Puli: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Standing side profile of a puli dog

Miça Quartey / EyeEm / Getty Images

The puli (pronounced poo-lee) is a medium-sized herding dog known in Hungary for centuries. The distinctively dreadlocked puli certainly stands out in the dog world. The dog's corded coat can grow long, so the hair may eventually reach to the ground, hiding the legs, and making the puli appear like it's floating across the ground. The puli’s hair serves a real purpose: The dog was bred to herd sheep in Hungary, and the thick, wooly, and corded coat protected it against harsh weather and any predators, such as wolves.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Herding

HEIGHT: 16 to 17 inches tall at the shoulder

WEIGHT: 25 to 35 pounds

COAT: Dense, weather-resistant coat that forms cords in adults

COAT COLOR: Solid colors only: black, rusty black, gray, or white

LIFE SPAN: 10 to 15 years

TEMPERAMENT: Intelligent, energetic, obedient, loyal, sensitive, loving, and affectionate


ORIGIN: Hungary

Characteristics of the Puli

These charming dogs are wonderful family companions. Pulis (or pulik) are friendly, energetic, and mischievous. They love to have fun but are also great at reading your mood and know when you need a snuggle. They are active and playful well into their senior years. Pulis get along well with other dogs and love playing with kids, as long as children are taught to respect the dog and not to pull on the dreadlocks. They may or may not get along with cats, depending on the individual dog and whether they were raised together. 

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Trainability High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark High
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Puli

For centuries, the puli has been used to herd sheep and guard farms in Hungary. Naturally protective and watchful, today’s puli retains its guarding instinct, as well as the instinct to gather and drive a flock of sheep. If there are no sheep around, the puli is not picky. They will herd family pets, kids, chickens—pretty much anything that moves.

The puli breed survived World War II, and a few dogs made it over to the United States for herd and guard dog use. The puli quickly made an impression in the U.S. and the breed has been recognized by the American Kennel Club since 1936, where it’s part of the Herding Group. 

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Cilla, own an unclipped cream-colored puli named Beast who has its own Facebook page with over 2 million followers.

Puli Care

Grooming is probably the biggest challenge of owning a puli, more so than exercise and training. If you own a puli, you have a choice in whether to cord the coat or keep it brushed out or clipped. Many pet pulis are not corded for convenience because it's a lot of work to upkeep the dreadlocks.


Beneath all that hair, pulis are athletic and energetic. They need plenty of daily exercise and mental stimulation to be happy. Although long walks (aim for an hour a day total), hikes, and games of fetch can do the trick, many puli owners participate in organized dog sports like herding, agility, flyball, and obedience. It's also a herding dog that needs a large fenced-in yard to run around and dispel all of its energy.


A puli’s cords form naturally, starting when a puppy is about nine months old. You will need to help the coat along, separating the mats to the skin. Your breeder or a groomer knowledgeable in corded coats can help you guide the coat so it cords properly and doesn’t turn into one giant mat.

Bathing a corded puli takes a special technique and patience, as it takes a long time to get the cords wet and to rinse the soap out completely. Drying is the real challenge—it can take hours—just as it does to dry a wool sweater—starting with wringing out the cords starting at the ends, and squeezing more moisture out with towels. Some owners use a special cage dryer for dogs, but you can use a blow dryer and absorbent microfiber towels to do the job. It’s vital to make sure the cords are thoroughly dry after bathing or the damp cords can mildew. 

If you choose to keep your puli brushed out or trimmed and not corded, it’s extremely important to still thoroughly brush the dog out from the skin at least once a week to prevent mats from forming. The hair above the eyes can also be trimmed to help the dog see better.


Pulis are highly intelligent and easy to train and with positive methods, these dogs can be taught lots of fun tricks. Early socialization for puppies is important to curb the breed’s natural wariness of strangers and to help the puli develop into a confident adult dog. 

Puli dog
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Puli dogs
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Puli dog
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Common Health Problems

Like most purebred dogs, the puli is prone to a few genetic conditions. Responsible breeders test their adult dogs before breeding them to avoid passing on inherited diseases. The Puli Club of America, which is the national club for the breed in the United States, requires all member breeders to participate in the Orthopedic Foundation for Animal’s Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) program testing for the following:

  • OFA or Penn Hip/hip dysplasia: Abnormal development of the hip joints
  • OFA for luxating patella (knees): Knee cap slippage resulting in lameness
  • OFA Degenerative Myelopathy (DNA test): Degenerative spinal cord condition
  • Canine Eye Registry (CERF): Informs breeders of canine eye disease

Additional recommended testing includes OFA for elbows, OFA for cardiac (heart), OFA for thyroid, and brainstem auditory evoked response (BAER) hearing test.

Diet and Nutrition

Feed your puli a high-quality dog food. Your breeder or veterinarian can give you a recommendation regarding the best food for this breed due to its predisposition to some hereditary joint conditions. It’s important not to allow your puli to become overweight. Feed scheduled meals using a measuring cup or scale to ensure your puli isn’t consuming more than they need. Keeping the bowl filled with food all the time can lead to snacking and overeating. 

Where to Adopt or Buy

If you want a puppy, spend some time searching for a reputable breeder. Once you find a breeder, you might have to wait a while for a puppy to become available. Expect to pay a breeder between $800 to $1,600 for a puli puppy. If you are looking to adopt, some adult puli mixes may find their way into rescue. The Puli Club of America maintains a rescue website as well as a list of breeders on its website.

Puli Overview

  • Loving and playful

  • Alert watchdog

  • Healthy and long-lived

  • May bark a lot

  • Needs a lot of exercise 

  • Doesn’t do well when left alone

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you like the puli, and especially its unique long-haired coat, you might also like these breeds:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

  • Can a puli see out from behind all that hair in its face?

    When corded, the puli’s hair usually hangs down over their eyes. Some people use hair bands or clips to keep the hair out of the eyes, but it’s not really necessary. The puli can see right through the cords, peeking through them much like you might peer through window blinds or a beaded curtain. According to the Puli Club of America, there is an old Hungarian saying that goes, “The puli, through his hair, sees better than you.”

  • How can you tell a puli and a Komondor apart since they both have dreadlocks??

    These two breeds are both native to Hungary and do look similar. The puli's dreadlocks are thinner than the Komondor's ropes. Pulis are also much smaller dogs than Komondors.

  • Is the puli dog breed rare?

    The puli is indeed considered a rare and unique breed in the U.S. There's no official reason for its rarity. However, it may not be a popular dog for breeders to focus on because of the breed's extensive grooming needs.

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  1. "The Puli Club of America's Guidelines for Owners/Breeders/Exhibitors." The Puli Club of America, Inc.