The Tatra Shepherd Dog, known in his native country as Polski Owczarek Podhalanski, is an ancient breed of livestock guardian dogs originating from the Tatra mountain region (Podhale) in southern Poland. As a member of the mastiff family, it belongs to the group that includes the Tibetan Mastiff, Spanish Mastiff, Komondor, Great Pyrenees, and Kuvasz.
Dowack du Domaine des Dhalbergs
Photo by Domaine des Dhalbergs
Some experts believe that the breed traces back to the ancient white guardian dogs of the Eastern part of the world, while others claim that it comes from the Tibetan Mastiff. The Polish word owczarek is the same as the Russian ovcharka or Yugoslavian ovcar which means "sheepdog." A livestock guardian dog is one that generally stays with sheep without harming them and aggressively repels predators. The dog chooses to remain with sheep because it has been reared from puppyhood with them. Its protective behaviors are largely instinctive, and there is relatively little formal training required other than timely correction of undesirable behaviors.
Hojny z Domu Pociechy ("Grizu")
Photo by Zuchstätte vom Wogenrain
Livestock guardians have traits that distinguish them from other breeds. They tend to retain puppylike characteristics throughout their adult lives, such as licking the muzzle of an adult dog, begging for food, play wrestling, following parents or littermates, staying near a home or den site, barking when something new or strange approaches, and absence of predatory behavior.
The Tatra Shepherd Dog is alert, calm, intelligent, and courageous. It takes his job very seriously and may become rather dominant. Strong-willed and independent, he requires consistent and firm training from puppyhood.
The coat consists of a long, thick, straight or slightly wavy outercoat and a short, dense undercoat. The hair on the neck makes a ruff, while on the head, muzzle, forelegs and lower hindlegs the hair is short and dense. The tail hair is long and profuse, forming a flag. According to the breed standard, only white coat color is accepted. These strong, muscular dogs stand 23.6-27.6 inches at the shoulder.
This is a working breed that thrives in rural and semi-rural environment. As a companion dog, the Tatra Shepherd will be at his best if provided with long daily walks. According to the Polish Tatra Sheepdog Club of America, this breed is not suitable to apartment living or small yards with close neighbors. While not excessive, their instincts to bark at strangers and suspicious noises can be problematic. He needs considerable space and exercise. Good fencing is a must.
- FCI Standard #252
- Dominique De Vito. World Atlas of Dog Breeds
- Polish Tatra Sheepdog Club of America
- Livestock Guardian Dogs
- J.R. Lorenz and L. Coppinge. Raising and Training a Livestock-guarding Dog