Old English Sheepdog

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Introduction


The Old English Sheepdog has to be one of the UK's most iconic breeds and for decades, these charming dogs have been a popular choice both as companions and family pets with people all over the world. Not only are they lovely looking dogs, but they boast having loyal, kind and affectionate natures too. Often called Bob-Tails, they are high maintenance in the grooming department, but the effort is always worth it because Old English Sheepdogs are such a pleasure to have around.


History


Although now considered a native breed, the Old English Sheepdog is thought to be a descendant of European shepherd dogs namely the Bergamasco and the Ovtcharka, both of which were introduced to the UK and then bred to various British sheep dog breeds. As such, the dogs we see today have only been around since the 1800's and it's thought they were first developed in the South West of England where they were bred to work in challenging conditions and rough terrains guarding sheep with shepherds.



They soon proved excellent at the job they were bred to do and thanks to their extremely water-resistant coats, they could work in the harshest weather conditions with the added bonus being in warmer weather their coats could be sheared much in the same way as sheep. Shepherds’ wives would then spin a dog’s fur to make warm clothing for the colder winter months.



The first Old English Sheepdog exhibited at a dog show was in 1873 in Birmingham. From that point in time, these lovely dogs became popular with people not only here in the UK, but in the States, Canada and other parts of the world. A breed standard was established very soon afterwards which has not been changed that much to this day.



The Old English Shepherd remains a popular choice of family pet and companion dog thanks to their charming looks and personable natures although anyone wishing to share a home with a Bob-Tail needs to have the time to dedicate to grooming them, but the effort is well worthwhile.


Appearance


Height at the withers: Males 56 - 61 cm, Females 56 - 61 cm



Average weight: Males 29.5 - 30.5 kg, Females 29.5 - 30.5 kg



The Old English Sheepdog is known the world over thanks to their charming looks and their shaggy coats that cover their faces and entire bodies when not clipped out. Their heads are nicely in proportion with the rest of their body and are rather square being well arched above a dog's eyes. Stops are well defined and muzzles are square, blunt and strong. Their noses are black and on the large side with wide nostrils. Their eyes are set nicely apart and can be either dark or dogs can be wall eyed with two blue eyes being acceptable under the breed standard.



Their ears are small for such a large dog which they carry flat to the side of their heads. The Old English Sheepdog has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Their necks are strong, and quite long which dogs carry elegantly arched. Their front legs are straight and show a good amount of bone. Shoulders are well laid back with dogs being lower at their wither than they are at the loin.



Their bodies are compact, yet rather short with dogs having well sprung ribs and nice deep briskets. Their loins are broad and sturdy being slightly arched and nicely rounded and muscular. They have long, well developed second thighs and their feet are round and small with well arched tight toes and thick, firm paw pads. An Old English Sheepdog can have a natural bobtail, but when long, their tails are nicely feathered.



When it comes to their coat, the Old English Sheepdog has an abundance of harsh, shaggy hair that covers their entire body and they have a dense extremely weather-resistant undercoat. The accepted breed colours are as follows:




  • Black and white

  • Blue and white

  • Blue, grey and white

  • Grey

  • Grey and white


Temperament


The Old English Sheepdog is a loveable character and one that boasts a huge amount of energy which basically means they are a great choice for people who live in a more rural environment or who boast having very large, and ultra-secure large back gardens. They are intelligent, loyal and affectionate by nature and once they form a bond with an owner, it remains unbreakable throughout their lives.



Bob-Tails boast having a strong herding instinct and will happily round the kids or other pets up when they are given the chance. They can become a little too over protective which is something that owners with very young children need to bear in mind. They have kind natures and stay playful right through to their golden years. Because they form such strong bonds with their owners, the Old English Sheepdog thrives in a home environment where at least one person usually stays at home when everyone else is out of the house because these dogs thrive on having company around them and do not do well when left on their own. As long as they are given the right amount of daily exercise and lots of mental stimulation, an Old English Sheepdog is quite happy to chill out around the home. If they are left to their own devices for long periods, they are likely to get bored very quickly which could lead to a dog developing some unwanted and destructive behavioural issues which includes separation anxiety.



Old English Sheepdogs make great family pets for first time owners as long as people have time to dedicate to their dogs because these adorable looking dogs need a lot in the way of exercise, they are high maintenance in the grooming department and because they are so intelligent, they need to be given a much mental stimulation as possible to keep them happy. They can be a little wary of strangers, however, rarely would an Old English Sheepdog show any sort of aggressive behaviour towards people they do not know preferring to just keep their distance and bark, although in the main a visitor would be warmly welcomed as long as their owner is around.


Intelligence / Trainability


The Old English Sheepdog boasts being an intelligent dog, but they need to be handled firmly yet fairly for them to be truly obedient characters. They can be quite strong willed at times and in the wrong hands, this can lead to a dog showing a more dominant side to their nature. The result would be a more wilful dog that's a lot harder to handle and live with.



Early socialisation is essential and it has to include introducing an Old English Sheepdog puppy to lots of new people, taking them to new situations and as soon as they are fully vaccinated to meet other dogs and animals so they grow up to be happier and more relaxed mature dogs, bearing in mind that young dogs tend to be exceptionally boisterous and as such need to be handled carefully, firmly yet gently.



Their training has to start early with the good news being that Old English Sheepdogs love to please, so in the right hands and environment they are easy to train and are very quick to learn new things. They do well in obedience and agility and are often seen competing in field herding trials, an activity they thoroughly enjoy thanks to their strong herding instincts. Old English Sheepdogs do not respond well to any sort of harsh correction or heavier handed training methods, but they do answer well to positive reinforcement and thoroughly enjoy the one-to-one attention they are given during their training sessions.


Children and Other Pets


The Old English Sheepdog is the extrovert of the canine world and loves nothing more than to be in a home environment with children. They boast having kind and loving natures although at times they can be a little excitable which means playtime can get a bit rough. As such, it's always best for any interaction between the kids and a dog to be well supervised by an adult to make sure things remain nice and calm.



When they are well socialised from young enough age, an Old English Sheepdog usually gets on well with other dogs. However, care has to be taken when they are around small animals and pets because their hunting instincts might just get the better of them. If a dog has grown up with a family cat in a household, they generally get on well together, however, if they ever got the chance, an Old English Sheepdog would think nothing of chasing a neighbour’s cat off if they dared to come onto their territory.


Health


The average life expectancy of an Old English Sheepdog is between 10 and 12 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.



Like so many other breeds, the Bob-Tail is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these energetic, large dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:




  • Hip Dysplasia - Test available

  • Eye issues - Test available

  • Wobbler syndrome (PCD) - Test available

  • Deafness

  • Skin and coat issues

  • Juvenile cataracts


Caring for a Old English Sheepdog


As with any other breed, Bob-Tails need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.


Grooming


The Old English Sheepdog boasts having a thick, dense and shaggy double coat that consists of an abundance of hair which is a big part of their overall appeal. As such, when it comes to keeping their coat and skin in good condition, these dogs are extremely high maintenance. Their coats need to be brushed every day and frequent trimming is also essential. This is best left up to an expert dog groomer who would be able to clip a dog when needed making it a lot easier for owners to care for their dog's coat in between visits to a grooming parlour. If a Bob-Tail's coat is not brushed every day, tangles and matts quickly form and once their coats become too matted, it can be extremely difficult and painful to put things right again.



It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.


Exercise


Old English Sheepdogs are high-energy characters and being so intelligent, they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation to be truly happy, well-rounded and obedient dogs. This means 2 hour's exercise a day and more if possible. The old adage of a "tired dog being a well-behaved dog" is never truer than when describing an Old English Sheepdog.



A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these energetic dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble remembering that Bob-Tails are known to be great escape artists.



With this said, Old English Sheepdog puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing problems later in their lives.


Feeding


If you get an Old English Sheepdog puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.



Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.


Average Cost to keep/care for a Old English Sheepdog


If you are looking to buy an Old English Sheepdog, you would need to pay anything from £400 to over £1000 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Bob-Tail in northern England would be £21.73 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £48.70 a month (quote as of June 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed among other things.



When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £50 - £60 a month. On top of all of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with an Old English Sheepdog and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £1200 a year.



As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for an Old English Sheepdog would be between £80 to £120 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree or other puppy.


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