Puli Coat care – an article written by Jennifer Whitton

The Puli Club has set up a support procedure for Puli owners requiring grooming advice. The first port of call should ALWAYS be the breeder, but if this is not possible please contact the Secretary who will give you the name and phone number of the nearest experienced person for you to contact.

Coat Development and Care By Jennifer Whitton

It is important to understand why a Puli coat behaves in the way it does to be able to ‘manage’ it efficiently. The quality of a coat i.e. the density of hair, texture, ability to cord, is genetically controlled and must be ‘bred for’. Good feeding will help to maintain the coat and certain food supplements may help with a coat where there has been a deficiency in the diet, but nothing will improve its natural tendencies. Substances put onto the coat itself will effect only a temporary change. These should never be used on a dog who is shown as that would contravene Kennel Club regulations.

The cording should take place if the Puli has a certain ratio of two types of coat, top coat which is the main hair and the undercoat which is finer and softer and mingles with the topcoat. The two coats grow at different rates and as they mix together this is what starts the formation of the cords. When the correct ratio does not occur i.e. not enough undercoat, the coat may not cord at all. Alternatively if there is too much undercoat and not enough main coat, cords can appear but will often break off through lack of strength. It also seems to help the cording process if the individual main hairs of a puppy are somewhat dull and textured as opposed to smooth and shiny.

A Puli’s coat should need very little special attention until it is three to four months old, until then it is necessary to keep it clean and free of debris. Some Puli owners brush the coat with a bristle brush to stimulate the skin. This can also be done by stroking the puppy and is a lot more fun. As it grows, the coat tends to stand straight out especially on the body (some parts may flatten a little where the puppy lies or sits on it). Gradually the hairs form vague groups which eventually develop into cords. Most coats start to cord first around the face and rear end, the places where the dog most often gets wet. Between six and nine months the cords should start to appear generally, although there are probably some exceptions depending on the coat type. At this stage it is important to check the cords remain separate from each other and from the coat that hasn’t yet corded. This stage of coat development is the most difficult and usually lasts for months until the whole coat has developed into cords. Throughout this time the coat must be kept clean and the cords separate.

The thickness of cords is somewhat variable; as they start to form, a certain size will be determined by the type of coat each puppy has and it is not always wise to try to alter this. Neither is it necessary to separate all cords that seem to be split just at the end. Puli owners have done this only to find that the cords end up so fine that they break off.

Both Puli and owner will benefit if preventative action is taken to keep the coat clean rather than bathing too often especially during winter. A long fully-corded coat can be tied into bunches away from the areas where messy things tend to happen. They should be undone daily to check the skin and coat, then tied up again. Fabric bands or strips of fabric can be used but it is important to remember that anything applied to the dog in this way may also be eaten by it.

The number of baths a Puli needs depends very much on its lifestyle. It is possible if a dog is kept reasonably clean to bath as little as four or five times a year, especially if the beard and rear end are rinsed regularly. Alternatively some dogs are impossible to live with unless bathed every few weeks. Show dogs should be bathed two to three days before a show, the exception being when shows are being held close together and one must be thoroughly dried, right down to the skin as quickly as possible after the bath. Pulis left to dry over a matter of days will soon begin to smell as the air will not circulate through a heavy corded coat.

Choosing a shampoo can be a bit confusing for the new owner as each product makes varying claims. A mild insecticidal shampoo such a Johnsons is very good, it leaves the coat bright and the skin clean, although if a Puli actually has fleas it would be best to buy something a bit stronger from a veterinary centre. It is never wise to use human type shampoo, washing up liquid or similar substances on any dog.

For most Pulis, but especially for the fully coated, the bath should hold three or four inches of warm water to which has been added and mixed in a small amount of shampoo. This will help clean the feet and ends of the coat while the rest of the dog is being bathed. Most shampoos work better if they are diluted before being applied. Care should be taken to use only warm water throughout the bath, and shampoo must not be allowed to get in the dogs eyes. Cotton wool can be put into the ears to prevent water getting in but should always be removed straight after the bath. A gentle massaging action should be used on the Pulis body but the cords can be squeezed, as when washing a woolly jumper! It is vital to rinse out all of the shampoo. This may take quite a time.

If a Puli’s coat gets matted, prompt action should be taken, if not the problem can only get WORSE. It is important to bear in mind that a matted coat will tighten even more if allowed to get wet or sometimes just damp. Some preventative measures can be taken. A heavy coated Puli can be carefully trimmed underneath, around the tricky bits and under the tail. Should the dog already have matted areas, possibly on the ears, it is important to get experienced help as the matting may reduce blood supply and cause the underlying flesh to die. The secretary of the Hungarian Puli Club will know who is available to help, if not, a veterinary surgeon should be contacted. Be very wary of professional groomers who claim to know how to look after the Puli coat, very few actually do – you could end up with a plaited Puli not a corded one, or worse still, a shaved one. The Secretary of the Puli Club would be very happy to send copies of this leaflet to professional groomers who are interested in grooming a Puli.

To help produce and maintain a Puli coat it is helpful to develop a routine whereby certain parts of the work take place on selected days. During the more difficult times, approx 6-18 months, an hour or so, several days a week maybe necessary. Once the coat is going on well, one day a week may suffice, but doing it on the same day or days each week will help it to become a regular part of the Puli’s life and go a long way to preventing any serious problems occurring with the coat.

Pulis are not naturally social animals but a reputable breeder will have started the socialising process while the puppies are still in their whelping box. The single most important job you will have to do as the owner of a new Puli puppy is to make sure that he has pleasant meetings with as many new people, other puppies and dogs of all ages as he can as early in his life as possible. For safety this means he has completed his course of vaccinations and the vet has said it is safe for him to mix with other dogs, although he can be taken to visit your friends and for trips in the car and so on, before that. When it is safe to do so you will need to take him out and about wherever you can, this cannot be stressed strongly enough.

Remember, all new meetings should be enjoyable for your Puli puppy. They should be a rewarding experience for him.

Puppy classes, based on reward and run specifically for baby puppies from 12 weeks to around 16/18 weeks are ideal and you should be able to find one in your area. It is a good idea to make enquiries about classes before you actually bring your puppy home so you will be ready to start as soon as it is safe to take him out.

Another important aspect of a Puli puppy’s development you should be aware of is habituation, or becoming used to unfamiliar things and new environments. This means that as well as being exposed to people and other dogs, your puppy should become comfortable with all the sites and sounds he will encounter on a daily basis. A reputable breeder will have already gotten the puppy used to the sounds round the house: TV, radio, washing machine, vacuum cleaner etc and possibly noises encountered in the garden. You will gradually have to expose him to other sights and sounds, such as cars, lorries, prams, bikes etc. For country puppies, exposure to farm machinery and livestock is also important. Exposure to all these things as soon as possible is vital in ensuring that your puppy is able to cope with his experiences and be unfazed by new ones. A high level of socialisation and habituation should be a priority during your Puli puppy’s first year and for the rest of his life but is particularly important while he is very young.

Lack of early socialisation can lead to many problems. A well socialised Puli is a happy dog who will look upon meeting new people and dogs as a rewarding experience.