Currently used as a companion dog, the Old English Sheepdog has qualities which may surprise those who evaluate him only by his appearance.
In Brazil, with the additional popularity of a character from a TV show for children (character presents a TV Dog show, and is dressed as a female Sheepdog), the Old English Sheepdog has a distinctive appearance, an exuberant coat which hides his eyes, and a considerable size. Because of his sweet and affectionate temperament, it is an excellent companion.
The Sheepdog also offers owners qualities that are inherent to his original function as a herding dog: protect those he considers his flock. The breed appeared in the beginning of the 18th century, in England, during the industrial revolution, when sheep provided wool, the raw material for the emerging textile industry. The Sheepdog helped by tending the flock, preventing any sheep to leave the group, and defending from the attack of wolves and other predators. This activity was favored by his robust body, dense two-ply coat which made it difficult for oponents to bite him, and also made him very resistent to rain, and hot and cold weather, for it worked as a thermal isolator.
When herding, dogs were treated like the flock. While an urban Sheepdog is brushed and groomed periodically, the dogs in the fields would go a whole year without this care, so, the tangled hair was trimmed along with the hair of the sheep once a year, and equally used.
The Sheepdog loves the outdoor living. That is why Murilo Abrantes, from Kennel Pine House, in Teresópolis, Rio de Janeiro, and breeder for over 15 years, thinks it is fundamental taht this dog doesn't say confined into 4 walls.
The Sheepdog's coat can be used in the artistic textile production; this is done with other dogs in the scandinavian countries, too. Breeder Miriam Borba from Kennel Suffolk, Porto Alegre, RS, has already made wool clothing using the Sheepdog's wool. She explains that "only the inner ply is appropriate to be used. When brushing, it is the finer hair that sticks to brush. It can be turned into thread and weaved in a loom or worked on with needles. Two years of daily brushing are enough to gather material for a sweater." The result is admired for the natural gray tones, typical of the breed.
As to breeding in Brazil, it is still modest, and "most individuals from our stock lack the dense coat and the robust structure of the European individuals," evaluates Miriam.
The FCI official standard, based on the English standard, and followed, in Brazil, by CBKC, is very similar to the AKC standard. Though the main difference is the minimum size allowed, bigger in the FCI standard (61cm in males, and 56cm in females; instead of 55,8cm in males, and 53,3 in the females by AKC standard), there are no significant differences today. As for coat color, the Americans accept small white markings on the gray parts, and those are not wished for in the FCI standard.
Temperament: Easy-going, docile, cheerful,
companion, with no trace of aggressivenes, shyness or nervousness.
Coat:Thick, rough two-ply coat. Density is more important than length.
Eyes: Dark brown, blue, or one brown and one blue.
Special Care:Baths every other week, weekly combing and brushing.
Surgeries:Tail is usually amputated (that is why it is also known as Bobtail). Tail is operated by the 4th day, and ergots are also eliminated at this time.
Purchase of Puppy: It is born white, with black or dark gray spots, acquiring permanent coloring gradually until 2 years old, age when it stops growing. Nose pigmentation and coat can only be better observed after 5 months.
Colors:Gray, grayish or blue. Body and hindlegs in uniform color, with or without white in the extremities of legs. Brown is not desired.
We would like to thank our colaborators for interviews and
text reviewing, which was also done by Hilda Drumond.
Research and text: Jorge Bechara. Text editor: Marcos Pennacchi
Picture: Paulo A. M. Fasanella e Luis Prado
Owner: Canil Campos Nevados (Adult) and Canil Hunter's Moon (puppy)