English Shepherd: The Complete Dog Breed Guide

English Shepherd

Have you ever wanted to own a Border Collie, but are put off by their commonality and active minds? Well then, look no further than the English Shepherd dog.

This rare breed was first seen in the 17th Century where it was incredibly popular as a herding dog.

However, fast forward to the 21st century and this breed is almost unheard of, English Shepherds are few and far between with very few breeders.

A working dog at heart, this breed likes to curl up in front of the fire with their human after a long day out working.

Intelligent independent, and very affectionate, could this breed fill the dog shaped hole in your life? Keep on reading our complete breed guide to find out more.

What Is An English Shepherd Dog?

English Shepherd Face
These dogs are very rare and often mistaken for Border Collies.

The English Shepherd is a descendent of collie type dog-breeds.

Favored over Collies for their natural intelligence and athleticism, the English Shepherd is a close relative of the Australian Shepherd.

These dogs have previously been called “Scottish Collies”, but that name has since fallen out of fashion.

Breed Origin

Despite their confusing name, the English Shepherd is actually an American breed!

Bred by Scottish and English immigrants in the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries, this canine was used as a herding dog.

Sadly, in the 1940s this breed began to decline in popularity. As of the 1970s, the English Shepherd was considered to be a very rare breed.

Kennel Club Recognition

While the English Shepherd is not recognized by the American Kennel Club, owners can enroll with the AKC Canine Partners and compete at events such as rally competitions.

Despite not being recognized by a kennel club, they do have their own breed group; the English Shepherd Club.

This group promotes the breed, conservation of the English Shepherd and is also a place where breeders can register puppies for sale.

English Shepherd Facts Table
Size 18 to 23 inches
Weight 40 to 60 pounds
Lifespan 10 – 14 years
Breed Type Working Breed
Purpose Herding Dog
Suitable For Active Singles, Couples or Families
Color Black, Brown, White, Sable, Pied and Silver
Temperament Independent, Athletic, Clever, Funny and Stubborn
Other Scottish Collie

English Shepherd Puppy

English Shepherd Puppy
These puppies generally reach physical and emotional maturity at around 10 to 16 months.

The English Shepherd is a very rare breed, consequently, there is normally a very long waiting list for one of these puppies.

Despite their rarity, this breed does not have a high price tag.

On average, an English Shepherd will cost between $350 and $1,000 USD.

Occasionally this breed will come through a local shelter as they are often misidentified as a Border Collie.

Consequently, it may be beneficial to visit your local dog rescue, those who wish to rescue a puppy or adult dog could also try the National English Shepherd Rescue.

English Shepherd Temperament

This breed is known to be somewhat standoff-ish with strangers and unknown animals.

Consequently, as puppies and young dogs they will need a lot of socialization and this will need to continue into their adult life.

If not correctly socialized, an English Shepherd can become suspicious and even fearful of new people, making this an essential step in their development.

It is important to note that this breed bonds very strongly with their owner(s).

When working, they would have spent the entire day by their master’s side. This can still be seen in their temperament as they do not cope well with being parted from their owners.

If left alone for long periods of time, this breed can become very loud and destructive.

One thing to note about this canine is their constant vigilance!

Nobody will get within 20 feet of your property without your English Shepherd letting you know about it, they are very alert to what is going on around them.

Personality

Characteristic Rating
Friendliness
Confidence
Protectiveness
Prey Drive
Social Tendencies

Intelligent, independent, funny, affectionate and a little stubborn, the English Shepherd is a joy to have around.

Owners of this breed often say that, this canine has a sense of humor and will happily keep their owners entertained for hours.

Likewise, it is not hard to keep this dog entertained, any novel object or puzzle will certainly pique their interest.

One other important thing of note is that the English Shepherd tends to be bossy!

This breed likes to be in charge and will require a patient and firm owner to show them that they are not.

Compatibility with Families

English Shepherds are an excellent dog for families.

They are naturally kind and patient with children, making them a good dog for those who want to play.

This breed type is also known to be good with other dog and household pets (including cats).

It is important to make sure your English Shepherd is well exercised, both physically and mentally.

A bored dog may begin to attempt to round up children and pets as an attempt to entertain themselves.

This can be funny at first, but it can progress to nipping (as a dog would with livestock), and consequently it is best to entertain your dog in other ways.

English Shepherd Size & Appearance

English Shepherd Dogs
The best way to describe this breed is a jack of all trades.

It is important to note that this canine is often confused with the Farm Shepherd.

Though similar in appearance, they are two separate breeds.

Due to the lack of official breed standard, there is a large variation in the height and weight of this breed.

In general, the English Shepherd will stand between 18 and 23 inches tall and weighs between 40 and 60lb.

Appearance

When looking at an English Shepherd, it is not hard to spot the Border Collie influence in the breed.

They naturally look and move like Collies, however, there are some very subtle differences that distinguish the breed:

  • Their deep chest, athletic body and long feathered tail are all hallmarks of this breed type
  • Another difference is their shaggy double coat makeing them look bigger than they are

English Shepherds are rather slim too.

Their eyes are brown or amber with small triangular ears which are often feathered.

Color

This canines coat can be in any color combination (from the table below) although they tend to be tri-color (black, brown and white).

English Shepherd coats come in a variety of colors including:

English Shepherd Colors
Black Silver
Brown Pied
Sable White

Coat

Shepherd Portrait
As well as their feathered tail, it is not uncommon to see some feathering on their paws and legs.

English Shepherds have a dense, curly double coat.

This consists of a long shaggy outer coat, and a soft shorter inner coat, designed to protect them from the elements.

If you dislike dog hair and vacuuming, this is not the breed for you.

While the hair is around medium length, they are very high shedders and consequently this canine is not suitable for allergy suffers as they are not considered to be hypoallergenic.

Grooming

Grooming is very important to correctly care for an English Shepherd.

They will need daily brushing and regular checks of their ears and teeth to ensure there is no infection or decay, once or twice a week should do it.

It may be beneficial to introduce these routines to your dog as early as possible in order to allow them to habituate to it.

Holding your dog still, gently brush them with a soft brush, and rewarding them for staying still, is a great bonding experience.

The English Shepherd does not need regular bathing as this will dry out their skin, only bath them when they are very muddy or smelly; make sure to use a dog shampoo for sensitive skin.

English Shepherd Dog Care Guide

Shepherd Dog
Naturally graceful, this canine is often noticed for their gorgeous paces.

As mentioned, this herding dog can adapt wonderfully to a family environment.

Provided their owner can keep up, this breed does well in almost any home.

However, they do need constant access to garden or outdoor space to self-exercise. As a result, bringing this dog into an apartment is not advised.

Food and Dietary Requirements

Daily Food Consumption
Guide 1,200 calories
Cups of Kibble Three Bowls of Kibble Required per Day

English Shepherds need three cups of dog food each day. This should be split into three smaller meals of around one cup each.

Most owners of this breed will recommend a mix of wet and dried food.

Whatever you choose to feed your dog, ensure that it is a high quality feed. Try to choose a food that contains pure meat, as opposed to “meal”, which is a lower quality protein source.

As the English Shepherd is an active breed, they are not prone to becoming overweight.

Exercise Requirements

Daily Exercise Requirements
Minutes 120 minutes
Activity Level This is a high activity dog breed

Although small and cute, do not be fooled, the English Shepherd is no lapdog!

They are best suited to a person who can dedicate two hours of exercise each day to them, this can either be delivered as one long walk or hike, or in several, shorter walks.

You may also wish to try running with your dog as another way of getting them that much needed exercise.

Alternatively, an English Shepherd could be worked to burn off some of that excess energy. While they are naturally herding dogs, they also excel as therapy animals and search and rescue dogs.

There are two important caveats when discussing exercising the English Shepherd:

  1. They need just as much mental stimulation as physical exercise (try putting their food in treat balls or tug-a-jugs to encourage intellectual engagement)
  2. As puppies they will be bouncing all over the place, but they do not need too much exercise

A good rule of thumb is to walk any puppy for 5 minutes for every month they have lived.

An eight-month-old puppy needs 40 minutes of exercise each day!

Training

English Shepherds are known for their independence and intelligence.

In a farm environment, this breed would need to naturally navigate the farm on their own.

Consequently, they require very little manners training, this versatile breed tends to naturally adapt quickly.

Their natural intelligence does best when honed on a skill.

Try taking your English Shepherd to dog agility classes or teaching more advance trick training.

When working, these dogs would have to make judgement calls to protect their livestock. Consequently, these dogs may not always be obedient first time.

Health Problems

The biggest concern for the English Shepherd dog is hip dysplasia.

This is where the hip joint is abnormally developed, causing friction when moving. This friction causes discomfort when moving.

In most cases it can be managed by pain medication, although in more severe cases the condition will require corrective surgery.

English Shepherds may also develop Patellar Luxation, or the inability to correctly extend the knee joint.

The condition is often diagnosable by the characteristic “skip”, where the dog will jump a step.

Like Hip Dysplasia, Patellar Luxation is usually managed through pain medication or correctly surgery.

A recent study at Washington State University found that as with other herding breeds, the English Shepherd is a carrier of a mutated MDR1 gene.

Those affected by the mutation will have increased sensitivity to certain medications.

Despite their potential to inherit these conditions, in most cases English Shepherds live between 10 and 14 years.

Summary

English Shepherd Dog
One of the distinguishing features between the two breeds is their herding style. Border Collies will herd in a crouched position, whereas an English Shepherd will herd in an upright and relaxed position.

English Shepherds are a medium breed of working dog.

Best suited to homes where they can be kept busy, this active breed likes to be worked or involved in canine sports.

This breed type completely devotes themselves to their owners, and consequently they are better suited to someone can be home all day with them.

Their natural intelligence means they excel at trick training and are often obedience champions.

Do you have an English Shepherd at home? Leave us your thoughts on this breed in the comments below.

John Woods Autho Bio Picture
John Woods is the founder of All Things Dogs, member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, graduate in Animal Behavior & Welfare and recognized author by the Dog Writers Association of America.

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