The Old English sheepdog is a squarely proportioned, large-sized dog, with a shaggy gray and white coat. It is used to herd livestock, and is also kept as a pet. More often than not, the tail is docked or bobbed as puppies, giving them a rear end that is panda-like. At birth, the puppies have a black and white coat, making them look even more like pandas. The more characteristic silver or gray shaggy hair appears only after the puppy's fur is shed. The sheepdog is also called a 'bobtail', because of its docked tail.
Although this breed does not have claims to the kind of antiquity some other breeds of dogs have, there is, however, enough evidence that traces its origins at least 150 years back or to the early part of the 19th century. It is thought that the breed was probably developed in the western parts of England, in the Duchy of Cornwall, Somerset, and Devon, though it is a matter of speculation exactly which breeds it was produced from. While some think that the Russian Owtchar is one of its progenitors, others claim that it is the Scotch Bearded Collie. And still others feel that it is related to the Deerhound and the Barbone, which is disputed by some who think that it is the Bergamasco and the Briard that it is related to. Whatever may be its origins, it is well-known that it was developed by the farmers of the West Country in England, who wanted an agile sheepherder to drive their livestock to market.
Apart from its shaggy coat, the Old English Sheepdog has a muscular, well-balanced, and stocky body. It has an unusual upward sloping topline, from its withers to its loin, which is an important characteristic of this breed. The chest is broad while the brisket is deep. It has straight forelegs, with feet that are round and small, which point directly in front.
It has a double coat that is long, with the undercoat being soft and downy, while the top coat is coarse, which help in insulating the dog. The colors that are accepted are blue merle, blue gray, gray, or blue, usually with white markings. Sometimes, the predominant color is white with the markings being of the other colors listed. The bark is loud-ringing and low-pitched, while its gait is rolling, rather like a bear.
Being gentle and loving, this dog is as lovable as a teddy bear. It is highly protective, faithful, intelligent, and friendly, while also being adaptable and even-tempered. Because of its origins, its herding instinct is strong, and hence, may try herding the family, particularly small children, which it does by bumping, never nipping; but otherwise it is very good with them, wanting to play more than anything else.
This breed has a streak of strong will, so while training, it requires firmness. However, care must be taken to use only motivational methods of training, rather than harshness, which just ends in making them fearful. Because it loves children, this breed makes a great family companion.
Grooming and Exercising
The long-haired, shaggy coat requires regular care in order to keep it in good condition. It has to be brushed and combed right up to the dense undercoat about three times in a week to prevent it from getting matted, which can lead to skin problems because of parasites. If the fur does become tangled, it is advisable to clip it off, taking care not to cut the skin. It is best to get a grooming table for the job. If you do not intend showing your Old English Sheepdog, then it is recommended to have its coat machine-clipped professionally about once in two months. In the past, its coat was shorn along with the sheep it herded. The coat sheds heavily seasonally, generally in the spring.
Since they have been developed for doing hard work, they love a good long run. This breed needs to be taken for a run, jog, or walk every day.