- Breed group — Herding Dog Group (United Kennel Club)
- Height — 18-23 inches
- Weight — 40-60 pounds
- Coat length & texture — Long, straight, or wavy double coat
- Coat color — The five traditional color combinations are black and white, black and tan, sable and white, tan and white, and tricolor black, white, and tan. These may include a white trim with a white neck ring or trim on the skull.
- Exercise needs — High
- Intelligence — High
- Barking — When necessary
- Life span — 12-15 years
- Temperament — Gentle, intelligent, and energetic
- Hypoallergenic — No
- Origin — United States
English shepherd fun facts
- English shepherds actually originated in America. Don’t let their name mislead you, as English shepherds were first developed in the United States. They’re named so because the breed descends from collie-type breeds of the British Isles, brought over to American colonies by early settlers.
- They’re often called “shadow shepherds.” English shepherds are nicknamed “shadow shepherds” because they are extremely loyal and will follow their humans around whenever they can.
- English shepherds are “loose-eyed” herders. This means that, unlike some other working dogs, English shepherds don’t tend to make intense eye contact while herding. Instead, they will stand upright when communicating with sheep and other livestock.
English shepherd temperament and characteristics
The gentle, wavy-haired English shepherd is a rare breed beloved for being loyal and highly intelligent. Not only do these dogs take well to training, they’re known for being an excellent choice for animal therapy and as service animals. With proper training and early socialization, English shepherds make great, obedient family pets and adapt well in homes with young children and other animals. Despite their independent nature, this herding dog loves little more than to spend time with their people. When it comes to strangers and visitors, English shepherds may be wary, but they’re usually relatively quick to make friends.
These dogs love to romp around and would especially thrive in a home with a fenced-in yard. Without a yard, you’ll need to be proactive about keeping your working dog active with long walks or hikes.
Common English shepherd health problems
English shepherds are generally a very healthy breed, but the dogs are still prone to certain health conditions. Knowing what you might expect with your pup can help you address and treat any medical conditions early on.
- Hip and elbow dysplasia. Hip or elbow dysplasia are chronic conditions that occur when joints — the hip or elbow joints in particular — develop improperly in growing dogs. These issues are most common among large and giant dog breeds. Dogs with either condition are also more prone to developing osteoarthritis in the area.
- Patellar luxation . This hereditary condition refers to kneecaps easily moving out of their original position. When a dislocation occurs, the condition may potentially cause lameness.
- Collie eye anomaly . This genetic eye disorder, common among herding dogs, occurs when the blood vessels of the retina don’t develop properly. Puppies can be checked for the condition by a vet ophthalmologist.
- Drug allergies. English shepherds are more prone to some canine prescription drug allergies than other breeds. Be sure to speak with your vet about testing your pup for allergies before administering any prescription medication.
History of the English shepherd
Despite their name, English shepherds actually first originated in North America. They are believed to be bred from collies brought over by early English, Scottish and Irish settlers who used the farm dogs primarily for herding livestock, keeping vermin away, and guarding property. The multi-purpose breed shares ancestry with the rough collie, Australian shepherd, border collie, and ancient Roman cattle dog. According to the United Kennel Club (UKC), legend says Julius Caesar himself brought one of the English shepherd’s ancestors to the British Isles when he invaded the region in 55 B.C.
The UKC has been the original registrar of the English shepherd since 1927, but the breed was originally recognized as the “American farm shepherd.” During the 19th and early 20th century, these dogs were among the most prominent dog breeds in the United States. English shepherds are not yet currently recognized by the American Kennel Club.
Caring for your English shepherd
Caring for a new puppy of any breed can be overwhelming. You’ll need to make your first trip to the vet and schedule your dog’s vaccinations. We can even help you puppy-proof your home and prepare for teething. And while no one likes to think about losing their new dog, FidoAlert provides a free Fido ID and tag, so you’re prepared just in case.
Besides the basics of feeding and medical care, there are a few other things to keep in mind to be the best and most responsible dog owner you can be with your English shepherd.
Exercise, exercise, exercise. The highly intelligent and high-energy English shepherd needs adequate exercise and especially loves long walks, jogs, hikes and plenty of time to romp around in a fenced-in yard. Avoid boredom-related destructive behavior by ensuring your pup is well-exercised and mentally stimulated.
Focus on early socialization. English shepherds are loyal and friendly dogs, but as with any breed, they will greatly benefit from early training and socialization. Early exposure is key to avoiding overexcitement or aloofness with strangers, visitors, young children, and other pets. Remember to prioritize positive, reward-based reinforcement when training.
Cost of caring for an English shepherd
Diagnosis and treatment for common health conditions specific to the English shepherd vary between $3,500 per hip to $7,000 for hip dysplasia, $1,500 to $4,000 per elbow for elbow dysplasia, $1,500-$3,000 for patellar luxation and $1,500 to $1,900 per eye for potential eye surgery.
Pet health insurance, which is most beneficial to pet owners who sign up their pets early, is one way to reduce out-of-pocket expenses. You may also want to create a pet budget and set up a pet savings account to keep your finances on track.
Your English shepherd will need a relatively high degree of exercise compared to some other breeds, so apartment dwelling may not be ideal for this breed if you can’t provide long, daily walks. A home with a fenced-in backyard for regular romping and horsing around, however, will do wonders to keep boredom-related destructive behaviors at bay. The English shepherd also loves long walks, hikes, jogs and even swimming. These dogs adapt well to cold weather conditions and are even tolerant of hot weather, but if you live in a warmer climate, you may want to be extra cautious and opt for early-morning or late-night walks. You can also consider setting up a sprinkler or paddling pool. Remember to always keep your pup well-hydrated.
Though English shepherd dogs don’t shed much, regular grooming and trimming can help prevent matting and keep your pup looking sharp. The breed does need some extra attention in the spring and fall. Aim to brush your dog’s coat weekly, especially during those heavy-shedding seasons. Keeping up a regular grooming routine can help keep your pup looking good and avoid issues like matting down the line.
- Brush only as needed. Keep an eye on your English shepherd’s medium length coat and only brush as needed; for the most part, dirt should slide right off your dog’s smooth coat. Using a high-quality pin or slicker brush every so often will help avoid matting, overgrowth and can keep your pup and home as flyaway-free as possible.
- Bathe only as needed. Depending on how dirty your dog’s fur is — and whether your English shepherd has been romping around in mud, water or the like — use both a dog-friendly shampoo and conditioner. Once the hair is dry, you may brush the fur out again and apply a dog-friendly leave-in conditioner.
- Blow-dry cool. Using heat will actually dry out your dog’s outer coat, so opt for cool blow-drying or towel-drying following a bath routine.
- Get your puppy used to being touched. As with any dog breed, it’s essential that you get your pup accustomed to being touched and brushed early on. Positive reinforcement is a great tool to incorporate in training.
Diet and nutrition
English shepherds, like many other breeds, may experience obesity and potentially increase their risk of diabetes if overfed. Opt for a high-quality, vet-approved diet to maintain a healthy weight and avoid overfeeding treats, as well as foods and scraps.
🚨Feeding your dog cooked bones or even leftover scraps can lead to serious damage. It doesn’t matter if the bones are boiled, baked, fried, smoked, or steamed — consumption can result in choking and irreversible internal damage.
In general, your English shepherd should eat about one cup of high-quality dry dog food each day, depending on the caloric density of their daily diet. If your pup gets picky or isn’t getting enough water, you can mix in some canned food or a tasty topper. As always, refer to your pet’s vet for questions related to diet and nutrition, including food portioning.
Training your English shepherd
English shepherds are incredibly adept at training and will wow you with their smarts and agility. But one downside of a pup with high intelligence: they might prove a little challenging or stubborn during training sessions. Use their wits to your advantage with early, short bursts of training, positive reward-based reinforcement, and lots of praise.
According to the English Shepherd Club, these dogs also have a strong desire to work with their owners and tend to excel in agility-focused dog sports, so consider incorporating more advanced tricks and tasks during your training to keep those muscular hind legs nice and strong.
Breeds similar to the English shepherd
Not quite sure that an English shepherd is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:
- Border collie. The highly intelligent and loyal Border collie looks a lot like the English shepherd and is beloved for homes with children and other pets.
- Australian shepherd. Though Australian shepherd dogs can be high maintenance and require a lot of early training, these pups are beloved for being loyal to and protective of their families.
- German shepherd. The elegant, hard-working German shepherd is known to be gentle, intelligent and highly trainable.
Frequently asked questions
Do English shepherds make good pets?
English shepherds make great pets, especially to active homes and families that love to be outdoors.
What’s the difference between an English shepherd and Border collie?
Though Border collies and English shepherds look similar, the former is generally larger.
What is an English shepherd a mix of?
English shepherd dogs are believed to share ancestry with the Australian shepherd, border collie, Roman cattle dog, and rough collie.
Where can I adopt or buy an English shepherd?
Because English shepherds are a rare dog breed, purebred puppies may be difficult to find. You’ll likely need to sit on a waiting list. However, you can skip the wait and reach out to an English shepherd rescue center for a dog that’s a few years old or doesn’t have breed certification.
What are some working characteristics of an English shepherd dog?
Though English shepherds are classified as a herding breed by the UKC, they have some working dog characteristics as all-purpose farm dogs, including use of their teeth, low heeling, and property-guarding.
How much exercise does an English shepherd need?
These herding dogs may require more exercise than some other dog breeds. English shepherds especially benefit from long, daily walks, jogs or hikes and need plenty of playtime and mental stimulation.
What is the difference between a German shepherd and an English shepherd?
Though both breeds are beloved for being loyal, affectionate, trainable and protective, German shepherds are much larger. On average, male German shepherds weigh 77 pounds, whereas English shepherd males average out to about 52 pounds.