The Polish Lowland Sheepdog: Dog Breed Profile

Polish lowland sheepdog

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The Polish Lowland Sheepdog—or PON, short for its Polish breed name “Polski Owczarek Nizinny”—is a clever clown with a high work drive and no shortage of energy. The PON is popular in Poland as a watchdog and livestock herder. Tenacious, lively, and confident, the PON needs a dedicated owner; his thick, shaggy double-coat requires daily brushing, and his stubborn temperament tests the will of new trainers. Building your skills as a reward-based trainer will help you and your Polish Lowland Sheepdog work together fluidly. Still, if you power through and give him the training, exercise, and grooming he needs, he’ll be a fantastic companion and reliable worker for you. 

Breed Overview

Group: Herding (AKC)

Height: 18 to 20 inches (male), 17 to 19 inches (female)

Weight: 30 to 50 pounds

Coat and Color: Thick, long and shaggy coat; beige, black, black and white, brown, chocolate and white, gray, gray and white, tricolor, and white. 

Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

Characteristics of the Polish Lowland Sheepdog

Affection Level

Medium
Friendliness Medium-Low
Kid-Friendly Medium
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness Medium-High
Energy Level High
Trainability Medium-Low
Intelligence Medium-High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding High

History of the Polish Lowland Sheepdog

The PON originated in the region that eventually became Poland. Theory has it that in the 1300s, Huns and other Asian invaders entered Eastern Europe and their dogs bred with the local dogs, creating the PON. Of course, no one is 100 percent sure if this is what happened!

The drive and dedication of the breed brought outside admirers, and the PON was eventually crossed with Scottish herding dogs to create the Bearded Collie. The Polish Kennel Club officially recognized the breed in 1959; the American Kennel Club officially recognized it in 2001.

Polish Lowland Sheepdog Care

The PON is no walk in the park to care for. Between stubbornness, high energy, and a mop-like coat that requires daily grooming, a PON owner should be dedicated to spending a lot of time working with their dog. But for a steadfast and loyal owner, the PON will become a hard worker and loyal companion.

If you’re looking for a low-maintenance grooming routine, the PON is not the right breed for you. The breed’s characteristic long, thick, shaggy coat needs daily brushing to avoid matting. Though the fur is mostly water resistant, the long coat tends to pick up debris like sticks and dirt. The PON also has a dense undercoat, so seasonal shedding is to be expected.

Many owners trim the fur around their dog's eyes and ears at least. If you enjoy brushing your dog as a bonding activity, great! Otherwise, you may be able to find a regular groomer who will keep your PON's coat clipped short. Keep in mind that regular clipping will mean less brushing, but it means regular paid trips to the groomer! Not brushing this dog isn't an option: matting in the undercoat can be painful and nearly impossible to remove once it progresses.

Socialization and obedience training should begin early on in a PON’s life. The breed has a tendency to be aloof and wary of strangers and should be thoroughly socialized during puppyhood. And, though the PON is wickedly intelligent, he’s equally as stubborn and requires a patient but firm trainer. They can be very confident with other dogs as well, so they shouldn’t be left unattended in spaces like dog parks. 

This dog's genetic material sets him up to be a watch dog, so be aware that you're working with genes that dictate your dog should be wary of strangers. Correcting your dog for this behavior is likely to make it worse. Instead, focus on rewarding your dog for good behavior and setting up situations where he's likely to succeed. If you're hitting a wall with stubbornness, reevaluate what you're offering as a reward for training - perhaps that's the problem! Trying to overpower your Polish Lowland Sheepdog with force or intimidation will likely harm your relationship and can backfire on training goals.

Like other dogs in the herding group, the PON is full of energy and needs appropriate outlets. Both physical and mental exercise are essential to preventing PONs from becoming bored and destructive. Their level of intelligence is high, and activities that require brain power—like puzzle toys, agility, and nose work—are great tools for managing the PON’s drive. They are happiest when exercised for no less than an hour daily. Taking your dog for long walks in nature and letting him sniff is a great way for both of you to relax. Most dogs are actually easier to live with after nature-filled sniffing walks than after pounding the pavement - so it's worth it to really head out and about and not just around the block!

Common Health Problems

The PON is a relatively healthy breed with no major genetic concerns. Like most medium to large dogs, PONs should be monitored for signs of arthritis and hip dysplasia as they age. Additionally, highly active dogs should regularly be examined for signs of stress injuries like muscle tears and joint pain. 

Diet and Nutrition

The PON should perform well on a high-quality dog food, either manufactured or prepared at home under veterinary supervision. PONs used for flock herding and sports may benefit from a high performance or working dog food. Fresh, clean water should be available at all times for this active breed.

Pros

  • Intelligent

  • Playful

  • Dedicated

Cons

  • Stubborn

  • Daily grooming

  • Highly energetic

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Always do your research before bringing any new animal into your life. It’s a good idea to talk to both current owners of a breed as well as breed organizations, and this goes double for breeds like the Polish Lowland Sheepdog which do require a bit of extra training and attention.

Since this breed is relatively rare, take extra care to meet several and ensure they're what you're looking for. Talk to lots of owners and breeders and be prepared to express why you're looking at this breed in particular.

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