If you have ever seen photos of settlers in their farms in the early 19th century, you’d often see an English Shepherd in them. Their customary broad muzzle, wavy coat and the bushy tail are easily identifiable although a lot of people mistake them to be other breeds like collies or Rottweiler mixes.
The fact is that although they are descendants of collies, they are a distinct breed that has been recognized as early as the 1930s. For a dog breed that has been around for almost 100 years now, very little is known about them.
For most people, an English Shepherd remains a mystery that they are unable to identify correctly. If you are considering getting one home, then here’s a complete guide that helps you understand the behavior, the temperament, the basic care and exercise that the breed demands.
The English Shepherd is very ‘Collie’ like in its appearance with the males slightly larger than the females. In fact, it is often mistaken for the Aussie Shepherd or the Border Collie.
The males can be as tall as 18 to 24 inches and weigh as much as 90 pounds. But being a locally developed dog, it can be available in a variety of sizes. One of the distinct characteristics that separate it from an Aussie Shepherd is the less rounded head and the bushy tail.
They have a wider skull and a broad muzzle that ends in a scissor like bite. It has a glossy coat which is usually wavy but it is not uncommon to find an English Shepherd with completely straight coat. The length of the hair is about 2 inches and these dogs are average shedders.
The dog is available in black & white, sable & white, black & tan, and also in a unique tricolor which has black, tan & white.
When alert, you will find the English Shepherd with an elevated or an erect tail.
The English Shepherd is a descendant of the Shepherd dogs from ancient England and Scotland. This makes it very different from the modern show dogs. They have been continually and carefully selected to be an all-round working dog. Apart from herding, it is also naturally inclined towards hunting and as a guard dog. This makes them excellent farm dogs that are more about function than form.
They are very energetic, lively and outgoing. Their gritty, fearless and courageous nature often comes to the fore when they are on the field or guarding the house.
But don’t let these traits fool you into believing that it is not a family dog. The English Shepherd is extremely loving and a great companion for children. They are also friendly towards other pets and get along wonderfully with other dogs. However, socializing needs to be instilled from puppyhood barring which, the English Shepherd may take time to get attuned to other pets and strangers.
Pack leader training is the key to ensure that the Shepherd follows your commands and remains disciplined.
The English Shepherd is one of the most intelligent dog breeds and is very easy to live with. They are a no-fuss dog and take minimal maintenance.
Exercise: The English Shepherd is an outdoor dog. It needs daily physical exercise and mental stimulation. If the exercise is limited to walks, then it needs at least 40 minutes of daily walks. With an in born hunting instinct, a simple game of fetch will keep them happy and active. Lack of physical activity may cause boredom and the dog may even turn destructive. For this reason, English Shepherds are ideal for rural settings with ample scope for physical activity. If you are unable to dedicate at least an hour everyday for your dog, then an English Shepherd is not the breed for you.
Training: With ages of natural instinct, the English Shepherd is an easy dog to train. However, the training must begin early and include socialization and ground rules. These dogs are sticklers to rules and with the right training and motivation, you will be amazed at how well they adapt. However, the trainer needs to be confident and assertive. Else, the Shepherd will be quick to form its own set of rules which can lead to conflict. Also, considering that they are herding dogs as well as hunters, training can also teach them how to hone their skills.
Grooming: The medium sized coat of the English Shepherd demands minimal cleaning and is very resistant to dirt. A weekly brushing and combing session should keep the coat looking spic and span. However, being an outdoor dog and having an undercoat, it can be prone to ticks and fleas. English Shepherds are seasonal shedders and you will have large clumps of hair all around your house during this phase. If dog hair irks you or you are allergic to it, then look for another breed. The English Shepherd is not the ideal one for you.
Health and Common conditions: The average lifespan of the English Shepherd is about 14 years which is way more than other working dogs. It has been bred mainly as a work dog and the careful breeding has resulted in a very healthy dog with very few known health problems. So, it is very rare to find an English Shepherd with common conditions in other dog breeds. However, you will have to ensure that you select a healthy puppy. Else, elbow and hip dysplasia are commonly seen in English Shepherds.
If you have decided to get an English Shepherd home, then it will be a decision that you will cherish. This is a complete dog that can switch in a second from an alert watchdog to a playful companion. From working in the farm to guarding your family, the English Shepherd will do it all. The only thing that you need to ensure is that you cater to its need for regular exercise.
Images source: Bigstock.com; Lana K. Pennington, Lakape Photography