Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Polish Lowland Sheepdog
Average Cost to keep/care for a Polish Lowland Sheepdog
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog as their name suggests is native to Poland where they have always been highly prized working dogs. They are affectionate, fun-loving medium sized dogs that have been around for a very long time, being one of the most ancient of all Polish breeds. They are Kennel Club registered being classified in the Pastoral group and over the years, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog has found a large fan base in the UK thanks not only to their charming looks, but because they have loyal and kind natures too.
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog was originally bred to guard and herd flocks of sheep in their native Poland where they are known as the Polski Owczarek Nizinny. The breed is an ancient one with records of them dating as far back as the 13th century. It is thought they were first introduced to Scotland by Polish sailors who exchanged their dogs for other animals when they arrived on British shores. As such, there are those who think that PONs might well have played a part in creating some native sheepdog breeds.
The breed nearly vanished during World War II, but thanks to the efforts and dedication of several Polish breeders, the PON was saved from extinction. The breeders managed to trace two dogs and one female which were to become the foundation stock of the breed in the ensuing years. Today, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog has become a popular choice both as a companion and family pet throughout the world thanks to their charming looks and devoted, kind natures. With this said, anyone wishing to share a home with a Polish Lowland Sheepdog might have to go on a waiting list for the pleasure of doing so because not many puppies are available every year.
Height at the withers: Males 45 - 50 cm, Females 42 - 47 cm
Average weight: Males 18 - 20 kg, Females 16 - 18 kg
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is a compact, strong, medium size dog and one that always has an alert, lively look about them. They are in fact, a lot more robust than their body size might first suggest. They are quite cobby to look at without being too square. They have moderate sized, broad slightly domed heads that are nicely in proportion with the rest of their bodies and which dogs carry quite low. Heads are profusely covered in hair which makes them appear larger than they really are. PONs have a nice furrow from their stops that go right to their occiputs and well-defined stops. Noses are blunt with dogs having wide open nostrils which are as dark as possible.
Their eyes are medium in size with an alert, lively look in them being oval shaped and a hazel to brown colour. Eye rims are dark and tight. PONs have moderate sized, heart shaped ears that are larger at the base and which are set quite high with tips drooping close to a dog's cheeks. They have strong jaws with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones.
Pons have well-muscled, strong moderately long necks with no evidence of dewlap. Their shoulders are well laid back and muscular with dogs having straight front legs that slant slightly at the pastern. They have quite rectangular bodies when seen from the side and nice deep briskets with moderately well sprung ribs. Withers are distinct and backs nicely level and muscular with dogs having broad loins and lightly tucked up bellies. Croups are short, sloping slightly with dogs having well-muscled back legs and strong, well angled hocks. Their feet are oval-shaped and slightly arched with tight toes, hard pads and dark nails. Tails are a continuation of a dog's croup which they carry high with a slight curve over their backs when excited or on the move. When relaxed, a PON’s tail hangs low.
When it comes to their coat, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog boasts a long, shaggy, dense and thick top coat and a much softer, dense undercoat. The hair on their heads is profuse and long, falling over a dog's eyes which is one of the breed's distinctive traits. Some dogs can have a slight wave in their coats which is acceptable under the KC breed standard. All colours are acceptable under the KC breed standard with the one exception being merle.
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is a charming dog and one that matures quite late. Physical maturity is typically reached when dogs are around a year and a half old. They are renowned for being lively by nature as well as extremely aware of everything that goes on around them and the PON is renowned for having an extremely good memory. As such, when it comes to training, a Polish Lowland Sheepdog is exceptionally receptive to learning new things very quickly.
They form strong bonds with their owners but can be a little wary of people when they first meet them which means they do make good watchdogs. Because they are so intelligent and like to be kept occupied, PONs need to be given lots of exercise and attention. They are not the best choice for first time owners because a PON although easy to train, might just get the better of someone who is not familiar with the breed's specific needs. Puppies need to be well socialised from a young enough age so they grow up to be well-balanced mature, adult dogs no matter what situation they find themselves in. This is particularly important because if not well socialised, a PON can be a little aggressive towards other dogs they meet that they don't already know.
It's also crucial for their training to start early too and for it to be consistent throughout a dog's life. A Polish Lowland Sheepdog is never happier than when they know their place in the pack and who they can look to for direction and guidance. If they don't know who is the alpha dog in a household, they may quickly take on the role of dominant dog which can make them harder to live with and handle. They are best suited to households where at least one person stays at home when everyone else is out so that they always have company. Lowlands really don’t like to be left on their own even for short periods of time.
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is renowned for having an exceptionally good memory as such in the right hands, they are easy to train. With this said, because they are such smart dogs they are more than capable of making decisions on their own which is why they are best suited to people who are familiar with the breed’s specific needs. As previously mentioned, puppies need to be well socialised from a young age and their education must begin early too. On top of this, their training must be consistent throughout their lives so they understand what is expected of them.
The downside to these dogs being so intelligent is that they are just as quick to pick up bad habits as they are the good. PONs are never happier than when they are given something to do which is why they are so amenable to learning new things. They excel at many canine sports which includes activities like flyball, agility and obedience because they thrive on the attention they are given during their training and the one-to-one contact when competing with their handlers.
The key to successfully training a Polish Lowland Sheepdog is to make their training as interesting as possible and to avoid too much repetition. It's also a good idea to keep training sessions short which helps dogs stay focussed on what it’s being asked of them, bearing in mind that the more intelligent a dog is, the faster they get bored and a PON is exceptionally quick witted.
They do not answer well to harsh correction or any sort of heavy handed training methods, but they do respond extremely well to positive reinforcement which always brings the best out of these intelligent and quick witted dogs, especially when there are high value rewards involved being careful not to give too many which could end up with a dog putting on too much weight.
PONs are known to be very good around children thanks to their gentle, playful natures. However, any interaction between toddlers and a dog should always be well supervised by an adult to make sure playtime does not get too boisterous which could end up with someone being knocked over and hurt, especially when dogs are still very young.
When dogs have been well socialised from a young enough age, they generally get on well with other dogs they meet and if they have grown up with a family cat in a household, they usually get on well together. However, a PON might decide to chase off any other cats they encounter in their travels. Care should be taken when any dog is around any smaller animals and pets just to be on the safe side.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Polish Lowland Sheepdog is between 9 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
The PON is known to be a healthy, hardy breed, but they do suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these extraordinary dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, a PON needs to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog boasts a medium to long, shaggy coat and as such they need to be groomed several times a week to avoid any tangles and knots from forming. Although their coats are shaggy and long, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog does not shed which means they don't leave lots of hair around the home. It's important to trim the hair that grows between their paw pads to prevent it balling up with mud or ice during the winter which can result in sore paw pads. Their ears also need to be checked on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax builds up, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure with ear infections.
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is an energetic, intelligent dog and as such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. They need at least 1 hour's exercise a day and ideally a lot more with as much off the lead time as possible in a safe environment. If they are not given the right amount of mental stimulation and exercise every day, a PON would quickly get bored and could even begin to show some destructive behaviours around the home which is their way of relieving any stress they are feeling and not necessarily because they are being naughty.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must with as much off the lead time as possible. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing must be extremely secure to keep these active, high-energy dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape and could get into all sorts of trouble. With this said, puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.
If you get a PON puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy eaters, but this does not mean they can be given a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
If you are looking to buy a Polish Lowland Sheepdog, you would need to register your interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list because very few puppies are bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would need to pay anything upwards of £600 for a well-bred pedigree puppy.
The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Polish Lowland Sheepdog in northern England would be £28.82 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £83.88 a month (quote as of March, 2017). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £30 - £40 a month. On top of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a PON and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £900 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Polish Lowland Sheepdog would be between £60 to £100 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree puppy.
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