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  • Temperament: Adaptable, Gentle, Smart
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 75 of 194
  • Height: 22 inches & up (male), 21 inches & up (female)
  • Weight: 60-100 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 10-12 years
  • Group: Herding Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

Old English Sheepdog standing in three-quarter view facing forward
Old English Sheepdog sitting in three-quarter view facing forward
Old English Sheepdog sitting in three-quarter view facing forward
Old English Sheepdog coat detail

GENERAL APPEARANCE

A strong, compact, square, balanced dog. Taking him all around, he is profusely, but not excessively coated, thickset, muscular and able-bodied. These qualities, combined with his agility, fit him for the demanding tasks required of a shepherd’s or drover’s dog. Therefore, soundness is of the greatest importance. His bark is loud with a distinctive “pot-casse” ring in it.

HEAD

A most intelligent expression. Eyes – Brown, blue or one of each. If brown, very dark is preferred. If blue, a pearl, china or wall-eye is considered typical. An amber or yellow eye is most objectionable. Ears – Medium sized and carried flat to the side of the head. Skull – Capacious and rather squarely formed giving plenty of room for brain power. The parts over the eyes (supra-orbital ridges) are well arched. The whole well covered with hair. Stop – Well defined. Jaw – Fairly long, strong, square and truncated. Attention is particularly called to the above properties as a long, narrow head or snipy muzzle is a deformity. Nose – Always black, large and capacious. Teeth – Strong, large and evenly placed. The bite is level or tight scissors.

BODY

Neck – Fairly long and arched gracefully. Topline – Stands lower at the withers than at the loin with no indication of softness or weakness. Attention is particularly called to this topline as it is a distinguishing characteristic of the breed. Body – Rather short and very compact, broader at the rump than at the shoulders, ribs well sprung and brisket deep and capacious. Neither slab-sided nor barrel-chested. The loin is very stout and gently arched.

FOREQUARTERS

Shoulders well laid back and narrow at the points. The forelegs dead straight with plenty of bone. The measurements from the withers to the elbow and from the elbow to the ground are practically the same.

COAT

Profuse, but not so excessive as to give the impression of the dog being overly fat, and of a good hard texture; not straight, but shaggy and free from curl. Quality and texture of coat to be considered above mere profuseness. Softness or flatness of coat to be considered a fault. The undercoat is a waterproof pile when not removed by grooming or season. Ears coated moderately. The whole skull well covered with hair. The neck well coated with hair. The forelegs well coated all around. The hams densely coated with a thick, long jacket in excess of any other part. Neither the natural outline nor the natural texture of the coat may be changed by any artificial means except that the feet and rear may be trimmed for cleanliness.

HINDQUARTERS

Round and muscular with well let down hocks. When standing, the metatarsus are perpendicular to the ground when viewed from any angle.

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About the Old English Sheepdog

Beneath the Old English Sheepdog’s profuse double coat is a muscular and compact drover, with plenty of bone and a big rump, standing 21 or 22 inches at the shoulder. Their eyes (when you can see them) are dark brown, or blue, or one of each. The OES breed standard says the skull is “capacious and rather squarely formed, giving plenty of room for brain power.”

OES move with a bear-like shuffle but are famous for their nimbleness afoot. Regular exercise is required for these strong, able-bodied workers. Equally famed are their many fine housedog qualities: watchfulness, courage, kindliness, and intelligence. Great with children, OES make patient, protective playmates. They are sensible watchdogs known for a loud, ringing bark.

Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
Old English Sheepdog

Find a Puppy: Old English Sheepdog

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Care

NUTRITION

The Old English Sheepdog should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.

GROOMING

The coat is what attracts most people to the Old English Sheepdog. The breed is double-coated and requires a thorough grooming down to the skin, over the entire dog, at least weekly to maintain their full coats. “Puppy trims” are good options for pet dogs, but they also require regular brushing between baths and haircuts. Keeping the feet clipped (“Poodle feet”) will minimize problems and cleanup. Potential owners need to be prepared to spend the time required to do this, or pay a professional groomer, for several sessions each month for the life of the dog. As with all breeds, the nails should be trimmed regularly.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Specialty/Professional
2-3 Times a Week Brushing

Shedding

Infrequent
Frequent
Seasonal

EXERCISE

This is a breed that requires some physical activity. There is a wide variance in the activity levels, but all require some regular exercise. Fortunately, they do have an “off switch” when they come indoors.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity
Regular Exercise

TRAINING

One longtime breeder advises, “Never allow your puppy to do something that you would not want a large, shaggy, wet, possibly muddy dog doing in your house.” All OES puppies are adorable, and all grow up to be large, shaggy dogs. Most Old English Sheepdogs are quite intelligent and have a biddable nature. After they learn something, they do not forget it. They do get bored with repetitive, robotic training exercises. If you want to participate in some of those activities, you need to change things up and make it new and fun. As with all dogs, early socialization in puppyhood is vital.

Trainability

May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
Independent

Temperament/Demeanor

Aloof/Wary
Outgoing
Alert/Responsive

HEALTH

Responsible breeders screen their stock for health conditions such as hip dysplasia, eye conditions (PRA and hereditary cataracts), autoimmune thyroiditis, cardiac anomalies, and hereditary deafness. Fortunately, DNA tests now exist for cerebellar ataxia and primary ciliary dyskinesia, two deadly diseases that breeders can avoid producing simply by identifying carriers and not breeding them to other carriers. DNA tests are also available for drug sensitivity and exercise-induced collapse.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Thyroid Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • EIC DNA Test

Read the Official Breed Club Health Statement.

Old English Sheepdog
Old English Sheepdog
Old English Sheepdog
Old English Sheepdog
Old English Sheepdog

History

The Old English Sheepdog, like the Bulldog and Collie, stands among the truly iconic dogs of the British Isles. The “Bobtail,” as the breed is often known, was most likely developed in the west of England, in the counties of Devon and Somerset and the Duchy of Cornwall.

The name Old English Sheepdog is something of a misnomer. As a creature of the late 1700s, the OES is not particularly old by canine standards. By blood, they aren’t fully English; possible OES component breeds include dogs of Scotch, European, and Russian ancestry. And, technically, they aren’t even sheepdogs: OES were employed primarily as drovers who moved cattle over dusty country roads, from the pasture to town markets. In Germany, around the same time, the Rottweiler was building a similar reputation as a “butcher’s dog.” In some pastures, shepherds would shear the OES blue-gray and white coat once a year and use the clippings to make yarn for clothing.

With their full coat, free and powerful gait, and warm personality, OES show well in the ring. They were present at the sport’s very beginnings. Stockmen have been exhibiting their OES in England since 1865. The AKC registered its first OES in 1888, and in 1914 the breed made its debut appearance in the winner’s circle at Westminster Kennel Club.

Their looks and intelligence make OES natural actors, seen to good effect in Disney’s “The Shaggy Dog” and “The Shaggy D.A.” Among the most famous real-life OES was Paul McCartney’s Martha, who inspired the Beatles song “Martha My Dear.”

Did You Know?

The Old English Sheepdog Club of America was founded in 1904, and the breed received AKC recognition the following year.
In all probability, the Old English Sheepdog was developed in the west of England, in the counties of Devon and Somerset and the Duchy of Cornwall.
The Old English Sheepdog first emerged at the beginning of the 18th century as a "drover's dog," used largely for driving sheep and cattle into the markets of the metropolis.
The profuse coat of the Old English is never excessive, and contrary to popular belief, it is no harder to care for such a coat than it is to care for any other long coat.
The Old English Sheepdog is featured in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, as Prince Eric's faithful companion.
A marked characteristic of the Old English Sheepdog is its gait, which is quite like the shuffle of a bear.

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

A strong, compact, square, balanced dog. Taking him all around, he is profusely, but not excessively coated, thickset, muscular and able-bodied. These qualities, combined with his agility, fit him for the demanding tasks required of a shepherd’s or drover’s dog. Therefore, soundness is of the greatest importance. His bark is loud with a distinctive “pot-casse” ring in it.

HEAD

A most intelligent expression. Eyes – Brown, blue or one of each. If brown, very dark is preferred. If blue, a pearl, china or wall-eye is considered typical. An amber or yellow eye is most objectionable. Ears – Medium sized and carried flat to the side of the head. Skull – Capacious and rather squarely formed giving plenty of room for brain power. The parts over the eyes (supra-orbital ridges) are well arched. The whole well covered with hair. Stop – Well defined. Jaw – Fairly long, strong, square and truncated. Attention is particularly called to the above properties as a long, narrow head or snipy muzzle is a deformity. Nose – Always black, large and capacious. Teeth – Strong, large and evenly placed. The bite is level or tight scissors.

BODY

Neck – Fairly long and arched gracefully. Topline – Stands lower at the withers than at the loin with no indication of softness or weakness. Attention is particularly called to this topline as it is a distinguishing characteristic of the breed. Body – Rather short and very compact, broader at the rump than at the shoulders, ribs well sprung and brisket deep and capacious. Neither slab-sided nor barrel-chested. The loin is very stout and gently arched.

FOREQUARTERS

Shoulders well laid back and narrow at the points. The forelegs dead straight with plenty of bone. The measurements from the withers to the elbow and from the elbow to the ground are practically the same.

COAT

Profuse, but not so excessive as to give the impression of the dog being overly fat, and of a good hard texture; not straight, but shaggy and free from curl. Quality and texture of coat to be considered above mere profuseness. Softness or flatness of coat to be considered a fault. The undercoat is a waterproof pile when not removed by grooming or season. Ears coated moderately. The whole skull well covered with hair. The neck well coated with hair. The forelegs well coated all around. The hams densely coated with a thick, long jacket in excess of any other part. Neither the natural outline nor the natural texture of the coat may be changed by any artificial means except that the feet and rear may be trimmed for cleanliness.

HINDQUARTERS

Round and muscular with well let down hocks. When standing, the metatarsus are perpendicular to the ground when viewed from any angle.

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Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
BLUE & WHITE Check Mark For Standard Color 045
BLUE GRAY & WHITE Check Mark For Standard Color 049
BLUE MERLE & WHITE Check Mark For Standard Color 051
GRAY & WHITE Check Mark For Standard Color 105
GRIZZLE & WHITE Check Mark For Standard Color 111
BLACK & WHITE 019
BLUE 037
BLUE GRAY 300
BLUE MERLE 050
BROWN & WHITE 063
FAWN & WHITE 086
GRAY 100
GRIZZLE 109
WHITE 199

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