Old English Sheepdog reaches historic low and risks extinction

As fashionable Game of Thrones dog breed increases

  • Old English Sheepdog could risk extinction as its numbers reach historic lows
  • Meanwhile breeds such as the Alaskan Malamute, popularised by TV series Game of Thrones, increases in popularity
  • Kennel Club warns puppy buyers about the importance of researching the most suitable dog for their lifestyle and not following the latest fashion

One of Britain’s most iconic dog breeds, the Old English Sheepdog, will enter the Kennel Club’s list of breeds that could face extinction, for the first ever time, if the current low rate of puppy registrations continues.

New statistics released by dog welfare organisation, the Kennel Club, show that there were just 98 puppy registrations of the breed, popularly known as the ‘Dulux dog’, in the first quarter of this year. This is a 16 per cent decrease on the same period last year. If the same level of decline continues throughout the year the breed will enter the Kennel Club’s Vulnerable Native Breeds list – a list devised for those native breeds which have fallen below 300 annual puppy registrations and which could risk disappearing from our streets and parks.

The Old English Sheepdog is currently on the Kennel Club’s At Watch list, for dogs with between 300-450 puppy registrations a year, which are being closely monitored by the Kennel Club. There has been a steady decline in the popularity of the breed over the years and in 2018 it recorded its lowest number of registrations ever with just 384 puppies registered. Registrations of the breed have decreased by 67 per cent in the last 20 years.

By contrast, more exotic and fashionable breeds such as the Alaskan Malamute – a breed with a wolf-like appearance similar to ‘Ghost’, the dire wolf in the popular TV series Game of Thrones – have seen an increase this quarter. There have been 90 puppy registrations so far this year, compared to 30 in the same period in 2018 – a 200 per cent increase.

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “The Old English Sheepdog is one of our most iconic dog breeds but you rarely see one now in our streets and parks, so the historic lows we’re currently seeing are particularly worrying.

“We would expect the numbers to have declined over the years, to a degree, as a result of lifestyle changes – it is a breed with a good temperament that can make a lovely family pet but it also needs a lot of grooming and exercise and so is not suitable for the fast-paced urban lifestyles of many people.

“But sadly it seems that TV, celebrities and advertising campaigns, rather than responsible research, are normally the guiding force behind our choice of dog breed and which breeds move in and out of fashion.

“For example the Alaskan Malamute, which resembles the dire wolf in Game of Thrones, has increased in popularity this quarter, despite being difficult to train and generally unsuitable for urban environments, and breeds such as the French Bulldog, often seen with celebrities yet which can require a lot commitment due to potential health problems, continue to rise in popularity.

“There are 221 pedigree dog breeds, each with their own unique characteristics and care needs, so everybody can find a suitable breed for them if they take the time to do their research and match their dog choice to their lifestyle.”

There are 29 Vulnerable Native Breeds in total and nine on the At Watch list. Some native vulnerable breeds have fared well, with the Sussex Spaniel increasing from 0 to 26 registrations in the first quarter of this year, and the Sealyham Terrier increasing by 280 per cent.

However, other breeds have not been so lucky with the biggest declines being seen in the Field Spaniel, with no puppy registrations so far. The Manchester Terrier has also declined by 93 per cent with just four registrations, compared to 54 in the same quarter of 2018. The iconic Scottish Terrier, which first entered the Kennel Club’s At Watch list in 2018, has continued to plummet in the first quarter of this year with registrations dropping by 17 per cent, compared to the same period last year.

Read more information on finding the right breed for your lifestyle.