Polish Lowland Sheepdog

Gemma Gaitskell
Dr Gemma Gaitskell (BVetMed MSc MRCVS, Royal Veterinary College, London)
 
Photo of adult Polish Lowland Sheepdog

The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is a medium sized dog that belongs to the pastoral group of dog breeds. It is a bright, clever and self-confident breed that thrives on a challenge and needs plenty of mental stimulation. The breed originates from Central Asian breeds and is robust and fearless. It was bred to herd and protect sheep in Poland and has also played a part in the ancestry of the native sheepdog in the United Kingdom, particularly the Bearded Collie.

The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is intelligent and quick to learn but not a breed suited to inexperienced owners, as they can be dominant and strong willed. The breed requires a lot of exercise and is best suited to a rural environment, where this can easily be provided, but is also extremely adaptable and can live happily in the city if these needs can be catered for alongside plenty of mental stimulation. It has a long coat that does not require specialist grooming but needs regular, nearly daily brushing. The breed is generally healthy and lives on average for 10 to 12 years, but despite this, can suffer from some breed related health problems.

About & History

The Polish Lowland Sheepdog, which is also known as the Polski Owczarek Nizinny or Valee Sheepdog – or more affectionately – as the PON or Nizinny, is a medium sized breed of dog that belongs to the pastoral group of breeds. The first references to the breed date as far back as the 1200’s and it is thought that the breed was originally developed from Central Asian breeds, such as the Puli and Tibetan Terrier amongst others from Tibet, Mongolia and the Gobi desert. These dogs had to be versatile, robust and fearless in order to protect livestock from wolves and other wildlife. Early examples of the Polish Lowland Sheepdog were then bred in Poland, particularly in the Eastern and Northern regions.

In the 16th century Polish Lowland Sheepdogs taken to Scotland by Polish sailors impressed Scottish shepherds so much that they traded sheep for them. It is likely that they form a part of the native sheepdogs ancestry, particularly that of the Bearded Collie. During the 19th century, numbers dwindled and the breed became endangered until after World War II efforts were made to reestablish the breed and increase numbers in its native Poland. Later in the 20th century, it was subsequently reintroduced and established as a recognised breed in the United Kingdom.

Although it still possesses its working instinct, today the Polish Lowland Sheepdog is largely kept as a companion although its working abilities can still be put to the test at shows and working trials. The breed is athletic and can also excel in modern dog sports, such as flyball, tracking, herding and agility.

Appearance

Polish Lowland Sheepdog Large Photo

The Polish Lowland Sheepdog has various colour combinations that are accepted for registration with the UK Kennel Club:

  • Black
  • Black & Tan
  • Black & White
  • Black Grey & White
  • Chocolate
  • Chocolate & White
  • Cream
  • Cream & Fawn
  • Fawn
  • Fawn & White
  • Grey
  • Grey & White

The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is a medium sized dog that should measure between 42 and 50 cm at the withers with female dogs being slightly smaller than male dogs. The height at the withers should be 9/10 the length of the body. The neck should be strong and of medium length, leading to well-angled shoulders. The front legs should be straight leading to oval feet. The breed has a rectangular profile from the side and should have a deep chest, level strong back and short croup, which slopes slightly. The back legs should be broad and strong. Some dogs may be tailless or have a stumpy tail – otherwise the tail should be carried high and curved over when attentive.

The breed should have a medium sized head that is proportionate to the size of its body. The head should be carried reasonably low and the muzzle, which is blunt, should be approximately the same length as the skull that is fairly broad and domed in shape. The jaws should form a perfect scissor bite and teeth should be strong and correctly placed. The eyes should be of medium size, oval and of varying shades of hazel or brown with dark pigmentation in the surrounding skin. Ears should be wider at the base and narrow towards the tip, forming a heart shape, which folds over onto the cheeks.

The Polish Lowland Sheepdog should move with an effortless ground covering gait. At a walk or trot their movement should be smooth and the back should remain level. At a slow walk the breed often ambles.

Character & Temperament

The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is a bright, clever breed that is self confident and easily adaptable. Their intelligent and resistant character means they need plenty of mental stimulation and can be strong willed. Despite this, the breed is extremely loyal and faithful, which means that it can be prone to suffering from separation anxiety and should not be left alone for extended periods of time.

Their strong characters mean that socialisation with other dogs from a young age is essential and they should not be left unsupervised with children. Their origins and loyal character mean that they can also make good guard dogs.

Trainability

Photo of Polish Lowland Sheepdog puppy

The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is extremely trainable, intelligent and quick to learn. It is not a breed suitable for inexperienced owners as the breed can be dominant and quick to pick up bad behaviours as quickly as good ones, and needs plenty of mental stimulation to keep it interested and out of trouble.

This means that the breed is usually quick to pick up on house and recall training and stubbornness is not normally an issue, but plenty of exercise is needed so the breed does not become bored.

Health

The Polish Lowland Sheepdog has an average life-expectancy of 10 to 12 years and suffers from few health problems. The UK Kennel Club currently classes the breed as a Category 1 breed with no specific points of concern. Some of the common health problems that can affect the breed include:

  • Hip Dysplasia (HD) – Hip dysplasia in the Polish Lowland Sheepdog is where one or several developmental abnormalities in the hips can lead to joint problems in older dogs. Dogs should have their hips scored when they are over a year old. This evaluation is done by x-raying both of the hips, which are then scored by experts using established criteria. The higher the score the more signs of hip dysplasia present. The maximum score for both hips combined is 106. Hip dysplasia can be influenced by both genetic and environmental factors.
  • Central Progressive Retinal Atrophy – This disease includes various inherited conditions that affect the retina and ultimately vision. These conditions can either be developmental or degenerative. Developmental types generally occur in younger dogs and progress more rapidly, whereas degenerative types occur when dogs are older and progress at a lesser rate.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is a very active breed of dog that needs at least two-hours of exercise a day. Ideally, some of this time should be spent off the lead and performing tasks or training that help to keep dogs mentally stimulated to focus their energy. Despite this, the breed can adapt well to a city environment if an owner can provide it with enough exercise – although it is ideally suited to a rural environment and house with a large garden where it can be more easily entertained.

Grooming

The Polish Lowland Sheepdog has a long, dense coat that has two layers. The longer outer coat has a harsh texture and a shaggy appearance and the dense insulating undercoat is soft. The breed does not shed or require any trimming or professional grooming but does require considerable brushing on a daily basis to keep its coat under control, otherwise its long and profuse hair can become easily matted.

Famous Polish Lowland Sheepdogs

The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is a relatively little known breed, but there are a couple of well-known examples:

  • Psyche, a legendary Polish Lowland Sheepdog who was said to be able to predict when bombs would be dropped.
  • Generally, the breed is considered very important in Poland and has been featured on Polish stamps.

Cross-Breeds

There are no popular cross breeds formed from the Polish Lowland Sheepdog.

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