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Nicole Cosgrove

Gray hungarian puli dog in the park

The Puli is a medium sized purebred from Hungary bred for herding sheep and guarding livestock where it has done so for hundreds of years. It is also called the Drover, the Hungarian Water Dog and the Hungarian Puli. The plural form of Puli is Pulik. The name Puli means either destroyer or drover. It is similar to another unique looking Hungarian breed, the Komondor in that it has a long corded coat. As well as being a hardworking herder it makes a good companion in the right homes and can compete in events such as rally obedience, flyball, agility, showmanship, tracking, herding and obedience.

The Puli at A Glance
Name Puli
Other names Hungarian Puli, Hungarian Water Dog, Drover, Pulik
Nicknames None
Origin Hungary
Average size Medium
Average weight 25 to 35 pounds
Average height 16 to 17 inches
Life span 12 to 16 years
Coat type Soft, thick, corded, dense, long, wooly
Hypoallergenic Yes
Color Black, silver, brown, golden, cream, grey, white
Popularity Not that popular – ranked 159th by the AKC
Intelligence Above average – understands new commands with 15 to 25 repetitions
Tolerance to heat Good – can handle warm to hot weather but nothing too hot and not extreme heat
Tolerance to cold Very good – can live in cold climates just not extreme cold
Shedding Low – will not leave a lot of hair around the home
Drooling Low – not prone to slobber or drool
Obesity Average – can gain weight if over fed or under exercised
Grooming/brushing High maintenance – plenty of time needs to be spent on its grooming
Barking Frequent – needs training to control
Exercise needs Fairly active – needs plenty of physical and mental stimulation
Trainability Moderately easy especially for those with some experience
Friendliness Very good with socialization
Good first dog Low – not a good dog for new owners, need experienced handling
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Good but needs socialization
Good with strangers Moderate to good – needs socialization
Good apartment dog Good – can adapt to apartment living but its barking may be a problem
Handles alone time well Moderate – does not like being left alone for long periods of time
Health issues A fairly healthy breed just a few issues such as eye problems and hip dysplasia
Medical expenses $460 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $145 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $540 a year for grooming, license, basic training, toys and miscellaneous items
Average annual expenses $1145 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,000
Rescue organizations Several including the Puli Club of America Rescue
Biting Statistics None reported

The Puli’s Beginnings

The Puli comes from Hungary and has been around for hundreds of years used as a sheepdog and to guard. It is thought the Magyars brought them from Central Asia to the area when they migrated over 1000 years ago. There is some suggestion that dogs like the Puli have in fact been around for as long 6000 years. Hungarian shepherds and farmers would use the dog along with the Komondor, a larger dog. The Komondor would act to protect and defend the cattle or sheep, especially at night, while the smaller Pulik would herd and guard in the daylight hours. Together they defended against predators that included wolves and bears. In fact it is said shepherds valued these dogs so much they would pay up to a year’s salary for one.

For a long time the Puli was known only in rural areas of Hungary but then at the start of the 20th century it was ‘discovered’ by dog fanciers which was a good thing for the breed. Its traditional role was becoming less needed as there was less shepherding happening. It was used in other roles but also became more of a companion dog. However with first World War I and then World War II dog breeding was almost eliminated and many dog breed’s numbers dropped drastically including the Puli. In fact its number went as low as just double digits.

New Lease on Life

But thankfully and with a lot of help from a controlled breeding program, the Puli’s numbers after the war increased once more. In 1959 the Hungarian Puli Club adjusted the breed standard and in Hungary its numbers returned to prewar figures by the 1960s. Numbers elsewhere in the world were also on the rise. In the 1930s a few were imported to the US for a herding dog experiment. The second world war put that on pause and the dogs were auctioned and sold to breeders. It did well and was recognized by the AKC in 1936. The Puli Club of America was started in 1951. Today the breed does well as a show dog, is kept still in many countries as a working herding dog and is also valued as a companion. It has even successfully been used for police work. It is ranked 159th in popularity by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

The Puli is a medium sized dog weighing 25 to 35 pounds and standing 16 to 17 inches tall. It has a squared and compact body and while it is fine boned it is quite a muscled dog. The tail curls over its back quite tightly. Its eyes are almond shaped and dark brown. Its muzzle is straight and long and its nose is large and black. Its head is domed and in proportion to the rest of it and its ears are V shaped, hang down and are medium sized.

The Puli has quite an unusual coat, it is double and corded which happens due to a matting process somewhat similar to dreadlocks. The coat clumps together in cords that can vary in shape and thickness. By the time the dog is around 4 to 5 years old those cords should be fully formed and fall to the ground. Before that the coat is puffy and soft. While the coat is self cording so will form by itself usually owners will start to help it along from the age of 1 year. Common colors are black, a brown like color, cream, grey and white. Keep in mind that any color tends to fade to a weathered look as the dog’s coat will lose some color as it is exposed to the elements and does not shed.

The Inner Puli


The Puli is definitely an alert breed and will bark to let you know if an intruder breaks in. It does have strong protective instincts so is likely to act courageously to defend you and the home. This is not though a good dog for new owners as it needs strong leadership and experienced owners. It will need training to stop it barking on command as it does bark frequently. This is an intelligent dog, independent and sometimes headstrong, but still loyal, responsive and affectionate. It is very energetic, curious and lively and is also very sensitive so would not do well in a home full of tension and raised voices, or with an owner who uses scolding and physical punishments.

It is a fun loving and friendly breed and has a strong sense of humor, it likes to be part of family activity and the center of attention, and may be resentful of anything that pulls your attention away. It has a lot of confidence and becomes very attached to its owners. Its devotion means it can bond more closely to one owner and it does not like being left alone for long periods of time. Around strangers it is suspicious so socialization is essential. It can retain a puppy like nature for much of its life. Getting enough outside time is essential or it can become hyperactive, difficult, lazy and aloof. When kept as a working dog it works hard and is very focused and determined.

Living with a Puli

What will training look like?

Pulik are hard to train which is part of the reason it needs owners with experience. It is intelligent but it is also strong willed, independent and manipulative. Owners need to be the clear pack leader, set rules and stick to them, be firm and in control. Results will come but they will be gradual. Start the training early, as soon as you bring it home in fact. It is less headstrong and easier to reach when it is younger. Use positive techniques like praise, encouragement, treats and motivate rather than punish. Early socialization is important too as the Puli can be suspicious of strangers and can attack with no warning if they feel threatened. Make sure they know how to respond appropriately to different people, places, animals, sounds and situations.

How active is the Puli

Pulik are active dogs, they need plenty of physical and mental stimulation each day, to be kept busy if they are not herding. Therefore prospective owners need to be active themselves and ready to commit to spending so much time a day on seeing the Puli gets what it needs. It is very good in cold weather but is less so in hot and will need closer care so it does not overheat. It can adapt to apartment living but it is best with a yard or some land. Make sure the yard is well fenced though, this dog is surprisingly agile and quick. As well as taking it for a couple of long walks each day it would enjoy time at a dog park to run off leash and play doggy games with you. It is also a chance for it to socialize. It also enjoys other activities like jogging with you, going on hikes, even swimming though it will need supervision and help out of the water as the coat when water logged does get heavy. If a Puli does not get enough exercise and work to do it can become difficult to live with and get into a lot of trouble.

Caring for the Puli

Grooming needs

Probably the big commitment for this breed apart from giving it plenty of stimulation and exercise is the grooming it needs. The cords of the coat means this dog is low shedding so not much if any hair will be left around the home. It also means this dog is considered to be good for allergy sufferers, though that should always be checked with a visit or two before buying if it is a main concern. But its coat needs a lot of care and again this a reason for it to have experienced owners. Owners will help guide the coat to its cording when the dog reaches the age of one to keep those cords clean and looking good. Before the cords start to form it needs to be brushed regularly but once the cords start there is no brushing, it needs handling by hand only.

If you are not keeping the dog to show standards you can opt to trim it short for easier care, though this will mean it sheds more, as the cords are no longer trapping loose hair. The coat will grow out again if you do trim, should you change your mind again, it will just take some time and care. Bathing is easier if it is trimmed too, but if corded you will need to soak the cords in water first, then use diluted shampoo and work it in. If you do not dilute the shampoo getting the soap out of its coat can take hours. Rinse it well, this part alone can take a good 30 to 45 minutes. Take the cords one by one and squeeze them out, then dry each of them by hand with a towel. It is not recommended to use a hair dryer. Air drying can take up to 2 days. Because of how involved and time consuming bathing a corded Puli is most owners opt to do so only when really needed. Another option with the coat is not to trim but also not to let the cords form. When they try to form you can brush them out. The dog then gets a shaggy looking appearance, and it will need a lot of brushing. Whatever you do with its coat it is important to remember this is not a neat or easy to care for dog. It will track in debris, gets itself wet and dirty when eating and drinking, and drip across your floor.

There are other needs to be taken care of as with any dog, it needs it ears checked weekly for infection signs like redness or wax build up and then cleaned using a damp cloth or ear cleanser and cotton ball. Its nails need to be clipped if they get too long, using a proper dog nail cutting tool and making sure you know where it is safe to cut. Dog nails have nerves and blood vessels in a lower section which if nicked will bleed and hurt. Its teeth should also be taken care of, brush using a dog toothpaste and brush at least two to three times a week.

Feeding Time

A dog of this size will need around 1 to 2 cups of a good quality dry dog food a day, split into at least two meals. How much can vary from one dog to another as it depends on its level of activity, size, health, metabolism and age. Make sure it always has access to water and that it is freshened regularly.

How is the Puli with children and other animals?

With socialization and when raised with them the Puli is good with children though it is better with older ones rather than younger. It will happily play and be active but it may try to herd them by nipping at their heels and that will need to be stopped. It is not as good with younger children because it does not like being climbed on, its cords pulled at or being teased. It is also not always at its best with visiting children so supervision is a good idea. Make sure children are taught how to touch and play with them nicely. It gets along well with other dogs with socialization though some can be more dominant and territorial than others. With other pets it can learn to get along with them but tends to view them as prey to chase.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The Puli will live between 12 to 16 years and it is a fairly healthy dog. A few issues that can come up include hip and elbow dysplasia, eye problems, von Willebrand’s disease, diabetes and patellar luxation.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dog attacks against people causing bodily harm over the last 35 years in the US and Canada there is no mention of the Puli. It can be aggressive it feels threatened or if it feels you or the home is being threatened but it is not a dog likely to attack unless it has been provoked. However all dog breeds no matter size, have the potential for having a bad day, there is no dog breed that is 100% guaranteed safe. Things you can do to help is make sure you get a dog that suits your life style and commitment level, give it training and socialization and make sure it is well fed, exercised and given the attention it needs.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Puli puppy will cost about $1000 for a pet quality dog from a trustworthy dog breeder. If you want something from a top show breeder you will pay even more than that. Puli are not easy to find, less than 150 are registered in the US each year and that is why the price is higher and you will be put on a waiting list for one. Do not be tempted to turn to less trustworthy places like puppy mill places, pets stores or backyard breeders. If a show dog is not your aim a great option is to look at local rescues or shelters for your new pet. These are between $50 to $400 and have medical needs taken care of too.

Once you have found your pet you need to have some things for it ready at home like a crate, carrier, collar and leash, bowls and such. Initial items will cost about $200. There are also some procedures and tests needed to be done by a vet as soon as you bring it home. It needs its shots, blood tests done, a physical exam, spaying or neutering, deworming and a micro chip put in. These initial medical costs will be around $270.

There are also ongoing costs to account for. Basic health care like shots, check ups and flea and tick prevention along with pet insurance will cost about $460 a year. $145 a year will be a good quality dry dog food and dog treats. Grooming, miscellaneous items, license, toys and basic training will cost you about $540 a year. This means an estimated annual cost of $1145.


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The Puli is a sturdy and athletic dog that has a lot of devotion and affection to offer but needs special care for its coat, and plenty of opportunities for physical and mental stimulation. It is very inquisitive, strong willed, energetic and confident so needs experienced owners to handle it. It has strong herding instincts even if it has not been kept or trained to do so, which means it will try to herd you, the children and the pets. This should be controlled as it does it in the form of nipping. Early socialization is also important as it is suspicious of strangers.

Featured Image Credit: SasaStock, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.