Discussing dog breeds, dog-adoption, and the human-canine connection.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Old English Sheepdog



An online friend was wondering about a breed of dog that would be big enough to assist as a mobility service dog, good natured  enough to be part of a family with grandchildren visitors, and with a capacity to herd the family cow in from a field. The Old English Sheepdog fits the bill.

Trainable, affectionate, natural herders, and having a sense of playfulness, this is a breed that has a great deal of underutilized potential. Their lack of popularity may be due to the rumor that their coats are hard to keep - in fact no more so than any long haired breed, or it may be due to their need for exercise. As with any breed, this is not a breed for everyone, it is a breed for families and individuals who want a furry, friendly, active companion.


When one of my friends had her first toddler she chose a Sheepdog to help her watch over her son. The family had a very large fenced in yard and when the little boy would stray to the far end of the yard, the Sheepdog would help my friend by herding him back towards the house. Unlike some herding breeds which use nipping at the heels to try and move children - an unwelcome behavior - the Sheepdog would simply use her body to block the toddlers movement in every direction but the one she wanted him to move in. Of course the child would get frustrated but the dog would patiently endure his screams of outrage and he would eventually give in and move in the desired direction.

(My friend was supervising - this isn't a case of the dog being used as a nanny - just an aid.)



 Sheepdogs tend to have an affinity for children and other animals, making them good candidates for busy households. That said, this is not a breed that can be left alone in the yard all day and expected to behave well for 20 minutes of family time in the evening. These are very people orientated dogs; modern Sheepdogs affinity for being out with animals has been adjusted but they still require a sense of belonging - they now want to belong with people, in the middle of what the family is doing.



They'll be happy to help the children practice soccer in the backyard, train for track and field, then flop out in the evening to watch a show. They do need to be given some kind of outlet for their energy, or they may create their own activity. Bored and under exercised dogs usually become destructive dogs.







With a good nature and at times a bit of silliness, this is generally a cheerful breed that will be a welcome addition to those homes that are willing to provide the lifestyle this breed thrives in. There are breed specific rescues working to place adult Old English Sheepdogs and the breed also turns up from time to time in all-breed rescues.




If choosing to buy a puppy in North America, look for breeders who are members of the Old English Sheepdog Club which has a code of ethics breeders must adhere to. This code includes testing for health problems; at one point Sheepdog's life expectancy was down to about 7 years due to health complications. Better breeding now places the average back where most large breeds are - around 11 years. If buying a puppy outside North America, again, look for a breeder who is conducting the appropriate health tests on all adults before breeding.









12 comments:

  1. We had an OES back when my family did a lot of camping and hiking. They are idea for hiking. They run circles around a line of hikers, nudging the slow ones and bumping the knees of the faster ones to slow them down. And they are never off chasing rabbits.

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    1. I love that mental picture - keeping all the hikers together in a nice, tidy herd :-) Thanks for sharing that Jan!

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  2. So cute I am glad the life spam is up but 11 years is still too short I think my sweet Norbert is 11 I surely hope I have him longer if only dogs lived as long as people
    Urban hounds

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    1. It would be nice if they lived even longer. I've now reached the point with Jenny where every day I notice her face graying and am constantly reminded that our time together is limited.

      I hadn't thought about it before but if dogs lived as long as people I wonder if they would be like parrots - outliving their people and needing to be accounted for in wills, or left to shelters to rehome. I guess there is no ideal - but I do wish I could keep Jenny with me longer than I will be able to....

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  3. I do like these dogs, we often see them at dog shows, as they are usually judge by the same herding judge as the collies, so they are in the same ring.

    They seem rather like the clowns of the dog world. Always happy, and trying to make their families laugh. :)

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    1. They do have a sense of humor and like some fun :-) Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. I have always loved these dogs! They are so adorable! Did you know that their eyelashes go straight out? That's how they keep their hair out of their eyes :)

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    1. I have to admit Caren, I have not considered their eyelashes - thanks for the info!

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  5. Beautiful dogs! Personally, I wouldn't be up for the grooming. Jeffie is enough hairy dog for me :-)

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    1. At least they don't shed any more (or maybe even as much) as our beloved Labradors :-) How can a breed that sheds as much as Labs do, not end up bald?

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  6. They're one of my favourite breeds, they're gorgeous!

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