Old English Sheepdog Dog Breed Information and Personality Traits

Smart, but independent with a sense of humor, Old English sheepdogs require a fair amount of exercise; plus early training and socialization is a must.

Old English Sheepdog at a glance
The Old English Sheepdogs Dog Breed

Because of their sense of humor, Old English sheepdogs have appeared in many films, TV shows and cartoons.


Weight Range:

Male: 70-90 lbs.
Female: 60-80 lbs.

Height at Withers:

Male: 22 in.

Female: 21 in.


Floppy Ears (naturally)


Exercise Requirements: 20-40 minutes/day
Energy Level: Average
Longevity Range: 10-12 yrs.
Tendency to Drool: Low
Tendency to Snore: Low
Tendency to Bark: Moderate
Tendency to Dig: Low
Social/Attention Needs: High

Bred For:

Driving sheep, cattle


Length: Long
Characteristics: Double coat, curly
Colors: Black with or without white, grizzle, blue. blue merle, with or without white markings
Tendency to Shed: Moderate
Overall Grooming Needs: High

Club Recognition:

AKC Classification: Herding
UKC Classification: Herding Dog
Prevalence: Common

The Old English sheepdog may appear as a large ball of fluff, but a solid dog lurks beneath that fluff ball.

The height starts at 22 inches and goes up, and the weight is up to 90 pounds. These dogs are fairly square, and a shaved Old English sheepdog shows nice proportions. The topline does tend to slope down from the loin to the withers.

The ears hang down and the tail is docked as close to the body as possible. The eyes are dark and mischievous when seen under the heavy bangs. The coat is thick, dense and profuse. Dogs in "show coat" keep the long, fluffy coat, but many pets are shaved down for ease of care. Colors are limited to shades of blue or gray with white.

These are fairly slow maturing dogs, reaching adult height by about one year of age but not filling out totally until two or three years. Many Old English sheepdogs live to 12 or 14 years of age.


Old English sheepdogs are smart but independent dogs. They can be strong willed and need a firm hand to guide them along the right path. They do have a remarkable sense of humor and seem to enjoy their owner's dismay at some of their antics.

While not thought of as a guarding dog, some Old English sheepdogs can be protective. Their bark is loud and some become nuisance barkers. Digging and chewing develops in dogs that are not exercised or mentally challenged enough.

Old English sheepdogs do best when given early socialization with both other pets and people. They can be somewhat dog aggressive, particularly the males. A rise in their popularity in the 1970s was not the best thing for the breed, and reputable breeders are working hard to restore the desired even temperament.

Living With:

Old English sheepdogs tend to be easy to keep weight on, which is generally true of working dogs. They have a slight tendency to become roly-poly, so watch the calories. It can be difficult to accurately assess their weight, particularly when dogs are left in full coat.

Coat care is a big consideration with this breed. Keeping the coat in show condition is a serious commitment requiring frequent baths, coat treatments, and daily grooming as well as limiting the dog's activities. Most caregivers elect to shear the coat down once or twice yearly. Fortunately, Old English sheepdogs look nice clipped down.

Old English sheepdogs do require a fair amount of exercise, especially as young dogs. Training is a must along with plenty of socialization. These dogs require a firm, patient hand and are not ideal for first-time dog owners. They are designed as serious working dogs and are happiest when they have tasks to do, be that obedience competition or herding a flock.


The Old English sheepdog attained its modern appearance in the Devon and Somerset areas of England, but the breed probably derives at least partly from the Continental sheep herding dogs. A need in England arose about 200 years ago for a large dog capable not only of driving cattle and sheep, but also of fending off large predators such as wolves. Since these were "working" dogs, their tails were docked or bobbed to denote their tax exemption, and hence, the nickname "bobtails."

The Old English sheepdog had to drive animals many miles to market and developed a special gait, the amble or pace, for efficient coverage of the miles. The thick coat was easily maintained by simply shearing it off when the sheep were sheared each spring.

Old English sheepdogs are renowned for their sense of humor and have appeared in many films and television shows. "Please Don't Eat the Daisies" starred an Old English sheepdog, and many cartoons such as "Dennis the Menace" and "For Better or For Worse" have an Old English sheepdog as a main character.