to visit the house, indeed many good breeders will also have a waiting list. Very few breeders will have puppies available on demand.
Of course, many lovely dogs end up in rescues for no fault of their own. If you can, consider giving one a home. If their owners have separated or moved they may not be able to take them with them. There are breed specific rescues that cater just for sheepdogs that are worth a look.
How much does an Old English Sheepdog cost?
Expect to pay between 750 to 1000 euro plus for an Old English Sheepdog puppy. When purchasing from a breeder, make sure that you see the mother and that all the relevant health checks have been completed. In the case of the Old English Sheepdog, this should be for hip dysplasia and eye tests. Puppies should have been well reared and handled. They should also have been wormed and if old enough, vaccinated accordingly. If they are registered make sure you get the relevant paperwork at the time of sale.
Should you get an Old English Sheepdog?
If you have the time to dedicate to the grooming and attention that the Old English Sheepdog requires then they can make delightful pets. Intelligent, eager to please and striking to look at the sheepdog is a super companion. Just remember that they do not like being left for long periods of time as this sensitive dog really is a people person.