Petkeen is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commision. Learn More

Old English Sheepdog

Nicole Cosgrove

old english sheepdog bobtail

The Old English Sheepdog is a large purebred from England famous for its shaggy coat that covers its eyes and face. It was bred to be a drover, moving sheep and cattle to the market and still does very well today in events such as agility, retrieving and herding. It is a very good natured dog and makes a great companion and family pet.

Here is the Old English Sheepdog at a Glance
Name Old English Sheepdog
Other Names Bobtail, Shepherd’s Dog
Nicknames OES, Bob
Origin UK
Average size Large
Average weight 60 to 90 pounds
Average height 21 to 24 inches
Life span 10 to 12 years
Coat type Double, long, thick shaggy
Hypoallergenic No
Color Merle, blue, grey, white
Popularity Somewhat popular – ranked 74th by the AKC
Intelligence Moderate to average
Tolerance to heat Moderate – not best in overly warm weather, can overheat
Tolerance to cold Very good – can handle quite cold temperatures just not extreme
Shedding Constant so be prepared for lots of clean up
Drooling Quite high – prone to slobber and drool and messy drinking
Obesity Quite high – prone to obesity so needs food and exercise monitored
Grooming/brushing High maintenance – brush daily
Barking Frequent – will need training to control it
Exercise needs Fairly active – will need plenty of daily activity
Trainability Difficult to train so experienced owners is best
Friendliness Very good – quite a social dog
Good first dog Good but better with those who have experience
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Good to very good with socialization
Good with strangers Very good – quite an approachable breed
Good apartment dog Low – needs room to move around in and a yard
Handles alone time well Moderate – does not like being left alone for long periods
Health issues Healthy dog breed, a few issues can occur such as eye problems, deafness, hip dysplasia and Hypothyroidism
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $270 a year for treats and a good quality dry dog food
Miscellaneous expenses $655 a year for grooming, basic training, license, toys and miscellaneous costs
Average annual expense $1410 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1600
Biting Statistics Attacks doing bodily harm: 2 Maimings: 0 Child Victims: 1 Deaths: 2

The Old English Sheepdog’s Beginnings

The Old English Sheepdog has several theories about where its origins are. One thinks this breed is related to the Deerhound and the Poodle, some say the Bearded Collie and others suggest it is related to a Russian breed the Owtchar that came from the Baltic on trading ships. In England it was developed in the west counties to be a cattle driver and sheep herder for farmers and then became popular across all agricultural areas. It is not known exactly when this happened as no records were kept but in 1771 there is a painting that is believed to be a picture of an early version of the breed.

In the 18th century farmers would dock their tails to show they were a working breed which gave them an exemption from taxes. This led to the breed being referred to as Bobtail. In the spring time when the Sheep were sheared the Bobtail was sheared too. Its fur was even used to make blankets and clothing. It was shown in dog shows in 1873 and recognized by the Kennel Club in 1903. It was also called the Shepherd’s Dog.

New Lease on Life

In the 1880s it was exported to the US and quickly became a popular show dog, and by the 1900s was owned by 5 of the most wealthiest families. The AKC recognized the breed in 1885. The Old English Sheepdog Club of America was started in 1904 by Henry Tilley and his brother William Tilley who both create the first breed standard.

In the US into the 1950s it continued to be thought of as a rich man’s dog rather than farmer’s dogs. But in the 1960s it became more of a popular companion and family dog. Since then numbers have declined somewhat because people are realizing this dog is high maintenance. Today it is ranked 74th most popular registered dog by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

The Old English Sheepdog is a large dog weighing 60 to 90 pounds and standing 21 to 24 inches tall. It is a compact squared dog with a wide and deep chest, straight front legs and muscular back legs. Its small feet are round and point straight forwards. Some are born without tails and some have their tails removed in places where it is still allowed to dock tails. In many places in Europe docking is no longer allowed. When there is a tail it is low set, feathered, and hangs down. The coat is long, shaggy, thick, with a softer water-repellent coat underneath. Common colors are grey, merle, white and blue.

The head of the OES is large and it has a back nose. Eyes can be brown or blue, or sometimes one of each c
olor. The ears are held close to the head and are medium sized. It has fur that covers much of its face and eyes.

The Inner Old English Sheepdog


A well bred Old English Sheepdog is a very friendly, gentle, social and loving dog and makes a great companion for most homes, as long as you are able to give it the mental and physical stimulation it needs. It can be alert and can have protective instincts. This means it might bark to let you know of any intruder and might act to defend you and the family. But some might not! It likes to play and is very loyal and smart. While new owners could be okay with this breed, it is hard to train so that might mean it is better with owners who have more experience.

Watch out though as there are some bad breeders out there and they can end up breeding Old English Sheepdogs that are quite bad tempered. It is possible sadly to have ones that are neurotic, hyperactive, fearful and sharp. These tend to be more likely to bite too.

The well bred OES is a very stable dog able to adjust to different situations and loves to be a part of family activity. It does have a herding background though and that instinct can be stronger in some dogs so it may try to herd people and pets by bumping them to where it wants them to go. Make sure training covers not doing that! It needs an owner who can be firm and in control. Be prepared often it remains quite puppy like for some time before suddenly starting to act its age more.

It is quite an enthusiastic dog, loves attention and acting clownish to get it. It does not like being left alone for long periods and it can express that unhappiness with destructive behavior. Around strangers it tends to be at the least polite, sometimes even friendly. Some lines do have timidity or skittishness in them so make sure to keep it stable it is well socialized.

Be warned if you like your home perfect and clean at all times this is not the dog for you. It tracks in mud, is a messy drinker and drips water around after, gets its wet and or dirty face on the furniture or on you. Some are droolers and it is also known to be quite gassy!

Living with an Old English Sheepdog

What will training look like?

The OES is not an easy dog to train, in fact it can be quite difficult. It is for this reason that we suggest someone with more experience is a more suitable owner. Be very patient and consistent and be prepared to have to persevere through it. It helps if you are a calm and patient person already! It may help to refer it to professional trainer or school, and that is also a good way to do some socialization around other dogs. The OES can have a stubbornness to them and some can even be willful so you need to be firm and in charge. Mean what you say, and stick to the rules you set. Use positive methods like treats, rewards and encouragement.

As mentioned socialization is important too. In order to have a dog you can trust when you are out with it and when guests come over it needs to know how to react, what is acceptable and what is not. As soon as the puppy is home start to get it used to different places, situations and people.

How active is the Old English Sheepdog

The Old English Sheepdog is a fairly active dog so will need daily exercise. It is not best suited to apartment living due to its size and it needs a good sized yard as well. It can go out in the cold fine but the heat can be a problem so watch out for it overheating. As well as going out for a couple of walks a day it would also enjoy time at a dog park where it can run safely off leash and socialize and play games with you. Plan on at least an hour a day of physical activity, possibly up to 2 hours, and make sure you also offer it mental stimulation.

If an OES does not have opportunities to burn off some energy and be mentally engaged it can become bored and that leads to destructive and unwanted behavior. Barking, chewing, hyperactive and hard to control. As it gets older how much it needs will lower and it will be more of a couch potato.

Caring for the Old English Sheepdog

Grooming needs

A fact that a lot of people who do not have experience with this breed do not truly appreciate is that this is very much a high maintenance dog when it comes to its coat especially. It is likely you will need professional help to take care of its coat with occasional trimming being a must. It sheds frequently and will need daily brushing and daily vacuuming to keep up with the loose hair. By brushing daily the coat will be cleaner and softer but make sure you are getting right through to the under coat too or that can get very matted and can become prone to parasites. That brushing though will take at least an hour each time.

Tangles can be cut out if they do not comb out. Caring for its coat will take a number of tools if you intend to do it yourself, a coarse steel comb, a pin brush and a slicker brush. You will also need a spray conditioner. For dogs not of show quality owners often opt to have the coat clipped by a groomer every couple of months, keeping it to an easy to look after inch length. Trimming more regularly will also be needed around the face and around its rear. Only bathe it when it is really dirty to avoid drying out its skin. It can be prone to yellowing around its mouth from its drool so wash it after meals and consider using cornstarch on its beard. It also works well for the other end when it has diarrhea!

Other needs it has include making sure its ears are checked for infection and wiped clean once a week, brushing its teeth two to three times a week and keeping its nails clipped when they get too long. Those nails are not like ours, there are blood vessels and nerves in the lower part of them so have a groomer do it for you if you are not experienced. Be warned this is a messy dog, its beard will get water and food in it when it drinks, fecal matter, debris and other things get caught in its coat. A lot of cleaning has to be done daily!

Feeding Time

The OES will need 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 cups of a good quality dry dog food each day, split into at least two meals. How much exactly depends on its size, age, metabolism, activity and health. As a puppy it is important to feed it a high quality diet that is low calorie so that it does not grow too fast causing bone disorders. Monitor its food and exercise so that it does not become obese as it really does like its food.

How is the Old English Sheepdog with children and other animals?

The OES if well bred and socialized is very good with children, playful and lively, affectionate and kind. It can be trusted with them and is even sometimes referred to as a great nanny. It can have herding instincts in some they are stronger and in some it is weaker, and it may try to bump them to herd them around. With younger children this can mean some kids get knocked over so they should be supervised but generally it is gentle. Poorly bred dogs though are more ill tempered so take care where you get yours from. With other dogs it is also friendly so is not likely to cause any problems in dog parks. Good socialization also means it can get along well with other pets in the home.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The OES lives for 10 to 12 years. It is a fairly healthy dog but there are health issues it can be prone to such as hip dysplasia, eye problems, IMHA, drug sensitivity, diabetes, hypothyroidism, deafness, allergies and skin problems, cancer and heat stroke.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dogs attacks against people that did bodily harm in Canada and the US over the last 34 years the OES is mentioned in 2 incidents. Unfortunately both incidents led to deaths and one victim was a child. However that is just 2 incidents in 34 years, 1 every 17 years. This means this is not a dog prone to aggression or attacking. But like any dog it can snap, and if from a poorly bred line OES can be more prone to unpredictable behavior. Ways to minimize the chances your dog is one that acts aggressively in certain situations are to have it trained and socialized, make sure it is well exercised and mentally challenged and properly fed, loved and cared for.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

An Old English Sheepdog puppy will average at about $1600 though it can vary from place to breeder between $1200 to $2000, for a pet quality companion. For something of AKC show standards from a top breeder you can expect to pay a lot more. There are shelters and rescues that may have OES that need re-homing and that is a great thing to do. Cost is a lot lower at around $50 to $400, some medical concerns get dealt with for you too, but on the other hand it is not as likely to be a puppy. Avoid buying from pet stores, puppy mills, ads and backyard breeders where lines tends to be poorly bred and animals very mistreated.

There will be some initial costs to pay out once you have a puppy. It will need some items like a crate, leash and collar, food bowls and the like. These will cost around $200. There are also medical concerns to take care of like a check up, deworming, micro chipping, blood tests, shots and spaying or neutering. These come to about $300.

Yearly costs will include food, medical basics and other miscellaneous costs. Food should be of good quality, while it will cost a bit more it is better for your dog. Expect to spend around $270 a year for food and treats. Medical costs will vary depending on any emergencies and illnesses that might occur. Just looking at basic care along with pet insurance, so covering shots, tick and flea prevention and check ups expect to pay at least $485 a year. Miscellaneous items, toys, license, basic training and grooming is going to start out at $655 a year. This gives an annual starting figure of $1410.


Looking for a Old English Sheepdog Puppy Name? Let select one from our list!

The Old English Sheepdog is an enthusiastic, playful, kind and strong willed companion. In homes that are ready for its needs and prepared for the grooming and maintenance it can be a great family dog, loyal, affectionate and truly a best friend. However take care to avoid poorly bred OES who have temperaments that are quite the opposite. Also make sure you are happy for the chaos and mess the OES brings because even with daily cleaning up there are still going to be very clear and obvious signs around your home that an OES lives there!

Meet Sheepadoodle – Old English Sheepdog x Poodle Mix

Old English Sheepdog and Poodle Mix
General Information
Size Medium to large
Height 13 to 27 inches
Weight 45 to 80 pounds
Life span 12 to 15 years
Touchiness Quite sensitive
Barking Rare
Activity Fairly active
Breed Traits

Well Behaved
Great family pet
Easy to train



Featured Image Credit: Svetlana Valoueva, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.