Old English Sheepdogs were bred mainly to be the perfect herders; their herding qualities allowed them to also become a wonderful protector and companion for their human family. Because herding dogs needed to understand commands and complex tasks, the Old English Sheepdog was bred to be intelligent; they are also intuitive, as this skill helped them to anticipate the moves of sheep and predators. They are extremely gentle, as farmers needed to be able to trust them around their defenseless flocks; loyalty was also bred into this dog, so that he would protect all that belonged to his master.
The transition from herding dog to family companion was apparently effortless for this canine. Indeed, they have become such an important, lovable part of the family that they have been considered "babysitters" or even "nannies" because of their sense of protection towards young children. They seem to have transferred their gentle, protective attitude towards sheep to the children in their human family. They are extremely loving and gentle but have a great sense of protection; thanks to their intuitive nature, they seem to sense that children are more defenseless than adult humans and need more care. There are a number of stories concerning the Old English Sheepdog's role as a nanny. They have been known to protect children by herding them into safe areas and making sure they remain there, as well as intentionally allowing a child who is learning to walk to lean on them.
Not only do they care for children, but they provide entertainment for children, as they are always willing to play and perform silly antics; indeed, this dog has often been called a "clown". This dog is extremely well-balanced and even tempered and, if properly bred and trained, will never get carried away with his young charges. Even when he tries to actually herd children, he never nips or scares them, but lightly bumps them. He is very dependable and can be trusted to protect children at all costs; indeed, breeders were aiming for a dog who was able to exercise self control both around the flock and to avoid chasing wild animals, which could distract the dogs from their job.
While the Old English Sheepdog is extremely protective and loving to his own family and his own children, it seems like his protective nature also extends to other children as well. In fact, the breed can often be found playing with and watching over all the neighborhood children. Often, the Old English Sheepdog has been called a "child" itself; adolescence can last until the breed reaches three years of age. His playfulness can last long after that, though. He is extremely trainable and so can make a wonderfully safe companion around the little ones.