Originally bred for herding and guarding, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog is still an excellent working dog breed. They’re obedient and fearless, good-natured with people and other dogs, but highly protective of their flock.
Even though these are purebred dogs, you may find them in the care of shelters or rescue groups. Remember to adopt! Don’t shop if you want to bring a dog home.
Polish Lowland Sheepdogs are intelligent, active, strong, and handsome with their characteristic multicolored, shaggy coat. In recent years, they’ve gained popularity as a companion dog. They’re highly affectionate with their human families and can even adapt to apartment life. Novice pet parents should beware, though, as these pups need plenty of exercise, and their coats need frequent grooming sessions to stay tangle free. If you can provide lots of physical activity and don’t mind a bit of extra brushing, this may be the breed for you!
Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn’t necessarily an apartment dog make. Plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents are all good qualities in an apartment dog.
Some dogs are simply easier than others; they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They’re also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies.
Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time dog parent to manage. You’ll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.
If you’re new to dog parenting, take a look at 101 Dog Tricks and read up on how to train your dog!
Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called “easygoing,” “tolerant,” “resilient,” and even “thick-skinned,” can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.
Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive–barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.
Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.
Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can’t pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, your dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you’ll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.
All Around Friendliness
Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they’ve been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn’t the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.
See Dogs Less Affectionate with Family
Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who’s on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (which are considered Pit Bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren’t always so family-friendly.
**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they’re not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.
Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs, even if they’re love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn’t the only factor. Dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least six to eight weeks of age and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with wagging tails and nuzzles; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was socialized and exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult. Remember that even friendly dogs should stay on a good, strong leashin public!
Health And Grooming Needs
If you’re going to share your home with a dog, you’ll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds. Some dogs shed year-round, some “blow” seasonally, some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you’re a neatnik, you’ll need to either pick a low-shedding breed or relax your standards. To help keep your home a little cleaner, you can find a great de-shedding tool
Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you’ve got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you’re a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog who rates low in the drool department.
Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog who needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.
Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn’t mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they’re at an increased risk.
If you’re adopting a puppy, it’s a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you’re interested in. You may also want to ask if your shelter or rescue has information about the physical health of your potential pup’s parents and other relatives.
Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that’s prone to packing on pounds, you’ll need to limit treats, make sure they get enough exercise, and measure out their daily food servings into regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.
Ask your vet about your dog’s diet and what they recommend for feeding your pooch to keep them at a healthy weight. Weight gain can lead to other health issues or worsen problems like arthritis.
Dogs come in all sizes, from the world’s smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if they’re compatible with you and your living space. Large dog breeds might seem overpowering and intimidating, but some of them are incredibly sweet! Take a look and find the right sized dog for you!
Easy-to-train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word “sit”), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training.
Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a “What’s in it for me?” attitude, in which case you’ll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.
Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don’t get the mental stimulation they need, they’ll make their own work–usually with projects you won’t like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.
Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in Retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn’t puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or “herd” their human family members, and they need training to learn that it’s fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a toy that’s been stuffed with kibble and treats.
Dogs who were bred to hunt, such as Terriers, have an inborn desire to chase–and sometimes kill–other animals. Anything whizzing by, such as cats, squirrels, and perhaps even cars, can trigger that instinct. Dogs who like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you’ll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren’t a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won’t chase, but you’ll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.
Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how often the dog vocalizes with barks or howls. If you’re considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you’re considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious “strangers” put your pup on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby? Then you may wish to choose a quieter dog.
Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they’ll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses–or that bunny that just ran across the path–even if it means leaving you behind.
High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they’re more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells.
Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you’ll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.
A vigorous dog may or may not have high energy, but everything they do, they do with vigor: they strain on the leash (until you train them not to), try to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who’s elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.
Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise, especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, like herding or hunting.
Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don’t like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.
Some dogs are perpetual puppies — always begging for a game — while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.
Dog Breed Group:Herding DogsHeight:17 to 20 inches tall at the shoulderWeight:35 to 55 poundsLife Span:10 to 12 years
More About This Breed
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is a medium-sized, long-haired dog who, as his name suggests, originates from Poland. Polish Lowland Sheepdog is the literal translation of his Polish name, Polski Owczarek Nizinny (pronounced poll-ski ov-cha-rik nee-shinny). In the United States and Poland, the breed is referred to simply as PON. Although PONs nearly became extinct after World War II, they made a dramatic comeback in the 1950s and — though still relatively rare in the U.S. — they are currently popular in their native Poland as companion dogs for apartment dwellers and as working farm dogs in rural areas.
The PON belongs to the American Kennel Club Herding Dog Group. Not surprisingly, the PON has strong herding instincts and a loyal personality. Like other herding breeds, the PON is also an independent thinker. He is a smart, self-confident dog that thrives within a family and typically is wary of strangers.
One outstanding characteristic of the PON is his uncanny memory, which makes him a quick study and relatively easy to train. However, he is strong willed and will try to dominate his owner if given the chance.
The PON is an active dog who requires a good deal of exercise — don’t expect your PON to be a couch potato — but he isn’t hyperactive or nervous. This is a breed with a strong work ethic who enjoys having a job to do, especially if it means doing it for his family. Obedience training and agility classes are good outlets for the PON, providing him with both mental and physical stimulation.
The PON is not a party animal: he tends to attach himself to a select few people and remains aloof with others. It’s important to socialize him from puppyhood so he becomes accustomed to many different kinds of people. Take the cute PON puppy with you to the park or on errands, and let people admire and touch him.
The PON is generally good with children and other pets if he is raised with them from puppyhood. Don’t be surprised if he tries to herd the kids, though: he likes to keep his flock (human or otherwise) neatly gathered in one spot.
Despite his aloof and hardworking tendencies, the PON is a naturally happy dog with a joyful personality. He also knows what he wants and how to get it. If he has his eye on something, he will typically stare at the object of desire, then glance at you, patiently waiting for you to understand. When his patience wears out, however, he can be a thief, stealing household item such as towels or tools, and stashing them away. As some PON owners say, “First they steal your heart, and then they steal your underwear!”
- The PON appreciates a good meal and would prefer to repeat the experience often every day. Don’t give in when he gives you that pathetic, hungry look. Since he won’t monitor his food intake, you have to: feed him only the amounts appropriate for his size and age, and remember that snacks and treats count.
- That cute, shaggy PON puppy can easily fool you into thinking he’s an amenable dog who’ll follow your every whim. Not so — the PON has a very strong personality, even as a youngster. He thinks for himself. That’s certainly a good trait for a working dog, but it also means his owner must be firm, fair, and persistent. In other words, you have to be the boss.
- The PON adores his family, but he’s aloof and suspicious toward strangers. Don’t expect him to greet your dinner guests with a friendly look and a wagging tail. Proper socialization is essential to encourage the PON to be comfortable with a variety of people, so get him out and about among friendly strangers from the very beginning. Puppy classes are an excellent idea.
- While he isn’t hyperactive, the PON does have a lot of energy and stamina. If he doesn’t get enough mental and physical stimulation, he’ll get bored (don’t we all), which can lead to excessive barking, chewing, or digging. To prevent problem behaviors, keep the PON busy with activities and don’t leave him alone for long periods of time.
- While the PON’s shaggy coat is adorable, let’s face it: it does require a great deal of grooming. If that’s not for you, or if you can’t delegate the job to another willing family member, consider a different breed.
- To get a healthy pet, never buy a puppy from a backyard breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Find a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs for genetic health conditions and good temperaments
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is an old breed. He is believed to be descended from the Puli, a Hungarian herding dog, as well as central Asian dogs including the Tibetan Mastiff, Tibetan Spaniel, Lhasa Apso, and Tibetan Terrier. One intriguing — and not impossible — theory is that the Huns were responsible for spreading the breed to many different countries as they plundered their way through various cultures.
In 1514, a Polish merchant named Kazimierz Grabski sailed from Gdansk to Scotland with a cargo of grain to exchange for Scottish sheep. Six PONs were onboard to herd the sheep and, as the story goes, a Scottish shepherd asked for a pair of PONs in exchange for a ram. The shepherd got a deal: two female PONs and one male. It’s commonly believed that these three dogs were used to crossbreed with Scottish dogs to develop the Bearded Collie.
The ongoing story of the PON is a history of survival. In the 1800s, when sheep herding declined in Poland, the number of PONs also declined. World War II, which brought terrible devastation to Poland, almost decimated the breed. Luckily, a Polish veterinarian named Dr. Danuta Hryniewics took action. She began efforts to save the breed with the help of her own PON, a male named Smok. Smok sired 10 litters of PONs in the 1950s; in 1958, the first litter with a full pedigree was born. By 1969, her Kordegardy Kennels had produced more than 140 puppies, including many champions. All PONs in existence today can be traced back to Smok and his progeny.
In 1959, a breed standard was written for the PON and accepted by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale. Not surprisingly, Smok was the model for this standard.
In 1979, a U.S. Bearded Collie breeder named Moira Morrison learned of the PON ancestry in her breed. Intrigued, she imported two PONs from Poland — the first known to have come to the U.S. Four years later, Kaz and Betty Augustowski, both of Polish heritage, saw an advertisement in a dog magazine and acquired their first PON. Over the next 18 years, they became passionately involved in getting the breed recognized by the American Kennel Club. Their efforts were rewarded when PONs gained entry into the Miscellaneous class on July 1, 1999, The AKC granted the breed full recognition on August 1, 2001.
Although the PON is still rare in America, today it is the most popular of all the native breeds in its home country and is unofficially considered Poland’s national dog.
Males and females stand 17 to 20 inches tall and weigh 35 to 55 pounds.
The PON is a highly intelligent, hardworking dog. He is known for his ability to remember what he learns — both good and bad habits. He is strong willed and can be stubborn, so he needs an owner who will kindly and consistently provide leadership. Otherwise, he will try to rule the roost.
Because of his working heritage, the PON likes to be busy, physically and mentally. He needs activities to challenge him: hiking, herding, agility, tracking, and advanced obedience training are all good bets. If he isn’t provided proper outlets for his energy, he is likely to express himself through more annoying amusements such as barking, digging, and chewing.
The PON doesn’t make friends with just anyone. He is most comfortable with his family and is suspicious of people he doesn’t know.
PONs are generally healthy, but like all breeds of dogs, they’re prone to certain conditions and diseases.
- Canine hip dysplasia is an inherited condition in which the thighbone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but others don’t display outward signs of discomfort. (X-ray screening is the most certain way to diagnose the problem.) Either way, arthritis can develop as the dog ages. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred — so if you’re buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems.
- Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is actually a family of eye diseases involving the gradual deterioration of the retina. In the early stages of the disease, dogs become night blind; eventually they lose their daytime vision as well.
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog prefers a cooler climate, but he can adapt to warmer temperatures as long as he has adequate, cool shelter. Although the PON is ideally suited for rural life, he does well in apartments and houses without backyards as long as he has a job to do and is taken outside frequently for exercise. If he isn’t herding a flock on a farm, he appreciates the challenge of obedience, agility, or herding competitions, or even just hiking and jogging with you.
Recommended daily amount: 1.5 to 2.5 cups of high-quality dry food a day.
Note: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don’t all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you’ll need to shake into your dog’s bowl.
The PON benefits from two meals a day rather than one — and don’t leave food out for him all the time. He’s known for his hearty appetite and will overeat if he can. If you’re unsure whether there’s too much fat under all that fur (it’s hard to tell by simply looking), give him the hands-on test by placing your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel (but not see) his ribs without having to press hard. If you can’t, he needs less food and more exercise.
For more on feeding your PON, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.
Coat Color And Grooming
The shaggy PON has a long, dense topcoat and a soft, thick undercoat. The coat comes in many colors; the most common are white with black, gray, or sandy patches; or gray with white or chocolate.
Occasionally, a PON is all white, all black, or black and tan. Most PONs are born with a darker puppy coat than they will have as adults, with the exception of puppies born white. The PON is considered a nonshedding breed.
When it comes to grooming the PON, the natural look is in. That doesn’t mean the breed doesn’t need grooming — in fact, that shaggy coat needs a lot of grooming to keep it free of tangles, though no trimming is necessary or even recommended. Breed enthusiasts stress the importance of not primping the PON.
Plan on brushing and combing thoroughly at least twice a week, and always before bathing (detangling spray is helpful). A bath every two months may be necessary. Like all dogs with fluffy coats, the PON gets dirty easily, so you’re in for muddy paws, leaves or burrs tracked into the house, feces on the hindquarters, or a wet and dirty beard.
Trim your PON’s nails once a month, and check his ears once a week for dirt, redness, or a bad odor that can indicate an infection. Wipe them out weekly (and after bathing or any other time the PON gets wet) with a cotton ball dampened with gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner to prevent problems.
The PON coat can be too much for an inexperienced owner to handle, so you consider having a professional groomer help with the upkeep. That won’t let you completely off the hook, though. You’ll still need to brush that coat thoroughly between professional grooming sessions. If you aren’t crazy about combing and brushing — no doubt about it, it’s a lot of work — you may want to consider another breed.
Children And Other Pets
Your PON will be your devoted, lifelong friend. His loyal nature makes him a loving companion for an individual or family — he’ll consider the family his flock. He gets along with children and other animals best if he’s raised with them. Because he is naturally wary of outsiders (a good trait for a herding/guard dog), the PON is most likely to accept as part of his flock those he knows from puppyhood. He is likely to remain aloof with those he doesn’t know, though he can warm up to family friends and pets with exposure and positive interaction.
Polish Lowland Sheepdogs are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many PONs in need of adoption and or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don’t see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club and they can point you toward a PON rescue.
- Rescue and Adoption Service for the Polish Lowland Sheepdog