Pumi on Leash
Side View of Pumi
Two Pumi Dogs Sitting in Grass
Bred to help shepherd cattle and sheep in his native Hungary, the Pumi is typically a small, intelligent and energetic herding dog who tends to become attached to family members quickly. His combination wavy and curly coat isn’t difficult to groom, although it requires periodic trimming.The Pumi can be an amusing and fun-loving companion. He needs daily activity, but once you’ve helped him expend some energy with a good walk or play session, he’s usually happy to sit at your feet or follow you around the house while you work. The Pumi can be a good choice for a family who can accommodate his high activity level, but who also appreciate a dog who can become a cuddly teddy bear when they’re in the mood to veg out. (In fact, he bears a resemblance to the Muppets’ Fozzie Bear.)

Is a Pumi a good choice for a family with children? In general, yes. He recognizes them as members of the family, but as with any breed, all interactions between young children and dogs should be supervised to make sure they behave politely toward each other. Some Pumi dogs have a tendency to herd children by nipping heels and grabbing pants’ bottoms, so make sure to discourage the behavior and talk with your kids about the right way to respond to it.

Pumik (the plural of the name in Hungarian) are known for being adaptable. They can live in small homes or even apartments, provided they get enough exercise and mental stimulation, but a home with acreage or a large yard is ideal, because they usually like to run.

People most suited to this breed have an active, outdoor lifestyle and participate daily in some form of exercise that can include their Pumik. Assuming your veterinarian doesn’t find any underlying health conditions that could limit your dog’s exercise, jogging, running and hiking are just a few of the ways you can provide a Pumi with activity. Depending on the level of exertion and the individual dog, a Pumi will generally require at least 15 minutes of invigorating activity daily, plus (ideally) time spent playing off leash in a fenced-in park or yard.

Typically, the Pumi has the physical and mental potential to do well in just about any dog sport, including agility and herding. The ideal owner will train him in one or more events, whether for competition or just for fun. Other activities the Pumi may enjoy include chasing a ball or flying disc, and sometimes even swimming.

A couple of other factors can make the Pumi a good choice as a companion. For one, his coat is generally low maintenance. He can have a sharp bark, which potentially makes him an excellent watchdog, and he can learn to moderate it in urban environs.

Before getting a Pumi, meet one or more in person, ideally in a home setting. Interview breeders thoroughly to make sure your lifestyle matches the Pumi’s activity needs. This is a highly people-oriented dog. Choose him only if you can give him the attention and interaction he needs, or you could end up with a bored, unhappy and destructive dog.

Other Quick Facts

  • The Pumi is closely related to two of Hungary’s other breeds, the Puli and the Mudi, so much so that a pup with the appearance of a Pumi will be born in a Puli litter or a Mudi-appearing pup in a Pumi litter.
  • The Pumi’s coat comes in black, white, gray and fawn.
  • The Pumi has an angular head shape, erect ears with drooping tips and a high-set tail.

The History of the Pumi

It’s not unusual for the Pumi to be confused with the Puli. Both are Hungarian herding breeds and probably share ancestry. It’s thought that the Pumi may have originated around 300 years ago when the Puli was crossed with herding dogs from Germany and France.

The Pumi was recognized as a distinct breed around the 1920s. He is still found in his native Hungary and has fans in Finland and other European countries. He was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1996. Although the Pumi belongs to the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service and is represented by the Hungarian Pumi Club of America (HPCA), he is still relatively new to the United States.

Pumi Temperament and Personality

The Pumi has a lot on the ball personality-wise: He tends to be curious, cheerful, attentive and interested in everything that goes on around him. He’s typically so observant that people who live with him may swear he has mind-reading abilities.

When it comes to spending time with people, some Pumik are cuddlers and others are foot-warmers. They generally fit well into families, but it’s not unusual for them to be especially close to one particular person — usually the one who spends the most time with them.

Most Pumik like to learn and will work hard to do what you want, but bear in mind that they aren’t fans of boring, repetitious exercises. Keep training entertaining if you want to hold their attention. This breed responds better to reward-based methods than harsh verbal or physical treatment. If you are new to training dogs, it will be helpful to find training facilities near you that offer classes for puppy socialization and basic obedience training, as well as canine sports training.

The Pumi usually gets along well with other pets. He’s typically good at recognizing non-canine pets, like cats, as part of the household and ignoring them if they’re not friendly — but you’ll still need to pay close attention to all interactions between your Pumi and cats. He can get along with other dogs, or ignore them, as long as the other dog isn’t pushy. He has a passion for hunting rodents, however, and may not be best suited to homes with pocket pets, such as mice, hamsters, guinea pigs and rats.

A well-socialized Pumi with adequate mental stimulation and physical activity usually shouldn’t have a long list of behavioral problems, but he has some natural behaviors that could become problems if not managed correctly. They include barking, digging and the tendency to try to herd people.

Barking is a common trait of herding dogs. As a rule, they are alert and aware of everything that’s going on around them, so it’s natural for them to express their opinion through barking. The Pumi tends to be highly trainable, though, and can learn when it’s appropriate to bark and when it’s not. If you provide him with plenty of exercise and attention, you’ll probably find that he won’t bark unless there’s an important reason behind it.

Attempts to herd people, especially children, are common in young herding dogs. Pumi puppies tend to nip heels and grab pants’ bottoms to draw attention and guide humans’ steps. Puppies may also enjoy digging, usually because they are intrigued by the underground scents of moles or grubs. In both cases, you can help discourage the behavior by diverting the pup’s attention to a more acceptable activity and rewarding him for following your direction.

Like most herding dogs, the Pumi is typically suspicious of and reserved toward strangers, and cautious in new situations. That’s why it’s important to socialize puppies at an early age to many different people, environments and circumstances, so they can learn to be adaptable.

Start training a Pumi the day you bring him home, or before you know it, he will have you trained. He is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training, or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with.

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.

Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see their puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality.

The perfect Pumi puppy doesn’t spring fully formed from the whelping box. He’s a product of his background and breeding. Look for a puppy whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from an early age.

What You Need to Know About Pumi Health

The Pumi is a generally healthy breed with an expected life span of 13 to 15 years.

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 her puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who says 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.

The Pumi is generally healthy, but there is some incidence of hip dysplasia in the breed. Responsible breeders have DNA testing performed for degenerative myelopathy and an eye disease called primary lens luxation. Neither disease is common, but they can occur. They also screen for a knee problem called patellar luxation and sometimes for elbow dysplasia.

The HPCA participates in the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC), a health database. A dog need not receive good or even passing scores on the evaluations to obtain a CHIC number, so CHIC registration alone is not proof of soundness or absence of disease. All test results are posted on the CHIC website and can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents.

Ideally, your pup’s parents should have test results for:
  • Hip dysplasia: evaluated by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA)
  • Patellar luxation: evaluated by the OFA
  • Primary lens luxation: evaluated through the OFA with a University of Missouri DNA test
  • Degenerative myelopathy: evaluated through the OFA with a University of Missouri DNA test
Optional tests include an eye exam by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist and an evaluation for elbow dysplasia through the OFA. Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database.

If a breeder tells you she doesn’t need to do those tests because she’s never had problems in her lines and her dogs have been “vet checked,” then you should find another breeder who is more rigorous about genetic testing.

Careful breeders screen their 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 many cases, the dogs can still live good lives. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what caused their deaths.

Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the more common canine health problems: obesity. Keeping a Pumi at an appropriate weight is one of the easier ways to extend his life.

The Basics of Pumi Grooming

The Pumi’s coat is a combination of wavy and curly hair. It corkscrews and curls over the entire body in an even mixture of soft, insulating undercoat and harsh, protective top coat. To groom the Pumi, comb him every week to remove mats or debris. He won’t leave a lot of hair on furniture or clothes, but quite a bit will come out when you comb him.

After combing, wet the coat and let it dry naturally to restore the curl. Never blow it dry, or it will look fluffy instead of curly. Trimming is usually only necessary every three months or so. You may want to find a reliable groomer when it’s time for trimming.

The Pumi doesn’t need frequent baths, but if he spends a lot of time on your furniture or bed, you may want to bathe him monthly.

The rest is basic care: Trim the nails every three to four weeks, or as needed. Brush the teeth often — with a vet-approved pet toothpaste — for good overall health and fresh breath.

Finding a Pumi

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 testing and certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. She is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than in making big bucks.

A good breeder 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 her 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 which health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes to avoid those problems.

Start your search at the website of the Hungarian Pumi Club of America. It maintains a list of breeders in the United States.

Look for a breeder who is active in her national breed club and a local club, too, if possible. She should regularly participate with her dogs in some form of organized canine activities, such as conformation showing, obedience or other dog sports, or therapy dog programs. She should sell her puppies with written contracts guaranteeing she will take the dogs back if at any time during their lives the owners cannot keep them.

Ask the breeder to provide you with documentation that your prospective puppy’s parents were cleared for health problems in the breed and have results registered with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the Canine Health Information Center.

Avoid breeders who seem interested only in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from a website that offers 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. Quickie online purchases 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 the 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 percent 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. 

And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Pumi 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 Pumi, if one is available, 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.

Adopting a Dog From a Rescue Group or Shelter

Bear in mind that the Pumi is a rare breed, and few are available in this country. It is unlikely that you will find one in a shelter or through a rescue group. If you want to search, though, here’s how to get started.

1. Use the Web

Sites like Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Pumi in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (house-training status, for example) or very general (all the Pumik available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org can help you find animal rescue groups in your area.

You can also check Craigslist or local newspapers for “pets looking for homes” sections you can review. Keep in mind, however, that when you acquire a dog this way, he likely hasn’t been evaluated by a person experienced in the breed who is affiliated with a rescue group. If you happen to know someone who is familiar with the breed, ask her to go with you to meet the dog.

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 Pumi. 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

Most people who love Pumik love all Pumik. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Pumi is a rare breed in North America, so few dogs are available through rescue, but the HPCA works to place dogs when they are in need of a new home.

The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very up front about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They may also offer opportunities to foster a dog if you are an experienced dog owner.

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 pup. 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 house-trained?
  • Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
  • Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Pumi, 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, breeder purchase or adoption, take your Pumi 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.