Polish lowland sheepdogs are dedicated working pets in the herding group. They’re compact, highly adaptable dogs that are always eager to please their loved ones.
This dog needs lots of outdoor space to run around and can be very strong-willed. This means that this isn't a breed for everyone, but many families have found that the Polish lowland sheepdog is the perfect pet for them.
Characteristics of a Polish Lowland Sheepdog
Body size. The typical Polish lowland sheepdog size firmly places them in the realm of medium-sized breeds. The males are usually slightly larger than the females.
Males are an average height of 18 to 20 inches at the shoulder. Females are an average of 17 to 19 inches tall. Healthy dogs of both genders can weigh anywhere from 30 to 50 pounds. Make sure to talk to your vet if you’re concerned that your dog is too far under- or overweight.
Body shape. Polish lowland sheepdogs have well-balanced bodies with strong skeletons. They should be slightly longer than they are tall.
Their shoulders and hindquarters should be well-muscled, and their chests are deep with a moderate width.
The dogs have slightly domed skulls and muzzles that are the same length as the skull. Their head is topped with medium-sized, heart-shaped ears.
The tails are short and set low on the rear. They shouldn’t be longer than two vertebrae. This sometimes occurs naturally, but other owners choose to dock their tails. This practice is purely aesthetic and doesn’t benefit your pet in any way. It isn’t recommended by many veterinarians.
Lifespan. The usual Polish lowland sheepdog life expectancy is good for their size. They live an average of 12 to 14 years. This means that you should plan on having your pet for well over a decade if you choose to adopt one, especially when they’re still a puppy.
Coat. Polish lowland sheepdogs have double coats. This means that they grow two distinct types of coats — an undercoat and an overcoat.
The undercoat is dense and very soft. The outercoat is long and shaggy. Different colors can have slightly different textures. For example, dogs with black coats have little to no undercoat, and their outer coats are not as rough as other colors.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes at least 25 coat colors that the breed can come in. These include:
- Black and white
- Chocolate and white
The dogs’ coats can also have markings, including tan, black, and gray patches and gray tips.
Eyes. These dogs have medium-sized oval eyes. They’re typically brown but can be a lighter shade when they have a chocolate coat. Their eyes can also be blue or yellow. This isn’t accepted by the breed standard, but most families won’t mind at all.
Personality. The Polish lowland sheepdog personality is confident and lively. These dogs are at their best when they’re well exercised and have work to do.
They’re intelligent, perceptive pets that are capable of working independently from their owners for extended periods of time.
The AKC rates them a 5 out of 5 for their affection for their families. It also rates them a 4 out of 5 for their playfulness.
The Polish lowland sheepdog temperament can be quite dominant if they’re not properly trained. Make sure you have a firm will before bringing one home or they’ll quickly take control of your household.
Caring for a Polish Lowland Sheepdog
Grooming. Polish lowland sheepdog grooming can be rather time-consuming. The Polish lowland sheepdog has a thick coat that requires a lot of maintenance. You need to brush them thoroughly at least once a week. This will help keep their coat free of grass, flowers, and other debris. It also helps prevent mats and tangles from forming.
You can choose to clip your dog’s coat short, in a puppy clip. This will require less grooming. You should still occasionally brush their shorter coat to keep your dog looking their best.
Check their ears weekly for dirt or signs of infection. Trim their nails as needed and brush their teeth on a daily basis — with a dog-safe toothpaste — to complete your dog’s grooming routine.
Feeding. Make sure that your pet has access to clean water at all times.
Your Polish lowland sheepdog also needs high-quality dog food. Find a brand that your pet enjoys. Make sure that the nutritional requirements are specific to their stage of life, including puppy and senior-specific foods.
You need to consult your veterinarian before choosing to make an at-home blend for your dog. Making your own food can be complicated and time-consuming. You need to specifically meet all of your dog's nutritional needs to keep them healthy. This requires a precise food blend.
Also make sure that you know what human foods are safe for your dog to eat before feeding them anything from your kitchen.
Exercise and mental stimulation. Polish lowland sheepdogs have plenty of energy, and they need to use it. This means daily exercise.
At the bare minimum, they need to run around outside for one to two hours every day. You can leave them in a fenced-in enclosure or take them for multiple long walks. They also like hiking and being out and about with their humans.
You can try canine sports to provide your pet with both mental and physical stimulation. This breed is particularly good at:
- Agility trials
- Dock diving
Veterinary visits, medications, and immunizations. Your veterinarian is the best person to determine all of the vaccinations that your pet needs, but all dogs should get a core set.
This includes vaccinations for:
- Canine parvovirus
- Parainfluenza virus
These can begin as early as six weeks of age. There are also other non core vaccinations that you can discuss with your veterinarian.
Dosages for flea and tick medications are based on your dog's weight and used as needed. Oral and skin-based applications are available from your veterinarian or other distributors.
Many of these medications can be effective against a variety of pests and parasites, so talk to your veterinarian to figure out the best one for you. Heartworm medication is also recommended year-round in all parts of the U.S.
Health Problems to Watch for With a Polish Lowland Sheepdog
Polish lowland sheepdogs are a rather healthy breed. But there are some common problems that your pet could be born with or develop throughout their life.
Polish lowland sheepdog health issues can include:
- Hip dysplasia. This is where the ball and socket of your dog's hip do not fit or develop properly. Instead of sliding smoothly, the bones grind against each other and wear down. This eventually makes it difficult for your dog to move. Your veterinarian can evaluate your dog's joints and see how likely they are to cause problems throughout your dog's life.
- Eye problems. These include cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Cataracts make the lenses in your dog’s eyes opaque and eventually lead to blindness. They can be treated with surgery but older dogs tend to adjust to the condition with surprising ease. With PRA, you may start to notice your dog struggling to see, particularly at dusk and dawn. At present, there isn’t a treatment for this condition. Your vet should perform annual eye exams to look for any signs of deterioration.
- Diabetes. This is a metabolism disorder where your dog either can’t make enough insulin or can't properly use the insulin that they do make. This means that their bodies can’t properly regulate their blood sugar levels. Signs include increased urination, excessive thirst, and weight loss. Treatment includes daily insulin shots, diet, and exercise.
- Thyroid problems. A common problem is hypothyroidism, where your dog’s body can’t make enough thyroid hormone. Signs can include dry skin, hair loss, and behavioral problems. Your veterinarian should screen for this condition on an annual basis, and treatment is usually in the form of a pill to replace the hormones.
- Kidney disease. Glomerulonephropathy is a genetic condition that can cause your dog’s kidneys to fail at a young age. Your veterinarian may be able to detect it early with a blood test. Treatment options can involve dietary changes and expensive medical procedures.
- Neuronal steroid lipofuscinosis (NCL). This is a neuronal condition that appears in some dog breeds. It affects young dogs, usually between the ages of 1 and 3 years old. Early signs include weakened back legs, and symptoms can spread to all four limbs. There currently isn’t a treatment for this condition.
Special Considerations for a Polish Lowland Sheepdog
There are a few things that you should take into consideration before bringing a Polish lowland sheepdog home. They’re only moderately good with young children and other dogs. They can be particularly aloof and suspicious of strangers. The AKC rates them a 3 out of 5 for all three traits.
You can modify these tendencies with proper training and socialization that starts at a young age. You need confidence to handle this dog, or their boundless energy will soon make them the master of your schedule. With proper training, these dogs can be great for older kids and big families.
In terms of physical characteristics, these dogs shed minimally and don’t drool very much. They can bark a lot for very little reason. The AKC rates them a 4 out of 5 for their tendency to bark too much at the slightest provocation. On a positive note, this barking tendency combined with their wariness with strangers means that these pets can be excellent guard dogs.
History of Polish Lowland Sheepdogs
A little Polish lowland sheepdog 101 — the dogs are sometimes called PONs. This is an acronym for their Polish name, polski owczarek nizinny.
These dogs have existed in Poland in their present form since at least the 13th century. They’re likely descended from other Polish breeds like Puli and other herding dogs. There’s likely some Hunnic dog in their backgrounds too. These dogs were brought in by the Huns when they were attacking the dying Roman Empire.
They were specifically bred to be level-headed workers during the day and strong guard dogs at night. They’re still used by Polish families for these exact purposes.
Polish lowland sheepdogs were brought to Scotland in the early 1500s and crossed with other lines to create new breeds like the bearded collie.
The breed almost became extinct during World War II. In the 1950s, a single male sired 10 litters that went on to recreate the breed for the modern era. This prolific dog’s name was Smok, which means “Dragon”. He’s known as the father of the modern breed. The modern standard is based on him.
The dogs were admitted into the AKC’s herding group in 2001.