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One of the UK's most iconic breed of dogs, well known for its TV and advert appearances for a certain, household branded paint, this social and large dog is a member of the 'pastoral' category of dog breeds and it is not uncommon for them to try to herd any family members back into the fold on any given occasion!
The name Old English Sheepdog conjures and image of a dog which has been part of the history of England forever, in fact research suggests that this breed has only been as we now it now since the 1800's. While the actual lineage and geneology of this dog have been lost through the sands of time, most experts agree that either the Bearded Collie and/or the Russian Owtchar were involved in the gradual development of this breed. The Old English Sheepdog was created to both herd and protect sheep, with its possible origins being in the South West of England.
To work over the rugged and tough landscape and adverse weather conditions, guarding day and night from predators large enough to take sheep, the shepherds developed a large breed of dog, hardy enough to cope with all these conditions of its work.
The Old English Sheepdog was first presented at a dog sown in Birmingham in 1873 and the popularity took off from there with the breed standard not changing much since.
Average height to the withers: Males usually between 23-24 inches, with females between 21-23 inches.
Average weight: Males can weigh up to 46kg, with females around 35-40kg.
Immediately recognisable, The Old English Sheepdog possesses a moderately long but very dense weather-proof coat, which was developed to protect it from the harsh upland weather it would encounter during a day and nights work. The coat served in a protective measure also, providing extra padding against potential attackers when guarding its flock or herd. This thick coat covers all of its body and head, sometimes obscuring its face completely. The double coat is usually a stunning combination of a delicate silvery grey and white through to a steel grey and white with markings in a varity of patterns. The puppies are usually born white and will start to develop their grey shaded markings after the first lot of coat has been shed.
The body of this breed is short and compact with a tail that was traditionally docked, although due to EU legislation introduced recently, this is less commonplace. A notable feature of the stance of this dog is that the shoulders lie lower than the hindquarters giving it a somewhat 'arched' appearance.
Many Old English Sheepdogs have retained their herding instinct and will take every opportunity to do so! Being a larger dog, when this happens it can easily knock over a smaller child but this is not something that will be done in an aggressive manner as the breed standards describe them as 'never' being nervous or aggressive. In fact this affable nature makes them excellent family pets that are fiercely loyal, intelligent and energetic with a playfulness that they never seem to grow out of! Old English Sheepdogs thrive on the attention given to them by other people and do not like a solitary life without some interaction. They are easily trainable and can excel at obedience and agility. On occasion, you may see them in field herding trails with Border Colllies such is their retained herding instinct. They were bred for a life outdoors and will receive as many walks as you can give them with pleasure, however, they are also happy to spend time with the family more or less anywhere and can be prone to turn into 'couch potatoes' given the opportunity.
A healthy Old English Sheepdog will generally live to around the age of 10 years, with examples of them living beyond 14 years also being found.
Some diseases being investigated which prolifically affect this breed include hip dysplasia, cataracts, allergies and skin problems.
Heatstroke is also a serious problem in this breed. This is no surprise given its thick and long double coat and every measure should be taken to prevent it. Heat stroke is a very serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. Once the signs of heat stroke are detected, there is little time before serious damage - or even death - can occur. Dogs cannot sweat through skin like humans can, and release excess heat through panting, their nose and their pads of their feet. If the dog is unable to do this, the internal body temperature will rise and at 106 degrees, irreparable damage will occur to the dog's organs and internal systems.
Signs of heat stroke include increased internal temperature of over 104 degrees, hard and laboured panting, gums which are visibly red, lethargy, disorientation leading to loss of consciousness or collapsing. If you have even the slightest suspicion that your dog is suffering from heat stoke, you must take immediate action. First, move your dog out of the heat and away from the sun right away and begin cooling your dog by placing cool, wet rags or washcloths on the body - especially the foot pads and around the head, taking care not to use ice cold water. It is also advisable to sponge your dogs mouth or offer cool water but do not allow to gulp water. You must at this point seek immediate veterinary attention, even if your dog appears to be better.
The underside of the ears should be kept clean and dry to prevent a build up of extraneous material and to prevent infections.
Brush, brush and brush again! Old English Sheepdogs boast superb looking coats, however, making sure they are kept in great condition means spending quite a bit of time brushing your pet. One thing the breed does not lack is an abundance of hair, in fact, part of their unique appearance is their wonderfully shaggy double coat.
Their coats comprise of a well textured outer coat with a wonderfully soft undercoat and they come in quite a variety of colours which include Grey, Grizzle, Blue, Blue Merle, Brown and Fawn.
However, the variety of colours are typically mixed with striking white markings which gives the breed a very attractive look. No matter what colour the coat happens to be grooming is essential because they are not the easiest dog in the world to maintain. As such, these dogs need brushing on a daily basis and if you are a first time dog owner, you will need to take a few lessons on how to groom your Old English Sheepdog correctly.