Friendly Shaggy-Haired Dogs
These clever dogs share both the unusual Rasta look and their Hungarian sheepdog roots with the significantly bigger Komondor. Both breeds have now gained numerous fans outside of Hungary too. If you're interested in having a Puli as a pet, however, you should consider that these robust nature lovers need lots of activity and exercise whatever the weather.
Due to its shaggy fur, the Puli brings to mind the Komondor upon first glance, which is another Hungarian sheepdog but much bigger and around three times heavier. In contrast, the small to medium-sized Puli is up to 44cm in height and should weigh a maximum of 15kg. The long Rasta locks in black, white or fawn envelop a slim but muscular and square-shaped body. They are relatively short on the head and legs at up to 12cm in length, whilst the longest on the croup and backs of the thighs are up to 30cm long.
Hungarian dog with Asian roots
The similarity with the Komondor doesn't deceive: like the ancestors of its big brother, the Puli's forefathers presumably also came to Hungary over 1,000 years ago with the Magyars, a nomadic tribe from Asia. The roots of the breed are assumedly in Tibet, suggesting a certain similarity to the Tibetan Terrier. Additionally, they are closely related to the Pumi. In Hungary itself, these shaggy-haired sheepdogs soon established themselves as herding, guard and sheepdogs, where they were mainly deployed to herd small animals, sheep or chickens. The name of the breed was mentioned in writing for the first time in a source from 1751. In Hungary, breeding these working dogs mainly depended on the robustness and reliable sheepdog character. In 1935, the FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale) officially accepted the breed and thereby stipulated a binding standard for all countries. Outside of their country of origin, the Puli is now seen as a family dog, albeit an unusual one.
Character: courageous guardian
A Puli is loyal and affectionate to its caregivers. A typical sheepdog, it is loyal to its pack and suspicious of strangers, but not aggressive. It is lively, temperamental and clever, which in combination with its strong self-confidence leads to it being happy to take the lead if nobody present appears well-suited to being in charge. However, a well-trained Puli always keeps its owner in mind and takes joy in their commands, happily and conscientiously following orders. The breed is very friendly towards children and protects its pack courageously and confidently.
Training with consistency and lots of praise
Consistent training with lots of praise is the key to living in harmony with a Puli. Be consistent as soon as it enters your home as a cute puppy: if the adult Puli won't be allowed on the sofa, don't let the innocent-looking young Puli on it either. Otherwise, your clever companion will interpret the weakening of the rules however it suits them best. Since these dogs are so attentive and willing to learn, there are generally no difficulties with training. Sing your dog's praises after it performs tasks, because it really cherishes recognition. Consider that a Puli needs suitable activity and sufficient stimulation in order to show the good side of its character. Even the best training can't offset behavioural problems provoked by boredom. If there is a dog school with puppy play sessions near you, this is a good opportunity to introduce your Puli to dogs of other breeds and sizes and thereby strengthen its social competence. Attending the dog school itself can also very much enrich life together for you and your companion. However, ensure that the dog school is suitable for your pet's sheepdog character.
Health and nutrition
Thankfully, this robust breed appears to have remained completely unaffected by hereditary dispositions for certain diseases. In good health, these lively dogs can live to be up to 16 years of age. The best prerequisite for a long, healthy canine life is a suitable diet, which involves lots of meat! Ensure that meat comes at the top of the ingredients list, regardless of whether it's wet or dry food. Avoid dog food containing substandard grain. It's difficult to observe the Puli's stature under its abundant coat, which is why you should regularly weigh your dog in order to counteract weight loss or gain in a timely manner. Consider too that treats often contain many calories. Dry chew products like cattle ears or raw beef are suitable as dental care snacks. It goes without saying that your dog should always have enough fresh drinking water.
Grooming as a stroking session
Although Puli owners don't need to brush or comb their dogs, you should regularly “tuft” them, since the special thing about Puli fur is that dead and sessile hairs attach and form felt-like tufts. In concrete terms, grooming should simply involve pulling apart the hair-ends in order to end up with characteristic cords or ribbons. It's most straightforward to integrate grooming into daily stroking sessions: always separate a few tufts when you stroke your dog. However, ensure that you regularly reach all parts of the body too. Practise this daily ritual when they are still puppies and the fur is predisposed to form tufts. For this reason, brushing would be very counterproductive for young dogs. Always consider the areas behind the ears and under the shoulders that quickly felt. You should only give your Puli a bath if it's absolutely necessary, because the fur dries very slowly. Especially in winter, this can easily make the Puli ill. It's better to wash off potential areas of dirt in the corresponding area. In order to prevent residue remaining in the fur following bowel movements, cutting the fur around the anus and the inner thighs has proved successful. You should also regularly cut the hairs above the eyes so that your companion has a free line of vision. Check the ears on a daily basis and clean them if necessary with a special ear cleaner for dogs. Additionally, you should check the length of the claws every now and then to see whether they need to be clipped shorter.
An advantage of the Puli's unusual coat is that it hardly loses any individual hairs, since these are attached to the tufts. Every now and then a complete tuft falls off, but these can be gathered easily. However, the Puli is not an ideal dog for fans of sparkling clean homes, because its Rastas also bring a huge amount of dirt indoors.
Sporty bundle of energy
Some Puli novices are surprised by how how these small dogs with long shaggy fur love being on the move. Many adult Pulis turn out to be sporting aces and love agility or other types of dog sports. Take into consideration that your dog needs gently introducing to the sport in question in order to not overwork its body. Puppies in particular should avoid running longer distances or jumping. These clever sheepdogs are suited to working as therapy, search or tracking dogs. Your Puli is of course always first in line too when you have planned a longer walk or hike. Anyhow, the breed very much likes to spend time outdoors, so a fenced garden that the Puli can guard is a big advantage. Here it can linger in the great outdoors to its heart's content. Nevertheless, Pulis need a family connection and are definitely not suited to being kept in a kennel.
Is a Puli right for me?
If you live in a city, you should avoid taking on a Puli as a pet. Although some Pulis would certainly settle with city life in cases of necessity, they belong in the countryside as genuine nature dogs – ideally, they would have a large property to watch over where they can indulge in their desire to bark frequently without disturbing the neighbours at the same time.
Pulis love children, though they should have learnt how to treat animals with respect. Since sheepdogs protect their pack, you should always keep an eye on the Puli, for instance, if visiting small children scuffle with your offspring. A Puli that was socialised with cats as a young dog won't have any problems with your feline friends and may even make friends with them.
Before making a purchase, think about how you will organise care for your little shaggy-haired dog should you fall ill or go on holiday. On one hand, the Puli likes to be in its territory, and on the other it is very dependent on its caregiver and makes an excellent companion for hiking holidays. Well-trained dogs are now welcome guests in numerous hotels.
Before your new pet moves into your home, you should also estimate the ongoing costs that come with living with a dog. These include visits to the vet, dog taxes and liability insurance, as well as the cost of a high-quality food. You should also have a financial reserve for veterinary costs should your dog fall ill. When your dog enters your home, the initial costs aren't just the purchase price of the Puli, but also basic equipment: dog bowls, lead, harness and collar, blankets or dog beds as well as transport options for the car.
Where do I find my dream Puli?
There are still relatively few Puli breeders, so it can be the case that you have to expand the search radius and if required sign up to a waiting list if you don't live in Hungary. Buying from a responsible breeder is definitely worthwhile, but this doesn't necessarily guarantee that you will receive a pedigree specimen of this striking breed. However, it does ensure that the dogs will be free of health impairments. A good breeder chooses dogs according to type, taking into consideration both the health and loving character of these sheepdogs. Generally you can meet the puppies and their parents at the breeder's home and in conversation with the breeder determine whether you can offer a Puli a good home. So don't be surprised if the breeder asks you a few critical questions too – after all, they want to send their charges off to a home for life. Little Pulis can move in with you at the earliest after eight weeks – with a pedigree certificate and after being microchipped and dewormed several times. They should also have a vaccination certificate – be absolutely sure not to miss the booster injections.
Don't buy from a breeder focused on quality over quantity – not even out of pity. Every animal that these shady breeders sell represents the regrettable success of the tragic business model involving breeding animals without expertise or empathy in order to make as big a profit as possible.
If you prefer to give a new home to an elderly Puli, you will only find one close to you in an animal protection centre or foster home by means of a happy coincidence, since the breed is relatively rare. Trawl through the depths of the Internet and search in particular for Hungarian sheepdog associations that could help you if necessary. You might find a mongrel without official documents in an animal protection organisation. This would be a surprise package compared to a pedigree Puli but would win you over with its charm nonetheless.
We wish you lots of joy with your unusual shaggy-haired dog!