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English Shepherd

Updated on September 29, 2021
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English Shepherds are a breed of dog known for their confidence and work ethic. They are medium-sized, sturdy, and easy to train. They make great herding dogs but are also fully capable of hunting, tracking, and treeing. Treeing is a method of hunting in which dogs chase animals that naturally climb trees up the tree where hunters shoot them. 

English Shepherds are athletic and smart, and they make a good family dog for those willing to work with them and get them enough physical activity. They are also called English herder, barnyard collie, cow dog, and farm collie.

English Shepherd 2

The breed developed from a combination of sheep and cattle dogs native to the British Isles. These dogs were brought to the region by Caesar during his invasion in 55 BC. The dogs helped with herding livestock and eventually were bred with similar herding dogs to increase their natural instincts.

This breed came to America in colonial times. Recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1927, this all-purpose working breed has been popular for hundreds of years in the western world. 

English Shepherds are descendants of Shepherd dogs from England and Scotland. They are related to other dogs such as Scotch Collies, Border Collies, and Australian Shepherds. They herd livestock and hunt vermin for English and Scottish settlers. 


English Shepherds are highly trainable.

They like to work, and the English Shepherd personality wants to make their owners happy. They are alert dogs that make devoted family watchdogs.

ES are primarily herding dogs. They are good heelers, so they'll walk close to you, and they have a lot of agility and stamina. They're willing to “get tough” when needed in their work, but they are trustworthy and will leave the herd alone when their assistance is unnecessary.


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They're also hunting dogs. They have a keen sense of tracking and are great treeing dogs. Keep in mind, this treeing behavior is instinctive, so you'll need to keep an eye on your pup if you or your neighbors have a cat.

English Shepherds are agile dogs. Their athleticism makes them great at dog sports and other fun bonding activities with their humans. Their willingness to please the people around them makes them good therapy dogs. You'll also find this breed working in search and rescue roles. They also make great farm dogs.


English Shepherds are well-known for their personalities. They are eager to please and hard workers. They make good watchdogs and get along well with children and other pets, especially when raised with them. They can adjust, but they tend to be dominant and territorial when you introduce new pets into the family.

English Shepherds need a strong leader in the home who establishes and enforces rules. Their personalities are such that they will try to take the lead if there is no human fulfilling that role.

Another thing to know about the English Shepherd temperament is that they tend to be polite with strangers, as long as they don't sense any risk to their territory or humans. 

Appearance & Care

Like all dogs, the ES breed requires a commitment from its owner. Their grooming needs are relatively minimal, but they are active dogs that require a lot of exercise.

This breed tends to do better in a home with a large fenced yard. English Shepherd owners lacking outdoor space and smaller homes can expect plenty of park visits and long walks.

These dogs are also quite smart and require a lot of mental stimulation. They want to “do stuff,” and they like to work hard with their bodies and minds. Without the right training, English Shepherds tend to be stubborn and try to overrule their humans.

These are healthy dogs with lots of energy, so their care requires a lot of outdoor activities and mental stimulation. Putting your pet on a routine also helps keep up with care and maintenance and helps your dog feel comfortable and confident.


English Shepherds have thick, medium-length, glossy coats. They require regular grooming, but most of it can be done at home. These dogs have a sturdy body with a less circular head than their Australian cousins. Their fur might be straight, curly, or wavy.


The grooming responsibilities of this breed are fairly easy. They should be brushed several times a week. English Shepherds shed moderately throughout the year and have a twice-a-year major shedding season when they need more frequent brushings.

Their outer coat tends to be water- and dirt-resistant. Bathing too often interferes with their coat's natural oils, so limit bathing to only when it's necessary. The English shepherd coat doesn’t need clipping or cutting, but some owners clip them shorter to reduce brushing needs. Their coats don't tend to mat even without clipping, but you'll sometimes find tangles around the neck, legs, and chest areas.

When you give your English Shepherd a bath, it's important to follow it with a thorough brushing. Choose a high-quality dog-safe shampoo made with natural ingredients that offer soothing or anti-itch components. You should avoid using most human shampoos and soaps on your dog.

Following the bath, you can towel-dry your English Shepherd dog until damp, brush through their coat, and let them air dry.

As active dogs, most ES keep their nails at a reasonable length by walking on concrete. However, if your dog walks mostly on softer surfaces like grass, you'll need to periodically check his nails and trim them when necessary. 


English Shepherds are relatively healthy dogs. Their average lifespan is 12 to 15 years. However, like most dog breeds, they have health problems, too.

Even though it is a medium-sized dog, this breed is prone to developing joint problems such as luxating patella and hip and elbow dysplasia. Dog owners should also watch out for eye problems such as collie eye anomaly. This condition is inherited and can lead to a dog losing its vision.

Furthermore, the English Shepherd Club recommends that breeders conduct health tests for brucellosis and MDR1. Brucellosis is a condition affecting the reproductive organs that often leads to stillbirths and miscarriages. MDR1 makes the dog more susceptible to negative medication reactions.


English Shepherd dogs will benefit from high-quality, nutritious dog food. Most owners recommend feeding English Shepherds a mix of wet and dry foods. 

These medium-sized dogs will need approximately 2-3 cups of food per day, divided into 2-3 small meals. The amount of food varies depending on several factors, such as age, health concerns, weight, and activity level.

English Shepherd puppies will have lesser food requirements than adults. This is because their small stomach can only handle smaller meals at frequent intervals throughout the day.

Male English shepherds typically weigh around 52.5 pounds. It is important not to overfeed them to prevent obesity, which can lead to hip dysplasia. 

Is an English Shepherd Right for Me? 

The greatest challenge of owning an ES is providing them with enough physical activity. Without plenty of exercise, they'll bark a lot and can be destructive. They do not make good apartment dogs because they need space and outdoor access, and apartment life cannot provide that. They need a large yard to get enough exercise. 

They have a strong chasing instinct that can get them into trouble at times. They need to be socialized, and some might be shy if they are not exposed to other humans and animals at a young age.

However, English Shepherds make a great family pet because they are loyal companions. They are kind, devoted, and hard workers. 

As a popular breed, it might be tough to find a purebred English Shepherd. However, this is a breed whose temperament mixes well with other breeds, so there's no reason you shouldn't consider a mixed breed English Shepherd.

How Do I Know If I Have an English Shepherd?

Unless you've purchased your dog from a reputable English Shepherd breeder, you might not be sure if your dog is of this breed. You might also have a mixed breed dog and wonder if English Shepherd makes up part of his lineage.

The only way to know for sure that your dog is an English Shepherd is to conduct a DNA test.

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Some people assume they have an English Shepherd or certain other breed based on their dog's appearance and disposition. If your dog looks like an English Shepherd and has a calm, dependable personality with herding instincts, there's a chance there's ES blood in him.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) has not yet officially recognized the English Shepherd breed. For more information about your English Shepherd, the English Shepherd Club is a valuable resource. The United Kennel Club has the breed standard for the English Shepherd. 


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“English Shepherd Club.” English Shepherd Club,

“Breed Info.” English Shepherd Club,

Content Contributor
Joel is a writer with a passion for the science of DNA and the power of its manipulation.
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