Complete Guide To The Old English Sheepdog: Health, Feeding, Grooming and More

The Old English Sheepdog (OES) is royalty among drovers. Immortalized in film and song, this quintessential shaggy dog is a dependable worker, a capable watchdog and a faithful family companion.

I’m dedicating this article to my favorite OES of all-time. His name was Monte and he and I had a very long relationship as patient-veterinarian. I loved “dancing” with him every time he came into my practice and I will forever remember him fondly.

How Big Do Old English Sheepdogs Get?

Height Weight
Male22″ at the shoulder minimum60-100 lbs
Female21″ at the shoulder minimum60-80 lbs

Old English Sheepdogs are renowned for their billowy coats and lumbering gait. They’re stocky and bull-necked with strong shoulders and a muscular back. Their expression is both curious and thoughtful.

What Do Old English Sheepdogs Look Like?

Colors include any shade of blue, blue merle, gray or grizzle — with or without white markings. Their double coats are thick and durable for ultimate weather resistance.

Ears are of medium length and lay flat. Blue or brown eyes are the norm, but one of each isn’t uncommon. Traditionally, their long tails are docked close to the body, but many are born naturally bob-tailed.

Old English Sheepdogs are distinctive for their square bodies but are often mistaken for Bearded Collies or Briards in similar colors.

What Is The Personality Of A Old English Sheepdog?

The Old English Sheepdog is relaxed but focused. Affectionate and kind, they’re active but not rambunctious. As working dogs, regular exercise is a must, but they also appreciate down time.

Easily bored, they need activities that pique their interest. Keep walks fresh by exploring new territory and surprise them on occasion with a ball to chase. Excellent with children and other pets, there’s nothing they enjoy more than a romp in the park followed by a long snooze on the couch.

Country dogs at heart, today’s Old English Sheepdogs can make a go of city living if they have room to stretch their legs. But early socialization and training are critical for apartment dogs to tame their loud, distinctive bark.

What Are The Grooming Requirements Of A Old English Sheepdog?

Old English Sheepdogs almost dare you to groom them — in their full splendor, they’re furry fiascoes. But if you’re ready for a challenge, the payback is lifelong devotion. Few investments offer as much return.

Double-coated, they shed consistently and seasonally in the spring and fall. They’re magnets for outdoor debris and need daily care. But a thorough weekly brushing that thins the undercoat is critical — it’s never enough to brush their top coat because mats form near the skin.

A slicker brush is a good choice for everyday grooming, but their coat is thick — you’ll need a long-tined metal comb to tease out tangles. Knots tend to form around the head and hindquarters, so these areas need extra attention. Baths every 6-8 weeks are ideal for discouraging doggy odor.

Long ears are prone to infection and should be cleaned at bath time. Nail care is also essential because long hair can conceal overgrowth. Warm water softens hard nails, so the perfect time for trimming is after bathing.

The good news for fans of the Old English Sheepdog is that grooming professionals are happy to help keep your dog’s coat in optimal condition. A regular puppy cut will keep him looking his best and make maintenance less time-consuming.

How Much Exercise Does An Old English Sheepdogs Need?

The OES is a playful, rambunctious dog originally bred to be a herding dog. I’ve met some crazy OES and I’ve met some pretty lazy ones.

Depending on which type of OES you get and their exercise needs, you may have to only take them on a vigorous 20-minute walk per day or need to take them to the dog park frequently. OES should settle down when they’re at home with the family so if your dog isn’t like that, you need to exercise them more.

What Kind Of Dog Food Is Best For Old English Sheepdogs?

Before we start with the food lists, just know that grain-free dog foods are a myth. There’s zero science showing that they are helpful. In fact, there’s increasing evidence that it’s causing issues in certain breeds of dogs. Food allergies are the only reason to even consider a grain-free diet but only choose one with the help of your veterinarian.

Best Puppy Food For Bearded Collies:

Best Adult Food For Bearded Collies:

With their long coat, it can difficult for an inexperienced owner to tell when their Bearded Collie is overweight. Ask your veterinarian to show you how you feel the ribs and back to determine if they’re too big/thin.

How Long Do Old English Sheepdogs Live?

10-12 years

What Health Problems Do Old English Sheepdogs Have?

Based on my own experience as a veterinarian as well as the statistics from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals database, the most common health conditions seen in OES are:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Dental Disease

Where Can I Learn More About Old English Sheepdogs?

Old English Sheepdog Club of America (OESCA)

AKC Breed Page

Where Can I Find A Old English Sheepdog?

Breeder Referral Page From the OESCA

AKC Puppy Page

Looking For A Rescue OES? Check Here

Interesting Facts About Old English Sheepdogs

Old English Sheepdogs are universally recognizable, but less is known about their development and history. Here’s what you should know about this engaging breed.

• They’re Neither English Nor Sheepdogs

The Old English Sheepdog was developed in England but of Scotch and Russian ancestors, so they’re less English than European. And technically, they’re drovers, not herders. Their primary role was to drive cattle from pastures to markets.

• They Sound Like Cracked Bells

Old English Sheepdogs have a unique bark — it’s one you’ll hear often under their watchful eye. Described as “pot-casse,” a French word meaning “cracked bell,” it has a dull but resonant sound like two metal pots clanging together.

• The Sheepdog Shuffle

Old English Sheepdogs have a shuffling, bear-like gait. Like teenagers to the dinner table, they’re rarely in a hurry. But don’t let that fool you — properly motivated by a game or treat, they’re remarkably quick and regularly compete in canine agility events.

• They’re Ubiquitous at Dog Shows

A hard-working hand like the Old English Sheepdog hardly seems the type to frequent show rings. Yet they were there from the beginning and are still champions today. Shown in England since 1865, they were recognized by the AKC in 1905 and quickly reached the Westminster winner’s circle, taking Best in Show in 1914 and 1975.

• Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

Despite their blue-collar history, Old English Sheepdogs in America ate more steak than they drove cattle. Favorites among the wealthy, they were first promoted by Pittsburgh industrialist, William Wade, in the late 1800s. By 1910, the richest families in the US, including the Morgans and Vanderbilts, exhibited the breed.

Famous owners past and present include celebrities, musicians and politicians, from actresses Jean Harlow and Joan Van Ark to Senator Robert Kennedy and Robert Ripley, creator of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Paul McCartney’s, “Martha,” inspired the Beatles tune, “Martha My Dear.” But perhaps their most distinguished fan was former American President Franklin D. Roosevelt with his Old English Sheepdog, Tiny.

Old English Sheepdogs Are Cultural Icons

Old English Sheepdogs are omnipresent in the entertainment industry — stars of the silver screen, they’re the stuff of legends. Popular with Disney, Old English Sheepdogs were the stars of full-length films, notably the 1959 hit comedy, “The Shaggy Dog,” and its 1976 sequel, The Shaggy D.A. They were also featured in top-grossing animated classics, including The Little Mermaid and 101 Dalmatians.