Polish Lowland Sheepdogs

Also known as the Polski Owczarek Nizinny, or PON, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog helped shepherds move sheep and kept watch over the flock. At 35 to 55 pounds, they are about half the size of their close relative, the Old English Sheepdog. The PON is a thinker with an independent nature, but his cute and clownish ways can help to balance out the frustrations of living with such a self-willed dog. Here’s what you need to know if you are interested in sharing your home with a PON.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

The PON loves people, but he's not for everyone. Grooming requirements and a self-confident temperament that may be better described as stubborn are just a couple of factors you should be aware of. Do not get a PON if you're not good at strategic thinking. This dog plays chess, not checkers, and you must be smarter than he is if you want to stay ahead of his game. That's easier said than done.

A PON is energetic and cheerful, silly but smart. He will fake you out when he can, ignore you when he can't and always keep you laughing. He tends to have a possessive temperament and will steal objects and cache them away. He has a loud and frequent bark and is an excellent watchdog, but he is by no means a guard dog. Teach him that it's okay to stop barking once you have let someone into the house. He tends to be aloof toward strangers, so don't expect him to welcome all your guests with open paws.

The PON is a good friend to children, but he can be too rambunctious in the presence of small children. He is a better choice for families with older children who won't be knocked over by him.

Purchase a PON puppy from a breeder who raises the pups in the home and ensures that they are exposed to many different household sights and sounds, as well as people, before they go off to their new homes. Continue socializing your PON by taking him to puppy kindergarten class, visits to friends and neighbors, and outings to local shops and businesses. This should be fun for both of you. The PON loves being the center of attention.

The PON learns amazingly quickly, but what he learns isn't restricted to good things. Begin training as soon as you bring your PON puppy home, before he develops bad habits. Use positive reinforcement training techniques such as praise, play and food rewards, and be patient. The PON can be independent and stubborn, but he will respond to kind, firm, consistent training.

You cannot let him get away with anything or you lose the game. Males, especially, will test you by pulling on the leash or ignoring your commands. You must be able to persuade a PON that you are in charge because there is no way he will obey you without thinking it over first and deciding whether it's really something he wants to do.

The PON needs a job to keep his active mind and body occupied. That can include training, following you around the house or being a therapy dog. Being smart and athletic, he does well in such dog sports as agility, herding, obedience and rally.

If you're not into organized dog sports, buy stock in a company that makes tennis balls. You'll need them. Take him for a 20-minute walk daily or play a vigorous game of fetch for the same length of time. He can take more if you've got it and enjoys jogging and bicycling.

If you don't keep a PON busy, you will soon regret it. A bored PON will take up barking or destructive behaviors as his sports of choice or develop self-destructive habits such as scratching himself.

While you might think of him as an outdoor dog, nothing could be farther from the truth. A PON should certainly have access to a securely fenced yard, but when the family is home, he should be in the house with them. Chaining a PON out in the yard and giving him little or no attention is not only cruel, it can also lead to aggression and destructive behavior.

The Polish Lowland Sheepdog has a long, thick, shaggy double coat. Expect to spend an hour per week or some time daily keeping it groomed. Brush it with a natural bristle brush and then comb it out, making sure you get all the way down to the skin. If you let the coat go, it will become matted and may need to be trimmed short. It will take the coat nine to 12 months to grow back. A monthly bath doesn't come amiss. Grooming a puppy takes very little time at all, but you want to start early so he can become accustomed to sitting still while you work on his coat. On the plus side, PONs don't shed much.

Along with time devoted to coat care, be prepared for dirt, mud and debris tracked in on the dog's furry feet. You'll also need to keep the ears clean and dry to prevent infections, trim the nails regularly and brush the teeth to prevent doggy breath and periodontal disease.

Health Issues Common to Polish Lowland Sheepdogs

All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don't walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

That said, the PON is a pretty healthy breed with health problems being rare so far. Conditions that may be seen in the breed include hip dysplasia, neuronal ceroid-lipofuscinosis, progressive retinal atrophy, autoimmune hypothyroidism and immune-mediated hemolytic anemia.

Ask a breeder to show you evidence that a puppy's parents have OFA or PennHIP clearances for the hips and certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation that the eyes are healthy. Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Hip Dysplasia Low $1,500-$6,000
Hypothyroidism Medium $200-$1,000

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Polish Lowland Sheepdog Puppy

A list of breeders can be found on the website of the American Polish Lowland Sheepdog Club. Choose a breeder who follows APONC's Code of Ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to pet stores or wholesalers and outlines the responsibilities of member breeders to the dogs they produce and the people who buy them.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in Polish Lowland Sheepdogs aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. Since a Polish Lowland Sheepdog can live to be 10 to 14 years old, even an adult dog will be with your family for a long time.

Puppy or adult, take your Polish Lowland Sheepdog to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers many breeds and popular mixes, or that ships with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you'll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Polish Lowland Sheepdogs

Pet insurance for Polish Lowland Sheepdogs costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Polish Lowland Sheepdogs are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Polish Lowland Sheepdogs are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Polish Lowland Sheepdog is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.