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 protects him from rough brush and attacks by predators and makes it easy for the shepherd to see him among the sheep. Despite his small size of 25 to 35 pounds, he is a tough and independent herding dog. 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.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

The Puli is cute and bouncy, but never forget that his first job is to protect his flock --in this case, 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, 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 that is capable of learning many tricks. 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. 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 is nothing to this tough dog, and he won't let it 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 coat of the Puli can be brushed or left to cord. It begins to cord when he is approximately 9 months old and takes four to five years to grow out completely. 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, 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. Clean the ears and trim the nails as needed, and brush the teeth to prevent periodontal disease.

Health Issues Common to Pulik

All purebred 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 healthy in general, but conditions sometimes seen in the breed include hip dysplasia, eye problems such as progressive retinal atrophy, and deafness. Ask breeders to show evidence that both of a puppy's parents have OFA or PennHIP clearances for hip dysplasia, an OFA BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response) hearing clearance, and Canine Eye Registry Foundation certification that eyes are healthy.

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 OFA or PennHIP certification for hips, an OFA patella (knee) clearance and an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation.

Optional tests include an OFA BAER test, an OFA elbow clearance and an OFA cardiac clearance. 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.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Hip Dysplasia Low $1,500-$6,000

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Puli Puppy

A list of breeders can be found on the website of the Puli Club of America. Choose a breeder who abides by the PCA's Guidelines for Breeders, which prohibits sales to pet stores or wholesalers and outlines the breeder's responsibilities to the breed and to buyers. Pulik are not especially common, so you may have a wait of six months or more before a puppy is available.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in Puli aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. Since a Puli can live to be 10 to 12 years old, even an adult dog will be with your family for a long time.

Puppy or adult, take your Puli to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues, and in particular to watch out for the early signs of diabetes and skin problems, including ear infections.

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers many breeds and popular mixes, or that ships with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you'll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Pulik

Pet insurance for Pulik costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Pulik are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Pulik are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Puli is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.