Puli: Dog Breed Profile

The Puli might look like a walking mop, but it's full of personality

Puli dog

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The Puli (pronounced poo-lee) is a medium-sized dog herding dog known in Hungary for centuries. The distinctively dreadlocked Puli certainly stands out in the dog world. Puli owners have heard it all (“Is that a dog or a mop? Is there a dog under there?”) All jokes aside, the Puli’s Rastafarian hair serves a real purpose: The Puli was bred to herd sheep in Hungary, and the thick, corded coat protected the dog against harsh weather and any predators (like wolves). Many pet Pulik (the plural of Puli) are not corded; instead, the fluffy coat is kept brushed out and sometimes clipped. 

This charming little dog is a wonderful family companion. 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. Pulik get along well with other dogs and love playing with kids, as long as children are taught to respect the dog. They may or may not get along with cats, depending on the individual dog and whether they were raised together. 

Breed Overview

Group: Herding

Weight: 25 to 35 pounds

Height: 16 to 17 inches tall at the shoulder.

Coat: Short and glossy

Coat Color: Solid colors only: black, rusty black, gray or white.

Life Expectancy: 10 to 15 years

Characteristics of the Puli

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. He will herd family pets, kids, chickens—pretty much anything that moves. In the United States, the Puli has been recognized by the American Kennel Club since 1936, where it’s part of the Herding Group. 

Puli Care

If you own a Puli, you have a choice in whether to cord the coat, or keep it brushed out or clipped. When corded, the Puli’s hair is like a coat of ropes. The hair grows continuously, so in older dogs, the hair may reach to the ground. With these long, corded coats, the Puli can appear to float across the ground as his legs are virtually invisible beneath the cords. 

A Puli’s cords form naturally, starting when a puppy is about 9 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 take a special technique 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, starting with wringing out the cords, squeezing more moisture out with towels and finally using a special dryer. It’s vital to make sure the cords are absolutely dry after bathing—damp cords can mildew. 

If you choose to keep your Puli brushed out, it’s extremely important to thoroughly brush the dog out to the skin at least once a week to prevent mats. The shaggy coat may be long or may be clipped short for convenience. 

When corded, the Puli’s hair usually hangs down over his eyes. Some people use hairbands or clips to keep the hair out of the eyes, but it’s not usually 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.” People who have their Pulik clipped might opt to have the hair trimmed above the eyes.  

Pulik are athletic and energetic. They need plenty of daily exercise and mental stimulation to be happy. Although long walks, hikes and games of fetch can do the trick, many Puli owners participate in organized dog sports like herding, agility, flyball, and obedience. 

Pulik are highly intelligent and with positive methods can be taught lots of fun tricks and more. 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 prior to breeding them to avoid passing on inherited disease. 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 for hips, OFA for patella (knees), OFA Degenerative Myelopathy (DNA test) and Canine Eye Registry (CERF) updated every three years. 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 a Puli. Because the breed is predisposed to some hereditary joint conditions like hip dysplasia and luxating patalleas, 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 he needs. Keeping the bowl filled with food all the time can lead to snacking and overeating. 

Pros
  • Loving and playful

  • Alert watchdog

  • Healthy and long-lived

Cons
  • May bark a lot

  • Needs a lot of exercise 

  • Doesn’t do well when left alone

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. If you are looking to adopt, some adult Pulik or Pulik mixes find their way into rescue. The Puli Club of America maintains a rescue website as well as list of breeders on its website.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you like the Puli, you might also like these breeds:

Otherwise, check out all of our other dog breed articles to help you find the perfect dog for you and your family.