Puli dog breed
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The Puli is one of the most discernable breeds worldwide because of its distinct corded coat that bears a resemblance to dreadlocks. Characterized by its fairly muscular built, this medium-sized breed is industrious and high-spirited in nature.

Hailing from Hungary, the Puli played a vital role in herding sheep in the earlier centuries. However, its number was greatly reduced when World War II broke out. Nonetheless, groups and associations have created a breeding program for this lovable breed to evade extinction.

Aside from its unique physical attributes, the Puli is loved by many breeders because of its intelligence and playfulness. Rugged and mop-like on the outside, but soft and warm-hearted on the inside, the Puli is the perfect dog breed for homeowners who are looking for a combination of intelligence, charm and agility. So if you want a faithful companion who can also provide your home extra protection, the Puli might be your perfect pet companion.

Breed characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
Health IssuesBelow Average
All Around FriendlinessAbove Average
Exercise NeedsHigh

Dog Breed Group:Herding dog
Height:Males: 17 inches; Females: 16 inches
Weight: Approximately 25 – 35 pounds
Life Span: 12 to 16 years

Originating from Hungary, the Puli, also famously known as the Hungarian Water Dog or the Hungarian Puli, played a significant role in herding sheep for their owners. Intelligent and self-confident, the Puli has all it takes to lead, which made it the most valuable companion of shepherds in the earlier years.

Because its natural instinct is to protect, the Puli is also inclined to taking the lead even in the household. This dog breed does not only have great leadership skills, but it is also good at taking care of younger members of the family as well. In fact, the Puli can unintentionally lead you around and politely ask you to sit or take the baby in the crib when it is already passed bedtime.

But even though the Pulik (plural form for Puli) are assertive in nature, they are also sensitive to the needs and the feelings of their owners. While their main purpose is to guard and protect, they can also be compassionate companions that are willing to take the bullet for their humans, making them the perfect guard and therapy dogs. When their human companions are sick and weary, they are always willing to provide extra warmth and affection. Indeed, they are one of the dog breeds that can redefine loyalty and companionship.

Since they are defensive, the Puli can be highly suspicious of strangers. Hence, the Pulik, just like other breeds, should always be supervised when dealing with people they aren’t familiar with to avoid any untoward incidents. They are home-loving watchdogs that love keeping their human companions out of any harm’s way, making them more than just a pet companion.

Lastly, the Pulik’s high energy levels make it a must for their human companions to engage them in sports and other intense games. So if you love going outdoors, this dog breed can be the companion you have always been looking for.

Main Highlights
  • The Puli, also known as the Hungarian Puli and the Hungarian Water Dog, is characterized by its high energy levels, making it necessary for owners to engage their dog in physical activities.
  • The Puli is a medium-sized breed that is agile and intelligent in nature.
  • The Puli sheds less hair as compared to other breeds because of its unique coating. However, it has intense grooming needs.
  • The Puli is a confident and strong-willed dog breed that requires a human companion who has great leadership skills.
  • The Puli is a rare dog breed, making it expensive and difficult to find.
  • This dog breed has the instinct to chase other animals and dogs of the same gender.
  • Early socialization is crucial so the Puli would be able to recognize suspicious acts and normal ones. Lack of early socialization can lead to a highly suspicious Puli that can pose injuries to unfamiliar visitors.
Breed History

While the Puli is generally known as a sheep-herding dog in Hungary for more than 1000 years, its exact origin still remains a mystery. Several theories regarding the breed’s ancestry were provided, with some authors claiming that the breed came from Western China, while others say that the Puli migrated with nomads from India and Siberia. Since the Puli bears a striking resemblance with the Tibetan Terrier, it is believed that both these dog breeds share strong familial ties.

In the early years, shepherds used two dogs to guard, protect and lead their sheep—one is a large dog (usually a Komondor) that protected the sheep from wild predators and other animals during the nighttime, while the other (the Puli) is a dog that is fast and confident enough to lead the sheep by day. Typically, darker Pulik were used to herd the sheep so Hungarian shepherds wouldn’t have a difficult time separating the sheep from their dog. Aside from its instinct to guard and protect, the Puli’s agility makes it a remarkable sheep-herding dog.

When World War II broke out, the Pulik population went to a drastic decline as the Turkish assailants exterminated the breed. Afterward, groups from Europe brought sheep-herding dogs within the area, resulting to several crossbreeds, explaining the appearance of other dogs bred for herding purposes, the Pumi and the Mudi. Eventually, the Puli repopulated as a professor from Hungary, Dr. Raitsitz, devoted his life to classify the breeds, paving the way to proper breeding practices for individual herding dogs.

In 1935, the Puli breed was introduced to the USA for a project that aimed at evaluating sheep-herding dogs. A year later, the American Kennel Club gave recognition to this breed, which led to its increased popularity. At present times, the Puli are not only used in farms, but they are also regarded as the perfect house pets and guard dogs.


Just like other breeds, the weight of the Puli is highly dependent on its height. Standing at around 16” to 17” at the shoulder, the Puli’s weight can range from 25 to 35 pounds. The coat can also be a contributor to its weight as a fully mature cord can weigh as high as seven pounds.

Personality and Character

Athletic, lively, intelligent and assertive, the Puli is a sheep-herding dog that can also be the perfect companion for people who love going outdoors. Even though the Pulik were first used for herding purposes, they are highly adaptable pets that can blend well in any household. Known for their loyalty and compassionate attitude, these dogs can provide warmth, care and protection even to the sick and the elderly.

Since they are outgoing, their human companions should exert time and effort to release their dog’s energy by letting them engage in sports and vigorous activities. The Pulik are best bred in the countryside since they need a lot of room to play and run around, but owners in urban areas can also resort to agility training to maintain their dog’s overall health and wellness. This way, the Puli will gain an even temperament, making it happier and livelier.

In terms of trainability, owners must keep in mind that the Puli is strong-willed in nature. Hence, it can easily develop manipulative characteristics especially when it senses that its owner is not dedicated and confident. To counteract this, owners must train their Puli at an early age and establish strong leadership.

Otherwise, the Puli will have the urge to take control over the household. During training, a calm yet assertive approach is crucial for owners to be able to inculcate proper conduct. This, along with a positive rewards system, can lead to the dog’s full mental and physical growth.

In the like manner, this dog breed’s innate instinct, as aforementioned, is to guard and protect sheep. Without its sheep, it ‘herds’ its human companions, so the Puli can really be protective and suspicious. Therefore, it is important for its owners to let the dog socialize with other people at a young age.

When it comes to compatibility with children, on the other hand, the Puli may not have the patience to deal with toddlers who love to tease, so adults must supervise any dog-child interaction. Likewise, the Puli may also be overprotective to its child companions, making it possible for the dog breed to be unfriendly to young neighbors who are not treating ‘his’ child fairly.

Overall, the Puli is an intelligent, fun-loving and compassionate dog that thrives on human attention. With proper care, this dog breed can be your loyal companion for life. Independent in nature, it requires a strong-willed human companion who can rectify its negative behaviors.

Health and Potential Problems

The Pulik are healthy in general. But just like humans and other dog breeds, they can be susceptible to a number of health conditions, making it vital for you to get a health clearance if you are considering this dog breed to become a part of your household. Some of the conditions you should watch out for, include the following:

  • Cataract: Just like in humans, cataracts can affect a Puli’s vision. Commonly caused by the opacity in the eye lens, this condition occurs later in life. Fortunately, it can be surgically removed to improve vision.
  • Hip Dysplasia: A genetically-induced medical condition, hip dysplasia occurs when the thigh does not fit well into the hip’s socket. Also, the development of arthritis as the dog ages can also attribute to the dog’s likelihood of developing hip dysplasia. It can be symptomatic or asymptomatic, so owners should be more vigilant in having their dogs checked and monitored.
  • PRA: PRA, more popularly known as Progressive Retinal Atrophy, refers to the continuous deterioration of the dog’s retina. During the early phases of the disease, the dog experiences the loss of its night vision. As the condition progresses, its daytime vision becomes affected as well. Nonetheless, as long as the dog is nurtured in a familiar environment, it will not have a problem with adapting to this condition.

Other medical conditions that the Puli is vulnerable to include diabetes mellitus, patellar luxation and von Willebrand disease, a hereditary medical condition that affects the blood’s clotting abilities. If you are taking care of a Puli or any dog breed, regular visits to the vet can aid you in ensuring that your dog will have a long, happy and healthy life. After all, prevention is always better than cure.

Care Features

Originally bred for herding purposes, the Puli is very energetic and athletic, making large spaces its ideal home since it offers enough room to run and play. Their human companions just need to make sure that their backyard is surrounded by a large fence to avoid any unwanted incidents. It is reported that a Puli can escape a six-foot fence since it is very agile, so fences should be high and strongly built.

For those living in contemporary homes that have limited space, on the other hand, get ready for the Puli to run around the house as it has the need to release its high energy levels. Going outdoors and engaging the Puli in interactive sports or training can aid in meeting the activity requirements of this dog breed. The lack of any mental or physical training can result in a bored and destructive dog.

Also, the Puli is a compassionate dog that craves for human warmth and attention. After the trainings and the long hours of play outdoors, make sure to welcome the Puli inside your home if you are planning to buy one as it does not like being excluded by his human companions.

Lastly, the dog breed can be dominant especially if a strong sense of leadership was not established at an early phase. Hence, it is crucial for homeowners to provide firm guidance to establish the canine’s proper behavior.

Feeding Schedule

An underweight or overweight Puli is vulnerable to health conditions. Therefore, proper feeding methods are vital in ensuring that the dog is within its ideal weight. Rather than leaving food outside, divide about 1 or 2 cups of high-quality dry meals within the day.

To know whether the Puli is overweight, gently press your fingers down its ribs. If you cannot feel the ribs without exerting too much effort, then it is overweight. Meanwhile, if the rib becomes too visible, there is a high tendency that the Puli is below its ideal weight.

Coat, Color and Grooming

Perfect for homeowners who have sensitive skin, the Puli’s coat is hypoallergenic and non-shredding, making it an ideal candidate if you do not like dealing with unwanted hair on your couch. However, extra care is needed when dealing with the Puli’s uncorded and corded coat.

To evenly distribute the skin’s natural oil and get rid of dirt, owners must regularly brush the uncorded coat. The corded coat, on the other hand, should never be combed or brushed. Instead, it should be dampened, untangled and curled using the owner’s bare hands. As the Puli matures the corded coat can be trimmed down to lessen the probability of attracting too much dirt.

Most Pulik are black in color, but there are also some coated in white, gray or brown. Since they do not shed, black-coated Pulik can also lose its coating’s color intensity over time due to exposure to sunlight and other environmental factors.

The Puli’s coating will only fully mature after four years. There is really no need to bathe the Puli frequently. However, bathing becomes a necessity especially when food or dirt accumulates in its coating.

When it comes to bathing, the same procedure is applied as in bathing other dog breeds. The only difference is that the Puli necessitates more time and effort as rinsing shampoo off the coating can become extremely challenging. Also, drying the coating is difficult since it is far from being an ordinary fast-drying fur.

Since heat-drying is not recommended because of the long period of time it takes to dry the coat which can eventually lead to untoward skin reactions or overheating, air drying is the best way to let the coat dry. This usually takes about 2 days. As an alternative, owners can dress their Puli in a jacket to facilitate the drying process.

Other hygiene regimen like cleaning and checking the ears for infection and brushing the Puli’s teeth about twice a week are necessary to ensure proper grooming. Likewise, owners should also ask advice about clipping their Puli’s nails if they are inexperienced in doing so. Always start your grooming practices early to enable your dog to adapt to these habits.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

Characterized by its innate desire to guard and protect, the Puli is an ideal companion for children who know how to properly interact with animals. The Pulik are fun-loving pet companions that can keep up with a child’s desire to play. Nevertheless, guidance is still required whenever there is child-dog interaction to avoid any unwanted accidents.

Meanwhile, the Puli’s level of pet compatibility is below average because of its natural instinct to herd sheep. Hence, if you are a pet owner and you consider a Puli, it is best that you let your dog interact with other animals at an early age so you can prevent any future problems.

Fun-loving, independent, active and protective, the Puli is a rare breed that possesses distinct qualities. Whether you are living in the hills or in a cosmopolitan home, you can find a loyal companion in this dog breed as long as you treat it with love, respect and compassion.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.