Pumi: Dog Breed Profile

pumi dog
Krister Parmstrand / EyeEm​ / Getty Images

Easily recognizable by its corkscrew-curled coat, the Pumi dog is a compact yet agile herding dog of Hungarian origin. Bred to be a compact and fearless sheepherding dog, the Pumi was once responsible for moving flocks on narrow roads connecting pastures in western Hungary thanks to its penchant for gathering, driving, and keeping stock under control.

Today, the breed is well-known for its exceptional intelligence and expressive personality. The Pumi’s charming and affectionate temperament along with its expressive ears and facial expression makes this dog both a cute and cuddly family companion as well as a nimble, hard-working dog with boundless energy for both work and play.

Breed Overview

Group: Herding

Height: 15 to 18.5 inches

Weight: 22 to 29 pounds

Coat and Color: Wavy, curly coat in black, white, gray, or fawn

Life Expectancy: 12 to 13 years

Characteristics of the Pumi Dog

Affection Level High
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly Medium
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 Pumi Dog

The Pumi has often been referred to as the "Hungarian herding terrier" because of its terrier-like attributes, such as its quick movement, alert temperament, and lean, muscular body type. It was also given the nickname "the clown" for its playful personality and almost whimsical facial expression.

It’s believed that there were originally a total of three sheepdogs that originated in Hungary—the Mudi, Puli, and Pumi. The Puli is believed to be the oldest of the three, established as far back as A.D. 800, and then some 300 to 400 years ago, the Puli was mixed with French and German herding dogs and terriers to create the Pumi; the breeding is thought to be a result of livestock trading between Hungary with France and Germany. It's said that the Mudi evolved naturally from crosses of the Puli, Pumi, and German Spitz breeds, while the ancestral Hungarian herding dog that ultimately became the Puli appears to have migrated with the Magyars and their livestock from the Ural-Altay region between China and the Caspian Sea to the Carpathian Basin.

The Pumi can also be traced back to the herding and guard dogs originating from China and Tibet, like the Tsang Apso which was mistakenly called Tibetan Terriers by Europeans, and were widespread in that region. At first, the Pumi was considered a regional variant of the Puli, but by the early 20th century, the two dogs became standardized as their own separate breeds.

The international breed standard for the Pumi was approved in 1935; it became an officially recognized breed in the United States in 2011 and in the United Kingdom in 2015. The first Pumis were imported to Finland in the early 1970s, and today the breed is the most popular of all the herding dogs in Finland.

There are currently more than 2,000 Pumis registered in Hungary, with the most notable populations in Finland and Sweden. The Pumi can be found in smaller numbers in the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany.

Pumi Dog Care

The Pumi is an energetic and expressive breed that’s suspicious of strangers, but this breed doesn’t tend to be overly aggressive. They are loyal and protective of their families. As long as they are trained and socialized early, Pumis will be fine sharing their home with children and other animals.

The Pumi’s coat is made up of 50 percent soft hair and 50 percent coarser, harsher hair, and will require combing every three to six weeks and occasional trimming; the coat will have to be wet after combing in order to allow the curls to re-form (just be sure to skip the blow dryer). The Pumi doesn’t shed, but some hair will come out during the grooming process.

The Pumi’s intelligence and alertness makes these dogs easy to train, and they will seem to have an endless willingness to work with their humans. Because of their instincts for herding and their playful nature, they will require daily exercise and mental stimulation. The Pumi should remain its energetic, playful temperament into adulthood, and will thrive with activities such as herding, agility and obedience training, jogging, or even just playing fetch in the backyard. Their favorite toys tend to be tennis balls and flying discs (or anything they can chase and fetch), and because these dogs are so agile, the Pumi is known to climb over and under objects and furniture.

Some behavioral issues that can arise without proper training and exercise include digging, barking, and even a tendency to attempt to herd people. These dogs make good watchdogs; as an alert, vocal breed, the Pumi is likely to bark at any unknown person or animal.

Common Health Problems

Pumis are generally healthy dogs that sometimes live past their average life expectancy, but some of the medical issues associated with this breed are hip dysplasia and a knee problem called patella luxation, in addition to the less-common degenerative myelopathy and an eye disease called primary lens luxation.

Diet and Nutrition

The Pumi should perform well with an high-quality commercially or home-prepared (under veterinary supervision) dog food. Some of these dogs can become overweight if they aren't receiving the correct diet and a generous amount of exercise (or too many treats), so be sure to monitor your Pumi's calorie consumption. Fresh, clean water should be available at all times for this active, high-energy dog.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Pumi Dog

Be sure to check your local animal shelters and rescue groups for Pumi dogs that are in need of a forever home. The national rescue group for Pumi dogs, the Hungarian Pumi Club of America, can also provide online resources to help you find your new best friend.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Be sure to do your homework when choosing a dog breed. Talk to other Pumi owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups to learn more about this particular breed and their care. There's a variety of dog breeds, and with a little research, you can be sure you'll find the right dog to bring home.

If you’re interested in learning more about similar dogs, consider these other herding breeds: