The Old English Sheepdog looks fairly messy. He has a long double coat of fur that is meant to protect the dog in outdoor conditions in the sheep pastures. He is large and stocky, with a balanced and muscular body. His chest is broad and his legs are straight with small round feet. He has small flat ears. He has a large nose and uneven teeth and is often born without a tail; some dog's tails are surgically docked. He has a low, loud bark that can sound threatening to other animals. He is a naturally affectionate and loving dog, is not hard to train, and works well with his master. He is a very loyal dog to his master.
The double coat of the Old English Sheepdog is thick and dense, with a soft undercoat. He looks shaggy naturally, but regular grooming will help keep him clean and will keep his coat smooth.
The coat of the Old English Sheepdog can be black and white, grey and white, all gray, or have white or black markings.
There are a lot of theories about the origin of the Old English Sheepdog breed. It is possible he is related to the Barbone, the Deerhound, the Briard, or even the Owtchar. Regardless, he was bred in England and in Russia and was cross bred with Bearded Collies and other French and Baltic region dogs. He was first used as a sheep dog in the West Country of England. He became very popular in the 1800s and has worked well as a shepherd ever since. Farmers would dock the dog's tail to mark them as tax exempt herders, and the dogs would be sheared with the sheep and their fur used for blankets. The Old English Sheepdog has also been used as a retriever and a watch dog. He has even been used to herd reindeer because his coat allows him to work outdoors in very cold climates.
The Old English Sheepdog is energetic and loves attention. They like to be alone provided they have a job to do. They are naturally quite gentle and are good family pets. Since he is a sheepdog, he will herd family members and other family pets. This makes training him properly a priority as his size makes him difficult to manage when he is unruly. He can, when well trained, accept and even anticipate commands from his master. The breed likes formal training sessions. They are intuitive and intelligent, but can at times be a little grouchy unless they are properly trained.
Special medical problems that this breed faces are hip dysplasia, cataracts, Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia, and Epilepsy. Otherwise, the breed is fairly healthy for a purebred dog.
The coarse coat of the Old English Sheepdog is one of the most problematic aspect of the breed. The coat need constant attention and the dog should be brushed at the very least three times every week. His fur will tangle and mat if not properly cared for. If this happens, cut out any tangles and mats. Find a groomer to clip the dog once every other month, and be sure to trim around the dog's eyes and backside. He does shed heavily in spring, so his grooming schedule should increase at that time. A professional groomer should also handle bathing the dog regularly, since the dog is so large. If you want to bathe him yourself, start at an early age so he likes having a bath. Check him for fleas and ticks and keep his ears clean.
Old English Sheepdogs like to run and walk with their owners. They have incredible stamina and can keep up with long exercise sessions with their masters. The dog's stamina also lends itself well to his original purpose as a sheep herding dog. He can work for extended periods of time as a method of exercise. He likes to stay busy, so toys and other activities are a good idea. He needs to go on a long walk at least two times every day if he does not have access to a large yard. Keeping him occupied with games, activities and exercise will keep him from becoming bored and destructive. In hot climates, the dog's coat can make him overheat, so he should never be allowed to dehydrate. In cold climates, the dog can be outside for extended periods of time. They can be trusted on large properties because they can easily find their way home and know their boundaries.
Because he is a working dog and is intelligent, the Old English Sheepdog learns quickly and respects his master. They enjoy learning new jobs. However, they can be a little stubborn and training for good manners should begin at an early age. The best way to train them is to mix up training methods as repetition will form an unneeded routine. They like motivational training techniques and this helps them focus and achieve their goals. They do not do well with negative reinforcement training methods, but you must use a harsh tone with them to establish respect.