The Polish Lowland sheepdog—or PON, short for its Polish breed name Polski Owczarek Nizinny—is a popular Polish watchdog and livestock herder with a stocky build and thick, shaggy double-coat. Tenacious, lively, and confident, the PON needs a dedicated owner willing to deal with their stubborn training temperament and high-maintenance fur. Still, if you power through and give them the training, exercise, and grooming they need, they’ll be a fantastic companion and reliable worker suitable for many different homes.
Height: 17 to 20 inches
Weight: 30 to 50 pounds
Coat: Thick, long, and shaggy
Coat Color: Beige, black, black and white, brown, chocolate and white, gray, gray and white, tricolor, and white.
Life Span: 12 to 14 years
Temperament: Confident, intelligent, lively, active, loyal, attentive, peaceful
Characteristics of the Polish Lowland Sheepdog
Originally bred for herding livestock, the Polish Lowland sheepdog is an active and motivated breed that loves having a "job" to accomplish. Despite their high-maintenance coat, they are otherwise easy-to-care-for dogs, with a calm and vigilant disposition that makes them good companions.
|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, Asian traders entered Eastern Europe and their dogs bred (like the Tibetan mastiff and Lhasa Apso) with the local dogs, creating the PON. The drive and dedication of the breed was the perfect medium-sized match for herding, as larger dogs frightened the sheep and were too aggressive with young lamps. Their work ethic and drive brought outside admirers and the PON was eventually crossed with Scottish herding dogs to create the Bearded Collie, which remains the more popular and accessible of the two. The Polish Kennel Club officially recognized the breed in 1959; the American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized it in 2001.
Polish Lowland Sheepdog Care
Between stubbornness, high energy, and mop-like coat that requires daily grooming, a PON owner should be dedicated to spending a lot of time with their dog. But for the right family, the PON will become a hard working, loyal, and lovable companion.
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 brainpower—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 them 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.
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, regular clipping will mean less brushing, but it also 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.
It's important to care for other parts of your PON's grooming routine as well. Trim their nails once a month and clean their ears weekly, keeping an eye out for unusually redness or appearance that may signal an infection. You should also aim to brush your dog's teeth several times a week.
Socialization and obedience training should begin early on in a PON’s life. This breed has a tendency to be aloof and wary of strangers, so early socialization in puppyhood can help alleviate that. Though the PON is wickedly intelligent, they are equally as stubborn and require 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 where they can approach a less-than-friendly canine.
This dog's genetic material sets them 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 they're likely to succeed. If you're hitting a wall with stubbornness, reevaluate what you're offering as a reward for training. Trying to overpower your Polish lowland sheepdog with force or intimidation will likely harm your relationship and can backfire on training goals.
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 joint issues as they age, and highly active dogs should be examined for signs of stress injuries like muscle tears. When it comes to your PON, keep an eye out for the following health issues:
Diet and Nutrition
Your 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.
Where to Adopt or Buy a Polish Lowland Sheepdog
If you want to adopt a PON, check your local animal shelter or look for a sheepdog rescue organization in your state. If you're going to rescue route, it's likely you won't find a pure bred PON, given the rarity of this breed. If this specific breed isn't available, they may be able to recommend another shelter or rescue organization with similar dogs waiting for their forever homes.
When buying a puppy from a breeder, it's essential to do your research. Responsible breeders do not produce new litters often and perform the necessary medical tests on both parents. Prospective adopters should be allowed to meet these parents and see that the dogs are kept in a comfortable, safe indoor location. Because PON puppies are relatively hard to come by, you may need to travel far or pay a premium to get one from a reputable breeder.
Polish Lowland Sheepdog Overview
Stubborn and can be difficult to train
Daily grooming required
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.
If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:
There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!
Are Polish lowland sheepdogs good family dogs?
Polish lowland sheepdogs can be a good dog for the right family. Because they need lots of grooming, exercise, and training, they're better suited to families with older children who can help care for them.
Are Polish lowland sheepdogs aggressive?
No—although they are considered a good watch dog breed, Polish lowland sheepdogs are not aggressive. They are wary of strangers, but typically this manifests itself in standoffish behavior, not aggression.
Are Polish lowland sheepdogs good apartment dogs?
No. Polish lowland sheepdogs are best suited for larger homes with outdoor space. Beyond the fact that they need lots of energy and room to roam, they do not like strangers and may feel uncomfortable with all the coming and going associated with apartment living.