How to Care for an Old English Sheepdog

by Judith Willson

With their shaggy appearance and generally sociable nature, Old English sheepdogs seem to make good family pets, and the American Kennel Club describes them as a particularly intelligent breed. However, like many pedigree dogs, they are prone to a few medical conditions. As you might expect of a dog with such long fur, Old English sheepdogs also require a lot of grooming. Along with the time and money you must commit to any dog, you should allow a couple of extra hours a week for grooming and checking for medical issues if you decide to adopt a member of this breed.

Step 1

Feed your sheepdog a good quality dry food once or twice a day, supplemented with some canned food if desired. This breed doesn’t have special dietary requirements and a balanced dog food should be fine. Don’t give in to begging as obesity causes serious health problems in dogs. Your vet can provide a diet sheet for elderly or ill dogs.

Step 2

Walk your sheepdog for about one hour every day and spend as much time with him as possible. Old English sheepdogs were bred as working dogs; as a result, aside from the necessity for exercise, they need mental stimulation. Walks in different places, plenty of interaction with you and your family and, if you like, advanced training such as herding and agility classes should all help provide what this breed needs. Regular access to a securely fenced yard would also be appreciated. Do not, however, over-walk your dog, especially when he is young and his bones are still developing. Two or three hours of walking with you is about the maximum. Don’t force him to walk or run once he tires. If he has access to a yard, he can exercise further as he feels the need.

Step 3

Prepare for grooming at least twice a week. Assemble what you need beforehand. The basics are a wide-toothed comb, a brush or finer comb, a spray bottle of water, a pair of scissors, a set of pet nail-clippers and cotton balls.

Step 4

Spray the dog’s fur with water to dampen. Combing or brushing a dry coat is difficult and could lead to you pulling on the fur painfully.

Step 5

Carefully comb out any developing mats, starting at the tip and working through to the root.

Step 6

Brush or comb all the rest of the fur, making partings as necessary.

Step 7

Trim fur that is falling over your dog’s eyes and the fur growing between the pads of his feet as necessary.

Step 8

Check the dog’s eyes and ears. If you notice a discharge or an unpleasant smell, make an appointment with your vet. Carefully wipe away crusts around the eyes with a dampened cotton ball.

Step 9

Consider getting your dog’s hair clipped to about 1 inch in length. This makes grooming much easier and could make your pet more comfortable, especially in hot weather. Professional groomers regularly clip dogs, and the procedure needs repeating only every couple of months.

Step 10

Clip the nails as necessary, being careful not to cut into the quick.

Items You Will Need

  • Dry food
  • Canned food
  • Spray bottle
  • Wide-toothed comb
  • Brush for long-haired breeds
  • Cotton balls
  • Pet nail clippers

Tips

  • During the grooming routine, and generally, look out for any changes in your dog’s body, especially the eyes, ears and joints, and in his behavior. Make a veterinary appointment if you notice anything amiss. In particular, look out for the signs of mange, hip problems, urinary incontinence and vision impairment.
  • If you are unsure about any aspect of grooming your sheepdog, perhaps trimming the nails or cleaning the ears, ask your vet or a professional dog groomer to show you the procedure. Although regular professional grooming can work out to be rather expensive, one or two visits could be a worthwhile investment.

Warnings

  • Please note that the above is intended as an introduction, not a detailed care guide. Aside from books, good places to find more information on looking after an Old English Sheepdog, or any other breed, include the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the American Kennel Club, your vet and the animal sanctuary or breeder the dog came from.
  • Supervise your sheepdog with very small children, especially when the dog is young. The American Kennel Club suggests that the natural herding instinct of this breed could lead to him gently nipping or accidentally pushing over small children.
  • Never buy a puppy from a pet store or online. You might be inadvertently supporting puppy mills -- which involve the cruel overbreeding of dogs. Always adopt dogs or puppies from animal sanctuaries or reputable breeders in your area. Note that there are charities that specialize in rehoming particular breeds.

About the Author

Judith Willson has been writing since 2009, specializing in environmental and scientific topics. She has written content for school websites and worked for a Glasgow newspaper. Willson has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.