The origins of the Old English Sheepdog (also known as Bobtail) has not been officially verified, but many believe it was introduced to the western part of England around 150 years ago.
There are experts who believe the Bearded Collie was among the first ancestors of this peculiar-looking dog. Bobtails were mainly used as to herd cattle and were considered working dogs. Nevertheless, Old English Sheepdogs quickly became popular show dogs and by the 20th century were bred by some of the wealthiest American families.
The breed has been the brand mascot for Dulux paint (Australian brand) since the early 1960s and through numerous advertisements in Australia, UK and South Africa Old English Sheepdogs are colloquially referred to as "Dulux Dogs".
The Old English Sheepdog is a strong, compact, square-shaped dog equipped with a deep and broad chest, and a large head. The nose of the Bobtail is generally black with majority of its face and eyes normally being covered by shaggy looking fur. The ears of the Old English Sheepdog lie flat to the head.
Historically, this breed had a docked tail (hence the nickname Bobtail) however it is now illegal to perform aesthetic docking and many dogs have a fluffy, hanging tail. The colour of this breed’s double coat may be any shade, including blue, grey or any other with white marking. All Bobtail puppies are born with a white and black fur which turns to the typical grey only after it first sheds. An interesting features in the breed is that the undercoat is waterproof. The average height and weight are not specified in the breed standards, however a Bobtail should be at least 24 in (61 cm) at the withers and weigh up to 101 lb (46 kg) in large males.
The Old English Sheepdog is very popular among families with children due to its gentle nature, intelligence and funny looks. If you’re thinking about adopting or purchasing this breed, make sure you only deal with reputable breeders who will be able to answer all of your questions about the lifestyle that would best suit this type of dog. Bobtails easily adjust to their owner’s living conditions: they are friendly towards strangers, kids and even other pets but they can be protective. Owners should always ensure they monitor the interaction and manage the introduction during socialisation which should start early on when the Bobtail is still a puppy.
The natural herding instinct of an Old English Sheepdog may be useful to potential owners that wish to use their pet as a working dog otherwise, it should be managed through training to avoid having a pooch that tries to herd family members. If you own an Old English Sheepdog there will never be a dull moment as this dog loves to be involved in family activities that require interacting with humans.
Being a long-haired breed, the Old English Sheepdog will need regular coat care in order to maintain its beautiful looks. You should take this aspect into consideration when thinking about buying this breed as your pet will require frequent and thorough brushing (at least once a week) to avoid the fur to tangle and accumulate dirt. Be sure to thoroughly inspect the eyes, ears and feet as thick hair covers all of these areas causing potential infections. You may want to consider taking your dog to a professional groomer so that the hair can be trimmed accordingly. Luckily, Bobtails will only shed when they are brushed so you won’t have to worry about your house being covered in fur.
Although the Old English Sheepdog is usually a healthy dog that can live up to 11 years old, it may suffer from diseases that are common among larger breeds such as hip dysplasia. There is not enough data yet to provide statistics on how many Bobtails are affected by certain health issues however some dogs have being affected by cataract, glaucoma, deafness, thyroid problems, diabetes and skin allergies. Cancer is unfortunately a major cause of death in the Old English Sheepdog. As always, regular vet checkups are vital to ensure your pet is healthy and happy.
As for any pet, it is essential that owners ensure a balanced diet for their Bobtail. Meals should never exceed the recommended amounts and based on the dog’s age (puppy, adult or senior), size and activity level. An experienced vet or the breeder may be able to recommend the best dog food for your pooch.
Given the working nature of the Old English Sheepdog it is easy to guess how your dog will thrive outdoors! A minimum of two good walks per day are required to keep your pet fit and mentally balanced: being forced indoors for too long will have a negative effect on its anxiety levels and weight. If you live near a park or in the countryside, try to take your Bobtail for a good run as this is among the activities it will prefer. Remember that this breed’s thick coat can affect its performance in extremely hot weather so be mindful not to allow your dog outside in the hottest hours of the day as it is inclined to suffer from heatstroke.
Remember, Old English Sheepdogs are intelligent hard-workers so physical exercise should be alternated with some mental stimulation or training. In fact, the breed excels in agility and obedience training, flyball and obviously herding events. If your Bobtail displays a strong herding instinct, you may want to channel its drive through herding trials. Regardless of the activity, you should consider choosing some kind of training for your dog as this will keep it alert and fit at the same time, and your relationship with your pooch will benefit from the time you will spend together.