Pulis are a unique-looking breed of dog with lively and loving personalities. So, you may be wondering how to breed Puli dogs.
Keep reading to explore everything you need to know about the Puli breed – including their background, lifestyle requirements, breeding & birthing specifics, and the pros and cons of owning the breed. As well as answers to the most frequently asked questions on Pulis & Puli breeding.
Background of Puli Dogs
Let’s take a look at the history of the Puli breed and what motivated the early breeders.
Origin of Pulis
The Hungarian Puli is one of the oldest dogs in the world. Whilst their exact origin is unknown, it is thought that Pulis were brought to Hungary during the Magyarian invasion of Europe over 1000 years ago.
Despite their nickname of Hungarian Water Dogs – this ancient breed has never worked in water. Perhaps their nickname comes from their weather-resistant, waterproof coats.
In actuality, Pulis were bred to guard and herd livestock alongside their close relatives Komondors. They would even be able to fight off wolves due to the protectiveness of their extremely thick coats. In fact, the word “Puli” means both “drover” and “destroyer”.
Relatives of Pulis
Their closest relatives are Komondors, with whom they share many traits and characteristics; most notably their dreadlock-like coats and herding abilities. The main difference between them is that Komondors are much larger dogs.
As industrial agriculture took hold at the start of the 20th century, there was less call for Pulis to be used as herding dogs, and they began to work solely as guard dogs and be kept as household pets. After World War II, the breed became significantly less popular, and remains so to this day, likely due to the rise of newly introduced breeds and those who had served in the military.
The breed was imported to the US in 1935 as part of an experiment by the US Department of Agriculture and was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1936.
As of 2021, they rank 160th out of 197 in popularity in the US according to the AKC. This makes them a fairly rare breed in the US, but much loved among Puli parents all the same. They are also commonly found competing in dog shows and sheepdog trials due to their unique appearance & herding talents.
Pulis are medium-sized dogs with square-ish, muscular, agile builds. They have curved ribs, straight legs, and tight, curly tails. They also have short snouts and droopy ears with brown eyes, and black noses, pads & lips.
Size & Weight
The average height of a female Puli is around 16.5 inches and the average male stands at around 17 inches tall. Females tend to weigh around 23-25 pounds and males between 30-35 pounds.
The Puli is most often a solid-colored dog, usually black. But they can be white or cream, or a mixture of grey and tan. They can also be cream with black noses & mouths.
According to the Puli Club of America, the Puli’s unique dreadlock-like coat forms naturally when the dogs are puppies at around 9 months old. It’s a result of the undercoat and undercoat hair twisting to form cords.
Their coat type is their most distinguishing feature and is unique among the dog world to only them and their close relatives, the Komondors.
With age, the coat can become very long, even reaching the ground. Pulis hardly shed their hair, making them hypoallergenic.
Despite their long history of guarding livestock, the Puli is generally a gentle, faithful, friendly, and sensitive dog that loves children and family life. Like most herding dogs, they are very intelligent, playful, and have a lot of energy.
That said, because of their guard dog background, they can become overprotective and suspicious of unfamiliar dogs & strangers without early training and socialization. They are also prone to chasing small animals.
Pulis are very intelligent, determined, and obedient. This makes for easy training. However, training should start early on in puppyhood, and will be harder in adulthood. While this is true for all dogs, it is especially important for Pulis because of their independent-mindedness and strong will.
Keep commands clear and consistent and as always, focus on positive reinforcement, and remember to keep discipline kind & non-physical. Try to make training sessions concise and as fun as possible to suit the Puli’s playful personality and prevent boredom and stubbornness.
Pulis don’t have any special dietary requirements, but they do need at least an hour of physical exercise a day, preferably split into two walks, and are best suited to living in a home with a garden. Like most herding dogs, mental stimulation is just as important – if not more – as physical exercise. Interactive toys and games played with loved ones are essential to preventing boredom, anxiety, and the destructive behavior that can follow.
The Puli’s coat requires little grooming during puppyhood, but separating the cords should be routine when the dog’s adult coat starts to grow in order to prevent painful matting. This should happen at least once a week, but ideally, most days.
Once the adult coat is fully grown out, Puli dogs also need baths once a month to prevent dirt from building up inside their thick coats. Their shedded fur also mostly gets caught up in the coat rather than falling out; just another reason why they require such regular grooming. You can, however, brush Pulis from puppyhood to stop cording from forming at all – although this must be regularly maintained – and you can also get Puli dogs professionally clipped.
Common Health Issues for Puli Dogs
The average lifespan of a Puli is between 12 – 16 years. They are generally healthy dogs, but all breeds have certain health conditions that they are genetically more susceptible to getting. These are some of the most common health issues that affect Puli dogs.
Hip dysplasia is a congenital condition that causes the hip joints to form abnormally during puppyhood, although it may not be noticeable until adulthood or even old age. It causes the hips to become loose and wobbly, and eventually leads to arthritis. The symptoms of hip dysplasia include:
- Limping, bunny hopping, or a wobbly or swaying walk
- Joint stiffness
- Difficulty getting up, lying down, jumping, climbing, and squatting
- Decreased desire to exercise
- Skinny hips
Dogs showing symptoms of hip dysplasia should be examined by a vet as soon as possible and prescribed the appropriate treatment. The treatment will depend on the severity of the symptoms. Mild hip dysplasia may require life-long lifestyle changes, non-surgical therapies, and pain medication, whilst more severe dysplasia may require surgery. The only prevention for hip dysplasia is to not breed dogs with the condition.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
The retina is one of the most important parts of the eye; it is responsible for vision in low-light & detecting and following movement and color. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is the malformation or deterioration of the retina over time, which leads to complete blindness, usually over a period of 1-2 years.
There are two kinds of PRA recognized in dogs; inherited or early-onset and late-onset. The first is passed down genetically and stops the retinas from forming properly during puppyhood at around 2-3 months of age, and the latter is the deterioration of the retina in adult dogs, typically aged between 3-9 years old. The symptoms of PRA include:
- Night blindness (early on in late-onset PRA) – you may notice your dog is anxious at night or doesn’t want to go into dark rooms
- Dilated eyes that are very reflective of light
- Increased clumsiness
- No eye contact during interactions
Thankfully, PRA is not a painful condition, but it may be frightening to your dog. Vets will do a general eye examination to check for signs of vision loss and will refer patients to an ophthalmologist to confirm the cause through ERG testing. There is, unfortunately, no cure or treatment for PRA, but owners should talk to their vets about anti-anxiety treatments for dogs if they are showing signs of stress during vision loss. The only way to prevent PRA is to not breed dogs with the condition. That said, blind dogs can live long and happy lives. If you adopt a blind dog or your dog loses their sight, be sure to research how to train & care for a blind dog!
Puli dogs can experience deafness in both puppyhood and old age. This is caused by either genetic malformation or the deterioration of the cochlea or inner ear, leading to partial or complete deafness. The signs of deafness include:
- Failure to respond to calls or other sounds such as toys squeaking or doorbells ringing
- Sudden disobedience
- Becoming easily startled visually but less startled by loud noises
- Increased barking
- You have to touch your dog to wake them up
- Stress, withdrawing socially, or sleeping more
If you suspect your dog is losing his hearing, take him to see a vet for a BAER hearing test. There is no cure for genetic or deteriorative deafness in dogs, but they don’t experience pain during the process. However, they may find it distressing initially, so ask your vet about anti-anxiety treatments.
The only preventative treatment for deafness is to not breed deaf dogs. But, again, deaf dogs can lead perfectly normal lives, read our article on owning and training deaf dogs for more information!
So how do you go about breeding a Puli? First of all, make sure you have the appropriate licenses if you are new to dog breeding and choose your dogs carefully. Make sure they are both free of any genetic health conditions, sweet-natured, and registered with the appropriate kennel clubs.
Familiarise yourself with the signs of pregnancy & labor. During the mother’s two-month-long pregnancy, you must increase her food intake throughout the pregnancy until she is consuming between 35% and 50% more than normal, and take her to regular veterinary check-ups. Make sure you have all of the necessary supplies for whelping, and your vet’s phone number just in case of an emergency.
Puli dogs can only have one litter a year. Thankfully, dystocia or birthing problems are not common amongst Pulis. According to the British Small Animal Veterinary Association, only 17% of Puli births are through C-sections.
But it is still possible, so be aware of the signs of dystocia, which include; strong contractions for more than 30 minutes with no delivery, weak straining for more than 2 hours with no delivery, more than four hours between puppies, excessive discharge, and blood with no delivery.
The average litter size for a Puli is 5 puppies, but you won’t know exactly how many pups the mother is carrying until she is examined by a vet. The size of the litter will depend on both of the parents’ ages, health, even diet.
Puppies should live on their mother’s milk for the first month of their lives and then transition to milk replacer and high-quality kibble four or five times a day, decreasing to kibble only at 7-8 weeks.
The cost of a Puli puppy in the US is currently around $600 – $1000, while those specially bred for work are slightly more expensively priced at $900 – $1200. Owning a Puli, on the other hand, costs on average around $600 per year.
The exact cost of a Puli puppy will also depend on the breeder; whether they’re a “common” pedigree Puli from a lesser-known breeder or a “high-end” pedigree from a well-known breeder. The commonness of coat color may also play a role in the price.
Puli Dog Breed: FAQ
Whilst there’s no such thing as completely hypoallergenic dogs, Pulis are one of the closest breeds that you can get due to their minimally shedding coat.
Puli dogs make great members of the family and are very gentle with children. That said, they can be territorial, so make sure to socialize them a lot early on in puppyhood.
Pulis are fairly high-maintenance dogs. They require a lot of regular grooming to make sure their corded coats don’t get matted. Pulis also require a lot of social interaction and mental stimulation to prevent them from getting bored as they are very intelligent dogs.
Pulis need about an hour of exercise a day, preferably on a walk or two!
That’s everything you need to know about breeding Puli dogs! Are you interested in owning or breeding a Puli? Let us know what you love about them in the comments down below!