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Polish Lowland Sheepdog Breed Info: Pictures, Traits & Facts

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Polish Lowland Sheepdog

Height: 17-20 inches
Weight: 30-55 pounds
Lifespan: 10-14 years
Colors: White, black, fawn, brown, gray
Suitable for: Farmers, families and individuals with plenty of space and time for grooming
Temperament: Loyal, lively, vocal, confident, sharp, hard-working, protective, vigilant, territorial, joyful

As you might guess, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog comes from Poland, where it’s called the Polish Owczarek Nizinny. Even in America, the original name is often used and abbreviated to simply refer to these dogs as PONs. They’re pretty rare in the US, though they were officially recognized by the AKC in 2001.

PONs are incredibly intelligent dogs that have spent centuries working alongside farmers, helping them to herd livestock. This breed was fearless and alert, always keeping watch for potential threats, but they were also small enough not to scare the sheep they were herding.

These dogs aren’t very large, but they’re extremely rugged. They’re covered in muscle, making them stocky and strong. Their double coats are very thick, dense, and shaggy, keeping them well-protected from the harsh weather. Naturally, such a coat requires considerable upkeep.

You’re certain to notice the PON’s effortless gait and long stride, which makes them move very elegantly and allows them to stay on the move for hours without wearing out. As herders, they were expected to work long hours without the need for much supervision, which has also created quite an independent streak in the breed.

Divider 1Polish Lowland Sheepdog Puppies

Polish Lowland Sheepdog puppy
Credit: Paul Cotney, Shutterstock

The PON is ranked 170 out of 196 breeds for popularity, according to the AKC. You might expect this to mean that they’re pretty affordable, but that’s not the case. These are working dogs that just happen to make great companions, so they’re still used for work more often than not. That means that they’re a bit pricier than dogs strictly bred as companions.

First, you’ll have to locate a reputable breeder of Polish Lowland Sheepdogs. There aren’t too many breeders available since this isn’t the most popular breed in America. Most breeders of PONs are located in Europe, where they’re much easier to locate. With that said, with some diligent searching, you should be able to locate a breeder in the US, though purchasing one of these puppies from them is a bit cost-prohibitive. Still, you can locate one if you have your heart set on this intelligent breed.

If your heart is set on adopting one of these dogs, it might require months of dedicated searching. Even though PONs are a pure breed, you can occasionally find them up for adoption in shelters.

3 Little-Known Facts About the Polish Lowland Sheepdog

1. They’re Actually from Asia

Obviously, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog is from Poland, right? After all, they’re Poland’s unofficial national dog! But you might be surprised to find out that this breed didn’t originate in Poland after all. In fact, they’re actually from Asia originally!

It’s believed that this breed’s origins can be traced back to ancient Tibetan breeds from central Asia, such as the Tibetan Terrier, which was likely brought to Europe by Tibetan traders. These were then bred with sheepdogs in Hungary that had been first introduced to the region in the fourth century by the Huns.

2. They Love to Steal Your Things

This is an interesting trait that seems to be special to PONs. Many dogs like to hide their food and treats, but PONs prefer to hide your personal belongings! These dogs are known for stealing their owner’s items and hiding them in various places. Hilariously, this isn’t limited to small items and treats. Often, these dogs will hide away tools, clothing, shoes, and more. It’s so common, that many owners of this breed parrot the statement that “first they steal your heart, then they steal your underwear!”

3. They’ve Made Celebrity Cameo Appearances

For a breed that’s firmly planted at the bottom end of the AKC’s popularity list, PONs have made some surprising appearances. Most notably, a Polish Lowland Sheepdog was featured in the show Gilmore Girls. This dog’s name was Paul Anka, and it becomes Lorelai Gilmore’s companion when her daughter leaves for college.

Lying dog in a Garden
Credit: Vojtaz, Shutterstock

Temperament & Intelligence of the Polish Lowland Sheepdog 🧠

Few breeds possess the razor-sharp intellect of the Polish Lowland Sheepdog. But along with that intelligence comes a strong independent streak. This independence was originally fostered since it’s necessary for a herding dog that’s expected to work all day without much supervision. But it can make them much more difficult to train.

For the most part, these dogs have a calm demeanor. They’re never hyper or overly-energetic, though they can certainly by playful and have a lot of fun. Still, they’re bred to work and their disposition is mainly calm.

PONs bond closely with their people, but they’re not very social dogs. They’ll form close bonds with just a few people and will likely be aloof and wary with everyone else. This makes them great guard dogs since they’re naturally very protective and alert. They’re also known for being quite territorial, which can also aid them in watchdog duties.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡

PONs bond closely with their people, but they will only form a limited number of bonds throughout their life, almost exclusively with people they met as a puppy. They can do well with children, as long as they were introduced when the puppy was young. If your PON grows up with children, they’ll get along well with them. They generally tend to be gentle with children, though it’s common to see them attempting to herd the little ones.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets? 🐶 😽

Luckily, PONs don’t have a strong prey drive since they’re herders and not hunters. This means they’re not naturally aggressive towards other dogs. They can get along well with other pets, provided they were introduced early on. If your PON is exposed to other pets as a puppy, they should do well with other animals as they age.

Divider 4Things to Know When Owning a Polish Lowland Sheepdog:

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

PONs are a medium-sized dog that requires about 2-3 cups of dry dog food each day. They do best on a high-quality dry dog food blend that’s formulated for their stage in life. So, puppies do best on puppy food, senior food for seniors, etc.

These dogs love food and they will constantly beg you to share some of your meal. Because of this, they’re prone to overeating. You’ll want to measure out your PON’s food so you can be sure that you’re not overfeeding them. To that end, it’s best to break up their feeding into two or three times per day instead of just leaving food out for them to eat as they desire. If you allow them to eat to their heart’s content, your PON will be overweight before long!

Wet Polish Lowland Sheepdog
Credit: everydoghasastory, Shutterstock

Exercise 🐕

As herding dogs, PONs were expected to work all day long with very few, if any, breaks. This developed an impressive endurance in the breed, which still shows itself today. As such, your PON will require a good deal of exercise. You’ll need to schedule a minimum of 30 minutes each day to exercise your PON.

You can keep things fresh by varying the type of exercising you do with your dog. You can take them on walks, hikes, runs, play fetch, tug-of-war, or even do obedience training. All of these are great options that will also help increase your bond with your pup as you get them the exercise they need to stay healthy.

PONs do best in a home with a large yard so they can expend their excess energy on their own. Even with daily exercise, this breed will benefit from having plenty of space to roam around.

Training 🦮

Since PONs are such intelligent animals, you might expect them to be easy to train. They can definitely understand what’s being asked of them and learn to perform on command, but it’s not going to be easy to get them to listen. These are very independent dogs and their intelligence means they get bored quickly. If your dog doesn’t see the point in obeying commands, then they just won’t. You’ll need to use lots of positive reinforcement and a very firm hand to train a PON. Because of this, it’s recommended that you have previous dog-training experience before attempting to train one of these dogs.

Portrait of polish lowland sheepdog
Credit: Piotr Zajac, Shutterstock

Grooming ✂️

When it comes to grooming, PONs are pretty high maintenance. They have thick, shaggy double-coats that will require daily brushing. You might even need to brush them more than once a day to prevent matting. If your PON’s coat gets matted, it can lead to skin infections, discomfort, and even pain.

Though your PON needs daily brushing, they only need bathing once every two months or so. But never bathe your PON when their fur is matted. This will just make the matting worse until it’s no longer removable.

Health and Conditions ❤️

For a pure breed, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog has very few health concerns to worry about. Still, there are a few conditions that are more likely to occur in this breed and it’s good to know what they are so you can keep an eye out for their symptoms.

Minor Conditions
  • None
Serious Conditions
  • Diabetes
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy
  • Diabetes: Diabetes in dogs is very similar to diabetes in humans. This is an irregularity in the body’s ability to produce and use insulin. For most dogs, this means their bodies aren’t producing enough insulin, so you’ll have to supplement with insulin injections. In other cases, the pancreas is producing insulin, but their body isn’t able to use it. This type of diabetes occurs mainly in older, overweight dogs.
  • Hip Dysplasia: This is one of the most common physical ailments that affect canines. It’s when the hip forms incorrectly and the femur won’t fit into the hip socket as it’s supposed to. This causes the femur to rub on the hip bone, creating pain and limiting movement.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: Known as PRA in short, this condition is when the photoreceptor cells of the eye start to degenerate. As they waste away, the dog’s vision is obscured until eventually, blindness occurs. PRA comes in two forms. The late-onset version is generally called PRA and happens when the dog is 3-9 years old. When it happens in a puppy that’s 2-3 months old, it’s usually referred to as retinal dysplasia, though it’s still a form of PRA.

Divider 3Final Thoughts

Polish Lowland Sheepdogs are loyal partners that make excellent companions or top-notch working dogs. They’re incredibly smart canines that can learn tasks and commands, though they have a strong independent streak that can make them difficult to train. You’ll need a firm hand and plenty of experience to train a PON.

Hardy and healthy, this breed isn’t susceptible to many health concerns. They need a lot of exercise and a ton of grooming though, so before you add one to your family, ensure that you have hours of time to devote to your dog every day. Otherwise, you’d both be better served by continuing your search for a dog that doesn’t need as much attention.

Featured Image Credit: everydoghasastory, Shutterstock

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