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Eva Maria Kramer, Animal Photography
Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography
This corded wonder is a Hungarian herding breed who looks rather like an old-timey floor mop. He is a small to medium-size dog with a bounce in his step and a quick-thinking mind. A “sensibly suspicious” nature makes the Puli an excellent watchdog. His coat requires daily grooming, and it sheds.
Several dog breeds have coats that cord, but the Puli coat is unique. No other dog coat is quite like it. The outer coat is long and profuse, and the undercoat is soft and woolly. The puppy coat is tufted, and as it grows the undercoat becomes tangled with the top coat, forming long cords and giving the Puli a look that is unkempt to say the least.
With his corded coat of black, gray, or white, the Puli, a sheep herding breed hailing from Hungary, looks as if you could use him to mop the floor. His unusual coat is much more than decorative, though. It helps protect him from rough brush and attacks by predators and makes it easy for the shepherd to see him among the sheep. He might be small, but he is a tough and independent herding dog, one not to be trifled with by two- or four-legged intruders.
These days, he is primarily a family companion or show dog, although some still have plenty of herding instinct and will use it if given the opportunity. The Puli has many good qualities, but he is not the easiest dog to live with. If you want the smart, energetic dog that is the Puli at his best, be prepared to do a lot of homework to find him and put in plenty of effort training and socializing him once you bring him home.
The Puli is cute and bouncy, but never forget that his first job is to protect his flock — in this case, you, his family. He is alert, always ready to bark an alarm or to step in and protect you if he feels it’s necessary. These are great qualities, but it’s essential to teach him from puppyhood when it’s okay to exercise his protective nature and when to let you take charge. Early socialization and training are a necessary part of his upbringing to prevent him from becoming overly suspicious or fearful of anything new or different.
Purchase a Puli puppy from a breeder who raises the pups in the home and ensures that they are exposed to many different household sights and sounds, as well as people, before they go off to their new homes. Continue socializing your Puli throughout his life by taking him to puppy kindergarten class (once vaccines are updated and your vet gives the go-ahead), visits to friends and neighbors, and outings to local shops and businesses. This is the only way he can learn to be discriminating, recognizing what is normal and what is truly a threat.
This is a very smart dog who is capable of teaching his owners many tricks, as well as learning new things himself. Begin training as soon as you bring your Puli puppy home. Use positive reinforcement training techniques such as praise, play, and food rewards, and be patient. The Puli will respond to kind, firm, consistent training, but he can be stubborn.
The Puli is fun-loving and playful, and he has a definite sense of humor. If he is raised with them, he gets along well with children and other pets. Always supervise your Puli when kids are playing around him to ensure that he doesn’t misunderstand their chasing and screaming and take steps to protect “his” children from their friends. He will accept strangers once he has been introduced to them, but otherwise he reserves judgment on whether they are trustworthy. He can be aggressive toward dogs he doesn’t know.
Like any dog, Puli puppies are inveterate chewers. Don’t give them the run of the house until they’ve reached trustworthy maturity. And keep your Puli puppy busy with training, play and socialization experiences. A bored puppy is a destructive puppy.
A Puli needs daily exercise in the form of a moderate to long walk or active play time. Health permitting, he can also be a good jogging companion and is a good competitor in dog sports such as agility, obedience, and rally.
The Puli has been known to live happily in apartments or condominiums, but don’t forget that he is a barker. If you have a yard, do not rely on an underground electronic fence to keep him contained. The shock it provides may not deter him from leaving the yard if that’s what he wants to do.
While you might think of him as an outdoor dog, nothing could be farther from the truth. Pulik are devoted to their people. They should certainly have access to a securely fenced yard, but when the family is home, the Puli should be with them.
The Puli has been known in Hungary for at least 1,000 years. Dogs like the Puli were brought to Hungary by Magyar invaders. The dogs bear a resemblance to the Tibetan Terrier, and it’s possible that breed is one of their ancestors.
The type of work the dogs did depended on their size and color. Light-colored dogs were most useful at night so they could be easily seen, while dark-colored dogs worked during the day. Among the white flocks, they were easier to spot by the shepherd.
During the 17th century, the Puli was almost lost as a breed because of interbreeding with sheepdogs from France and Germany. In 1912, a program was begun to revive the breed. A breed standard was written in 1915 and approved by the Federation Cynologique Internationale in 1924. The dogs had made their first appearance at a Budapest dog show a year previously and were divided into three classes: working, show, and dwarf. In 1934 the breed standard was revised and divided the dogs by height: large, medium, and dwarf. A 1935 entry in the Hungarian stud book notes four sizes: large (police), medium (working), small, and dwarf. The medium size was most popular.
The American Kennel Club recognized the Puli in 1936, but the Puli Club of America wasn’t formed until 1951. The breed ranks 145th among the dogs registered by AKC.
It is usually the dreadlocks that draw the attention of those unfamiliar with the Puli. But for those who know and love him, it’s his personality that shines.
The Puli is an affectionate, loving dog that enjoys being with his family. He is intelligent, agile and has a strong work ethic. He is wary of strangers, and makes it his business to watch over his family, but he should not be overly shy, timid, or aggressive.
Like most herding breeds, the Puli is independent and strong willed. He needs a kind, but firm hand to bring out his best behavior. Don’t be surprised when he tries to herd you or your children. The Puli has a tendency to bark, another herding trait, so any training program should include a “Quiet” command.
The Puli is a capable athlete, known to be able to scale a six-foot fence. A securely fenced yard and plenty of supervision are necessary.
Training should begin right away for the Puli puppy. Even at 8 weeks old, he is capable of learning good manners. Never wait until he is 6 months old to begin training, or you will have a more headstrong dog to handle. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed. Invite people to your home, too, so he becomes accustomed to visitors. These experiences as a young dog will help him grow into a sensible, calm adult dog.
Talk with a reputable, experienced Puli breeder. Describe exactly what you’re looking for in a canine companion, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Choose a puppy whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized by the breeder from birth.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines. Pulik are generally healthy, but conditions sometimes seen in the breed include hip dysplasia, eye problems such as progressive retinal atrophy, and deafness.
The Puli Club of America, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For a Puli to achieve CHIC certification, he must have hip evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or University of Pennsylvania (PennHIP), an OFA patella (knee) evaluation, and an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. An OFA hearing clearance based on the BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response) test is optional.
Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. You can check CHIC’s website to see if a breeder’s dogs have these certifications. Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Puli at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Puli has a dense, weather-resistant coat that can be wavy or curly but never silky. The undercoat is soft, woolly and dense. The hair clumps easily and if left to itself will form woolly cords as the dog matures, starting when he is about 9 months old. Depending on the coat’s texture and the amount of undercoat and outer coat, the cords may be flat or round. It takes four to five years to grow out completely and may eventually reach the floor.
The Puli coat can be brushed or left to cord. If you plan to brush the coat rather than let it cord, start early and expect to brush it every day or two.
The coat doesn’t shed much, but the cords must be separated regularly to maintain their look, and they do attract dirt and debris. The Puli’s coat should never be dirty, matted or bad-smelling. To prevent problems, ask the breeder to show you how to care for the coat. Trimming the hair around the mouth and cleaning the dog’s face after meals is one way to help reduce odor. Bathing and drying a Puli can take hours. Be sure he is dry all the way down to the skin or he will smell as if he has mildewed. If you don’t plan to show him, you may choose to keep his coat trimmed short for easier upkeep.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, and brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath. Check the ears weekly for dirt, redness or a bad odor that can indicate an infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with a gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner recommended by your veterinarian. Begin grooming the Puli while he is young so he becomes accustomed to it and accepts it willingly.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks. Be wary of breeders who only tell you the good things about the breed or who promote the dogs as being “good with kids” without any context as to what that means or how it comes about.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Look for more information about the Puli and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Puli Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the PCA’s guidelines, which prohibit the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and call for the breeder to obtain recommended health clearances on dogs before breeding them.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Puli puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Puli might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Puli in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Pulis available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Puli. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Pulik love all Pulik. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Puli Club of America’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Puli rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Puli home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Puli, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Puli to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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