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Old English Sheepdog Dog Breed Profile

Jul 3, 2008
The sight of the Old English Sheepdog actually driving a flock of sheep or cattle is not unusual in Great Britain but is not often seen in the United States, where he has become more popular as a show dog and a family pet. In Great Britain, the dogs used commonly as drovers dogs, draft dogs and shepherds in years past were considered "working dogs" .

Because of the tax which was levied on dogs who performed no "work" , the custom of bobbing the tail was begun to distinguish the dogs who "worked" from dogs who were used only for companionship. Dogs with the docked tail were also spoken of as "Bobtails" and this name became associated with the Old English Sheepdog. In truth many of these dogs are born without a tail.

In years past the Old English was shown in a more natural appearance than it is today. The Exhibitors in the ring today do an excessive amount of back combing, fluffing, spraying and "chalking" (a practice of brushing fine chalk powder into the coat to whiten it and to give it an appearance of "body" ) and the dog has become so overdone that it presents an entirely different picture than it is in everyday life.

If the coat is not cared for on a daily basis it is going to be nothing but a shaggy coat, unkempt and quite straggly, like the sheep whom it protects. A pet owner who becomes taken with the show appearance of this breed soon finds out that they must brush at least twice a week or give in and get the dog shaved. This solution is never good for the dog since it can lead to sunburn or skin irritations.

The A.K.C. standard says that the dog should stand 21-22 inches at the shoulder "and upwards" of that size. His appearance when he is done up for the show is impressive and he appears to be much heavier of bone and substance than he is when his coat is not excessively "pouffed".

The Old English is a Drovers dog, first and foremost and should have the structure and endurance to perform this work for long periods of time. The dog should stand taller at the rump than at the withers and this is a distinguishing characteristic of the breed. The hair is so profuse over the face that often the eyes are not visible unless the hair is pulled back and fastened with a barrette, which is not allowed in the show ring.

The Old English is a steady and reliable dog, reserved in affection for strangers and often overly boisterous with his family. He will not be a "watchdog". Although he will bark, he is as a general rule polite with strangers. This is a dog who makes a big and gentle companion for children. The Old English is said to be the "Nana" in the story of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. This fits the description of the Old English in a household, for he is a gentle and loving protector of the children in his "flock".
About the Author
Get more info and advice on the Old English Sheepdog or a full list of dog breeds at this Dog Behaviour website.
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