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Polish Lowland Sheepdog


The Polish Lowland Sheepdog, also known as the Polish Sheepdog, the Valee Sheepdog, the Lowlands Herder, the Berger Polonais de Vallee, the Polski Owczarek, the Polski Owczarek Nizinny, the Owczarek Nizinny , the Owczarek Polski Nizinny, or simply the PON or the Nizzy, is of unknown origin. It is thought to be related to the Puli and other Eastern European mountain herding breeds. In fact, it is believed to be the link between the corded and long-coated herding dogs from Eastern Europe. It bears a striking resemblance to the Bearded Collie, and they probably share a common ancestry.
Mature males should stand 18 to 20 inches at the withers; females should stand 17 to 19 inches at the withers. The adults of this breed typically weigh between 35 and 50 pounds. This is a double-coated breed, whose entire body is covered with a shaggy and fairly straight coat. A breed characteristic is bushy eyebrows that cover the eyes. All coat colors are acceptable, the most common being white with either black, gray or sandy patches

History & Health


This is an unusually gentle sheepherding breed. The Polish Lowland Sheepdog uses its eyes and only a few gentle shoulder nudges to manage the movements of the flocks. In the early part of the 16th century, Polish sailors brought a male and two females to Scotland, where they were traded for a ram and a ewe. That trio of PONs introduced the shaggy sheepherding dogs to the British Isles. With time, those dogs contributed to different emerging breeds, such as the Bearded Collie, the Bobtail or Old English Sheepdog, the Welsh Collie and the Old Welsh Grey,.
When Poland regained its independence after World War I, sheepdog fanciers focused on developing this native breed. Unfortunately, World War II almost caused the extinction of the Polish Lowland Sheepdog. In 1950, the Polish Kennel Club appealed for information on surviving PONs, including those from one of the premier pre-war kennels. Thankfully, this saved the breed.
Dr. Danuta Hryniewicz, a veterinarian from northern Poland, is credited with bringing the PON back from the brink of extinction. She scoured the country and found six bitches and two males of sufficient quality to rebuild the breed. Due largely to her efforts, the PON became popular in Europe in the 1970s. In 1979, the first PON was imported to the United States. The big breakthrough for this breed in America occurred in 1982, when Betty and Kaz Augustowski purchased their first Polish Lowland Sheepdogs and founded the Elzbieta Kennel. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed into its Stud Book in 1999, and allowed full competition as a member of the Herding Group in 2001.
This breed thrives in any of the performance disciplines, including agility, obedience, herding and tracking. They are lively, affectionate family companions as well, and are becoming competitive in the conformation ring. They also are great watch dogs and guard dogs. These are playful, smart and fun dogs with an endearing enthusiasm.


The average life span of the Polish Lowland Sheepdog is 12 to 15 years. This is a reliably healthy breed.

Temperament & Personality


In their native Poland, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog is called the Polski Owczarek Nizinny or PON. These dogs were bred to be sturdy herding dogs who were tasked with thinking independently as they moved and protected herds of sheep. The modern PON is still an independent thinker. He likes to decide for himself how to do things and makes his own decisions about whether or not he will accept a visitor into his home. PONs are active dogs who like to be engaged in activities that have a purpose, whether it be herding on a farm, taking long walks with a backpack or playing organized games of fetch. They make excellent family companions for active and experienced dog owners.

Activity Requirements

PONs need a lot of activity to remain happy and healthy. They were designed to work long days herding flocks great distances, so they have stamina to spare. They are well-behaved indoors and this, coupled with their medium size makes them attractive to people who live in apartments or condominiums. If your house does not have a yard, a commitment needs to be made to walk your PON and allow him to run every single day.
This is a highly intelligent breed who need to use their minds as much as their bodies. They are not lap dogs and won't be content to lie around all day doing nothing. If you have to leave your PON alone, make sure to leave him with interesting toys to keep him busy.
PONs are happiest when they feel they are doing a job for their family, so if you do not live on a farm, agility training can be an excellent activity. They love the activity, appreciate the ability to think while they exercise and will eat up the extra bonding time.


Polish Lowland Sheepdogs are extremely intelligent and this can make them a challenge to train. They are independent animals who were bred to make their own decisions in the field, and the modern PON still likes to be his own decision-maker. Training should begin early in order to establish leadership, and should be conducted with calm-assertiveness. They respond well to praise and treats, and will ignore harsh discipline.
Once basic obedience is mastered, your PON should move on to advanced obedience or agility training. They like to learn new things and these activities can keep their minds sharp.

Behavioral Traits

These natural watchdogs are very loyal to the ones they love and are naturally wary of strangers. It is important to socialize your PON early and often, so that he knows how to spot a welcome guest versus an unwelcome guest. They also have trouble understanding how children play, and won't take kindly to a neighborhood child playing rough with one of "his" kids. The more experience he has when young, to understand the natural goings-on around your home, the better he is to be well mannered around guests.

Breed Standard

General Appearance
Medium-sized, compact, strong and muscular with a long, thick coat and hanging hair that covers the eyes. He is shaggy and natural in appearance with a docked or natural bobbed tail. His herding and working ability is attributed to an intense desire to please and compatible nature. He is lively but self-controlled, clever and perceptive. The breed is well known for an excellent memory and the ability to work independent of his master.

Size, Proportion, Substance
Well balanced due to a strong skeleton. Height at the withers for an adult dog is 18 - 20 inches and 17 - 19 inches for a bitch. It is not desirable to diminish the size below the Standard for this multi-purpose working breed. The silhouette is rectangular due to the abundance of coat on the chest and rear. The height to length ratio is 9:10 making the dog off square. Height is measured from withers to ground and length is measured from point of shoulder to point of buttocks.

Head and Skull
The medium-sized head is in proportion to the body. The profuse hair on the forehead, cheeks and chin make the head look bigger than it actually is. Expression is lively with a penetrating gaze. Eyes are of medium size, oval and brown in color. It is natural in a dog with chocolate pigment to have a lighter eye. Eye rims are as dark as possible within the coat color.
Disqualification: blue or yellow (bird-of-prey) eyes.

Ears are heart-shaped, drop and set moderately high. They are medium size in proportion to the head and are covered with long hair which naturally follows the shape of the ear. Skull is moderately broad and slightly domed. The forehead furrow and occiput are palpable. The stop has a pronounced indentation but never as pronounced as a round-skull breed.

The ratio of muzzle to skull is 1:1. A little shorter muzzle is acceptable. The topline of the muzzle is straight and parallel to the skull. The muzzle is well filled all the way to the end.

Teeth: Strong white teeth meet in a scissors or level bite. The jaws are strong.

Disqualification: overshot or undershot bite.

Nose should be large and black or brown, depending on the coat color. A pink nose or a nose partially lacking pigment should be penalized.

Neck, Topline, Body
Neck, of medium length, is muscular and strong. It is broad without dewlap and carried not more than 45 degrees to the ground when moving. Profuse hair and a large head optically make the neck look shorter than it actually is.
The backshould be neither too long nor too short for proper balance and movement. Withers are well pronounced and broad. The chest is deep, of medium width, with forechest well-defined. Depth of chest is to the elbow, approximately 50% of the height of the dog. The ribs are well sprung, neither barrel chested nor slab-sided.

The topline is level. The loinis well muscled and broad giving the impression of being short. The croup is slightly cut but only to a small degree. The belly is slightly drawn up.

Tail is short, set low and no longer than two vertebrae. Tails are naturally short or docked.
Severe Fault: Tail that changes the shape and appearance of the silhouette must be penalized so severely as to eliminate the dog from competition.

The shoulders are heavily muscled and well laid back. The legs are straight and vertical with heavy bone. The pasterns are slightly slanting in relation to the forearm and flexible without weakness. The feet are oval and tight with the front feet larger than the rear feet. Toes are arched.

Large, heavily boned, and well muscled with well bent stifles. In normal stance, the bones below the hocks are perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other when viewed from the rear. The hind feet fall just behind a perpendicular line from the point of buttocks to the ground when viewed from the side. Feet are oval with tight, arched toes. Pads are hard. Nails are preferably dark.

It is doubled coated. The entire body is covered with a long, dense, shaggy, thick coat that is reasonably straight. The outercoat should be crisp with a water resistant texture. The undercoat is soft and dense. Different coat colors will have different textures with the black coat having little or no coarse outercoat and less undercoat. Characteristically, long hanging hair covers the eyes. A slight wavy coat is acceptable.
Fault: A curly, short or silky coat. Lack of undercoat. A fly away or thin, wispy coat that easily "flies" over the dog when in movement.

The Polish Lowland Sheepdog must be shown naturally with an "unkempt" but clean appearance—any scissoring of the coat must be penalized so severely as to eliminate the dog from competition.
Only the hair between the pads may be trimmed.

Severe fault: Any coat that appears to be visibly scissored or sculpted.
All coat colors are acceptable. The most common colors are white with either black, gray or sandy patches and gray with white, or chocolate. Most carry a dominant fading factor genetically, which results in puppies being born darker in coat color than they will appear as adults with the exception of those puppies born white.

The gait should be balanced, efficient, and appear effortless. Leg movement should always be in two parallel lines without crossing or departing from one line. There is a slight and natural tendency to converge in the front and rear when significantly increasing the speed of trot. The neck is carried not more than 45 degrees to the ground when moving. With the correct shoulder angulation, the forward reach of the front leg should be fluent and to the dogs nose. This length of stride propels forward movement with less fatigue. The greatest source of his forward drive is derived from good rear angulation. When viewed from behind, the back legs should be parallel to each other and not too close.

He is stable and self confident. He needs a dominant master and consistent training from the time he is very young. If this is not provided, he will tend to dominate the master. When not used as a herding or working dog, he can be a magnificent companion as he seems to fit into any type of lifestyle. He is extremely loyal, but somewhat aloof and suspicious of strangers. Faults: Nervous, cowardly, or extreme vicious behavior.

The foregoing description is that of the ideal Polish Lowland Sheepdog. Any deviation from the above described dog must be penalized to the extent of the deviation.

Blue or yellow (bird-of-prey) eyes
Overshot or undershot bite

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Sources: American Kennel Club


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