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The Old English Sheepdog is a breed of dog used for herding livestock and as a pet. They are best known for their shaggy grey and white fur which also covers their face, including their eyes. With very few exceptions, the OES's tail is cut off at or below the first joint as puppies. The procedure, known as docking or "bobbing" the tail produces the panda-like rear end. Puppies are born with jet black and white fur further likening them to the panda. It is only after the puppy coat has been shed that the more common gray or silver shaggy hair appears. A nickname for the OES is "bobtail." AKC breed regulations require showing only dogs with bobbed tails. In some areas, they are often known as a Dulux dog, as a result of their long-running use in advertising Dulux paint.
This breed is intelligent, funny, social, and adaptable which means can live outside and inside, although they sometimes seem to not be all that intelligent on first impressions. It generally gets along well with children, other dogs, other pets, and visitors. Like all herding breeds, it requires plenty of exercise, both mental and physical. They are bubbly and playful, and some times may be stubborn, depending on their mood. Sheepdogs are excellent, intuitive and loving companions, even earning the title "babysitter" or "Dear Nanny" around young children. The herding instinct that has been carried down through the generations is astonishing. They have been known to not only herd livestock, but also their family members. They will push (not bite or nip) any family member away from dangerous objects and people. These animals are gentle with other dogs and are always willing to play with you.
Prior to the acquisition of an OES, thought should be given to the extensive grooming required. The long coat protects not only from the cold, but from mild heat and sun as well. It is not necessary to keep the hair long over the eyes unless you are showing the dog. Some who show their dogs, use a band to hold the hair out of the dog's eyes when at home. Remember, if you cannot see the eyes then the dog can not see well either. The hair over the eyes can be kept even with the rest of the coat when it is trimmed. Like all dogs, they are prone to cataracts as they age but there is no evidence that they are more prone due to trimmed hair.
The long coat requires thorough brushing at least weekly and can take an hour or longer to perform. The preferred method involves starting from the base of the hairs to keep the thick undercoat hair mat and tangle free. The brushing should be started at a very young age to get the dog used to it. Brushing only over the top of the longer outside (guard) hairs can compact the undercoat and promote mats. The dense undercoat between the pads of the feet, behind the ears, and at the base of the legs are especially prone to matting. Trimming the hair between the toes and the ball of the foot is especially important. Matting of the dog's coat is uncomfortable and can even be painful for the animal. For those who can not devote so much time to grooming, and are not really interested in showing their dogs, trimming the dog's coat in the springtime with a professional electric shear is a great solution.
If you live in an area with hot summers and take the dog on outdoor outings, trimming is vital to avoid dangerous overheating. 1/4" or 1/2" inch are practical lengths, and will take the coat down to the soft hair beneath the matting. The dog will also become very excited and frisky after shedding his heavy winter coat. By the time winter comes around, the coat will be completely full again for protection against the cold weather. Along with the sometimes stubborn temperament as noted above, the grooming requirements should give a first time dog owner pause and consider a breed that is easier to maintain, Matting of hair inside the ear canal is normal, and can easily be removed by a veterinarian or by the use of a hemostat by the owner. Clean the inside of the ears and underside of the ear flaps regularly with "Oti-Clens" (Pfizer) or other recommended solution. Some people save their Sheepdog's hair from grooming and have spun it into yarn.
Originating 200 years ago in England's West Country, the Old English sheepdog was first known only as "The Shepherd's Dog." When wolves still prowled the English countryside, farmers needed a breed of dog that would protect their flocks. While the Old English sheepdog's origins remain a mystery, there are many theories, most of which favor a link with the Bearded Collie or the Russian Owtchar. By the mid-19th century, the Old English sheepdog's role was confined to herding, and its fiercer characteristics began to disappear. As a working animal, the sheepdog was exempt from the English dog tax. Proof of the dog's occupation was a docked tail. This is a custom that continues today and has given rise to the breed's nickname, "bobtail." Farmers in the 19th century sheared their sheepdogs along with their sheep and used the profuse coat to make blankets and clothing. This coat makes the dog sufficiently cold-tolerant that it has been employed to herd reindeer. First exhibited in England in 1873, the breed was recognized by the AKC in 1905 and has since become a very popular exhibit. In the 1970s, television began to showcase the exotic-looking dog with the loving and lovable nature, causing its popularity to skyrocket.
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