So, You Are Interested In An Old English Sheepdog

Included below is a little "boilerplate" that we provide to people who inquire about OES.

We currently have three OES in our house and love them dearly.  We wouldn't be without at least two.  They are not, however, a breed for everyone and you should evaluate your situation carefully before you decide that this is the breed for you.  They will usually be a large and exuberant dog who gets big long before it gets mature.  They can easily knock someone down who is not steady on their feet.  We do not recommend puppies in a house with very small children or infirm people even though a well-mannered mature dog would be fine there. OES,  like any dog,  will require training.  It is important that all members of the family be able to participate in the training. Temperament of most OES is good, but there are exceptions, and without training even a dog with a good temperament can be a danger.  They are a big dog with a strong herding instinct and will dominate anyone or anything that they perceive is below them in the pack hierarchy.  They are hairy and require significant attention with regard to grooming. If you are a person who would be upset to find a dog hair in the butter dish,  this is not the breed for you.  If you can deal with all of the above you could explore getting an OES.

Although we have been "in Sheepdogs" for nearly 30 years we are relatively infrequent breeders. On the average of once every three years or so.  Our current intact bitch,  Ch Twickenham Flower of Scotland "Elspeth",  is just two years old and,  although she has completed her health checks satisfactorily (OFA hips Excellent,  BAER Normal, CERF Normal,  Michigan Thyroid - Low),  and she has finished her AKC Championship, we have not yet selected her "husband".  I expect that it will be a year before she is bred and, if successful, there should be a litter of OES puppies about 63 days later.  If you would like to be on our "Prospective Puppy Purchasers" list we can include you and give you updates on our progress.  Drop us an e-mail and we will put you on the possible list.  We would require a personal interview when we get closer to developing the Selection List.

In the meantime we would recommend that you meet as many breeders of OES as you can and see if you like their lines.  As you probably know there are several styles of Old English that meet the standard and one type may appeal to you more than others.  Dog shows are good places to meet OES people and see their dogs at their best.  You can find dog shows near you by consulting the website www.infodog.com. You can also call or e-mail breeders and arrange a visit.  We recommend that you contact someone relatively near you.  You will want to see the prospective dam,  and sire if available - many breeders use a sire they don't own - to assess their temperament,  health and conformation.  It is also helpful to see grandparents or even great-grandparents to see how they age.  Many,  if not most, quality litters are committed far before they are ready to leave the dam at 10-12 weeks.   Get comfortable with the practices of a breeder who will be breeding in the future so you can get in line.  The wrong time to evaluate a breeder is when they have an adorable litter of puppies on the floor in front of you.

OES are a relatively healthy breed in the sense that they are not uniquely subject to some disorders that afflict other breeds but they are dogs and they are subject to the same afflictions that affect dogs in general and large breeds in particular.  The most obvious and serious of these is canine hip dysplasia (CHD).  This is a malformation of the ball & socket hip joint wherein the hip socket doesn't firmly grasp the head of the femur.  This condition leads to excessive wear in the joint,  deterioration of the cartilage and arthritis and bone spurs.  The resulting lameness and pain can require extensive surgical repair or euthanasia.  All dogs can have CHD but it may not be evident in a small dog where there isn't much weight on the hip joint.  In a large breed it is important.  It is generally agreed that there is a major genetic component in the appearance of CHD and a responsible breeder will take measures to ensure that the backgrounds of both sire and dam are free of CHD as far back as is practical.  The accepted way to do this is to have the dog X-Rayed sometime after it is two years old and submit that film to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals at the Veterinary School of the University of Missouri.  A panel of board-certified veterinary orthopedists reviews the films and evaluates the formation of the hip joint.  They grade it severely dysplastic,  moderately dysplastic, slightly dysplastic,  fair,  good or excellent.  You want good or excellent in the background of both parents of your prospective puppy.  Since it is a judgment call, an evaluation on the cusp of dysplasia is suspect.  Ask to see the OFA certificates and the pedigrees of the parents.  If the dogs are permanently identified by a tattoo or microchip the AKC will include the OFA results on their pedigree.

CERF is the Canine Eye Registration Foundation and it records the results of eye examinations by veterinary ophthalmologists for inheritable eye defects.  Your breeding pair should have had a clear CERF exam within a year of the time they are bred.  Ask to see the certificate.

BAER is a test of hearing and is done with a computer by a veterinary neurologist.  You may notice a dog that is bilaterally deaf but you probably wouldn't know if a dog were unilaterally deaf (in only one ear).  Both the breeding stock and the puppies are often tested.  The computer makes a graphic record of the test.  Ask to see it.

University of Michigan does a thyroid panel test from a blood sample which indicates whether the dog has high,  low or normal thyroid function.  Low production is not a serious problem,  it can be easily corrected by supplements to the diet but it is something a breeder should know about in selecting breeding pairs.

Your breeder should be experienced and may have been in sheepdogs for some time, but breeding A LOT of litters is not a good sign.  More than one or two litters a year may indicate a puppy mill mentality. If the litters are from the same bitch they should be a couple of years apart.  See if the breeder is a member of OESCA,  Old English Sheepdog Club of America,  the national breed club.  They have a code of ethics to which are members are supposed to subscribe. If your breeder is not a member you should be doubly cautious.  A breeder who always has puppies but you can't meet the dam is a red flag. There are people who buy litters from puppy farms in the Midwest and resell them.  If you can't see the dam,  walk away.  A "kennel" that has several breeds and lots of puppies is a puppy mill and can't possibly provide the socialization the puppies require to be good companions. Also beware of a breeder who will sell you puppies too soon.  Eight weeks old is a bare minimum and ten to twelve is much better.  There are important socialization lessons learned from the dam and siblings after they are weaned.  We keep our for ten weeks minimum but someone in it for the bucks may let them go at eight weeks or before.

We are often asked about the price of puppies.  That is one of the least important parts of your search.  Most purebred puppies of any breed sell for something between $1,000 and $2,000 depending on the quality of the dam and sire,  the demand for puppies from that particular blood line, rarity of the breed, and whether they are being sold as pets or show prospects.  Add in the element of greed on the part of the seller and you have the entire panoply of possibilities. You should get the best puppy with regard to health and conformation as you can find.  You will spend far more in vet bills and heartbreak than you can possibly save by looking for a bargain pup if you get one with problems.  Remember you expect this animal to be a member of your family for a dozen years or more. We sold our last litter of puppies for $1,500 each whether they were "pet or show quality"  With few exceptions mostly on the negative side it is impossible for even an expert to say whether any given pup will be a world-beater in the show ring at 10 weeks old.  We offer a rebate to people who provide us with a certificate of neutering from a licensed veterinarian before the dog is one year old.

Please consider the option of adopting a dog from OES Rescue.  There are often very nice dogs that are available through no fault of their own due to death, divorce, or age and infirmity of their owners among other reason.  Contact Annie Raker at grannie.annie@neoesr.org or visit their website www.neoesr.org.

Twickenham Old English Sheepdogs
Kay & Sanford Woodard

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