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Old English Sheepdog

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Origin / History The Old English Sheepdog is a small breed popular as a livestock guardian and household pet. Its origins are not clear, but the general belief is that they came from the counties of southwest England around the 19th century. Many believe it is a descendant of the Scotch Bearded Collie; others insist it comes from the same line as the Russian Owtchar.

Early sheepdogs were used entirely for work and livelihood, especially in small farms, until bigger, more efficient varieties (such as the Maremma) were introduced. The Old English sheepdog is still used for herding work in parts of England, but is more favored as a housedog in the United States. Its long use in Dulux paint commercials helped increase its popularity outside its home country, earning it the name “Dulux dog” in some circles.

Appearance The Old English sheepdog is distinguished from similar-looking breeds by its lack of a tail. Short tails appear occasionally, but are not tolerated in conformation shows. Its coat is long and shaggy, soft and wavy on top with s firm, waterproof undercoat. The hair often covers much of the eye area, but can be cut or swept back to allow the dog to see.

Colours The coat can be various shades of gray, blue, or grizzle, with merle (uneven mottle) patterns and white markings allowed. Brown and fawn coats occasionally occur but are strongly discouraged.

Temperament Sheepdogs appear slow and dumb at first glance, but are actually very cheerful, sociable and energetic. They get along particularly well with children and other animals, making them an excellent family pet. Their herding instincts are very strong—many owners leave them to care for their children when they are away from home. They can be stubborn at times, however, so obedience training may be necessary if they are to work as guardian dogs.

Height and Weight 56 - 66 cm in height and 29.5 - 30.5 Kg in weight. Males are larger than females and at the top end of the size ranges.

Common Health Problems Eye problems are the biggest health risk for this breed. The hair hanging over the eyes can cause irritation and may be aggravated if not given proper attention. This can be avoided by tying the hair back away from the face. Another common problem is Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA), a potentially fatal blood disorder.

Living Conditions Sheepdogs are active both indoors and outdoors, so a home with at least a medium-sized yard will work best. However, they can live in an apartment provided they get enough exercise outdoors and have enough room to stretch and walk around. They can tolerate any climate, as their coat insulates from both heat and cold.

Exercise Requirements These dogs have a strong instinct to work and move, so ample exercise is needed to keep them active. They should be taken on long brisk walks every day and allowed to run around the yard. They’ll happily trot alongside an owner’s bike, but are best kept on a leash as they tend to run too fast or wander off.

Training Requirements Obedience training is recommended for these dogs. They can be very strong-willed and should start training as pups. Many dogs need to be trained well into adulthood, as this breed tends to stay mentally psychologically young. Sheepdogs call for firm but gentle training. Harsh methods should be avoided to keep them from becoming fearful or aggressive. They respond best to reward-based and motivational training methods.

Life Expectancy Old English Sheepdogs can expect to live 10 to 12 years.

Grooming People considering this breed should be ready for the extensive grooming required. The sheepdog’s thick coat needs thorough brushing at least three times a week. Owners should pay close attention to the undercoat, which tends to mat and become a home for parasites. Facial hair is best kept short to allow the dog to see. They usually shed heavily in the spring; during this time the coat should be brushed daily. Unless the dog is being raised for show, owners can have the coat professionally clipped.

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