The Hardworking Family Dog: Get to Know the English Shepherd

Last Updated on April 26, 2023

If you’re someone who loves workdays as weekends, you’ve found your canine match – meet the English Shepherd.

The English Shepherd is a herding dog who loves to work but will also curl up at your feet at the end of the day. These dogs can get a little bossy, too. Their instinct tells them to chase and try to herd everyone they come across.

Read on to learn more about this interesting breed!

English Shepherd with a sable coat lying on the forest floor

What is an English Shepherd dog?

The English Shepherd breed was developed when English and Scottish settlers brought their farm dogs to the United States. This breed is from a Collie bloodline; these Collies were trained herding dogs all their life, and they passed down their strong herding instinct to the English Shepherd.

Farmers prefer this dog because of their versatility, too. Aside from herding, these Shepherds can guard livestock, hunt, and even drive away vermin! Imagine all that work from a single breed!

English Shepherd dogs love to work, but they associate it fun, too. In fact, they view work as playtime!

What does an English Shepherd look like?

Tan English Shepherd standing and looking at the camera
Source: @todaywithmagnus / IG

These are medium-sized dogs with agile bodies that are flexible enough to jump and run around.

An English Shepherd can grow to a size of 18 to 28 inches (46 to 61 cm) and weigh anywhere from 35 to 65 pounds (16 to 29 kg).

Their intelligent eyes are usually a shade of brown.

Though uncommon, there is a possibility that English Shepherds will have blue eyes if they have a white head.

They can alsohave one brown eye and one blue eye. This sometimes happens to Shepherd dogs with a split-colored face.

These dogs are also known to have multi-colored coats and unique markings. They are usually tri or bi-colored with combinations ranging from black and white, tan and white, to sable and white. Spots may sometimes show up in their muzzles and legs.

Their tails are moderately long, but there will be instances that they can have a natural bobtail.

The English Shepherd’s unique personality: both bossy and obedient

The English Shepherd’s personality might be a challenge for someone who doesn’t understand how these dogs behave. Their temperament is one-of-a-kind; they’re bossy and they like enforcing rules but they’re also obedient to their owners.

These Shepherds are known to be dominating around other dogs and other animals. They’ll try to make other dogs follow the rules, as they have a strong desire to enforce order.

However, they will defer to the pack leader, so you will have to establish yourself as the alpha. This way, they’ll follow your orders and you can more easily control herding behavior in inappropriate situations.

Do English Shepherds make good family pets?

The short answer is: Yes. Though they’re working dogs, the English Shepherd’s temperament helps them fit in well with any family.

Here are some reasons why you should consider getting this Shepherd.

#1 They’re sweet, loyal, and sociable

English Shepherd looking up at kittens
Source: @jeffmillman.dogtraining / IG

English Shepherds are some of the friendliest, most loving dogs you’ll meet.

They’re gentle and sweet, especially around people and other animals who they’ve accepted into their pack.

Many of these dogs can make excellent companion dogs, provided they get enough physical and mental stimulation.

They’re loyal and devoted pets, and they want to spend time at their master’s side if they’re not out rounding up cattle.

English Shepherds also get along well with other animals, even with cats. They might chase them around the house or up a tree (because of their herding instinct), but these dogs are rarely aggressive.

#2 They will look after your kids.

These Shepherds are great family dogs! They love guarding kids in their pack and making sure that little ones don’t wander off into danger.

Most of these dogs will be gentle and patient around kids, but, given their herding instinct, though, they may try to herd children by nipping at their heels or chasing them around.

Firm, consistent training will help with discouraging this behavior in your English Shepherd.

#3 They hustle and have fun doing it.

English Shepherds love to work simply because they have fun while working.

Herding livestock is a tiring job, but these hustlers never give up. They won’t stop until the last stubborn sheep go inside the fence – or until you say so.

No worries if you don’t own a farm. These dogs will love helping around the house, whether it’s fetching the mail, carrying the laundry, or putting their toys away.

Check out this young Shepherd herding cattle for the first time.

#4 They’re easily trained.

English Shepherds are intelligent and active dogs who will love the focus required by training. They’re easy to train because of their natural obedience and high level of self-discipline.

With these traits, these Shepherds can excel in a lot of dog sports. Agility training is their cup of tea, since it gets them moving and helps keep their minds active and focused.

Most of them are easily trained as service dogs, therapy dogs, and search and rescue dogs. They’re great hunters and trackers, too!

The right lifestyle for the English Shepherd

These Shepherds need an active lifestyle to thrive. These dogs need regular exercise, at least an hour every day.

A long, leisurely walk around the neighborhood or some off-leash time at the dog park will help burn through the English Shepherd’s energy levels.

A game of fetch and some indoor games with chew toys and rope toys will also help keep your Shepherd occupied if you can’t spend some time outdoors.

That’s not to say that the English Shepherd can’t live in an apartment, though. They’ll be happy living anywhere as long as they get sufficient physical and mental stimulation.

Without the proper exercise, they can become annoyingly noisy or even destructive, chewing up your couch cushions or even the carpet.

English Shepherd with its head on the table in front of plate
Source: @hope.the.english.shepherd / IG

As busy working dogs with high energy levels, English Shepherds should be getting the right nutrition. It’s always best to consult your vet on the best diet to give your dog, especially if you plan to give him real, raw food.

(You should know, though, that the American Veterinary Medical Association has announced their opposition of the feeding of raw foods to dogs and cats.)

If you don’t have the time to prepare homemade dog food, you can always give your dog high-quality kibble specially designed for active breeds. Give your Shepherd 1 to 2 ½ cups of dry kibble a day to sustain their energy levels.

Giving them sufficient exercise and balanced meals will ensure that your English Shepherd are healthy enough to stay by your side through their average lifespan of 10 to 15 years.

How much does an English Shepherd shed?

These dogs are actually heavy shedders, with their thick double coats. You’ll find their fur literally everywhere inside the house!

They’ll need brushing at least twice a week. Brush your dog daily, if you have the time and the energy for it. Regular brushing ensures that you remove all the loose fur in his coat and may help keep the shedding under control.

If you don’t want to get fur all over your clothes and furniture, lay a sheet under your dog before you go over his coat with a brush.

English Shepherd vs. similar breeds

The English Shepherd is often compared to two similar dogs: the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd. These three share many physical characteristics and are well-known for their skills as herding dogs.

But let’s see how the English Shepherd differs from these two breeds.

English Shepherd vs Border Collie

Many would have a hard time distinguishing these two dogs. Being almost the same size and having similar markings and coat colors, a Border Collie looks a lot like the English Shepherd.

The big difference lies in the way they work. English Shepherds are low-heelers and tend to drive the herd from the rear. Border Collies, on the other hand, drive the herd from the front and eye the livestock with a piercing stare. English Shepherds are known to be loose-eyed and don’t usually do this.

English Shepherds also work in a more relaxed and upright position. If you observe a dog driving a herd in a low, crouching posture, it’s most likely to be a Border Collie.

Black and white Border Collie running outdoors
Border Collie

English Shepherd vs Australian Shepherd

Though these two have almost the same built, differences are more recognizable. Australian Shepherds are easily differentiated from English Shepherds because of the former’s merle coat.

An Australian Shepherd’s coat can also be tri-colored, but English Shepherds never have merle coats. Also, unlike English Shepherds, Aussies are mostly bob-tailed.

Eye color also vary more in Aussies because of their merle coats. Typical shades include brown, blue, hazel, amber to green. Australian Shepherds may also have two different-colored eyes, a condition called heterochromia. This is less common in English Shepherds.

Australian Shepherd with a ball in its mouth
Australian Shepherd

Where can I buy an English Shepherd?

Like with most dogs, you have two options in getting an English Shepherd: breeders or adoption.

If you want an English Shepherd pup to raise, your best bet is probably a reputable breeder. English Shepherd puppies may cost anywhere from $350 to $1000 each.

Check out these breeders for healthy Shepherd pups to take home:

  • Honey Hill English Shepherds (New York)
  • Morganic Farm (Michigan)

Rescue and adoption for English Shepherds

Adoption is an excellent option if you don’t mind bringing home an adult English Shepherd.

What’s great is that there’s an organization working to rescue English Shepherd dogs who need suitable homes: the National English Shepherd Rescue (NESR).

NESR matches abandoned Shepherds to a new, loving home, so you can contact them to see if there’s an English Shepherd you can rescue in your area.

Tri-colored English Shepherd standing and looking at the camera
Source: @lenaebeth / IG

Our final word on the loyal, friendly English Shepherd

Devoted, trustworthy, and hardworking dogs, these are the English Shepherds. Though they’re bred to herd cattle and sheep, they can also do well with the right family.

They can be excellent canine companions, with their loyal nature and innate obedience. Their gentleness and even temperament also makes them great playmates for kids.

Their high energy levels means they need an active owner who can give them regular exercise. These Shepherds will need a lot of grooming, too, so be prepared to do a lot of brushing.

How do you find the English Shepherd? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!



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