The Old English Sheepdog
"The Bobtail"

descriptive textDog breed info
Old English Sheepdog (Bobtail)
Weight: 60 — 90 lbs
Height: 21” — 22”
AKC Rank 2008 #73
Lifespan: 10—12 yrs
Group Herding
Origin England

Dog Breed Info - The Old English Sheepdog

A playful Old English, racing across
the landscape with NO paws on the ground!

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Breed Overview

Origin 1800’s. Original function: Sheep herding. Today, Herding trials, Companion. Colors: Grey, grizzle, blue, blue merle, all with white and at one time brown but no longer.

The exact origin of this breed is not certain. The Old English, in the 1800’s was used to drive cattle and sheep to market. They were considered “working class” dogs and thus were exempt from dog taxes. To prove they were not ordinary dogs, they had to have their tails docked. From that, they got the nickname “bobtail.” This was a strong dog, able to protect the sheep from predators such as wolves, keep them in line and drive them to market. The Old English Sheepdog was recognized by the AKC in 1905. Present dogs have a compact body and profusely dense coat. At one time, their coat was sheared in the spring and used for clothing, much the same as the sheep the dog herded. During the 1970 the Old English became a star in the media and popularity as a companion pet increased. It has since backed off quite a bit but not completely.


Not easy.—a bit stubborn and headstrong here. Patience and a clicker are needed. The dog might be a little sensitive so keep training positive and stay with it. They can learn, but in their own time. clicker training is tailor made for difficult and sensitive dogs and goes along with positive reinforcement. The whole process is simple and natural to the dog.

Crate Training
Want to crate train your Bobtail? Here's a link if you're interested in crate training your pup.

Potty Training

Old English Sheepdogs and puppies are generally fairly easy to house train, potty train, toilet train, housebreak or whatever you want to call it. If you have a puppy, decide if you want to crate or paper potty train it. For the best results, we have a page at Crate vs Paper Potty Training which will help you decide and from there you can get all the information you need to get the job done. Always praise the pup profusely when she goes potty in the RIGHT PLACE so she knows she has done a good thing. Either method will work for this breed.

If you have an older dog, take the dog outside every two hours until she gets the idea which door leads to her potty area. Older dogs catch on to the potty or housebreaking pretty fast once they are shown what to do.


The Old English Sheepdog is not just a superb herding dog. At home, she’s a fun-loving, playful, gentle and affectionate ton of fuzz. She is well-behaved and tolerant with children, other pets and people she doesn't know. The Old English can be fun and even funny. One walked up to me recently and put her huge paw out for me to shake but I was holding a box. She started pounding my leg and hopping around to get my attention. I put the box down and shook her paw. Once satisfied, she rolled on her back, kicking her enormous legs. A silly dog and I was a total stranger. The Old English Sheepdog thrives on human companionship and must be kept in the house with her family as the dog is very devoted and protective. The dog looks at children as her “flock” and might try to herd them if not trained properly. Some can be stubborn and headstrong when they want.

If you happen to get an OED with separation anxiety problem, that can be dealt with by investing a few hours of work on your part and some "tough love."

Friendly Toward Other Dogs

Yes, usually good with other dogs. Not really aggressive.

Friendly Toward Other Pets

Yes, very good. Friendly, no aggression, gets along with everything. May want to “herd” your rabbits around a bit.

Friendly Toward Strangers

Yes, likes people. Bring on the relatives and neighbors.


Moderate to quite playful. The dog is bouncy and can act silly, even rambunctious.


Yes. Very affectionate big girl. One of her strongest qualities.

Good with children

Yes, very good. They love children and enjoy their company. Very tolerant and playful. Be careful, this heavy dog can do accidental harm to small children.

Good with Seniors over 65?

Yes, this big ball of fur is so affectionate and gentle that as long as the senior is onto walking and can drive a car to the vet’s office, the Old English Sheepdog would be a terrific companion and best buddy for seniors.

Living environment

Apartment, condo, house, farm as long as she gets her exercise and a daily outing or two.

The dog could use a medium size fenced yard where a ball could be thrown for exercise.

Energy level

Moderate energy. Rate this dog about 6 bars out of 10.


Exercise needs, daily

Moderate. One or two good walks or some vigorous outdoor play time will do it. I have also seen Old English Sheepdogs jogging with her human in a park and along hiking trails.


Fairly good. She’s so friendly it's hard to say. A male would possibly be better.

Guard dog

Somewhat. The male would probably be, more protection. This just isn’t a dangerous breed.


Yes. I played with an Old English Sheepdog and ended up with fur all over me.


The Old English Sheepdog requires a lot of work. Brush at LEAST every other day. You may need to use a comb too. Brush and comb daily when shedding. The fur is very fine and long. It mats quickly; don’t let it get out of hand.



Suggested Reading For The Old English Sheepdog

The book on the right is by the American Red Cross and deals with dog health, emergencies and injuries. It's a valuable reference manual for all dog owners. Vol 21, 2008, includes a DVD.


Old English Sheepdog Breeders

In the event you decide to go looking for Old English Sheepdog puppies, be SURE to find reputable breeders that really know what they are doing. Be sure the puppy has been well socialized and started in obedience training.
Old English Sheepdog Breeders with puppies for sale.

Old English Sheepdog Rescue

In the event you are seriously considering the adoption of an older dog and are looking for an Old English Sheepdog Rescue group or groups in your state, here are several links that might help:
Petfinder - Dog Rescue - (Nationwide) I just check Petfinder. They are only showing 43 Old English Sheepdogs available for adoption in the entire country. I'm sure there are more if you go online.
Adopt A Pet This seems to be a rare breed. Surf the web with "Old English Sheepdog Rescue" groups, kennels, adoption and any other words you can think of, as there must be more dogs available.


Dog Health Issues For The Old English Sheepdog
Below: The dog illness / illnesses or medical problems as listed for the Old English Sheepdog by various vets.

This is basically a healthy breed. Don’t let the list below scare you! Your own dog will probably never have ANY of these problems. These are dog illness and medical issues this breed is prone to that have been listed by various veterinarians at different times over the past decade or so and some pertain to puppies and very young dogs that a breeder would deal with.

The information contained herein has been gathered from numerous books by veterinarians and is intended as general information only. Every dog and situation is different. You must see your vet. Our information is for general interest only and not intended to replace the advice provided by your own veterinarian.

  • Demodicosis—A skin disease known as “Red Mange.” Loss of hair, itching, reddening of skin and areas can become crusty. Sometimes cured with topical creams. May spread. Treatment is in the form of medications.

  • Hip dysplasia - Hind end limping, back leg acts lame. Wear and time causes the femur to fit poorly into the pelvic socket with improper rotation causing great pain, lameness and difficulty walking for the Old English Sheepdog. You may notice the dog “hopping”” like a rabbit when running plus hesitating to climb stairs, all due to pain in the hind quarters. The problem actually starts as a very young puppy with an abnormal formation of the hip joint and grows progressively. A vet can locate this with a diagnostics test.

  • Portosystemic shunt—Can be hereditary in Old English Sheepdog's. Incorrect flow of blood from the gastrointestinal tract to the liver causing unclean blood toxins to bypass the liver and it’s cleansing function. Since the liver can not detoxify properly, the toxins cause health problems in the body. Most cases will show lethargy, disorientation, depression, weakness, throwing up, hyperactivity and maybe seizures, as well as diarrhea. Treatment can come in the form of medical, dietary or surgical, depending on the individual dog, age and severity of the case and finances.

  • Gastric Torsion—Sometimes called Dog Bloat or “Twisted stomach.” Mainly in larger, deep-cheated dogs. Here's a brief description of the problem:
    Symptoms include excessive drooling, nervous pacing, agitation, weakness, attempt to vomit, bulging stomach area, heavy breathing, retching and gagging, shock or total collapse.

  • Cervical Vertebral Instability—”Wobblers” A narrowing of the cervical vertebrae, also known as Wobblers Syndrome and found in large dogs linked to heredity and possibly nutrition. The dog will have trouble standing, as the rear legs will be affected first with lack of coordination. Then the front legs will weaken, spread a bit and the dog’s walk will be “wobbly.” The disease is noticed at about 3 to 5 years of age in the Dobie,. Treatment comes by medicine and as a last resort for severe cases, specialized surgery.

  • Otitis externa—Inflammation and infection of the outer ear, especially dogs with long, floppy ear flaps. Dirt and moisture collect and breed yeast and bacteria. Ear hair and wax contribute to the infection environment. If left untreated it can become a serious infection. If at home treatments with cleaning and meds don't work and the problem worsens, surgery might be the last resort.

  • Cervical Vertebral Instability—A narrowing of the cervical vertebrae, also known as Wobblers Syndrome and found in large dogs linked to heredity and possibly nutrition. The Old English Sheepdog will have trouble standing, as the rear legs will be affected first with lack of coordination. Then the front legs will weaken, spread a bit and the dog’s walk will be “wobbly.” The disease is noticed at about 3 to 5 years of age in the Dobie,. Treatment comes by medicine and as a last resort for severe cases, specialized surgery. This is kind of rare among Old English Sheepdogs.

  • Retinal dysplasia—Caused by trauma, hereditary or damage from an infection. Abnormal development of the retina with folds in the outer layers. The folds are small and may not bother the dog, however, larger obstructions can lead to blindness. Retinal dysplasia is a congenital problem that does not necessarily worsen with age.

  • Cataracts - Hazy or cloudy vision similar to humans and will eventually cause total blindness if not treated.

  • Entropion—Eye irritation caused by the eyelids and lashes rolling inward. The problem is usually inherited and found in young, adult dogs. It can come from an eyelid spasm. Affected eyes will be held partially shut and tear excessively. Both eyes will usually be affected the same. Treatment for the condition requires eye surgery.

  • Deafness—Hereditary or caused by: Excessive loud noise, Intolerance to anesthesia, drug toxicity, and Otitis (middle ear infection), In some cases, one ear can have no hearing from birth and the other ear can be losing the ability to hear over time, undetected, then suddenly one morning the hearing is totally gone. There is no reversing once that happens.

  • Atopic dermatitis's—Hereditary. Shows at 1 to 3 years age. Skin allergy triggered by dust mites, pollen, poor quality foods and other garbage we put into the dog’s environment. Many breeds are prone to this. The dog will lick, rub, chew and scratch the infected areas. Allergens can also come from fleas, bacteria and yeast infections. See your vet. There are many treatments ranging from medicines, antihistamines, diets, bathing, cleansing the house of dust mites and so on.

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy—An inherited, untreatable disease of the retina affecting both eyes causing total blindness. It’s in the genes of the dog and is not painful. Starts with night blindness and progresses as the retina gradually deteriorates.

  • Demodicosis—Demodectic mange—In the form of a parasite. A skin disease known as “Red Mange.” Loss of hair, itching, reddening of skin and areas can become crusty. Sometimes cured with topical creams. May spread. Treatment is in the form of medications and sometimes special bathing liquids.

  • Cerebellar ataxia—Cerebral Ataxia. A hereditary problem of cell degeneration in the cerebellum of the brain. This is called hereditary ataxia when just one cell type degenerates and the dog can still walk and she can live with the disability. More severe cases will totally incapacitate the dog. I can not find any evidence of a cure for this.

  • Hypothyroidism—An underactive thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone which reduces the dog's metabolism level. Hypothyroidism stems from the dog’s immune system attacking the tissues of the thyroid gland. Bottom line is the dog becomes symptomatic. The cause can be a predisposition for thyroid problems, air pollution and allergies. A FEW symptoms of the disorder include lethargy, weight gain, skin infections, dry skin, hair loss, slow heart rate, ear infections, depression. See your set right away.

  • Tricuspid valve dysplasia—Hereditary. Malformation of the tricuspid valve in the heart allowing a backflow of blood, or “tricuspid regurgitation. Narrowing of the valve is also possible. The heart is working inefficiently. The dog may have cold limbs, no tolerance for exercise and a distended abdomen as the liver enlarges and may collapse. In severe cases, the dog may develop right-sided heart failure. Mainly a problem for the breeder of Old English Sheepdogs.

  • The Old English Sheepdog is sensitive to a commonly used parasitic called "ivermectin" which should be used with caution.

  • Diabetes—The pancreas manufactures the hormone INSULIN. If the pancreas stops making, or makes less than the normal amount of insulin, or if the tissues in the body become resistant to the insulin, the result is called “diabetes.” The dog can NOT control her blood sugar without injections of insulin on a regular basis, but given the insulin, the dog can live a normal life like a human can. If the dog does not receive the insulin injections at the same time each day of her life, the Old English Sheepdog will go into a coma and she will die. Some causes of diabetes may be chronic pancreatitis, heredity, obesity or old age, but no one is sure. Symptoms are excess drinking and urination, dehydration, weight loss, increased appetite, weight gain, and cataracts may develop suddenly. Treatment is in the form of the insulin injections daily and a strict diet low in carbohydrates and sugars. Home cooking may be suggested in some cases. Frequent trips to the vet for blood monitoring will be needed but diabetes is not a death sentence.

  • Atrial septal defect (ASD - Hereditary. A hole between the right and left of the atria, or separation, of two of the heart chambers. Obviously, not a good thing to have for the Old English Sheepdog. Causes abnormal blood flow. A tiny hole will not affect the dog. A larger hole can lead to right-sided heart failure. Breathing problems, fainting, inability to tolerate exercise and even sudden death can follow. Treatment includes medication, diet and sometimes surgery.

Other health problems could occur with your Old English Sheepdog. If you notice any problems with your dog, take it to the vet immediately. This website is for general information only and is not intended to, in any way, be a medical guide.


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