Old English Sheepdog

Recommended for: Families
Maintenance Level: Medium-high
Lifespan: 10-12 years
Loyal, intelligent
Health Risk:
This breed has a higher than average probability of developing health issues during its lifetime, hence the cost to insure is above average.
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Breed Overview

The Old English Sheepdog (OES) is a large breed of dog known for its long, shaggy coat. Originally bred to herd sheep and cattle, the modern OES is a very popular pet who adapts well to home life.

The OES has a large yet compact frame covered in a shaggy coat which usually comes in blue, grey, blue/grey, blue merle, brown, with or without white patches. Their eyes are generally brown or blue, though some have one of each. As you might expect, the OES’s fluffy coat requires a decent amount of grooming. They shed heavily and require brushing each day to prevent knots and matting and to get rid of dead hair. Keeping the coat short is a good way to keep the OES’s grooming needs under control.

Male Sheepdogs weigh up to 45 kg and stand between 56 and 61 cm tall. Females are around 36 kg and stand at about 51 cm tall. The lifespan of the Old English Sheepdog is 10 – 12 years.

Old English Sheepdogs were bred to work and as such require lots of exercise. They love a good run and are more than happy to accompany their owners on a brisk walk or jog.

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Personality and Temperament

Old English Sheepdogs are intelligent, fast-learning and quite easy to housebreak. They are amusing, loving and loyal companions who are protective of their family. They have been known to supervise and even gently bump children into a specific area in an attempt to herd them. They have also been known to be great assistants for toddlers learning to walk.

If the OES is socialised and trained at a young age, it will get along very well with other pets, though should be monitored carefully around small pets like rabbits and rodents.

Common Old English Sheepdog Diseases & Conditions

Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

  • Hip dysplasia is a condition where the thighbone and hip joint do not fit together properly, causing pain and lameness. Less severe cases can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications, but surgery may be required for serious cases.
  • Cataracts, Like in humans, canine cataracts occur when a cloudy membrane forms over the eye, causing vision loss. They can be removed surgically.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy refers to a family of eye diseases which gradually result in the deterioration of the retina, causing first night blindness then full blindness. There is no cure, but most dogs adapt very easily to the vision loss, provided their environment does not change too much.
  • Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough of the thyroid hormone. Symptoms include epilepsy, loss of hair, fatigue and patchy skin. It is treatable with medication and a special diet.
  • Deafness, like any breed, occurs in Old English Sheepdogs and can be detected from as early as four weeks of age. If you believe your OES is suffering from a loss of hearing, your vet can perform some tests to determine the situation. Some forms of hearing loss may be treatable with medication or surgery.
  • Entropion is a condition which generally occurs in young dogs and causes the eyelid to roll inwards, which can lead to irritation or injury of the eyeball. Signs include rubbing or scratching around the eye area. It can be treated surgically if necessary.
  • Diabetes occurs when the body cannot regulate blood levels. Affected dogs do not lose their appetite, but will often lose weight, urinate a lot and get thirsty often. It is treated with a special diet and insulin.
  • Allergies. Old English Sheepdogs can be prone to certain allergies, including food allergies, contact allergies and inhalant allergies. Treatment usually involves removal of the allergen from the dog’s environment or medication.

Not all conditions are covered by Pet Insurance. For details of Bow Wow Meow Pet Insurance cover, refer to the Product Disclosure Statement.

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Very little is known about the origin of the Old English Sheepdog. Though its name suggests it came from England, it is possible that its ancestors may have been the Scottish Bearded Collie or the Russian Ovcharka. What is clear about the OES is that it was bred to herd sheep and cattle to market. Their tails were docked to indicate their working status, leading them to be nicknamed “bobtail”.

The OES was first brought to the US in the late 1880s by W. Wade. In the following 10-20 years, the breed was only bred by 5 wealthy families in the US before being officially recognised by the AKC in 1885. It maintained its status as the top choice for the upper class until the 1960s when it became a popular family pet.

By the middle of the 1970s, 15,000 Old English Sheepdogs were being registered each year. However, this number has lowered due to the cost and effort needed to maintain the OES’s coat. As of 2013 they were ranked the 78th most popular dog in the US by the AKC.

Old English Sheepdog Running

Old English Sheepdog Facts!

  • It is said that The Beatles’ song Martha My Dear was named after Paul McCartney’s OES, Martha.
  • The OES is known for being an entertainer yet can it can also be a bit of a couch potato too. Two Sheepdogs in the Netherlands, Sophie and Sarah have been photographed in a number of human-like positions.
  • The Old English Sheepdog is one of the most recognisable spokesdog in Australia. In 1960s it was introduced in a Dulux advertising campaign in the 1960s. The campaign was so popular that some people refer to the OES simply as “the Dulux dog”.
  • Digby, the most famous “Dulux dog”, was said to be treated like a star on the set of his ads, and was driven to set in a chauffeur-driven car.


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Old English Sheepdog Club (NSW): https://www.facebook.com/Old-English-Sheepdog-Club-NSW-120291364811334/

National Old English Sheepdog Council: http://noesc.info/

Old English Sheepdog Club of Victoria: http://oescv.org.au/

Old English Sheepdog Club of SA: https://sites.google.com/site/oldenglishsa/home

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