Although the English Shepherd has origins stretching back into Scotland and northern England, the breed was developed in the United States. English and Scottish settlers in the American colonies brought farm dogs with them. It’s from these farm dogs with collie lineage that stretched back to Roman sheep and cattle dogs that the English Shepherd was developed.
This working dog breed was prized for their versatility on the farm. Their high intelligence served them well as an all-around farm dog. The English Shepherd could often be found working in several different capacities as a herding dog, watchdog for the farm, guard dog for livestock, hunting dog, and more. They often also juggled their working dog duties with being a loyal family dog and a beloved companion to children.
Because of their ability to excel on the farm, the English Shepherd may have been the most popular and common dog breed in the United States during the 19th century and the early 20th century. These days, you can still find the English Shepherd working on the farm or serving in other capacities like search and rescue dogs, therapy dogs, and, of course, a loving family companion.
They aren’t currently recognized by the AKC, but they are recognized by other notable dog organizations like the United Kennel Club, National Kennel Club, Dog Registry of America, and more.
The English Shepherd is a highly intelligent and energetic dog with a sweet disposition and a playful personality. They are serious, determined, and independent workers when on a job. But, at home with the family, they are playful, affectionate, and loving.
They tend to get along fantastically with children and tend to be good with other dogs. With their hunting dog background, they tend to have a high prey drive, so they will need some extra socialization with other small pets in the household. They may also be initially wary of strangers due to their watchdog instincts, but they tend to warm up after introductions.
English Shepherds are moderately adaptable dogs. Their high energy means they usually don’t do well in apartments and are better suited to homes with yards where they can run. At the same time, their high prey drive and urge to chase also means they should only be let off-leash in securely fenced areas unless they have been trained to work on a farm and are performing specific farm duties.
They tend to do well in most climates. As with any dog breed, they are sensitive to heat and to extreme cold. If they are working, they tend to be independent thinkers, but that doesn’t mean they like to be left alone for long periods of time.
This is a relatively healthy dog breed. As with any dog breed, there are some potential health concerns to be aware of. In the English Shepherd, these include hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. As with some other herding dogs, the English Shepherd can carry the MDR1 gene, which makes them sensitive to certain drugs and can cause fatal reactions to those drugs.
Reputable breeders will screen their stock to avoid passing genetic diseases on to puppies. So, don’t be afraid to ask them about the genetic and health history of both of the parents. You can also ask about any relevant health clearances or test results.
The English Shepherd is a highly trainable dog breed. Their high intelligence means they tend to pick up on commands quickly, but it also means that they are easily bored. They thrive with a firm, confident owner who can keep training consistent.
First-time dog owners may want to consider enrolling in puppy training classes to make sure they’re giving their English Shepherd puppy the training they need. Plus, puppy training classes tend to be a good idea regardless of owner experience because they often offer plenty of opportunities to socialize a puppy.
English Shepherds will shed year-round. Brushing a few times a week is essential and brushing every day is even better. This dog’s coat doesn’t tend to collect dirt, so they only need the occasional bath.
In addition to coat care, you will also need to care for your English Shepherd’s nails, ears, and teeth. Monthly nail trimming is usually enough to keep nails from growing too long. But, you may need to cut your dog’s nails more often if they aren’t wearing down as much on their own or if they just grow quickly.
Checking ears weekly and carefully cleaning your dog’s ears as needed can help prevent ear infections. Ears should be clean, dry, and free of debris or pests. If you see redness, irritation, or discolored discharge, it’s time to go to the vet.
Good dental care for dogs is also important. Gum disease is one of the most common health problems in dogs and it’s usually due to a lack of proper dental care. Brushing your dog’s teeth or using an enzyme toothpaste every day is ideal. You can also supplement your efforts with vet-approved dental hygiene chews or even a specially-formulated “dental care diet”.
This is a high energy dog breed that needs a lot of exercise to stay happy and healthy. As a working dog, they thrive when they have a job to do. Daily walks plus some playtime and extra activity are usually enough for this dog, but the English Shepherd will probably be up for more activity if you are.
Because they have a natural instinct to chase, they might love playing frisbee or fetch. They may enjoy running with you, going for a hike, taking trips to the dog park, swimming with you, and more. You can even try training them for dog sports like agility, obedience, flyball, and more.
A fully-grown English Shepherd usually stands 18-23 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs 40-60 pounds.
An English Shepherd generally lives 12-15 years.