The Polish Owczarek Nizinny Sheepdog is a family-sized combination of protection and affection. The breed is also nicknamed PON.
This is an acronym of their polish name: Polski Owczarek Nizinny, pronounced pol-skee ahv-cha-rek ni-gnee.
Also known as the Valee Sheepdog and Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Shepherds them to herd and protect livestock. In modern times, the Nizinny is an adaptable, intelligent, and loyal addition to your family.
What is the Polish Lowland Sheepdog?
This ancient breed dates back to the 16th Century. When local herding dogs from what is now Poland mated with Asian breeds.
In particular, dogs accompanying migrating tribes and traders from Central Asia. It’s theorized the dogs used by the Huns to guard war camps also contributed to their ancestry.
The notorious Huns used to bring dogs into battle and even train them to bite the noses of enemy horses.
Historians note the larger Hunnic war-hounds went to battle while the smaller (but by no means less ferocious) dogs guarded the war camps. It’s believed the latter was the breed that contributed to the PONs lineage.
This breed’s genetics date back to Asian breeds, including the Tibetan Terrier, Mastiff, and Spaniel. As well as the Lhasa Apso and Hungarian herding breeds such as the Puli.
Therefore, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog is a combination of fierce Hunnic hounds and skilled lowland herding dogs.
The product is an intelligent and protective, and hard-working hound who excels as a herding and guarding.
By the 1500s, the breed established itself as an effective sheep-herder: one who can work for the whole day without scaring the sheep.
In 1514, a Polish ship sailed to Scotland in search of sheep. Onboard were six Valee Sheepdogs to manage the returning flock.
A Scottish shepherd was so impressed with the dogs he traded a ram for three dogs. It’s believed these PONs contributed to the establishment of the Bearded Collie breed.
Nizinnys worked with shepherds in the Polish lowlands until the late 1800s, when sheep herding started to decline.
The breed was almost lost during World War II as most dogs had to be abandoned when Germany invaded Poland in 1939.
Luckily, a Polish veterinarian took action and re-established the breed with her PON named Smok. The Polish Kennel Club accepted the first PONS in 1957.
In 1958, the first pedigree litter of Polskie Owczarki Nizinne was born. In 1959, the FCI accepted the breed standard.
Much hard work and investment went into the resurrection of this breed in the following years.
Thanks to Polish and International breeders, the American Kennel Club finally accepted the breed under its English name, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog, in 2001.
What does a Polish Lowland Sheepdog look like?
The PON is well-balanced and compact, thanks to its sturdy skeleton. This medium breed has a strong and muscular body.
They’re covered by a thick shaggy coat, making them appear even stockier than they already are.
The generous deposits of fur on the dogs’ deep chest and stocky hindquarters give it a rectangular silhouette with a level topline.
Their 9:10 height to length ratio enhances their long form. Their tails are short. However, they may also be naturally bobbed or docked for working purposes.
Their head is proportionate in size and shagginess to the rest of their bodies. Heart-shaped ears are high set and floppy, yet alert. Thick fluff on their brow gives them the typical sheepdog fringe.
Behind them hide the penetrating gaze of their medium-sized brown eyes. The Nizinny’s bearded muzzle contains strong jaws beneath a brown or black nose.
Powerful legs hide beneath their plentiful fur. They evolved to keep up with both sheep and shepherds with long, fluid strides.
Their front feet are larger than the back feet, and all paws come equipped with firm pads and strong dark nails.
How big does a Polish Lowland Sheepdog dog get?
A 6-month-old puppy will start at 7-8 inches tall and weigh 9-11lbs. At 18 months, your Valee Sheepdog will be full-grown and about half the size of an Old English Sheepdog.
The males are taller than the females, standing at 18-20 inches. Where the latter range between 17-19 inches from withers. The same applies to weight.
Females range between 30-35lbs and males from 35-40lbs. However, males can reach 50lbs.
Nizinnys are adaptable to apartments – provided you and your family enjoy regular daily exercise. It’s worth noting, this breed has a lot of energy to burn. If you have an outside area for your PON, this is ideal.
Regular outings and at-home play will help them stay comfortable in smaller living spaces. This breed makes a wonderful companion dog for rural and city-dwellers alike.
A Coat of Many Colors
The PON’s thick coat is dense with a straight to wavy texture. They’re completely covered in a double coat, including their shaggy, eye-covering bangs.
The outer layer of fur is more coarse and looks more unkempt. In comparison, the undercoat is soft and fluffy.
Different coat colors have different textures. Black fur on Polish Lowland Sheepdog lacks a shaggy texture and has a thinner undercoat.
It’s common to see tri-color coats. The most frequent coat colors being white, with black, gray, or sandy brown patches. As well as gray with white or chocolate brown markings.
On occasion, you’ll find individuals with full black or white coats as well as black and tan colorations. The AKC accepts all color combinations. These include amalgamations of the following colors:
- Dull gray, silver,
- Chocolate brown
- Beige, fawn, tan, ginger, and gold
These different colors appear in patches as well as at the tips of your dog’s coat.
Are Polish Lowland Sheepdogs good family dogs?
If you’re looking for a family pet, then the Valee Sheepdog can be a joyful and affectionate addition to your brood.
Their cheery and energetic personality benefits children and other dogs in need of a playmate who won’t tire.
This breed is notorious for its determined nature. If you notice your pup eyeing an object, don’t be surprised if you find it missing later.
They’re known to steal household and personal items while you’re not looking and hoarding them away. You may also notice them trying to herd you and your family.
This sensitive breed is not associated with separation anxiety and tolerates being alone. As loving and loyal companions, they can be protective and territorial.
They are naturally wary of strangers but welcoming towards anyone they see as a friend. This gives them excellent potential as a watchdog.
However, their natural shyness towards strangers and desire to control their “herds” may cause discomfort when left alone for long periods. PONs can be stubborn and headstrong and benefit from keeping busy.
They have an excellent memory to follow shepherds’ instructions. They are also intelligent enough to work independently. They may even be clever enough to find ways to outsmart you.
As a part of the herding group, Nizinny’s are quick learners but are sometimes difficult to train. Even at a young age, they have strong personalities.
To stop potential domineering behavior in the future, it’s best to start training early.
They excel in socialization classes, agility classes, and obedience training. As these provide much-needed entertainment, mental stimulation, and act as a physical outlet throughout your dog’s life.
Training your PON as a puppy will prevent fearful aggression towards strange animals and humans. You’ll also encourage socialization and to avoid herding habits such as nipping and barking to develop.
Training will nurture trust between you and your dog and will form a lifelong bond.
You and your family will enjoy many adventures and activities together, ranging from long walks, hikes, and even training for a family dog show.
Without the proper regular activities to amuse themselves, PONs may resort to digging and chewing.
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog knows what it wants and isn’t afraid to ask you for it. Here’s a video of one Nizinny passionately requesting his breakfast:
How to take care of your Polish Lowland Sheepdog
This breed requires frequent grooming and is’t the easiest for novice dog owners. Regularly taking your PON to be professionally groomed will help with the workload.
However, it’s important to maintain their coats in between sessions.
While better suited for colder conditions, these dogs can adjust to warmer climates. A short-cut coat known as a “puppy cut” improves heat tolerance in hot weather.
Dogs kept in a full coat need to be brushed at least once a week. Ideally, you should be brushing them daily.
Being such busybodies, Nizinnys tend to accumulate dirt and debris on their adventures. Even short coats will require some form of detangling and removal of twigs and other plant matter.
A greyhound brush will be an effective tool for daily brushing. A pin brush and de-matter are helpful for their dual coats.
If you’re living in a hotter climate and keep your pet in a shorter cut, then a pair of coat clippers will help you maintain their comfort. Nail clippers are also convenient.
Exercising your Polish Lowland Sheepdog
As previously mentioned, the Valee Sheepdog excels when given a task and loves a generous amount of activity. They may not be the best breed if you’re looking for a lazy couch companion.
If you’re living in an apartment or house with minimum garden space, then you need to allocate anywhere from 30mins to 2 hours per day for your PON to run around.
This will vary depending on your canine’s unique personality. They are medium to high-level energy.
Do Polish Lowland Sheepdogs shed a lot?
Although The PON is high maintenance, they’re easy to groom. They aren’t heavy shedders or droolers, as you might expect.
However, their double coat does require regular attention. Nizinnys are not considered hypoallergenic dogs.
Without thorough and regular brushing, accumulated debris may become trapped in their thick fur and cause unwanted odors. Additionally, mats can easily build up in hiding.
These can cause skin infections and painful discomfort.
Remember not to bathe your dog who has matted fur. This will cause the knots to shrink and become near impossible to remove.
Your PON will need a bath every 6-8 weeks. Adventurous puppies, however, may need more regular washing.
Their ears need to stay dry and should be cleaned whenever they get wet. Regularly check their ears for dirt buildup and redness, which can indicate an infection. Their nails need a trim about every 2-3 weeks.
How Much Does a PON Eat?
Polish Lowland Sheepdogs enjoy their food, which makes you responsible for monitoring their food intake.
Treats are imperative to any training session, however, too many treats between meals can put your pooch at risk of becoming obese.
Adult PONs will need 2,5 cups of food divided into two meals per day. Limit treats to 10% of their day’s food.
Their activity level will require high-quality dog food. This can either be store-bought or homemade but should be veterinary approved.
Puppies will require an increased amount of food as they develop.
Remember, your pup is an individual and should see your vet more regularly. This also helps them acclimate to new people and places at a young age.
How Long Do Polish Lowland Sheepdogs Live?
Valee Sheepdogs have an average life expectancy of 10-12 years. It’s common for older dogs to develop Glomerulonephropathy, an inherited disease that causes the kidneys to fail.
Generally speaking, however, these dogs are healthy if sourced from a responsible breeder. Regular visits to the vet for parasite control and general check-ups will help your dog to live a long and healthy life.
The most common health concerns associated with this breed include:
- Canine Hip Dysplasia is genetic and causes pain and lameness in their rear legs.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy can cause blindness, as well as other eye diseases.
- Diabetes and excessive weight gain when food intake isn’t regulated.
If you’re buying a puppy from a breeder, it’s advised to choose one that performs screening tests. This is to see if their lineage is vulnerable to genetic disorders related to the eyes and hips.
If you’re adopting a Nizinny, then it’s helpful to have tests done throughout its life to monitor any underlying health issues. Your veterinarian will recommend these tests as needed, and they will depend on your animal.
However, recommended health screenings for Polish Lowland Sheepdogs include:
- Hip evaluations and occasional X-rays
- Blood and urine testing
- Possible eye-examinations from an ophthalmologist
How much do Polish Lowland Sheepdog puppies cost?
There are a few important points to remember about the breeder when looking at puppies. You first need to decide if you’re looking for Polish Lowland Sheepdog puppies for sale.
Alternatively, you can adopt an older dog from a rescue organization.
Adopting a purebred PON is possible through means, which we will explain shortly. This process costs about $300 USD to cover basic expenses. There is a stronger likelihood of their medical history being incomplete.
Buying from a breeder can cost between $1,200-$2,000 USD. If you’re willing to ensure authenticity at this price, you want to be sure the breeder is reliable and reputable.
Polish Lowland Sheepdog Breeders
When choosing a breeder, it’s best to choose trustworthy channels. The American Kennel Club Marketplace is an excellent place to start.
Other official dog breed organizations such as the American Polish Lowland Sheepdog Club will list breeders who follow a set of breeding regulations set out by the AKC.
You should choose organizations that recognize the importance of genetics. Purebred dogs should have a health certificate and traceable lineage.
They may also ask you to fill out a questionnaire. This shows your breeder is serious about the long-term health and happiness of the puppy.
Other mentionable breeders based in the United States are:
Polish Lowland Sheepdog Rescue
Unfortunately, many people buy PONs from breeders without fully understanding the breed’s quirks and needs. You’ll often find them available for adoption.
If you cannot find a PON shelter in your area, contact local and national breed clubs who can direct you to the nearest breed-specific rescue.
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog Rescue provides access to international PON rescue centers and those located across the US.
Polish Lowland Sheepdog Poodle Mix
Introducing the uncommon combination of the Polish Lowland Sheepdog and a Poodle. These dogs share many of the same traits as the PON, such as loyalty, aloofness, and lovability.
They also come in three different sizes depending on the Poodle.
The PON-Poodle mix is highly intelligent, thanks to both parent breeds. However, individuals are susceptible to a few more health issues.
As a rare breed, be wary of puppy mills and breeders who aren’t willing to provide a full health report and genetic line.
Should I adopt a Polish Lowland Sheepdog?
While PONs make excellent companions for families and individuals, they’re not the best dogs for beginners.
Their need for daily exercise and coat maintenance requires dedication and commitment, as does their need for training and entertainment.
PONs will be great additions to a large, active family or as a farmer’s working dog. If you’ve owned breeds that are similarly smart, active, and fluffy, then you’ll be able to adapt to the breed’s personality and needs.
Their dense shaggy coat requires regular attention and maintenance, even if kept in a short puppy cut. The PON also needs to exert its energy every day.
If you don’t have a large enough backyard, then you’ll need time for daily walks and dedicated playtime. They also require puppy training.
Despite their generous amount of hair, PONs are much easier to groom than other hairy breeds. This breed isn’t known to shed or drool, either.
Valee Sheepdogs are more gentle than most herding dogs and get along well with children and other family pets.
If you’re able to provide them with enough mental and physical exercise, you’ll develop a strong bond with your PON. They’re affectionate, as well as naturally protective, and fiercely loyal.
Familiar with this breed? Leave a comment to tell us about your experience with PONs.