Looking at the history of the Old English Sheepdog gives an impression that the breed was
in a better shape many years ago that it is today. We ought to remember that first there was
"the breed". That meant that there were enough dogs that looked alike to enable them to be
called "A Breed", and the first breed standard was a description of those dogs. Every change
to those original breed standards has been made because hardly anyone (or at best very few)
could still breed the real Old English Sheepdogs. People gave up trying to follow the breed
standard and instead chose an easier way; they changed the standard. The changes in the breed
standard have been made neither for modernizing the language nor to make it easier to
understand. They have been made mostly because the Old English Sheepdog did not fit it
The breed was then and still is a herder. The Old English Sheepdog was big enough to be a
drover and a guard dog and small enough for herding. As in all other breeds for the same
purpose the size was "medium". The coat for the Bobtail was a good, weather protective double
coat; and the long rear legs made it possible for quick turns and high jumps over the
flocks and hedges.
The breed is suffering from so many illnesses and inheritance faults:
EYES: cataract, CEA, PPM, PHTVL, entropium, ectropium, PRA.
EARS: deafness- full or one side.
BONES: hip dysplasia, loose joints, OCD, arthritis, spondylosis.
SKIN: SA, food, contact and dust allergies.
ENDOCRINOLOGY: cardiomyopathy, hypo- and hyper thyrosis, v. Willebrand plus many
autoimmune diseases such as haemolytic anaemia to mention but some.
For the breed to advance I believe that we must first take some backward steps. It is sad
that we place so much importance on all kinds of show, obedience and agility results. We
ought to be much more concerned about the health of the breed.
Showing dogs is a hobby that can swallow you completely and become an addiction if you are
not careful. But when at it's best, showing is a really fascinating hobby. As a judge myself
I don't want to judge too often, because I'm naive enough to think that people really want
to show me their dogs to get an opinion. I don't want to give my opinion of the same dogs
over and over again, and I dare to believe that this is how most judges think. That is why
I do not show my dogs under the same judge over and over again in the short term . I do show
a dog again to someone who liked the dog when they first judged it; but after a few years so
they can see how the dog has developed. That in my opinion gives all of us the best value
Today we often see judges in the show ring measuring the pigmentation around the eyes.
We'll see them "listening" to the sound of the coat, but hardly ask the dog to move. The
massive, excessive coat is too often the one that counts. So many judges seldom ask people
to show their dogs on the loose leash even though that is the only way to see how the dog
is moving and at the same time see the faults and good points of a dog's anatomy. So few
want to see them run around more than once and that is why the winner is so often the one
who makes the nicest picture when standing.
I think that all kind of 'best-dog-here-and-there' point counting has taking the fun
out of showing dogs. Dog shows have become much too serious. I remember the time about
thirty years ago when there were less dog shows and they were much smaller. Most of the
"regulars" from other breeds knew each other. We had time to watch the judging of their
breeds and they watched ours. We discussed differences in the breeds and we learned so
much about their breeds and that made us understand our own breed better. Today many
people come to the dog shows to win, to collect points for some list and if they are
not winning they often go home before the Best Of Breed has been chosen. They have no
interest what so ever in other breeds.
In many countries it is too easy to get the champion title for your dog. In Finland there
are too many dog shows with only few, unfortunately often the same, dogs competing against
each other. If one really wants to have a title for a bobtail they only need money and time.
Exaggerated grooming has also become a normality for the show ring. When potential puppy
buyers see all that fuss around dogs at the shows, no wonder they nowadays choose some
other breed that is easier to take care of . The Old English Sheepdog is the only herding
breed in which it is not necessary for the dog to really see to do it's job, and yet we
groom the coat in front of the dog¹s face and eyes so that we are not able to see the
expression that according to the standard is very important. I cannot understand why
in our breed the brushing is not off face like on Bearded Collies, Briards, Owtcharkas, etc.
In my opinion far too many people don't realize that The Bobtail is a dog not a teddy bear
or a living panda; and that means trouble. There is hardly ever perfect weather for OES
owner in Scandinavia. The Summer can be too hot or too cold; or raining cats and dogs all
day long. It is the same with Autumn, and often weeks of Spring are muddy. If you are lucky,
maybe once every ten years you get a super Autumn with chilly but dry days, or Winter days
of 5 C° and a few cm . of snow which are perfect for long walks with your OES. On those
rare occasions he'll be clean and dry after your walk! The worst is wet snowat either
plus or minus temperatures.. That is a guarantee for big snow balls all over the dog,
and that means mat unless you dry him properly. Just when the snow in the Springtime
has melted and it's mud all over, it will start to snow once again. This will go on
for two months and you'll pray for the Summer to come with all the hay seeds and mites
and everything nice. If you still choose to live with one or even worse, with several
OES's in your house, there usually will be no return to a normal life! No matter how much
you try to tell people that the dog's coat needs care, no matter how much you try to tell
them that the dog has learned to be groomed , you'll so often see them a few month later
all matted and smelly and the owners will tell you that the dog won't let them brush him.
As a breeder, nothing makes me sadder than to see a promising puppy that can't ever be
shown simply because of poor coat care. That is when it is best for the dog to be
trimmed to a short coat. We wash the white parts and under the belly every second week
and depending on the coat quality grooming is done at one or two weeks intervals.
- Satu Tanner