Old English Sheepdog
The Old English Sheepdog is one of the most regal presences at any conformation event; he is truly a dog that stands out. He is a strong dog with a compact, balanced body that is square in shape. Though he is quite muscular and thickset with a profuse coat, he is very agile. He must give the impression of being a capable shepherd or drover's dog and of even disposition. The typical bark of the Old English Sheepdog is loud and has a "pot-casse" (broken pot) ring to it.
Typical males are at least 22 inches in height, while females are at least 21 inches in height. The height of the dog should be roughly the same as its length and the dog must have a good amount of bone and muscle. Judges will especially be looking for proportion and balance, rather than absolute dimensions. The dog must have an expression that is intelligent, with eyes that are blue or brown; dogs with one eye brown and one eye blue are also accepted. If the eyes are blue, judges prefer to see a "pearl" or "china" color, while if they are brown, they should be a very dark brown. Yellow eyes are also seen in the dog, though these are not preferred and could be faulted. [...]
Like many of today's dogs that have the benefit of dedicated breeders whose goal is the betterment of the breed, Old English Sheepdogs do not often suffer from a large number of inherited health problems. Despite this, though, there are some conditions that are occasionally seen in the breed and that can sometimes cause worry. Among these health issues there are a variety of conditions grouped under the category of autoimmune diseases.
The immune system is vital in protecting an animal's body from foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria; it acts somewhat like an army, attacking any cells that enter the body which do not belong in the body. Its action depends on the fact that it can recognize what cells belong to the body of an animal and what cells don't. When an animal has an autoimmune disease, something malfunctions in the immune system's capability to distinguish what is "self" and what is "non-self"; the immune system views some part of the body of the animal as foreign and believes it is a threat, attacking it. An autoimmune disease can involve a single organ, a certain area of the body, or the entire body; the severity of the condition is dependent on how large an area and what vital organs are involved. [...]
Docking the tail of dogs has become a controversial topic, though the practice is quite old; indeed, there are even engravings and drawings going back to Assyrian times showing dogs with both docked tails and ears. The original reasons for docking a dog's tail are varied, but most involved trying to avoid the dog's pain while he was working. For example, dogs who spent a great deal of time working in fields could inadvertently pick up things like foxtails and burrs on their tails; these items would cause a great deal amount of pain, possibly distracting the dog from working efficiently. The injuries inflicted by foxtails and burrs were also at a risk for infection, which could lead to health risks in the dog, decreasing his ability to work. Breeds with long coats could become soiled with feces and/or urine and this could lead to insects and infection, again affecting a dog's potential to work. [...]
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. [...]
Herding is an ancient practice, going back to before the beginnings of true civilization; it consists in making sure individual animals form a group, stay in the group, and move as a group from one place to another. People originally performed this function, though they quickly learned to use the instinctive behavior of the dog (the wolf, in his hunting escapades, mimics herding); indeed, the dog soon became an essential aid to the shepherd for herding, protecting, and transporting flocks and herds.
There are a number of different herding dog breeds, some older than others; some dogs also act as livestock guardian dogs, protecting the herd from dangerous predators. Some dogs either herd or protect, but do not often do both. Some herding dogs were bred to work with specific animals, such as sheep or cattle, while others were bred to work with a variety of livestock.
The Old English Sheepdog was bred as a herding dog, though he was also called on to protect his charges from fierce animals such as wolves. He was mainly used to herd sheep, though he also worked well with cattle; the breed has also been put to use herding reindeer, thanks to his tolerance of cold weather. After a period of time, the Old English Sheepdog was also used to drive his master's sheep and cattle to market. [...]
As mentioned, the Old English Sheepdog is a relatively healthy breed; this does not mean, though, that it does not suffer from some health issues, many of which have a genetic component. One of these conditions, which is common in other large breed dogs as well, is Bloat; some confusion exists regarding the actual name of this condition, as it can also be called Gastric Torsion or Gastric Dilation-Volvulus (GDV). This is not a disease to be taken lightly, as a good number of dogs that suffer from it die, often quickly; treatment can be complicated and may not always turn out positively. [...]
Old English Sheepdogs are touted as one of the best canine companions. They are lovable, loyal, fun to be around and they are great with children; they are so great that they have been nicknamed "The Nanny". They have been called "jolly" and a "clown"; they are quite intelligent and can be trained to do virtually anything. Indeed, they have excelled at a wide variety of jobs throughout their history. Despite all these positive accolades given to the breed, though, there are still some individuals who are wary of owning an Old English Sheepdog, given some of the complaints registered for the breed. [...]
The Old English Sheepdog may also suffer from conditions that are not genetic; one of these conditions is heatstroke, which can be common in dogs that have dense, profuse coats, especially if they live in areas where the temperatures get high. Dogs that engage in strenuous activity are at an especially high risk for heat stroke; while older dogs might naturally calm down on hot days, puppies must be looked after because they will have a tendency to play heartily, regardless of temperature.
If your dog spends a great deal of time outdoors, heatstroke is a serious concern. You should provide ample amounts of shade, water for drinking, and possibly some kind of container large enough in which the dog can wade and cool off his entire body. The best thing to do is make sure your dog stays indoors, in the air conditioning, as much as possible. [...]
The overwhelming opinion of most dog fanciers is that Old English Sheepdogs make wonderful companions. They love to be with their humans, curling up on the couch or taking a walk; they are full of energy but are not obnoxious. They are very intelligent and easily trained, but they have a strong will so they keep you on your toes. As with any breed, if you properly research the needs and temperament of the Old English Sheepdog and know what you're getting yourself into, living with this big teddy bear can be quite a positive experience. [...]
The Old English Sheepdog is often referred to as the "Dulux dog"; this is because since the 1960s, it has been the well-known mascot of Dulux brand paint, appearing in television commercials and advertisements in print. Different dogs have appeared in the advertisements, but they all look very similar given the fact that most were chosen from a certain pedigree line; actually, many of the Dulux dogs have won "Best in Show" prizes. The most famous Dulux dog was Fernville Lord Digby, affectionately referred to as Digby; he was given diva treatment and made his owner famous as well. The famous English dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse was given the task of training Digby and his stunt doubles. [...]