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Old English Sheepdog At Risk Of Extinction After Lowest Number Of Puppy Registrations In 60 Years

The Old English sheepdog is a dog breed that most of us know on sight, even if we cannot put the breed name to the dog type – because the Old English sheepdog is better known to many of us as “the Dulux Dog!” The Old English sheepdog is in its 60th year as the brand mascot for Dulux paint this year (2021); but have you ever actually seen an Old English sheepdog in real life?

If you think about it, the chances are you may well not have, or if you have, you probably don’t know more than one person who owns one. How come? Well, the Old English sheepdog might be one of our native British dog breeds and one with a very long history as an established breed, but they’re also really rare.

In fact, the Old English sheepdog is so rare, and is bred in such low numbers each year, that the Old English sheepdog is actually in very real danger of becoming extinct altogether.

In April 2021, the Kennel Club released data on the number of Old English sheepdog puppies registered with them during 2020; and this information paints a rather frightening picture for the breed’s future survival.

Old English sheepdog puppy registrations have been falling exponentially year on year for over 40 years now, and are approaching the point that means that there may not be a viable, sustainable population of dogs of the breed left at all in a few years.

Could the Old English sheepdog become extinct, how great is the danger of this happening, and can the breed be saved? This article will provide some more information. Read on to learn more.

What is an Old English sheepdog?

The Old English sheepdog is a large, shaggy and stocky dog that often appears to do everything in slow motion. As mentioned, they’re best known as the Dulux dog, and this may be the nearest some of us have ever come to seeing one in the flesh.

The Old English sheepdog is a pastoral dog breed, with a long-established working history as cattle herding and sheep herding dogs.

In terms of caring for an Old English sheepdog, the fact that they are large disqualifies them from being a good candidate for many homes, and while they’re often slow moving even at a run, they do have bags of endurance and need significant amounts of exercise every day, which not everyone is well equipped to provide.

The Old English sheepdog coat is very high maintenance too; all of which combined means that they’re not one of the most in-demand breeds each year in the UK with puppy buyers, despite most of us having a real soft spot for them based on their appearance on the TV!

How rare are Old English sheepdogs?

Popularity and demand for the breed began to grow in 1961, this being the year that the Old English sheepdog debuted as the Dulux dog, and the breed’s popularity rose steadily between then and 1979 – a year that saw a whopping 6,000 new puppies of the breed registered.

Compare that then with 2020, which saw just 227 new puppy registrations, and the fact that the breed has been in decline year-on-year between 1979 and today, and the future of the breed can fairly be said to be in real jeopardy.

2020 data from the Kennel Club on the total number of new puppies of the breed registered last year saw the breed reach its lowest number of registrations for six decades. 

The breed has been classed as “at watch” and so, on the border of becoming vulnerable to extinction in terms of the number of dogs of the breed produced in the UK since way back in 2009.

The drop in puppy registrations from the breed between 2019-2020 alone was steep, representing 28% fewer pups bred in 2020 compared to just one year prior. 

Can the Old English sheepdog be saved?

In order to ensure that the Old English sheepdog breed survives in perpetuity, the population of unrelated dogs of breeding age and ability (therefore unneutered, and not carrying or exhibiting any serious hereditary health issues that could be passed onto their litters) needs to be large enough to ensure the future survival of the breed.

Put simply, those that own and breed Old English sheepdogs need to breed more of them, but with great care and consideration to ensure that the pups produced are healthy and not inbred, and of course, that there are enough waiting buyers to offer them homes.

In turn then for this to happen, there needs to be not just sufficient breeding stock and breeders willing to produce litters, but puppy buyers that want them too.

As mentioned earlier on, the Old English sheepdog has some barriers or challenges (in terms mainly of size, energy levels, and coat care requirements) that mean they’re definitely not the right choice of dog for everyone.

Ruling out an Old English sheepdog as unsuitable for your own needs or living situation is a very responsible decision; you will not help the breed by harming, or being unable to provide appropriately for, any one dog within the breed.

However, while we do see the Old English sheepdog on the TV and and in ad media, the lack of them on the streets mean that they’re often overlooked as an option, or people don’t consciously think of them to consider as a dog to rule into their initial shortlists of what dog breed to buy at all. 

Spreading the word about the breed, raising awareness of their vulnerability, and generally, letting people know they exist (but that they may not in the future if the current decline in registration numbers continues) all helps.

Are Old English sheepdogs expensive to buy?

It’s a little hard to answer this question right now in 2021, as we’re (hopefully!) just coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic’s most acute impact on us; and life for most of us begins to return to something like normal.

Why? Well, put simply, because for the last year and a bit and likely, the rest of 2021 as well, all puppies have been expensive to buy.

The average asking price for dogs of all breeds doubled and even tripled or more in many if not most cases during the pandemic; the Old English sheepdog among them.

For instance, in 2018, the average asking price for a Kennel club registered Old English sheepdog here on Pets4Homes was £1,092. At the time of writing (June 2021) the lowest priced Old English sheepdog for sale today is £2,500, and the majority of the (admittedly small) number of ads we’re hosting for Old English sheepdog puppies for sale today have an asking price per pup of over £3,000.

However, compared like for like to other breeds of a similar size and with similar traits, and particularly given the Old English sheepdog’s rarity, the breed isn’t particularly on the high side of the average pricing spectrum at any given time.


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