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The Old English Sheepdog – The ‘Dulux’ Dog

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72 – November/December, 2017


I just celebrated my 45th birthday (I know, it’s something people always find hard to believe, looking at my glowing ever-youthful complexion!) however it’s an inescapable fact that I was indeed born in 1972.

And just a year later a film was released (that was destined to become my childhood favorite); Digby: The Biggest Dog in the World.

It was the story of an Old English Sheepdog that accidentally drank a liquid formula and expanded to gigantic proportions and subsequently went on a rampage through the English countryside. The film hit the big screen at the peak of the breed’s appearance advertising a popular brand of paint. In fact, this campaign was so successful that I (like many others) grew up knowing the Old English Sheepdog as ‘the Dulux Dog’.

This constant publicity contributed to a population explosion; for a time, they really were the kind of dog one could see on every street corner. Our neighbor had two – ‘Deano’ and ‘Barnie’ (well, it was the ‘70s!) – and she lavished attention on her, ‘big hairy babies’. However, even as a boy, I realized the importance of the ‘right kind of home/owner for the right kind of dog.’ These large, boisterous and super-intelligent dogs weren’t really suitable in a ‘two-up/two-down’ centrally heated, terraced house in London. It was a lesson many learned the hard way and, of course, it was always the dog that suffered the most.

My neighbor’s dogs were both plagued by skin problems, including the worst wet eczema, and Deano was also terribly destructive (that capacious brain needed far more stimulation than a simple stroll around the block could provide).

Deano and Barnie’s sad plight has always stuck in my mind and they have certainly colored my judgement on ‘doggy’ subjects ever since.

The most serious outcome of any sudden surge in popularity is, of course, wanton and indiscriminate breeding purely for financial gain. Much of this (but sadly not all) was carried out by inexperienced people and this contributed to many needing re-homing, a number of which also displayed quite uncharacteristic aggression.

Fashions always change, and of course the Old English Sheepdog ‘bubble’ eventually burst, leaving the breed in the safe hands of those who truly loved and appreciated it and its unique heritage. And this breed really has a history that (just like Digby) is larger than life.

Click here to read the complete article
72 – November/December, 2017

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