The Old English Sheepdog (OES) is a large breed of dog which was developed in England from very old herding types of dog. The Old English Sheepdog has very long fur covering the face and eyes.
The Old English Sheepdog is nicknamed the Bobtail, since tail docking was traditional in the old sheepdogs. The breed is well known as the Dulux dog, as a result of their long-running use in advertising Dulux paint.
The Old English Sheepdog is a large dog, immediately recognisable by its long, thick, shaggy grey and white coat, with fur covering their face and eyes. The ears lie flat to the head. In places where tail docking is still legal, the tail is completely docked, resulting in a panda-like rear end. Sometimes the breed has a natural bobtail. The Old English Sheepdog stands lower at the shoulder than at the loin, and walks with a "bear-like roll from the rear". When the dog has a tail, it has long fur (feathering), is low set, and normally hangs down.
Height at the withers is at least 61 cms (24 ins), with females slightly smaller than males. The body is short and compact, and ideal weights are not specified, but may be as much as 46 kg (101 lbs) for large males.
Colour of the double coat may be any shade of grey, grizzle, blue, or blue merle, with optional white markings. The undercoat is water resistant. Puppies are born with a black and white coat, and it is only after the puppy coat has been shed that the more common grey or silver shaggy hair appears.
Undocked Old English Sheepdogs are becoming a more common sight as some countries have now banned docking. The Kennel Club (UK) breed standard does not express a preference for (legally) docked or un-docked animals and either can be shown. The Australian National Kennel Council standard states that the tail is "preferably docked". The American Kennel Club breed standard states that the tail should be "docked close to the body, when not naturally bob tailed." It is believed that the practice of tail docking came about in the 18th century as a result of taxation laws that required working dogs to be docked as evidence of their working status.
The breed standards describe the ideal Old English Sheepdog as never being nervous or aggressive. The New Zealand Kennel Club adds that "they are sometimes couch potatoes" and "may even try to herd children by gently bumping them." This breed's temperament can be described as intelligent, social and adaptable. The American Kennel Club adds that the breed has "a clownish energy" and "may try to herd people or other objects."
With wide open spaces being the ideal setting for an Old English Sheepdog, the breed is a natural fit in a rural setting, such as working on a farm; although they are perfectly comfortable with a suburban or urban lifestyle (with proper exercise). Their remarkable, inherent herding instincts, sense of duty, and sense of property boundaries may be nurtured and encouraged accordingly, or subdued by their owners. Old English Sheepdogs should not be deprived of the company and the warmth of people.
Vet school data shows the Old English Sheepdog to have a life expectancy of 6.9 years, but data collected from owners in the US estimates the life expectancy as 11.19 years. The Old English Sheepdog Club of America sponsors investigations into diseases encountered in the breed in order to assist breeders in selecting healthy dogs for breeding, and breeders of Old English Sheepdogs who are members of the Old English Sheepdog Club of America must support its Code of Ethics in breeding and selling sheepdogs. Some diseases being investigated include hip dysplasia, cataracts, glaucoma, entropion, thyroid problems, deafness, diabetes, HD, PRA, allergies and skin problems. There is no data on how many dogs are affected, or what percent of the breed is affected by any of these ailments. Heatstroke is also a serious concern in full coated dogs. Cancer is a major cause of death amongst Old English Sheepdogs. Puppy buyers should ask breeders if they have tested for these disorders in their breeding dogs. Trimming the long protective hair over an adult sheepdog's eyes must be avoided, as they become accustomed to the filtered sunlight, thus it can be damaging to the eyes. This can be avoided early on if the hair is kept consistently trimmed starting at a young age, and the normally pink tissue surrounding the eyes may become dark (for non-show dogs). The underside of the ears should be kept clean, and matted hair in the ear canal should be removed periodically by a veterinarian.