Is an Old English Sheepdog a dangerous dog?

When most people think of an Old English Sheepdog, they often envision the lovable, droopy-eyed, charming character from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, not to mention its countless appearances on TV sitcoms and films like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Indeed, the mop-like shaggy coat and the bouncy, effervescent nature of this breed seem to direct public opinion towards everything cute and cuddly, rather than vicious and scary. But, could there be a darker side to these big balls of fluff, and could the Old English Sheepdog be a dangerous dog? The short answer is no. But as with everything canine-related, there are nuances and considerations.

Simply put, dogs aren’t inherently dangerous or safe – their breed disposition, training, and socialization play a crucial part in how they behave. This leads us to delve deep into the character, temperament, and historial backdrop of the Old English Sheepdog to further unravel the truth.

What’s in the genes? The Old English Sheepdog (OES) as the name suggests, hails from England with records dating as far back as the early 19th century. It’s historically a drovers’ dog, used mainly to guide cattle and sheep to the market. Their thick double-coat served as protection from weather extremities and their robust, muscular build was perfect for driving stubborn livestock. Universally hailed as faithful working dogs, they are also known to be extremely intelligent, adaptable and sociable. Aggression or viciousness certainly doesn’t appear in their pre-set genetic coding.

Temperamentally speaking, an OES loves to be part of family activities, is gentle with children, adjusts well with other pets, and can be quite sociable with strangers as well. Their herding and drover instincts can sometimes translate to them being protective and watchful over their ‘flock’ or family, which might be construed as aggressive when it’s more about being cautious and protective. Make no mistake, though, left unchecked, this instinct could lead to undesirable behaviour like nipping at heels or over-protectiveness.

When it comes to trainability and adaptability, the Old English Sheepdog is a star. Known for their cognitive intelligence, they learn quickly and adapt well to new situations. However, their wit can sometimes translate into stubbornness and a slight streak of independence. The phrase “Old English Sheepdogs are like having a 90-pound toddler” aptly describes their underestimated mischievousness wrapped in a shaggy disguise.

As with any breed, an OES can become problematic if not trained, socialized, or treated well from a young age. Any indication of ‘aggression’ is often a reflection of inadequate training, mistreatment, or perhaps an attack of fear or nervous aggression in response to a situation that scares the dog.

So, how do you ensure that your Old English Sheepdog remains a gentle giant rather than transforming into a menace? First, it’s crucial to tackle any behavioural issue head-on through early training and socializing. Let your OES be accustomed to different environments, people, and animals from a young age. Focus on positive reinforcement training methods, rewarding desirable behavior with treats or praise. And let’s not forget consistency; set house rules and ensure every family member sticks to them.

Second, remember that an OES is a high-energy breed. Keeping them physically and mentally engaged through regular exercise and cognitive games is not only beneficial for their health but also helps the dog to relax and not resort to potentially destructive behavior out of boredom.

It also helps to take on the services of a professional trainer, particularly if you find that your dog’s behavior is becoming increasingly challenging. A professional trainer can help you understand your dog’s temperament and teach you how to respond accordingly.

To dispel health-related aggression or sudden behavior changes, schedule regular vet check-ups for your OES. Certain medical conditions can result in aggression, and your vet can assist you in diagnosing and addressing such issues.

Overall, an Old English Sheepdog is a loving, loyal, intelligent, and energetic breed that thrives when part of a loving family. They are protectors, not aggressors. Fearless, not dangerous. The key to bringing out the best in an OES, and any breed, is to understand their needs and provide a nurturing, enriching, and caring environment. With a well-adjusted family, appropriate training, and lots of fuzzy cuddles, an Old English Sheepdog will be nothing short of an amusing, devoted, and absolutely safe family member.