Old English Sheepdogs are intelligent, active, playful and usually friendly. Although they may also be stubborn, they respond to motivational tools such as treats and favorite toys in reward-based training techniques. Agility, herding, retrieving, and obedience as sport can help provide them with physical and mental stimulation in the family environment. The reputation of the Old English Sheepdog as a good family dog means they can be around children; however, as with all dogs, extremely close supervision is needed to prevent accidental injury to the child or dog and avoid the dog's subsequently developing fear-based defensive aggression.
The Old English Sheepdog was bred to be a sheep herder in the English counties of Cornwall, Devon and Somerset during the 1700's. The large size of the breed is suited to its job of herding sheep on the rugged terrain of south-western England during harsh weather conditions and protecting the sheep from predators. The Old English Sheepdog is intelligent enough to pace itself while herding and knows when to chase a predator and when to guard the flock. The breed's background is a mystery, though there are numerous theories about its ancestors, including origin in England, Scotland, France and even Russia. Traditionally, they were sheared annually, just like the sheep. In the late 1880's, a prominent Pittsburgh industrialist by the name of Wade first started promoting the Old English Sheepdog in the US, and the dog's popularity grew in higher social classes. It was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1904.