With a vibrant personality to match his showstopping coat, the old English sheepdog is a fan favorite among dog lovers. These dogs are smart, loveable, and gentle. It’s no wonder they became such an iconic breed of the British Isles!
It’s not difficult to imagine this shaggy, shuffling dog looking quite at home working in the pastures of England. The old English sheepdog continues to excel at the skills he employed as a cattle drover, competing in obedience, agility, and herding trials.
Nowadays, this easygoing and intelligent pooch is a beloved family member in many households across the country. We don’t blame you if you’re charmed by the sweetness of old English puppies—they’re as friendly as they are cute. Before bringing one of these pups home, however, there are a few things you should know. Keep reading to see what life could look like with an old English sheepdog at your side.
Did you know that it was an old English sheepdog who inspired Paul McCartney’s hit, “Martha, My Dear?” It’s true! And it’s equally true that these dogs can make lovely family pets. Check out the rest of our breed guide to see if this could be the breed for you.
|Size||Large. Old English sheepdog males will reach a height of 22 inches or higher, with females about an inch shorter. Typically, these dogs will tip the scales between 60 and 100 pounds.|
|Breed Characteristics||First, let’s look at this breed’s crowning glory: their eye-catching coat. Old English sheepdogs have famously thick, shaggy hair that comes in shades of blue or gray paired with white. These adorable pups will grow into sturdy and muscular dogs who are surprising light on their feet.|
|Temperament||The good qualities of an OES puppy are many: they’re intelligent, gentle, and patient dogs who love to be around people. In fact, an old English sheepdog has a knack for making new friends with everyone he meets, from young children to strangers. According to the American Kennel Club, this breed makes an excellent watchdog, and they have a distinctly loud warning bark. Always protective of his family, an old English sheepdog demonstrates tremendous courage, loyalty, and watchfulness.|
|Grooming and Health Needs||What does it take to keep that shaggy coat in tip-top shape? Vetstreet suggests that prospective OES owners plan to set aside about an hour per week for coat maintenance. If you fail to brush this dog regularly, he will become a tangled mess and need to be shaved. For many owners, only a professional groomer will do—he or she can give your dog a “puppy trim” to keep his shag under control.
Like other larger breeds, old English sheepdogs can suffer from bloat—a sudden and often fatal condition in which the stomach twists on itself. Other potential health issues include hip dysplasia, eye problems, hypothyroidism, cancer, as well as heart and neurological diseases. Unfortunately, they can also experience allergic reactions to certain drugs, such as a commonly used heartworm medication.
|Training||A few words of advice: start training early in puppyhood because before you know it, you’ll have an unmanageable 80-pound ball of energy on your hands. Luckily, these dogs are straight-A students who remember their lessons easily. Just keep things fresh and fun, and don’t be afraid to change up your training routine. According to the AKC, an old English can find repetitive lessons dull and unable to hold his attention for very long. Patience and positive reinforcement work hand-in-hand to mold your old English sheepdog into an obedient and responsive family pet who you’ll love to be around.|
|Energy Level||Old English sheepdogs strike a pleasant balance between being playfully vigorous dogs and calm couch potatoes. They make a good match for anyone who is moderately active, but they also enjoy a calm night lounging in front of the TV. Long walks are a must to keep this muscular dog healthy, and dog sports are another great outlet for an OES.|
|Life Expectancy||You can expect to enjoy 10-12 years with your old English sheepdog.|
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Old English sheepdog puppies have a way of winning people over, so if you’re smitten with this breed’s unique shag and sweet-natured disposition, you’re certainly not alone. These dogs can make terrific pets, but of course, they’re not a perfect match for everyone.
For one thing, neat freaks need not apply. An OES will leave traces of hair on every conceivable surface of your home. Plus, their shaggy paws seem to attract all kinds of dirt and debris, which will undoubtedly find their way into your house.
Coat care is another thing to consider. Are you willing to devote the time and effort to manage his classic shag? You’ll probably need to add professional grooming expenses to your budget as well.
Herding instincts are still strong in this breed, so an old English sheepdog may not be the best choice for families with young children who are wary of dogs. The breed’s protective nature and loud bark, however, do make them excellent watchdogs.
Be prepared to shower your old English with attention—they thrive on human companionship and interaction. Leaving an OES alone for long stretches of time can lead to an unhappy dog. And unhappy dogs can quickly become destructive dogs who act out in frustration. Although, we have to admit—spending time with this lovely and friendly dog is hardly an imposition.
The decision to adopt or to work with a breeder for your new OES puppy is a personal choice that requires research. Thankfully, there are many resources out there to help you find a rescue or a breeder who offers healthy, ethically-sourced old English sheepdog puppies.
Adopting an old English sheepdog puppy
It may come as a surprise, but adopting an old English sheepdog puppy is possible. According to the AKC, most shelters report that the majority of their rescue dogs come from individual owner surrender due to a lifestyle change or an incompatibility with the dog. What this means for you: there may be adoptable purebred dogs and puppies out there who are looking for a new forever home.
The main difference between a breeder and a rescue is that a rescue may not always have young puppies to choose from. The benefit, however, is that most are mandated to only adopt out dogs that have been microchipped and spayed/neutered. This means you may end up with a dog who’s already been housebroken and doesn’t need these common medical procedures. You may also find an old English sheepdog mix that has all the traits you want from the breed, but with a little extra thrown in.
Finding an old English sheepdog rescue can be as simple as searching the internet. You can check out the Old English Sheepdog Club of America to find local rescues.
Finding an old English sheepdog breeder
The first step is to do your research. Sadly, there are many puppy mills posing as reputable breeders along with many online scams. Be aware, and reach out to different online forums for conversations about getting your future furry family member.
Be sure to ask questions, and make arrangements to meet the parent dogs or mother. In the end, you must follow your gut. If something seems wrong at a breeder you visit, or the OES puppy seems too good to be true, there’s probably something fishy going on. The AKC also offers resources for finding a breeder, with fairly strict guidelines on who they let participate.
Knowing what you’re in for when you get an OES puppy is an important step in being a responsible pet owner. Whether you find an ethical breeder or are planning to adopt, prepare yourself for an affectionate and friendly addition to your household.
After you find the right old English puppy, it’s time to prepare your home! Here are a few resources to get you started.
- How to Survive the First 24 Hours with Your New Puppy
- How Long Can You Leave a Puppy Alone?
- How Often Should I Walk my Puppy?
- The Essential New Puppy Checklist
- Puppy Training Resources
Featured image via Flickr/Norlando Pobre