Old English Sheepdog Temperament
What's Good About 'Em,
What's Bad About 'Em
Old English Sheepdog Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2015
2015 Westminster Dog Show Winner
Good-natured and sociable, enthusiastic and bumptious, the Old English Sheepdog does best in the suburbs or country, with at least an hour of daily exercise and space to move.
The OES (or "Sheepie") loves people, can be quite the clown, and is demanding of attention. If left without the companionship of humans or other pets, he will become unhappy and destructive.
Most Old English Sheepdogs are polite with strangers. They make sensible watchdogs with a deep, ringing bark, but they are not guard dogs. In fact, there is timidity and skittishness in some lines, sharpness in others. Extensive socialization is important to develop a confident, stable temperament.
Like other herding breeds, a few Old English Sheepdogs may try to "herd" children and other pets by circling, poking, or nipping a them. However, since the vast majority of Old English Sheepdogs are bred to be show dogs or pets, rather than working sheepdogs, their herding instincts are typically diminished or absent.
The rustic Old English Sheepdog is not for fastidious households -- he tracks in mud, splashes in his water bowl, and affectionately thrusts his wet and/or dirty beard into your lap. Some individuals drool.
If you want a dog who...
- Is enthusiastic, bouncy, and bumptious, and loves to romp and play
- Makes a sensible watchdog, but is usually not aggressive with strangers
- Is usually peaceful with other pets
- Is shaggy (unless clipped)
An Old English Sheepdog may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- An extremely careful search to avoid highstrung, neurotic, nasty Old English Sheepdogs
- Rowdiness and exuberant jumping, especially when young
- Strong-willed mind of his own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge
- Slobbering and drooling in some individuals
- Shedding (average)
- Lots of grooming: either regular brushing or regular clipping
- "Shaggy dog syndrome," i.e. debris clinging to the coat, water soaking into the beard and dripping on your floors
- Gassiness (flatulence)
An Old English Sheepdog may not be right for you.
- choosing the RIGHT breeder and the RIGHT puppy
- or choosing an ADULT dog from your animal shelter or rescue group – a dog who has already proven that he doesn't have negative traits
- training your dog to respect you
- avoiding health problems by following my daily care program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy
More traits and characteristics of the Old English Sheepdog
If I was considering an Old English Sheepdog, I would be most concerned about...
- Unstable temperaments. Unless carefully bred by people who know how to produce good-tempered dogs, Old English Sheepdogs are quite susceptible to genetically bad temperaments. Obedience instructors and behavioral consultants see too many Old English Sheepdogs with neurotic behaviors, including biting, sharpness, extreme fearfulness, hyperactivity, and general nastiness.
- Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. Old English Sheepdogs MUST have regular opportunities to vent their energy and do interesting things. Otherwise they will become rambunctious and bored – which they usually express by barking and destructive chewing. Bored Old English Sheepdogs can make a shambles of your house and yard.
- Grooming. You must be willing to either brush and comb the long coat, or regularly clip it short. Either way, coat care is a major consideration with this breed.
- Shedding. Shedding is about average, though if you leave the coat long, the shed hairs get caught in the long hair and only come out when you brush. If you clip the coat short, your brushing chores become minimal, but then the shed hair has freer access to fall out onto your floor and furniture. So it's a trade-off.
- "Shaggy dog syndrome." If you leave the coat long, be aware that like all shaggy dogs, the Old English Sheepdog is a messy dog. Leaves, mud, snow, fecal matter, and other debris cling to his rough coat and ends up all over your house. When he drinks, his beard absorbs water, which drips on your floors when he walks away. When he eats, his beard absorbs food so that when he sniffs your face or presses his head against your leg, YOU end up dirty, too. Big shaggy dogs are not suited to fastidious housekeepers.
- Slobbering. Some Old English Sheepdogs tend to slobber or drool, especially around mealtimes.
- Gassiness (flatulence) that can send you running for cover. However, Old English Sheepdogs who are fed properly have less trouble with gassiness.
- Stubbornness. Old English Sheepdogs have an independent mind of their own. Some individuals are willful, obstinate, and dominant (they want to be the boss) and will make you prove that you can make them do things. You must show them that you mean what you say, which is accomplished by establishing the right relationship where you are the leader and your dog is the follower.
In other words, you must teach your Old English Sheepdog to respect you. A dog who respects you will do what you say and will stop what he's doing when you tell him "No."
My book Teach Your Dog 100 English Words, gives you a unique vocabulary to use with your dog AND teaches my Respect Training Program. Your dog will look at you when you speak and do what you say. Not just when he's hungry for a treat or feels like it. But all the time. Because he respects you.
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