The Old English Sheepdog: Everything You Need to Know

Known for its distinctive shaggy coat, the Old English Sheepdog is a large breed that was originally developed in England for herding sheep.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the history, physical characteristics, personality, health, and lifespan of the unique Old English Sheepdog.

History of the Old English Sheepdog

Origins of the Breed

While the exact origins of the breed are not entirely clear, it is believed that the Old English Sheepdog descended from European sheepdogs that were brought to England during the Roman invasion and crossbred with local British breeds.

One of the most distinctive features of the Old English Sheepdog is its shaggy coat, which is perfect for keeping warm in cold weather. This coat also served a practical purpose in the breed’s early days, as the dogs were often used to herd sheep in the harsh English climate.

The Role of the Sheepdog in England

Sheep farming was a major industry in England, and sheepdogs were essential for herding and protecting flocks. The Old English Sheepdog quickly became a popular choice for farmers due to its intelligence, loyalty, and ability to work in harsh conditions.

Old English Sheepdogs were highly valued for their ability to protect the sheep from predators such as wolves and foxes, as well as their ability to round up the sheep and bring them back to the farm.

While the Old English Sheepdog was primarily used as a working dog in England, over time, it also became a beloved family pet. The breed’s friendly and affectionate nature made it a popular choice for families who wanted a loyal companion that was great with kids.

Popularity and Recognition

The Old English Sheepdog gained popularity in Europe and the United States and is recognized by major international kennel clubs. The American Kennel Club recognized the Old English Sheepdog in 1888. 

Today, the Old English Sheepdog remains a beloved breed around the world. Whether you are looking for a loyal companion or a hardworking farm dog, the Old English Sheepdog is a breed that is sure to steal your heart.

Physical Characteristics

Size and Weight

Old English Sheepdogs weigh between 60 and 100 pounds. Male breed members stand over 22 inches tall at the shoulders, and females over 21 inches tall at the shoulders. 

Despite their large size, Old English Sheepdogs are known for their gentle nature and affectionate personalities. They are called “nanny dogs” because of their love for children and their protective instincts.

Coat and Colors

The Old English Sheepdog’s coat is one of their most distinctive features. It is thick and shaggy, and it requires regular grooming to prevent matting. Their coat is typically white with gray, blue, or grizzle, giving an eye-catching appearance.

Old English Sheepdogs are also known for their adorable “earmuffs,” which are tufts of hair that grow around their ears. These earmuffs, along with their shaggy coat, give them a cuddly and lovable appearance that is hard to resist.

Distinctive Features

In addition to their shaggy coat and earmuffs, Old English Sheepdogs are famous for their long, fluffy tails and their distinctive eyebrows that radiate a quizzical expression. 

Personality and Temperament

Old English Sheepdogs are gentle giants that are loyal and devoted to their families. They make excellent companions for families with children and are valued for being patient and kind to kids of all ages.

General Temperament

Old English Sheepdogs have calm and laid-back personalities. They are not typically aggressive and are usually very friendly towards strangers. They are independent thinkers and can be stubborn at times.

However, with proper training and socialization, they are well-behaved. Breed members look a little intimidating at first. However, once you get to know them, you’ll find that they are gentle and loving dogs. 

Intelligence and Trainability

Old English Sheepdogs are intelligent dogs that respond well to positive reinforcement training. They have a strong herding instinct and may try to herd their family members if not properly trained.

This behavior can be cute and endearing at first, but it’s important to teach them that it’s not acceptable to nip or herd people. Training an Old English Sheepdog can be a fun and rewarding experience.

Old English Sheepdogs are eager to please their owners and enjoy learning new tricks and commands. They are also very food-motivated, which can make training a little easier.

Socialization and Interaction with Other Animals

Old English Sheepdogs are social animals that usually get along well with other dogs and pets. However, it’s important to socialize them properly to avoid behavioral issues.

Early socialization can help them learn how to interact with other dogs and pets in a positive way. Old English Sheepdogs are also known for their love of people. 

Old English Sheepdogs enjoy being around their family and will often follow them from room to room. They are also great with kids and highly prized for being patient and gentle.

Health and Lifespan

Common Health Issues

Like all dog breeds, the Old English Sheepdog is prone to certain health issues, such as: 

  • Hip Dysplasia: A congenital malformation of the dog’s hip joint resulting in early arthritis, pain, and lameness 
  • Thyroid Problems: Imbalances in the thyroid gland levels result in skin issues and appetite & energy fluctuations 
  • Exercise-Induced Collapse: Also known as EIC, is a condition in which the dog faints when physically challenged 
  • Congenital Deafness: Breed members are often born deaf, which is a handicap and can make dogs more anxious 

Lifespan and Aging

Old English Sheepdogs have an average lifespan of between 10 and 12 years, and as they age, they may become more prone to arthritis and mobility issues. It’s important to provide them with a comfortable and safe environment as they age.

Tips for Maintaining Good Health

To keep your Old English Sheepdog healthy, ensure it gets daily exercise, a healthy diet, and regular vet checkups (vaccination and parasite control). Grooming the dog’s coat and providing mental stimulation are also essential care aspects. 


Overall, the Old English Sheepdog is a great dog and with its friendly personality and distinctive appearance is sure to capture the hearts of anyone who meets it. 

By understanding the Old English Sheepdog’s history, physical traits, personality, and health, you can make an informed decision about whether it is the right pet for you.

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