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Lee Feldstein, Animal Photography
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This herding dog is stubborn, smart, and active, a cheerful clown who plays chess, not checkers. He also has a possessive temperament that inclines him to steal stuff. A good watchdog, he's fearless. He learns quickly, and remembers everything, good and bad. Channel that energy and work ethic into dog sports, because he needs a job.
In Polish, the PON’s name is pronounced this way: Polski (pole-skee) Owczarek (sounds like ahv cha rek) Nizinny (sounds like ni gi nee). People in Poland just call them PONs, too.
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, he is about half the size of his 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.
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 can be 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 at least one 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 (health permitting) 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.
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, trim the nails regularly and brush the teeth to prevent doggy breath and periodontal disease.
The PON probably descended from Central Asian dogs that may have included the Tibetan Terrier and the Lhasa Apso. Tibetan dogs were favorite objects of trade and eventually made their way to Europe, where they were crossed with local sheepdogs, one of them being the Puli. The PON is one breed that developed from such crosses and has been known in Poland as a herding and flock-guarding dog since the 15th century. He also contributed to the development of the Bearded Collie in Scotland after a Polish ship picking up a cargo of sheep in Scotland traded three PONs for a ram and a ewe in 1514.
The American Kennel Club recognized the PON in 2001. It ranks 149th among the breeds registered by the AKC.
The PON is a highly intelligent, good-natured working dog with a perceptive nature and an excellent memory. He marches to the beat of his own drummer — he’s very independent and stubborn — but he is a good companion to an owner who can provide kind leadership.
Though the PON is devoted to his family, he is choosey about friends. He tends to be wary of people outside his human pack.
The PON can be good with kids and other pets if he is raised with them from puppyhood. Don’t be surprised when he herds the kids. His herding instinct is strong, and he will try to gather his “flock” into one area. Never let him bump or nip at kids in an attempt to herd them. Correct the behavior and direct him to some other activity.
The PON has a reputation as a thief, stealing household items such as towels or tools or shoes, and stashing them away. He means no harm, but missing one running shoe when you’re set for a jog can be annoying.
Training should begin right away for the PON puppy. Even at 8 weeks old, he is capable of learning good manners. Never wait until he is 6 months old to begin training, or you will have a bigger, more headstrong dog to handle.
If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
The PON is an active dog who requires a lot of exercise, but he isn’t hyper. Don’t expect your PON to be a couch potato. He enjoys having a job to do, especially if it means doing it for his family. Obedience training and agility classes are good venues for the PON because they keep him busy, physically and mentally. He needs activities to challenge him: hiking, herding, agility, tracking, advanced obedience. The PON is blessed with a remarkable memory, which makes him a quick study. He is fairly easy to train — if he wants to be trained. Take care not to allow him to take over as pack leader. He will give it his best shot!
Talk with a reputable, experienced PON breeder. Describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Choose a puppy whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized by the breeder from birth.
All 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, and hypothyroidism.
Ask a breeder to show you evidence that a puppy’s parents have hip evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or University of Pennsylvania (PennHIP) 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.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a PON at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Polish Lowland Sheepdog has a long, thick, shaggy double coat. It has a crisp texture and is meant to be water-resistant.
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. On the plus side, PONs don’t shed much.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two. Keep the ears clean and dry, and brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for overall good health and fresh breath. 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.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. He or she is most interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks. Be wary of breeders who only tell you the good things about the breed or who promote the dogs as being “good with kids” without any context as to what that means or how it comes about.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Look for more information about the Polish Lowland Sheepdog and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the American Polish Lowland Sheepdog Club, also known as APONC. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by APONC’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to obtain recommended health clearances on dogs before breeding them.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Polish Lowland Sheepdog puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Polish Lowland Sheepdog might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Polish Lowland Sheepdog in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Polish Lowland Sheepdogs available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Polish Lowland Sheepdog. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Polish Lowland Sheepdogs love all Polish Lowland Sheepdogs. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Polish Lowland Sheepdog Club of America’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Polish Lowland Sheepdog rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Polish Lowland Sheepdog home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Polish Lowland Sheepdog, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Polish Lowland Sheepdog to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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