Updated: Jan 14
Our short answer is that most Sheepadoodles do best in active homes with older children! If you are looking for a dog that can keep up with your kids’ boundless energy and always be up for an adventure, then look no further! However, if you are looking for a particularly low-key, relaxed companion who will lay around as toddlers run screaming past her, you may need to consider a different breed.
To understand why this is the case, let’s look at the history of the two breeds that make up the Sheepadoodle. First, the Old English Sheepdog emerged from England in the 1800’s as a herding breed. Herding breeds were originally bred to help farmers herd sheep and cattle. The job required a courageous, athletic dog that did not tire easily and could think on his feet (er…paws). (See which doodle breeds live the longest and are the healthiest.)
In particular, the Old English sheepdog (OES) was often used as a drover—driving a herd of cattle from the farm across miles of dusty roads to the market. You can imagine this job required a lot of energy and a bit of independent thinking. As a result, the Old English sheepdog is intelligent, agile, and active. He is trainable, but also at times has a mind of his own. The American Kennel Club adds that the Old English Sheepdog has a “clownish energy.” This description fits so many Sheepadoodles that we have known!
This dog loves to have fun (no matter the cost!) and is a naturally agreeable, happy dog who is up for a game of fetch or a romp in the yard at a moment’s notice. The breed is known for being amiable and non-aggressive with children, however they can be “a lot of dog” for the average owner/family. Still, its overall friendly and people-oriented nature have made the OES an iconic dog in America for more than a century!
Part Poodle, Sheepadoodles Make Good Companion Dogs for Kids
Now let’s consider the other half of the Sheepadoodle—the Poodle! While now primarily known as a companion dog, the Standard Poodle was originally bred as a retrieving dog (specifically for the water!). Poodles are actually quite athletic, moderately active and extremely intelligent. Retrieving is a skill that requires dutiful obedience on the part of the dog, and the standard poodle is no exception.
Poodles often excel in obedience competitions and agility exercises. They are also incredibly people-oriented and sensitive. This means they are often easy to train, but also that they require a lot of affection to be at their happiest and reach their full potential. In other words, Poodles are not the type of dog that will be content alone in the backyard all day! Standard Poodles are known for being patient and tolerant of children, particularly if exposed at a young age.
When it comes to Mini Sheepadoodles (and other mini doodles), Miniature or Toy Poodles rather than standard sized poodles are typically used to achieve a smaller adult weight. Miniature and toy poodles are equally intelligent to their standard sized counterparts, but can possess more of a spunky, opinionated side. You may want to read up on some tips for preparing your home for a puppy.
The Miniature Poodle was not bred for a sporting purpose, but rather came into existence once the Standard Poodle made its way into France where it was bred down to become a prized companion of 18th-century European aristocracy.
Bred specifically for its small size and companionship, the Miniature Poodle tends to be more demanding of attention and can be more excitable and less laidback than their standard counterparts. Still, all sizes of poodles tend to be extremely intelligent, trainable, and incredibly devoted to their people!
So when combining the poodle and the Old English Sheepdog you can be sure you are getting a highly intelligent and highly active companion! Both of these traits have their advantages and disadvantages, particularly for families with children. Both poodles and Old English Sheepdogs are energetic, social, and playful.
Sheepadoodles Have High Energy, So Your Kids Will Have Fun Playing With Them
As a result, their energy-level can help them naturally gravitate towards children as companions. As an exceptionally people-oriented dog, the Sheepadoodle will insert himself into all the activities of the household and be willing to engage with the children of the house in games and training exercises. His athletic background provides him with ample energy to keep up with playing fetch and other games with the children.
Unfortunately, the Sheepadoodle’s intelligence and active nature can also be a downside to some families. This is a dog that must be exercised and provided with ample mental stimulation to keep from becoming destructive or overly exuberant in the house. (Learn what makes a good puppy owner here.) A family with young children may not have the time and energy to devote to the Sheepadoodle’s training and exercise needs.
Sheepadoodles also need firm, consistent boundaries when it comes to training them not to jump, pull on the leash, etc. Their naturally exuberant personalities will take over if not appropriately redirected from a young age. This can also be a challenge for families with children who may not understand how to appropriately enact these boundaries and may unintentionally reward “problem behavior.”
This can especially be the case when it comes to the challenge of redirecting puppy nipping. This is a challenge with a puppy of any breed, but especially with a Sheepadoodle due to their herding background.
One of the main factors to consider when it comes to how this breed interacts with children, is the Old English Sheepdog’s herding roots. Similar to other herding breeds, Old English Sheepdogs often carry a strong instinct to chase and nip at fast-moving things.
This instinct is crucial to keep a herd of cattle in line but can be an obnoxious behavior for families with young kids. In some cases, crossing the OES to the poodle can help to minimize these herding instincts, but in many cases, the Sheepadoodle still has a drive to chase and nip at anything that runs by.
Kids obviously fall into the category of “fast-moving” so a Sheepadoodle may nip at their ankles or bump into them while kids are at play. This behavior can result in broken skin, torn clothing, falling down, etc. so is often a source of frustration for the children.
Being young and enthusiastic, a Sheepadoodle puppy can bite hard! Many families and children interpret this as aggression and become startled or react by yelling or other sharp sounds and movements, which tends to only exacerbate the Sheepadoodle’s herding instincts. As you can see with young children this herding behavior can quickly turn into a vicious cycle!
The natural wild play of young children sets off the natural herding/nipping behavior of the OES which in turn provokes more high-key behaviors from the child, and in turn drives up the excitement of the Sheepadoodle!
Another point to consider is that despite being smaller, the mini Sheepadoodle is just as prone to being energetic and nippy as a standard Sheepadoodle. Their small size can make them a little easier for a small child to manage, but they can actually be a bit less eager-to-please and more high-strung than their standard counterparts based on their miniature poodle background.
If you have children, but are still set on this bubbly, affectionate breed, then we would recommend a standard size and an F1b or other later generation that has a higher percentage of poodle parentage to help mitigate the herding instinct.
Your Kids Will Enjoy High Energy Sheepadoodles
In conclusion, if you have an older child who is capable of setting boundaries with a young Sheepadoodle pup and understanding how to appropriately redirect their herding and nipping behaviors, then the Sheepadoodle may be a good fit for you. All members of the family must be ready to jump in with both feet when it comes to playing with and training a Sheepadoodle. In particular, families with older children who have lots of energy and play to give may benefit from the Sheepadoodle’s happy-go-lucky, active personality.
If your older child dreams of doing frisbee tricks in the backyard with their dog or teaching him endless party tricks, then the Sheepadoodle might just be the perfect fit! But families with young children, busy schedules, or sedentary lifestyles would do best to find a lower energy breed.
Jenna and the JLDD Team