Old English Sheepdog
Other names: Bobtail
A real sheepdog deep down, the Bobtail loves to have animals that they can “herd like sheep”: they always try to gather together groups of animals or people that they meet. Today, this dog is mainly kept as a pet; very sweet and friendly, but not docile. They therefore need an expert hand. A good guard dog but never aggressive, they are also a wonderful companion for children of all ages.
Key facts about the Old English Sheepdog
Life expectancy :
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Origins and history
They are a breed with ancient origins: they most probably come from the same old Asian Sheepdog that gave birth to the Berger de la Brie (Briard) in France, the Shepherd of Bergamo in Italy and the Komondor in Hungary. The Bobtail was selected for the first time at the time of the Hundred Years War and the Briard is undoubtedly part of their genealogy.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 1 - Sheepdogs and Cattledogs (except Swiss Cattledogs)
Section 1 : Sheepdogs
Physical characteristics of the Old English Sheepdog
Female : Between 22 and 24 in
Male : Between 24 and 26 in
Female : Between 77 and 88 lb
Male : Between 77 and 88 lb
The head, neck, forelimbs and belly areas are white (with or without marks) and the rest is grey, ranging from all shades of grey or blue.
Type of coat
The coat is long.
Very thick, the hair isn’t straight but should in no case be curly; it must be shaggy (scruffy). They have a dense undercoat.
The eyes are usually dark brown or parti-coloured. Blue eyes are accepted but not sought after.
The Old English Sheepdog is a large, strong and compact breed, with a square-shaped torso and thick hair all over their stocky, muscular body. The head has a broad and rather square skull, bulging at the forehead. The stop is well-defined, and the muzzle is strong and square, the length being half of that of the whole head. Their small ears are set on either side of the head. Their limbs are straight and perpendicular to the body. Sometimes, the tail is amputated naturally; otherwise, it’s covered by thick, fringed hair.
Good to know
In English, “Bobtail” means shortened tail because of the English Shepherd’s choice to cut their tails during the puppy’s first few days. Some say that English shepherds practiced this to escape the “luxury tax” that concerned pet dog owners: the cut tail was therefore a sign that the dogs were not going on display and were not domestic. Others prefer the hygienic assumption that cutting the tail prevents it from becoming too dirty.
Of an independent nature, this dog still needs human interaction to feel good. They know how to be affectionate, especially with children, but without being too over the top.
This dog is very active, and their waking hours must be spent doing daily educational, fun exercises. They love to play and prove to be rather useful during training sessions.
Somewhat turbulent, when all their needs are met, the Bobtail is nevertheless a very pleasant companion.
An active and reliable dog, they are intelligent in their initiatives and their great ability to adapt. They are, however, quite difficult to train, which, in a sense, may further confirm their intelligence.
Thanks to their past being a sheepdog, the Old English Sheepdog is interested by animals only when grouping them together like sheep. In fact, when they see other animals, they don’t consider them as prey but rather as a group that they can herd.
Fearful / wary of strangers
This dog never shows fear or aggression for no reason. They need, like any dog, to be confident in order to fully flourish, but as soon as introductions are made, they gladly accept the presence of strangers in their familiar territory.
The Old English Sheepdog is an independent breed that do not need to be attached to their master at all times, although human presence is necessary for their psychological and social balance.
Behaviour of the Old English Sheepdog
Loneliness doesn’t bother this big dog. However, absences should not be prolonged, and they must especially be occupied with activities/toys to prevent this very active dog from becoming bored. In addition, they will only be able to tolerate being left alone for hours once they’ve had a long, game-filled walk with their owners.
Easy to train / obedience
Considered as not a very docile breed, the Old English Sheepdog’s training can be complicated if it hasn’t started as soon as the puppy arrived home and if the owner’s attitude isn’t firm and consistent. Walks on a lead and socialisation are the key points to work on with this sometimes overly enthusiastic dog.
They make very good alert dogs that will prevent any intruders coming in.
Tendency to run away
Like any good sheepdog, the Old English Sheepdog prefers to stay with their family, in their familiar environment, rather than running away.
Active and playful, if not sufficiently stimulated, the Old English Sheepdog can be destructive in order to overcome boredom and discomfort.
Greedy / Gluttony
This dog is rather easy to feed, they are not difficult and rarely shows no interest in their bowl. Good training prevents them from being greedy.
A good guardian, they alert intrusion to others with their loud bark. However, it’s difficult for them to turn into a defence dog because they are too affectionate towards everyone; they find it hard to believe that not all humans have good intentions.
Given their strong character and power, a beginner could be easily overwhelmed. Indeed, if not well trained, this dog can quickly become uncontrollable, especially on a walk. Experienced owners are preferable.
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Old English Sheepdog in a flat
Although they can live in an apartment, the Old English Sheepdog prefers being out in open air, which is also good for their coat. If they live in a city, they must be out daily, several times a day and be able to exert themselves properly. To resume: short walks in the morning and evening around the neighbourhood aren’t enough at all.
A house with a garden seems more appropriate for this dog, but again, having outdoor space doesn’t justify the lack of walks.
Need for exercise / Sporty
Don’t be fooled by this dog’s large size, the Bobtail is particularly resistant; they aren’t just show dogs. They are primarily a sheepdog and therefore need physical and mental stimulation to fully flourish.
Travelling / easy to transport
This dog’s large size can be overwhelming, so trips are often complicated to organise because finding places that accept such large dogs are hard to find.
Old English Sheepdog and cats
If the Bobtail puppy grows up around cats, living together will be much more harmonious than if a cat tried to integrate into the social group of an adult dog. However, their fondness for other animals is often conductive to good agreement (except for if the cat doesn’t accept the dog’s presence and, in this case, beware of scratching).
Old English Sheepdog and dogs
Very (and sometimes too) sociable, they always want to interact with other dogs when on a walk. However, their brutality and lack of awareness of their strength isn’t welcomed by all. One must be very careful and not facilitate an accumulation of negative experiences with other dogs that cannot tolerate the Bobtail’s enthusiasm. It’s therefore crucial to encourage controlled and regular meetings with dogs that have a compatible temperament.
Old English Sheepdog and children
The Old English Sheepdog loves children, no matter how big or small, appreciates their presence and plays with them willingly. The American Bobtail is also nicknamed “Nanny Dog”.
Old English Sheepdog and the elderly
This dog’s power, if uncontrolled, can do a lot of damage. Therefore, potentially fragile people are not compatible with such a breed.
The price of an Old English Sheepdog varies according to origin, age and sex. A pedigree can cost up to £890 and the best bloodlines can be sold for up to £1,100.
Regarding the average budget needed to meet the needs of a dog this size, it costs around £43 a month.
This dog’s long coat requires daily care to avoid knots from forming. Daily brushing and disentangling are required. Show dogs can be presented “natural” or can be groomed through a long, complex “crimping” process that makes them much more valuable. This is now the most followed practice and uncrimped Sheepdogs may not be as highly regarded than others (unless the judge is very experienced and can still “see” the dog).
Hair loss is moderate and intensifies naturally during Spring and Autumn during annual moulting periods. Brushing must be more frequent to ensure the beauty and protective qualities of their majestic coat.
Nutrition of the Old English Sheepdog
All types of diets are suitable for the Bobtail. They can be content with a traditional diet (B.A.R.F or household rations) as an industrial diet based on high quality croquettes.
The only thing to know about this breed is that it they don’t cope with feeding changes without a transition period. Owners must be patient and take the time to change the rations for a minimum of one week. Beware of stomach upset. To avoid this, divide the ration into two meals a day and make the dog eat quietly and without exercising for at least an hour after his meal.
Health of the Old English Sheepdog
The life expectancy of this dog is estimated at around 11 years.
Strong / robust
This dog is hardy, they usually enjoy a very excellent health.
Although their fur is quite thick, it protects them from both the cold and the heat. However, owners must pay close attention to enthusiastic and active dogs because they can unfortunately go to the end of their limits without stopping.
The Old English Sheepdog’s felted undercoat gives them a very good waterproof quality and therefore protection against bad weather.
Tendency to put on weight
The Old English Sheepdog is such an active dog that it’s very rare to come across overweight dogs. If this is the case, it will be the result of a lack of outings and daily exercise.
- Coxo-femoral dysplasia
- Primary ciliary dyskinesia (lung disease)
- Flipped stomach