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Polish Tatra Sheepdog
|The Polish Tatra Sheepdog at a Glance|
|Name||Polish Tatra Sheepdog|
|Other names||Tatra Mountain Sheepdog, Owczarek Tatrzański, Owczarek Podhalański, Polski Owczarek|
|Average size||Large to giant|
|Average weight||80 to 130 pounds|
|Average height||24 to 28 inches|
|Life span||10 to 12 years|
|Coat type||Weather-resistant double coat, slightly wavy or straight, harsh topcoat, dense undercoat|
|Popularity||Not a registered member of the AKC|
|Intelligence||Very good to excellent|
|Tolerance to heat||Average|
|Tolerance to cold||Excellent|
|Shedding||Average to above average at regular times then very heavy during seasonal shedding times|
|Drooling||Low to moderate – not a dog that drools a lot|
|Obesity||Average – measure its food and make sure it is exercised|
|Grooming/brushing||Average to high – brush twice a week unless it is shedding seasonally, then it needs daily brushing|
|Barking||Moderate – will bark to warn of strangers or danger|
|Exercise needs||High – needs active owners|
|Trainability||Moderate – experience helps|
|Friendliness||Good – needs socialization|
|Good first dog||Good but better with experienced owners|
|Good family pet||Very good with socialization|
|Good with children||Good to very good with socialization|
|Good with other dogs||Very good with socialization|
|Good with other pets||Very good with socialization|
|Good with strangers||Moderate to good with socialization as it is naturally wary and aloof with strangers|
|Good apartment dog||No – needs space and a large yard at least|
|Handles alone time well||Good – can deal with short to moderate time alone but not long periods|
|Health issues||Quite a healthy breed but some issues can include Hip/elbow dysplasia, eye problems, patellar luxation, epilepsy and bloat|
|Medical expenses||$485 a year for basic health care and dog insurance|
|Food expenses||$325 a year for a good dry dog food and dog treats|
|Miscellaneous expenses||$260 a year for miscellaneous items, toys, license and basic training|
|Average annual expenses||$1070 as a starting figure|
|Cost to purchase||$1,000|
|Rescue organizations||Polish Tatra Sheepdog Rescue, check local shelters and rescues|
|Biting Statistics||None reported|
The Polish Tatra Sheepdog’s Beginnings
The Polish Tatra Sheepdog originated in Poland in the Tatra Mountain region called Podhale, hence its name. It has worked and lived with the Polish farmers for thousands of years so its origins are unclear and nothing is really known for definite. There are several theories though, one being it comes from Mastiff type dogs and another being its origins are the same as other mountain herders like the Maremma Sheepdog, Great Pyrenees and the Kuvasz. The Polish Tatra however it first came to be has been mostly used over the many years of its existence as a livestock guardian dog.
The breed moves from Poland to some parts of Europe slowly. It was valued for its great guarding instincts, its herding ability, it hard working nature and its intelligence. If there was a predator threatening its flock instead of attacking that predator and leaving the flock vulnerable to other attacks, it would gather then together and stand with them to protect them. It was also developed so it had a white coat making it easy to tell apart from predator when workers needed to. The white coat too was sometimes a source of wool itself. It could also lead workers through the mountains with the person holding onto their tail as it guides them.
Other than in the mountains later on after industrialization it was a good guard dog for people and their property, including factories. The police force in Poland also used it. It did come to face very hard times though after the two world wars when its numbers dropped to very low figures and it looked to be facing extinction.
New Lease on Life
With the risk of losing the breed completely imminent a group of breeders stepped in to improve its numbers and promote them. While it is recognized as a breed in Poland and by the FCI it is a rare breed in the US and is not recognized yet by the AKC. By the 1980s its popularity was much improved and its numbers spread across the world, though it remains rare anywhere other than its Polish homeland.
The Dog You See Today
The Polish Tatra Sheepdog is a large to giant breed weighing 80 to 130 pounds and standing 24 to 28 inches tall. It actually does not look like your typical sheepdog that usually have long shaggy coats, in fact it looks more like a very big retriever with a white coat. Its build is compact, sturdy but lean with a strong neck, muscular legs and tail that is fairly high set. The coat is thick and weather-resistant, with an outer coat that is more harsh and is straight or a little wavy and an under coat that is dense. Its head is a little rounded and its muzzle gradually tapers to a narrower tip. Its eyes are very expressive and its ears are triangular shaped.
The Inner Polish Tatra Sheepdog
The Tatra was bred to be a working dog, it needs to have a job to do, its mind engaged and be active. It is used to being independent and to have to think for itself so that can translate to a stubborn nature when it is in the role of companion! When it is raised well in a good home though it can be a devoted, loyal and loving dog. When it is around strangers it does tend to be wary and reserved so make sure it has good socialization so that does not turn to suspicion. It is a natural guard dog and has strong protective instincts. It is not an attack dog though, it will try to move what it is protecting away from the threat and it will bark loudly, and then if it has to physically defend, then it will.
It is then a territorial dog and a good alert watchdog too. It will bark to let you know of an intruder or is it finds something suspicious. It should be a calm dog, with patience, confidence, courage and not an especially clingy breed, it can handle some alone time and while it will be dedicated to its owners it may not be as ecclesiastically affectionate as some breeds. There will be occasional barking and it is a loud bark.
Living with a Polish Tatra Sheepdog
What will training look like?
These dogs are intelligent but independent and strong willed so training can be moderately hard which is why experienced owners are best. It can be developed to be a hard working dog that needs little guidance or input once it gets going. However obedience training can be harder as a result as it has its own mind and so needs a firm and confident hand with consistent and patient training. Be positive so that you focus on rewarding and motivating it and keep sessions short and interesting. Early socialization is as important as obedience training so it learns to deal with different people, places, sounds, situations and so on in an acceptable manner.
How active is the Polish Tatra Sheepdog ?
This is certainly an active breed, it has a lot of stamina and needs plenty of activity and mental stimulation. It is not suited to apartment or urban settings. It needs space and at least a yard though is best with land and living in a rural surrounding. It should get at least two long daily walks with some other opportunities too like play, training, and safe off leash run time. With a good level of activity it is calm indoors but without it will be hyper, restless and possibly destructive.
Caring for the Polish Tatra Sheepdog
The Polish Tatra Sheepdog is at least average in terms of maintenance and care nut that can go up when it is in seasonal heavy shedding times. There will be fur around the home and on clothes to clean up, but if shedding seasonal that will be a lot more to deal with. It will need brushing at least two to three times a week usually and then daily during those heavier times, to stay on top of the loose hair. Make sure you only give full shampoo baths when it needs one, bathing too often strips the natural oils it needs from its coat, as can using the wrong shampoo. Also the coat is self-cleaning almost so most dirt will not stick to too badly anyway.
Other care will be needed but these are the same for any breed, nail trimming, oral hygiene and ear care for example. When the nails are too long use proper nail clippers for dogs to trim them making sure you do not go too far down as that can hurt them and lead to bleeding. Oral hygiene means using a canine toothpaste and a toothbrush to brush at least two to three times a week. Careful ear care means not inserting anything into them to clean but rather using an ear cleanser or damp cloth to wipe where you can reach. Also check its ears weekly for infection signs like too much wax, a bad smell coming from them, redness or irritation.
Feeding the Polish Tatra Sheepdog should be done using a good or better quality dry dog food. It will need around 4 to 8 cups a day and that should be split into at least two meals. The amount though varies from one to Tatra to another as things can have an impact on what it needs such as how exercise and activity it has, its rate of metabolism, its size, age and of course its health. It should also have water and that should be kept as fresh as possible.
How is the Polish Tatra Sheepdog with children and other animals?
Tatras can get along very well with children when socialized and raised with them but it is best with older children and ones who know how to touch and play appropriately. Supervise it with young ones who have less care and may be clumsy and overly touchy and rowdy. When it accepts children as part of its family it will be very protective of them too. Around other dogs and pets it gets along very well with them with socialization.
What Might Go Wrong?
This dog should have a life span of between 10 to 12 years and is considered to be a healthy breed generally but a few issues might include joint dysplasia, eye problems, patellar luxation, bloat, allergies and epilepsy.
All dogs have the potential for aggression, even the most popular and well known family dogs. But some dogs are more likely to react with aggression to certain stimuli, and it is true some dogs can do more damage when they do attack. Size and breed though do not guarantee your dog is 100% never going to have an incident, there are no guarantees. When looking at reports of dogs attacking people causing bodily harm in Canada and the US that span the last 35 years, there is no mention of the Polish Tatra Sheepdog. It is rare in this region though so it is less likely to appear in such statistics. This is not an aggressive dog but it is protective and territorial so make sure it is well trained, socialized, exercised, mentally challenged, given attention to and raised.
Your Pup’s Price Tag
It is important to do your homework and make sure you know who you are buying from when you are looking for a new dog. A Polish Tatra Sheepdog puppy from a pet quality level breeder will cost about $1000. If that breeder ends up being in Poland and you are not there are obvious additional costs to consider on top of that. If you are wanting a show dog and are wanting to use top breeders expect to pay even more. Please avoid cruel, ignorant and neglectful options like puppy mills, backyard breeders and even pet stores. Adoption from either a breed specific rescue or from a local shelter if a mixed breed is an option is another thing to consider. Adoption costs are $50 to $400 and usually some initial medical concerns are dealt with.
When you have found a breeder you are comfortable with and have a dog or puppy ready to come home there are some items to get for it. A crate, carrier, bowls, collar and leash and so on and these will be at least $220. Then some initial medical needs have to be dealt with, such as blood tests, shots, deworming, a physical exam, micro chipping and neutering or spaying for a cost of around $290.
Now finally there the costs of owning a dog that are all year round and every year until it is no longer with you. Feeding the Tatra a good quality dry dog food and having doggy treats for it now and then too will be about $325 a year. Annual costs for things like shots, check ups, flea and tick prevention i.e basic health care and for dog insurance for those medical emergencies is another $485. Then there will be other things to pay for like licensing, basic training, miscellaneous items and toys for another $260 a year. This gives an annual starting figure of about $1070.
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The Polish Tatra Sheepdog is an old dog that has been used in rural settings for protection and for herding and guarding for many years in Poland, and more recently some other parts of the world. It needs active and experienced owners and can be a good companion as well as be a hard working dog but it does have very strong protective instincts and is wary around strangers so socialization is important. If kept in a family home it should be supervised with younger children.
Featured image credit: Neon Lilith Photography, 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 Tatra Sheepdog’s Beginnings
- New Lease on Life
- The Dog You See Today
- The Inner Polish Tatra Sheepdog
- Living with a Polish Tatra Sheepdog
- Caring for the Polish Tatra Sheepdog
- How is the Polish Tatra Sheepdog with children and other animals?
- What Might Go Wrong?
- Your Pup’s Price Tag