By Sergey Uhanov (Certified Veterinarian)Dr. Sergey Uhanov Last updated: 21st March 2024

Old English Sheepdog


Sergey Uhanov (Certified Veterinarian) Dr. Sergey Uhanov
Last updated: 21st March 2024

One of the most famous shaggy breeds, the Old English Sheepdog, or OES, is powerful, playful, agile, and loves exploring the outdoors. Characterized by its dense coat, muscular build, and hair covering its eyes, it is courageous and intelligent. Despite being a relatively younger breed, it is prevalent in media and pop culture. A great companion, it is loyal and protective towards its owner and family.

Old English Sheepdog Pictures

Quick Information

Other namesOES, Bobtail, Bob
CoatLong, shaggy double coat with a dense undercoat and textured outer coat
ColorGrizzle, gray, black, blue merle, or blue, with white markings in some cases
Breed typePurebred
Group Herding
Life expectancy10 – 12 years
HeightMale – 22 – 24 inches
Female – 20 – 22 inches
WeightMale – 60 – 80 pounds
Female – 70 – 100 pounds
Litter Size5-12 puppies
Behavioral Characteristics Affectionate, social, energetic, playful, and adaptable
Good with children Yes
Barking Tendency Moderate; they have a loud and sharp bark
Climate compatibilityModerate; they prefer colder weather due to their dense coat
Apartment compatibilityModerate; needs plenty of outdoor activity
Do they shedIt sheds a lot due to its heavy coat
Are they hypoallergenicNo
How much do they cost$1,000 – $3,000
Competitive Registration Qualification/InformationAKC, UKC, FCI, OESCA

History and Origin

Despite having “Old” in its name, the Old English Sheepdog is relatively recent. It was first developed in the 1700s in the Somerset and Devon counties and the Duchy of Cornwall. Breeders used a mix of European, Scottish, and Russian dogs to create its distinctive look. It found use as a drover, herding and moving cattle over the old country. In some parts, its shedding was used to make yarn. The practice of docking its tail to mark it as a herding dog gave it the nickname “Bobtail.”

One of the earliest show dogs in England, it has been part of exhibitions since 1865. This breed first appeared in the winner’s circle at the Westminster Kennel Club in 1914 after getting registered by the AKC in 1888. 

Temperament and Personality

Old English Sheepdogs are affectionate, quick-witted, watchful, and patient. Due to being herding dogs, they require ample outdoor exercise and an owner who plays with them. A youthful breed, their puppy-like nature stays with them throughout their lives. Their eagerness makes them a joy to train. They get along incredibly with kids and other pets and may even try to “herd” them by head-bumping. Their protective and watchful nature makes them excellent watchdogs. However, they are prone to bouts of laziness and staying indoors. Extremely attached to their owners, leaving them alone for too long will cause separation anxiety. An Old English Sheepdogs is rarely aggressive and careful training and socialization will make it gentle and mild-mannered.



They require moderate exercise for their size. Short daily walks and regular outdoor play sessions are enough to satisfy them. These clever dogs need as much mental stimulation as they do physically. As a quick learner, some great activities for your dog are agility, obedience, flyball, rally, tracking, Schutzhund, and herding. However, avoid exercising in sweltering weather to prevent overheating. Lack of appropriate mental and physical activity will lead to stress and unwanted behaviors such as digging, barking, and chewing.


Their long, shaggy coat requires a lot of care and upkeep. You must be ready to spend at least a couple of hours each week combing their thick fur and working through knots and mats. Regular baths are a must to prevent dirt and mud build-up. You should always brush down to the skin for proper hygiene. The coat might need complete shaving if too many knots and mats exist.

Professional grooming is a good option for those unable to dedicate the time and effort. “Puppy cuts,” where the hair is trimmed short, are favored for long-haired breeds, but you must still bathe and brush your pet frequently. You can use a detangler or mild conditioner while combing to remove knots. Sometimes, heavy drooling will turn the hair around the mouth yellow. Use cornstarch to remove stains if regular water does not do the trick.

Check their ears every week for redness, infection, or foul odor. Use a cotton ball dipped in mild, pH-balanced ear cleaner to wipe them. Brush your dog’s teeth routinely and trim the nails before they get too long. 

Health Problems

Old English Sheepdogs are generally healthy but might suffer from conditions like entropion, hip dysplasia, GDV or bloat, cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, hypothyroidism, cardiac issues, exercise-induced collapse, inherited deafness, cerebellar ataxia, and primary ciliary dyskinesia, the last two of which can be fatal. However, DNA testing can detect them. They may also suffer from drug sensitivity issues due to a specific MDR1 gene, detectable via genetic testing. A severe killer of older dogs is cancer, so go for timely checkups to rule it out.


They do well with two-and-a-half to four-and-a-half cups of high-quality dry food daily. Include lean meats like chicken and turkey, and keep the fat content low in your puppy’s feed to prevent bone disorders. Veterinarians may recommend wet food and dry kibble in tandem to help digestion and water intake. Be careful of overfeeding as weight gain is hard to detect under their thick coat.


Old English Sheepdogs are bold, bubbly, lovable, and eager to please, so the correct training and socialization will leave you with a calm, well-rounded, and well-adjusted pet.

Socialization: They respond nicely to firm and consistent training. Their pedigree as herding dogs makes them less likely to listen to you if you do not establish yourself as the leader early. They are rapid learners and can pick up tricks and skills quickly. If crate training, leave them for a short time as they do not like confinement. Early socialization is a must if it is living with young children. Positive training focusing on reward instead of punishment is very effective in getting your dog to learn and follow instructions.

Obedience: Like all large dogs, obedience training is necessary for them. They have excellent recall ability and remember instructions. However, you must make learning sessions fun and interactive, as these dogs get bored quickly. Teach your Old English Sheepdog basic commands like “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “down.” These will help you exercise control, especially if they get dirty and have excess energy. 

Interesting Facts

  • Due to their popularity as family dogs, they appeared in many classic Disney movies like “The Little Mermaid,” “Peter Pan,” and “Hook.”
  • The famous Beatles’ song, “Martha My Dear,” was inspired by Paul McCartney’s Old English Sheepdog, Martha.
  • It is the brand mascot for the British paint company Dulux. Of the numerous dogs used over the years, the most famous is Fernville Lord Digby. His popularity landed him the title role in “Digby, Biggest Dog in the World,” a 1973 British comedy movie.


1. Do Old English Sheepdogs have tails?

Earlier, tail-docking was widespread, giving a panda-like rear look. It is now banned, and most dogs have tails. However, they have a gene that may cause some puppies to be born without a tail.

2. What is the difference between an Old English Sheepdog and a Bearded Collie?

The most significant difference is that they are larger than Bearded Collies, with the latter only weighing around sixty pounds. Also, the Collies have longer, silkier, and sleeker coats, giving them a distinctive beard.

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