Have you ever seen an English Shepherd dog? If you’re like most people, probably not. While they look strikingly similar to Border Collies, English Shepherds are a distinct rare dog breed. Unfortunately, these pups aren’t as widespread as they used to be. Their popularity has waned over the last several decades, making them quite sparse in the dog community.
However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t make good canine companions. The truth is that English Shepherds have a lot to offer. They’re loving, intelligent, and have a natural athleticism that rivals any other farm dog!
The History of the English Shepherd
During the 17th century, English Shepherds were everywhere! They are thought to be direct descendants of collie-types dogs brought in from the British Isles. As a result, they share many physical similarities with Border Collies, Farm Shepherds, Farm Collies, Scotch Collies, and Australian Shepherds. But make no mistake, these are a distinct breed with some unique needs.
Despite their name, these dogs were first born and bred in the United States. They were bred by Scottish and English immigrants in the original American colonies. These pups spent a lot of time working in the field. Primarily, their job was to herd livestock and provide protection.
As other dog breeds came in the mix, English Shepherds started to go out of popularity. This all started in the 1940s. By the 1970s, they were classified as a rare breed. Today, these dogs are few and far between. There are still some breeders out there, though. Not only that, but the English Shepherd Club actively works to preserve the breed.
You can still see English Shepherds around. In addition to being fun canine companions, they are still out in the fields herding livestock. Some even work as therapy dogs or search and rescue canines.
Kennel Club Recognition
Even with its long history, the English Shepherd isn’t officially recognized by the American Kennel Club. The AKC does, however, let these dogs compete at some events.
These dogs are recognized as purebreds to another kennel club. They have been registered by the United Kennel Club, or UKC, since 1927. The UKC is based in the United States. However, it’s not a non-profit organization like the AKC.
Types of English Shepherd Puppies
Getting your hands on a new English Shepherd puppy is no easy feat. Because of the rarity of the English Shepherd breed, there aren’t a ton of reputable breeders out there. Even if you can find one, there’s bound to be a waiting list and a high price tag involved.
The good news is that many of the established breeders out there go to great lengths to provide healthy puppies. There is only one type of English Shepherd dog, and several dedicated breeders around the country work hard to conserve this rare breed.
English Shepherd Temperament
To their owners, English Shepherds are incredibly loyal and loving. Any owner will tell you that these dogs create strong bonds with the ones that they love. They want nothing more than to spend time by your side all day.
This breed is known to have a unique sense of humor. They’ll go out of their way to keep you entertained, which can make them a joy to be around.
You won’t have to worry about family issues, either. These dogs make great family companions and are quite gentle with kids. They even get along with other pets! This includes cats.
However, they tend to be a bit nervous around other humans and animals they don’t know. Socialization is crucial with this dog breed. A lack of proper exposure at a young age can make them fearful of the unknown. While most dogs do fine after an early socialization period, English Shepherds need ongoing exposure. The more people they are around, the better off they will be around strangers.
That said, these dogs make wonderful watchdogs regardless of how comfortable are with strangers. They are nothing if not vigilant and determined! Most people and stray animals can’t get within several yards of your home without your dog knowing about it. They won’t hesitate to let you know, too!
Training and Intelligence
Like most working dogs, English Shepherds are highly intelligent creatures. They do well with commands and can figure out puzzles fairly quickly. In fact, these dogs need constant mental stimulation. If they aren’t being fulfilled mentally, they could exhibit some destructive behaviors. Some have even been known to force interaction and playtime with people around the house whenever they get bored.
Another issue you may encounter is their bossy attitude. They always want to be in charge and call the shots. It’s not hard to see why they behave this way. In the field, working dogs have to make judgment calls on their own to protect livestock. Even if your dog isn’t tasked with protecting other animals, that instinctual behavior will translate in other areas of their life. Obviously, this is not acceptable when it comes to the dog-owner relationship. A large part of your obedience training will be establishing yourself as a pack leader.
Luckily, this isn’t’ too hard to do. English Shepherds are big people pleasers and will respond well to positive reinforcement. The goal of training this dog breed is to channel their intelligence into other tasks. They do very well with trick commands and have been known to dominate agility courses.
English Shepherd Characteristics
Many people mistake these rare dogs with other herding dog breeds. Despite their similarities, English Shepherds have special traits that deserve some attention.
Size and Stature
There’s a lot of variation when it comes to size and stature. Most adults will fall somewhere between 40 and 60 pounds when fully grown. Generally, females tend to be a bit smaller. In terms of height, they can stand between 18 and 23 inches tall at the withers.
Overall, English Shepherds have lean and athletic bodies. They are a deep-chested breed. Though, their thick fur coats often mask a lot of their body definition. They look far bigger than they actually are. These dogs are relatively thin, which helps to improve their agility
Their heads are similar to that of a Border Collie. They typically have dark brown eyes. Though, blue-eyed pups do exist. Some even have heterochromia, resulting in two different-colored eyes. On top of the head, they have triangular ears that are covered in feathered fur. The same goes for their tail, which is quite fluffy.
Coat and Coloration
English Shepherds have a dense double coat of curly fur. The outer layer of fur is the one you see and feel most. It’s comprised of medium-length hair. Meanwhile, the undercoat is fine and short. The double-coat helps to keep these pups warm in inclement weather conditions.
Coloration can vary dramatically from dog to dog. Some are solid. However, most will take on a tri-color pattern. They may be black with spots of tan and white. Silver and pied varieties exist as well. Usually, the different color patterns are located across the chest, face, and legs, creating a distinct look that you can’t miss.
On average, an English Shepherd will live to be 10 to 14 years old. This is on par with other dog breeds of the same size. Obviously, a lot of factors can affect their life expectancy. These dogs require a good diet and plenty of physical exercise to stay in good health. We’ll get into that in a bit.
Potential Health Concerns
No dog is immune to health problems. The English Shepherd is no different. There are a handful of conditions that are known to affect this breed. Here are the most common.
Hip Dysplasia is a serious genetic condition that can affect many different dog breeds. It’s known to affect English Shepherds. Many breeders these days will screen for the disease, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t affect your dog.
With hip dysplasia, the hip socket becomes deformed as the dog grows up. As a result, the joint is unable to move smoothly as your dog walks. It can cause severe weakness and paint. In serious cases, it can affect the way your dog stands. Hip dysplasia can be treated with surgery if it’s caught at an early age. Though, it can also be managed with pain medications.
Also known as Patellar Luxation, this condition prevents the knee joint from extending all the way. When the kneecap gets out of position, it hinders movement. Eventually, it can tear the joint cartilage as well.
It can be treated with pain medications. But, the only way to alleviate it completely is through surgery.
Adverse Reactions to Medication
English Shepherds are known carriers of the MDR1 gene mutation. Also known as the Multi-Drug Resistance-1 gene, it is known to cause some serious adverse effects when medication is taken. Basically, the gene is unable to move drugs out of the brain. This can lead to a buildup of toxins, which will ultimately cause life-altering problems. Depending on the severity of the issue, dogs can suffer from seizures, muscle spasms, blindness, or even death.
To support your high energy pup, you’re going to provide a high-quality diet. Choosing the right dog food is imperative with English Shepherds. They need a good amount of protein to maintain their lean muscles.
At the very least, your dog’s food should be made up of 22.5 percent protein. However, we recommend finding food with an even higher crude protein analysis if possible. The more protein your dog is getting the better.
Take some extra time to analyze the ingredient’s list. Look out for wholesome animal meat sources. They should be listed at the top of the list, as this indicates that they have a greater presence in the formula than other ingredients. Avoid any mystery meats or unnecessary additives. Keep things simple and your dog should have no problem thriving!
Most English Shepherds will need roughly 1,200 calories a day. You can make adjustments based on your dog’s lifestyle. These calories should be split up into three smaller meals a day.
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The original recipe from Orijen is a good choice for English Shepherds. It’s a protein-packed formula that’s designed to meet all of your dog’s biological needs. Roughly 85 percent of the ingredients used all come from animals. This includes the 38 percent protein content. You’ll find good meat sources like chicken, turkey, herring, flounder, and so much more.
If your English Shepherd isn’t getting enough exercise, be prepared for some destructive behavior. This is a high energy breed that’s built for running. You should be providing at least 2 hours of exercise time every day.
You can break this up into smaller chunks of time. We recommend having some variety in activities, too. In addition to long walks, try playing fun games with your dog. Toss a ball, play hide and seek, and participate in some agility runs. That variety is a great way to provide some mental stimulation while ensuring that your dog is burning off all the necessary calories they need to stay fit.
Despite their rough and tumble attitudes, English Shepherds need plenty of pampering. Their thick coats are notorious for developing tangles. These can eventually turn into large mats that pull at their skin!
You can prevent them by simply brushing your dog every day. Try to start this early on so that your puppy will get used to it before they get older.
These dogs are shedders, so be prepared to brush a few times a week. That undercoat will lose density throughout the year. You may even encounter heavy shedding periods as the seasons change. Brushing helps to keep the mess to a minimum.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do English Shepherds make good family pets?
English Shepherds do very well in a family setting. They are gentle with kids and have a lot of love to share. With proper socialization, they can also get along with other pets in the home.
How much do English Shepherds cost?
These dogs don’t come cheap. From a reputable breeder, expect to pay between $350 and $1,000. You can also find these dogs up for adoption. Organizations like the National English Shepherd Rescue have dogs up for adoption pretty frequently.
Are English Shepherds the same as Border Collies?
They look similar, but Border Collies and English Shepherds are not the same. However, it is believed that they come from similar descendants.
How much exercise does an English Shepherd need?
At least 120 minutes of daily exercise is required to keep English Shepherds healthy.
Are English Shepherds suitable guard dogs?
Thanks to their naturally stand-offish behavior with strangers, English Shepherds are great for protecting your property. They can sense people coming before they even get a chance to ring the doorbell or knock the door. These dogs will bark to let you know.
There’s a lot to love about the English Shepherd. While they might not be as popular as they were in the past, these dogs are still beloved canines for many people around the world. Their active lifestyles, fun personalities, and general loyalty to their owners make them a wonderful addition to any home. Whether you need a working dog or just a furry friend you can go on adventures with, the English Shepherd is a breed that doesn’t disappoint.