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Polish Lowland Sheepdog
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is a medium sized purebred from Poland and is also called a Valee Sheepdog, or in Polish the Polski Owczarek Nizinny or Nizinny, though it is often called PON for short in Poland and even in the US. It was bred to be a herding dog and that need for work or to be active comes through even in non-working ones. As a companion it needs owners with a great sense of humor as it likes to steal, be too clever for its own good and loves to act the clown. It does well competing in things like tracking and herding events but they also do good in agility trials, obedience, flyball and showmanship.
|The Polish Lowland Sheepdog at A Glance|
|Name||Polish Lowland Sheepdog|
|Other names||Polski Owczarek Nizinny (Polish), Valee Sheepdog and Nizinny|
|Average weight||30 to 50 pounds|
|Average height||17 to 20 inches|
|Life span||10 to 14 years|
|Coat type||Long, dense, thick, wiry, shaggy|
|Color||Brown, black, white, grey|
|Popularity||Not that popular – ranked 169th by the AKC|
|Intelligence||Above average – fairly bright dog|
|Tolerance to heat||Very good – can handle hot weather just not extreme heat|
|Tolerance to cold||Very good – can handle cold weather just not extreme cold|
|Shedding||Low – will not leave a lot of hair around the home|
|Drooling||Low – not a breed prone to slobber or drool|
|Obesity||Average – can gain weight if over fed and under exercised|
|Grooming/brushing||High – will need some extra care and attention|
|Barking||Occasional – does not bark frequently but will bark some|
|Exercise needs||Fairly active – will need active owners|
|Trainability||Moderately easy for people with experience|
|Friendliness||Very good with socialization|
|Good first dog||Moderate – not a breed best suited to new owners|
|Good family pet||Excellent with socialization|
|Good with children||Very good with socialization|
|Good with other dogs||Good but need socialization|
|Good with other pets||Good but need socialization|
|Good with strangers||Good but can be wary at first, need socialization|
|Good apartment dog||Good – can adapt to apartment living with enough daily exercise|
|Handles alone time well||Good – can handle short periods alone|
|Health issues||Healthy breed – just a few issues including hip dysplasia and eye problems|
|Medical expenses||$460 a year for basic health care and pet insurance|
|Food expenses||$150 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats|
|Miscellaneous expenses||$535 a year for things like toys, miscellaneous items, license, basic training and grooming|
|Average annual expenses||$1145 as a starting figure|
|Cost to purchase||$1,000|
|Rescue organizations||Several including the Rescue and Adoption Service for the Polish Lowland Sheepdog|
|Biting Statistics||None Reported|
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog’s Beginnings
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is believed to be descended from dogs from Central Asia when dogs were used to trade with Europe as well as the Puli, a herding dog from Hungary. Those dogs were then crossed with local dogs leading to this breed and it has been around since at least the 1300s. It was used on the lowland plains of Poland as a herding dog and to guard flocks of sheep hence its name. In its development it is thought there are breeds such as the Dutch Schapendoes, the Lhasa Apso, the Scottish Bearded Collie and the Tibetan Terrier.
In the 1800s the breed’s numbers dropped dramatically when industrialization impacted on farming and the need for the dog dropped as there were less farmers keeping sheep. Then into the 20th century the breed was negatively impacted again by both World Wars, this was something that most dog breeds were affected by in fact. Dog breeding took a back burner to the wars, and surviving them. The second world war in fact nearly saw the breed become extinct as Poland and its people were devastated by the war themselves.
New Lease on Life
Thankfully due to the hard work of some Polish breeders though mainly because of a vet called Dr Danuta Hryniewicz, the 1950s saw the breed make a great comeback. She had a PON called Smok (Dragon) and it sired at least 10 litters and was the standard of PON that other breeders went by. He is considered to be the modern day PON’s father. Her kennels were called the Kordegardy Kennels and by the late 1960s they had produced over 140 PON puppies, some of whom became champions in shows. The first breed standard was written in 1959.
In 1970 an American breeder of Bearded Collies was interested to see the PON as it contributed to the Bearded Collie’s beginnings. Her name was Moira Morrison and she brought two PONS from Poland and these are the first known PONs in the US. When two Polish descendents in America saw a PON advertisement 4 years later in a magazine they got one and became passionate about the breed and its recognition in the US. Thanks to their efforts and others the Polish Lowland Sheepdog was fully recognized by the AKC in 2001. Today this breed is more common in Poland still than the US but it does have a small and dedicated following. It ranks 169th in popularity by the AKC.
The Dog You See Today
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is a medium sized dog weighing 30 to 50 pounds and standing 17 to 20 inches tall. It has a level back and is a broad dog with a muscular and rectangular appearing body thanks to the coat’s abundance. It has strong thighs and its tail’s length depends on where it is. Docking has now been banned in most of Europe so there it is being left natural now, but in the US it is still docked. The coat is double, water-resistant, long and shaggy looking. The under coat is soft and thick and the outer is wire-haired, straight or wavy and rough. Common colors are grey, black and white though any color can happen. It has more hair in certain areas such as the legs, chin, over its head and cheeks. When a PON is born it is often darker and then it fades as the dog ages. Its head is a little domed and broad, its ears are heart shaped drop ears that are set fairly high. Its eyes are usually brown or hazel. Blue can happen but these are not accepted in show dogs. It also has a dark nose.
The Inner Polish Lowland Sheepdog
The PON is very alert and makes a great watchdog. It will bark to let you know if an intruder is trying to get in and it is also known to have strong protective instincts. This means it will act to defend you and the home and is fearless and bold when it comes to guarding its family. This is not a good breed for new dog owners, it needs people with some experience. It is a very sensitive dog so does not do well in high stressed and loud homes. With the right owners it is affectionate, friendly, gentle, clever, loyal and lively. It has a cheerful disposition but can be independent which means sometimes it can be stubborn. Owners need to be clear and strong leaders.
With strangers the PON is more wary until it gets to know them and good socialization is important. As well as being a very curious dog getting into all sorts of things it is also known to be quite the aggravating thief, be prepared to chase after it for your underwear, towel, shoes or something that you need off it. It will often hide things too. This breed needs to be kept busy especially if its not being kept as a working dog. If it is not it can become difficult to control and destructive and will get itself into more mischief than it already does. It is an adaptable dog and can be a great companion to travel with even. Be ready for its powers of manipulation and persuasion – if it wants something it will communicate that!
Living with a Polish Lowland Sheepdog
What will training look like?
Training the PON is not an easy job and not one for the inexperienced. A lot of patience will be needed and be prepared to for it to be a gradual process. Start training and socialization from a young age, as soon as you bring it home in fact. The older a dog gets the harder it is to train, especially with stronger willed dogs like this one. It comes from a history of having to be independent and making its own decisions and it is very good at problem solving. Be firm and consistent, set rules and stick to them, do not let it dominate you. Be positive and keep the sessions short, engaging and reward its successes using treats and encouragement, not punishments or scolding when things do not go as well. Since this dog does have strong herding instincts it will nip at peoples and animals heels so include some training to control that. As mentioned socialization is important too. Start it early because the wary and watchful side of this dog can mean without good socialization it becomes sharp or skittishness. Let it get accustomed to different places, people, animals and situations.
How active is the Polish Lowland Sheepdog
The PON is a very active breed and while it can adapt to apartment living it is best in a home with access to a yard of some kind. But it is a popular apartment dog for people in Poland. You just have to make sure you take out it at least a couple of times a day. It is fine going out when it is cold but will need shade, water and going out when it is cooler in hotter climates. Owners of this breed need to be active themselves so that they are happy to have the PON join them for hikes, jogs, bike rides and so on. With enough physical and mental stimulation it is a calm dog that settles well. As well as taking it for a good brisk walk twice a day make sure it has jobs to do, take it to a do park a few times a week for off leash run time and play time with you. Make sure it is challenged and have various ways and opportunities to let off steam and engage its brain.
Caring for the Polish Lowland Sheepdog
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog needs quite a high amount of grooming and maintenance so requires committed owners that have that kind of time to give to their dog. Some people opt to take it to a professional groomer on a regular basis to take care of its needs. This is a low shedding dog so not a lot of hair left around the home and is also considered hypoallergenic. If allergies are something to consider though always take the person with the allergy to visit the dog first. It will take about a bit more than an hour a week or you could spend 10 to 15 minutes a day. Use a natural bristled brush to stop it from being matted. A coat that becomes too tangled will need to be trimmed down and that can take up to a year to re-grow back.
However remember this is a shaggy looking dog, even with good care it will still be a shaggy looking dog! Also it is the kind of dog that tracks in mud, water, leaves and such so be prepared to clean up after it often in that respect. It also tends to have water and food in its bears after eating and drinking and will need a wipe down. Give it a bath when it needs one and make sure you use a proper dog shampoo so you do not damage its natural oils.
Other grooming needs are the usual things all dogs need, dental care, ear care and nail care. The teeth should be brushed two to three times a week at least. Its ears need to be checked for infection once a week, look for signs like wax build up, irritation, redness or discharge. Then you can wipe them clean with a warm damp cloth or with a cotton ball and dog ear cleanser. Do not insert anything into the dog’s ear, it can cause damage and pain. Then its nails need to be clipped when they get too long if it does not wear them down naturally with its activity. Take care not to cut too low down as its nerves and blood vessels run through the lower part of its nails so cutting through them will cause bleeding and pain.
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog will need to eat about 11/2 to 21/2 cups of a good quality dry dog food each day, split into at least two meals. How much exactly it needs will depend on its metabolism, level of activity, age, build and health.
How is the Polish Lowland Sheepdog with children and other animals?
With socialization and when raised with them the PON gets on very well with children as it is playful, affectionate and they can get up to joint mischief together! Be prepared though for that nipping and herding and make sure you correct it each time it tries it. Also make sure the children are taught how to play with dogs in a safe way and how to touch them and interact with them. With other pets and dogs it can be good but that socialization is important. It can be dominant around other dogs so needs a strong owner in control to deal with it. Some have a higher prey drive and are more prone to chasing small creatures that run or flutter away from them.
What Might Go Wrong?
PONs have a life span of 10 to 14 years and are a fairly healthy breed in general. They are not known to be prone to a great deal of issues. Watch for ear infection, and other possible issues might be hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, eye problems and neuronal ceroid-lipofuscinosis.
When looking at reports of dog attacks against people that caused bodily harm in the US and Canada over the last 35 years there is no mention of the PON. This is not an aggressive breed though especially not towards people unless it has been poorly raised, not socialized and it feels greatly threatened. Make sure when you choose your dog that you get one you can meet its needs in terms of stimulation, activity, training and socialization. While any dog has the potential for aggression towards people you can minimize the chances of it having an off day, or reacting poorly to certain situations.
Your Pup’s Price Tag
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog puppy will cost around $1000 from a decent and experienced breeder and then more than that again from a top breeder of show quality dogs. Do not be tempted however to turn to less reputable and decent means to find a puppy such as puppy mills, pet stores or ignorant back yard breeders. Another option you could consider though if you do not need to have a show purebred, is to look at local rescues and shelters. There are plenty of dogs needing new homes that have a great deal to offer. Adoption can cost somewhere between $50 to $400 and some initial medical needs are taken care of for you.
Once you have your puppy or dog you will need to get some things for it. A collar and leash, crate and carrier, bowls and such. These items will cost you around $200. Then as soon as you have it you will need to take it to a vet for some tests and a check up and such. Things like a physical exam, blood tests, deworming, shots, micro chipping, spaying or neutering for example will cost around $270.
Annual costs are another aspect of being a pet owner. Your dog will need basic health care like flea and tick prevention, shots, check ups and then pet insurance which will cost around $460 a year. For $535 a year you will cover miscellaneous items, license, grooming, toys and basic training. Feeding the PON will cost about $150 a year for dog treats and a good quality dry dog food. This means an estimated annual cost of $1145.
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The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is a shaggy looking, active and dominant breed so it needs experienced owners and ones who have time to commit to its stimulation, socialization and training and grooming. With the right owner it is enthusiastic, loving, devoted, protective and calm. It makes a great family pet but is not for owners who are fastidious as it will track dirt, debris and such through the home. Also be prepared for its strong will and its strong stealing mischievous side!
Featured Image Credit: Piotr Zajac, Shutterstock
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.
- The Polish Lowland Sheepdog’s Beginnings
- New Lease on Life
- The Dog You See Today
- The Inner Polish Lowland Sheepdog
- Living with a Polish Lowland Sheepdog
- Caring for the Polish Lowland Sheepdog
- How is the Polish Lowland Sheepdog with children and other animals?
- What Might Go Wrong?
- Your Pup’s Price Tag