The English Shepherd may look familiar, but chances are you’ve not seen too many of his kind around. English Shepherds are becoming increasingly rare in the United States, though they remain some of the most popular and versatile ranch dogs.
Native to the United States but likely a descendant from several fascinating working European breeds, there is a lot to the English Shepherd worth earning about.
More importantly, if you’re considering investing in an English Shepherd, it’s imperative you take a moment to research this dynamic dog.
Luckily, we’re here to help. Join us as we learn all about the beautiful, intelligent and fascinating English Shepherd.
The English Shepherd – A Breed Overview
The English Shepherd is an intelligent working dog that is becoming exceedingly rare.
Also Known As: American Herder, American Collie, American Shepherd, Barnyard Shepherd, Barnyard Collie, English Herder, Cow Dog, Farm Collie, Farm Dog, Farm Shepherd, Old Fashioned Collie, and the Old Fashioned Shepherd
Height: 18 -23 Inches
Weight: 40 to 62 Pounds
Temperament: Intelligent, Energetic, Affectionate, Stubborn, Independent
Best Suited For: Active, Experienced Dog Owners
Health Issues: Elbow Dysplasia, Luxating Patella, Sensitivity To Anesthesia, Hip Dysplasia, Drug Allergies, Collie Eye Anomaly, Entropion, Cataracts, And Ectropion
Lifespan: 10 to 15 Years
The English Shepherd can go by a lot of names, and this is fitting for a dog with such a versatile working history. American dogs at heart, the English Shepherd is a likely descendant of hard working herding dogs from Europe.
Intelligent, athletic, and incredibly smart, the English Shepherd is commonly mistaken for the similar looking Australian Shepherd.
You can tell the two apart, experts say, by the English Shepherd’s longer tail and the fact that this dog does not come in a merle coat.
Common colors in the English Shepherd include tri-color, black and white, black and tan, and sable and white.
While the English Shepherd is an American dog, he has yet to be recognized by the American Kennel Club.
That said, this breed is recognized by the United Kennel Club.
A Brief History Of The English Shepherd
Though beautiful, English Shepherds are still primarily working dogs and have long been considered such instead of being used as show dogs.
The English Shepherd’s lineage is nearly as old as America itself. This is a dog that was born from dogs brought by early American settlers. Some breeds that likely make up the English Shepherd’s ancestry are early collies of different variations from Britain and Scotland.
English Shepherds were never bred for show or competition, though they could excel in both if given the chance. Instead, English Shepherds are versatile working dogs bred for a number of tasks including herding, ratting and guarding. This makes them excellent farm and ranch dogs, and they still enjoy many of these duties today.
The English Shepherd can also make a wonderful companion for the right owner, though he’s not going to be the best dog for everyone.
Is the English Shepherd right for you? Let’s take a look at his temperamental traits and other characteristics below to find out.
Temperament Of The English Shepherd
The English Shepherd is a clever and work oriented dog, and he does best with experienced dog owners.
As a bred working dog, the English Shepherd is whip smart, energetic, athletic, focused and somewhat bossy. This is a breed that can be hard-headed and independent, which may mean he is not the ideal dog for families looking for a playful and family-oriented companion.
Still, English Shepherds can do well with children, though they may be prone to herding youngsters around the home or yard. When properly raised, trained and socialized, the English Shepherd can do well with other canine companions.
That said, this is a working dog at heart, and this is a breed that will not be happy without a job to do. English Shepherds are also bred guard dogs, and while not considered to be inherently aggressive they can be protective of their family and territory.
They will alert their families to anything suspicious right away, be it a blowing trash bag in the yard or a wild animal beyond the fence.
English Shepherd dogs may be aloof with strangers until they get to know them, and while they can be independent, these dogs are highly adaptable to different situations.
They prefer homes with lots of space where they can run and play, which means a large, securely fenced backyard is ideal.
The right owner for an English Shepherd will be an active, committed owner with a good understanding of working breeds, and an owner who is able and willing to commit time to training, exercise and socialization.
Let’s learn more.
Understanding The English Shepherd Dog’s Exercise and Mental Stimulation Needs
Because they are working dogs, English Shepherds need plenty of routine exercise and mental stimulation.
When it comes to dogs that are bred for working purposes and that are naturally energetic and athletic, you can expect to devote a certain amount of time to exercise. This is certainly the case when it comes to the English Shepherd.
English Shepherd dogs not only need plenty of physical exercise, but they also need plenty of mental exercise as well. Without the proper exercise and mental stimulation, English Shepherds can be prone to becoming bored, anxious and depressed. This can lead to them struggling with other issues including anxiety, destructive behaviors and even aggressive tendencies.
Let’s Talk About Exercising Your English Shepherd
Exercise can come in many forms when it comes to the English Shepherd, as this versatile dog enjoys a variety of activities. This is one of the traits that makes an English Shepherd such a great dog for active, outdoorsy owners.
English Shepherds will enjoy swimming, playing frisbee, jogging, hiking, games of fetch, and free runs at dog parks or securely fenced in areas.
Whichever type of exercise you choose to implement into your daily routine with your English Shepherd, it’s important you allot at least an hour or more of time to devote to exercise each and every day.
Along with routine exercise, your English Shepherd will also enjoy having a backyard where he can run and play freely, as we mentioned above.
When you do go outside with your English Shepherd, we recommend that you walk him on a proper leash and harness. While these dogs are generally easy to train (which we’ll get into below), they were also commonly used as ratting dogs and vermin dogs. This means that they could have a high prey drive.
For an active dog like the English Shepherd, we recommend a harness like the no pull dog harness listed below.
Rabbitgoo No Pull Dog Harness
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Rabbitgoo makes a quality dog harness we like for medium sized dogs like the English Shepherd. While the English Shepherd may not be a pulling dog, we like that this harness allows you the option to clip in the front and in the back to reduce pulling if you need to.
This harness is also made with quality material to help ensure it is comfortable and durable, and it will not put pressure on your English Shepherd’s trachea as he walks, which is not only more comfortable for your dog, but much safer as well.
How To Keep Your English Shepherd Mentally Stimulated
Mental Stimulation can make the difference between a dog that is mentally happy and sound and a dog that is distressed. Ensuring your dog has plenty of positive things to keep him busy during the day will help decrease his anxiety and reduce chances of destructive behaviors.
When it comes to the English Shepherd, mental stimulation can be provided in a number of ways. You can even bundle exercise and mental stimulation. Fun games like frisbee, for example, can help keep your dog mentally engaged.
Consistent training and teaching your English Shepherd new tricks and queues will help build a strong bond between the two of you and ensure he is having his mental needs met.
Another way to help keep your English Shepherd mentally stimulated is to provide him with puzzle toys.
LC-Dolida Dog Puzzle Toy
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This interactive dog puzzle toy by LC-Dolida is ideal for medium sized dogs like the English Shepherd. It is especially ideal for dogs that are highly intelligent. The toy works by hiding treats in cubbies, which will encourage your dog to move pieces of the toy around in order to get to the tasty treasures hidden below.
You can also fill the toy with kibble or dog food to help slow down and prolong meal times. What we like best about puzzle toys like the one listed above is that you can order them in different shapes and levels as your dog grows and he becomes more advanced.
Of course, ensuring your dog is happy and healthy goes beyond ensuring he is both exercised and mentally stimulated. It’s also incredibly important to begin training and socializing an English Shepherd at a very early age.
The Importance Of Early Socialization and Training of An English Shepherd Dog
Training and socialization should begin early with your English Shepherd dog.
Proper training and socialization are key to ensuring your English Shepherd grows up happy and healthy and should be tools you implement throughout your English Shepherd’s lifetime.
Training An English Shepherd Dog
While the English Shepherd is somewhat stubborn and bossy, this is also a dog that is incredibly easy to train when training sessions are done correctly. He will learn best from an owner who is consistent and patient, and who keeps straining sessions short, gamelike and fun.
Make sure you use positive reinforcement training techniques with your English Shepherd like providing him with treats and praise, and avoid using punishments like scolding. This can lead to your English Shepherd shutting down and losing interest much more quickly.
Punishment can also lead to your English Shepherd becoming fearful of you, which can lead to behavioral issues down the road and even hinder the bond between the two of you.
We also recommend giving your English Shepherd jobs to do around the house, which will help provide him with a sense of purpose and keep him happy.
When it comes to training, stick with quality training treats that are high value to the dog. The ideal training treats for an English Shepherd are going to be small, chewy and very smelly.
Pupford Freeze Dried Training Treats
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We really like these Pupford treats which are specifically made for training purposes. These treats are small and high quality, and are low-calorie which makes them great for rapid feeding without unhealthy results.
We especially like that these treats are available in beef, liver or sweet potato recipes, so no matter the food sensitivities your dog may have, he should find these treats agreeable.
We should also note that it’s never too early to begin training your English Shepherd. In fact, we recommend you begin with training from the moment you bring your English Shepherd home and continue with training throughout his life.
Socialization An English Shepherd
Socialization should also be ongoing throughout your English Shepherd dog’s lifetime. Properly socializing an English Shepherd can help reduce anxiety, fear and even aggression, especially around strangers, children and other animals.
To properly socialize your English Shepherd, we recommend beginning as early as possible, (ideally in puppyhood) and introducing your english Shepherd to as many new experiences as possible.
Try and help your English Shepherd have positive first impressions. Similarly, it’s just as important not to force your English Shepherd into a situation that is clearly stressful or frightening for him.
How To Properly Groom An English Shepherd Dog
Grooming an English Shepherd should be routine, as these dogs can be prone to matting and tangles.
Although the English Shepherd has a longer, double-layered coat, he does not require as much grooming maintenance as you may think. In fact, this is a dog that has a self-cleaning coat which means he only needs to be bathed once every six weeks or so.
When you do bathe your English Shepherd, be sure you use a quality shampoo that is free of dyes, parabens or alcohols and that is specifically designed for canine use.
The English Shepherd is a shedding dog, so he may not be the best dog for allergy sufferers. He sheds year round and sheds heaviest during the shedding season which is in spring and fall.
His longer coat may also require routine trims to help keep hair from getting tangled or matted. He should also be brushed at least once a week to reduce shedding and keep tangles at bay.
MalsiPree Grooming Brush
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The MalsPree deshedding brush is a staple for your dog’s grooming tool kit. This brush not only helps to get into the dense undercoat of your dog’s fur but also removes loose hair and debris.
The teeth are bent so they will not harm your dog, but they are also long enough to reduce matting and tangles, which English Shepherds can be prone to if not they are not brushed out routinely.
Along with weekly brushing, the English Shepherd should also have his teeth brushed daily with a dog safe toothbrush and toothpaste. Of course, if your dog is finicky about having his teeth brushed, you also have the option of oral wipes, sprays and chews.
If you’re not sure which would be best for your dog, your veterinarian is the best source of information to help you ensure you’re keeping your dog’s gums and teeth healthy.
The English Shepherd can also be prone to ear infections, so be sure to check and clean his ears routinely to keep them free of moisture, waxy build up and debris. His nails will need to be trimmed routinely as well to help keep them from cracking or splitting during play, which can lead to pain and infection.
Health Issues And Average Lifespan Of An English Shepherd
This gorgeous dog can be prone to suffering from genetic health issues, especially if not obtained through a reputable source.
The English Shepherd is a relatively healthy dog with a decent lifespan of between 10 to 15 years. However, like all dogs the English Shepherd can be prone to a number of genetic health issues.
These health issues can be compounded by poor breeding practices and by an unhealthy lifestyle.
The Most Common Health Issues In An English Shepherd Includes:
- Elbow Dysplasia
- Luxating Patella
- Sensitivity To Anesthesia
- Hip Dysplasia
- Drug Allergies
- Collie Eye Anomaly
- And Ectropion
While you can’t always determine what your dog can be predisposed to, there are a few ways you can prepare for and combat certain health issues in your English Shepherd dog.
Be Sure You Get Your English Shepherd From A Reputable Source:
First and foremost, make sure you go through reputable sources when looking to obtain an English Shepherd. Ensuring you go through sources who understand the importance of responsible breeding practices can help reduce potential health issues down the road for your dog.
Consider Having Your Dog Health Screened:
When you go through a reputable breeder, you will typically be offered certificates of health proving your puppy has been health screened and cleared of any serious health issues. If you have gotten your English Shepherd from an alternative source, you might consider having him health screened yourself.
You can have your English Shepherd health screened yourself by investing in a canine DNA kit. DNA kits can not only help detect health issues early on in your English Shepherd, but they can also give you lots of additional and important information about your dog.
Keep Your English Shepherd On A Quality Diet:
High energy dogs like the English Shepherd do well on quality dog food made with real meat protein, fatty acids, carbs, vitamins and minerals. Avoid dog foods that contain fillers or that are not made of quality ingredients.
One of our favorite dog foods for the English Shepherd is going to be dog food made with salmon, as these types of dog foods can help support skin, coat and joint health in the breed.
Keep Up With Routine Exercise, Grooming, and Training:
As we mentioned briefly above, be sure you commit to a good routine with your English Shepherd. This routine should include daily exercise, weekly grooming, and consistent training.
Combined, this type of routine will help ensure your English Shepherd remains as happy and healthy as possible throughout his life.
Make Sure You keep Up With Routine Veterinary Visits:
Like all dogs, the English Shepherd should be seen at least once a year for routine wellness checkups by a veterinarian. Once he reaches age seven, it is recommended that he be seen twice a year.
Consider Investing In Pet Health Insurance:
While the English Shepherd is an overall hardy dog, he can be prone to some serious issues that, if he should develop them, can be costly.
With that noted, we would recommend you invest in dog health insurance early on to help ensure you are able to provide your dog with the care he needs should he fall ill or become injured.
Do You Have The Ideal Home Type For An English Shepherd?
The English Shepherd does best in homes with backyards and with owners who are active.
Do you have the ideal home for an English Shepherd? Let’s sum this dog up!
Remember, the best home for an English Shepherd dog is going to be one that has lots of space. These dogs would prefer homes with lots of land or at least large yards where they have plenty of space to run and play freely.
English Shepherds also do best with owners who are hands-on and committed, and owners who understand the behavior behind working breeds.
When properly raised and socialized, the English Shepherd can do well with children and other pets. However, remember that they may have herding instincts that could be overwhelming for very small children.
English Shepherds are also shedding dogs, and are not the ideal companions for allergy sufferers.
Otherwise, when properly raised, trained, socialized and exercised, the English Shepherd can make a highly intelligent, trainable, and affectionate companion for the right owner.
Tips On Finding A Breeder Or Shelter To Obtain A Healthy English Shepherd Puppy or Rescue Dog
It may be difficult to find an English Shepherd because they are becoming more rare, but it is possible.
While English Shepherds are not recognized by the American Kennel Club, and while they are generally not sporting or competition dogs, they can go for quite a lot of money.
This is because, above all else, the English Shepherd is a bred working dog. As he is still commonly employed on ranches and farms to this day, an English Shepherd with superior lineage can cost you anywhere from $2,100 to $5,500!
But don’t panic just yet. The average English Shepherd from a reputable breeder bred for companionship generally costs between $800 and $1,000.
Be sure not to try and cut costs when looking for an English Shepherd puppy through a breeder. Remember how important it is to get your puppy through a source that understands the importance of responsible breeding practices.
Most reputable breeders will be able to provide you with paperwork proving pedigree, as well as paperwork proving your dog has been health screened and cleared of any serious health issues.
Avoid going through backyard breeders, unqualified online sellers, or anyone selling an English Shepherd for much more or much less than average without the proper paperwork.
If you prefer to rescue your English Shepherd, you’ll be happy to learn that there are several rescues that specialize in this breed throughout the United States.
Adopting a dog is certainly less expensive than buying a puppy through a breeder, with the average adoption fee running between $250 and $500.
This fee typically covers the overhead of the average cost it takes to care for a dog that comes into the shelter.
Going through a shelter has plenty of benefits not only including rescuing a dog in need, but also provides you with a number of hidden savings. If you adopt a dog older than two, you may be able to obtain a dog that has already been spayed or neutered, and even possibly microchipped.
Some rescues will have even had your dog undergo behavioral testing and some basic training before putting them up for adoption. You’ll also get to skip the wild puppy phase!
Of course, rescuing a dog is not for everyone, and if you prefer to raise your English Shepherd in your home from puppyhood, that is totally understandable.
The most important thing is that you are here and taking your time to learn as much about this amazing dog breed as you can to ensure the two of you will be the right fit for one another.
So, what do you think now that you’ve learned more about the English Shepherd? Are you interested in raising one of these amazing dogs?
Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.
Thanks for reading!
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.