The Hungarian Puli is certainly a head-turner. No other pooch has a long, dreadlocked coat quite like his. You could be forgiven for thinking that he poses a serious grooming challenge, but in fact, drying his his weatherproof coat is the most time-consuming part of keeping him clean.
Use your fingers to stroke your baby puli regularly to encourage his coat to grow in cords. Your puli has a double coat that is soft and fluffy underneath, with the heavy cords on top. When he is a pup only the undercoat is visible. Up to age 6 months you can brush him occasionally with a bristle brush if you wish, but puli breeders recommend getting hands on instead. After six months his cords start to develop and his coat needs more attention from you. The main thing is to keep his coat clean and free of debris like bits of twigs and grass seeds. Your puli puppy doesn't need frequent bathing unless he rolls a lot in smelly stuff.
Remove any mats and separate the cords before and after bathing. You need to work through each cord from the skin to its tip. You can't just give him a quick comb-through, so prepare to spend more time on his hair than on your own. On average, bath him every six to eight weeks, and if you want to stop his dreadlocks from accumulating more dirt, keep his cords trimmed to a length of around 4 to 6 inches. Ideally, you should look through his cords every day for dirt, to prevent tangles and keep the cords separated and in good shape. Realistically, try to pick debris from his coat as often as possible between baths. Use a good flea control product on a puli, otherwise an infestation might force you to shave off his beautiful coat. It takes five years for his cords to fully develop, so it will take another five for them to regrow. That's a miserable prospect for you and your Hungarian buddy.
Use lots of water and diluted shampoo to bath him. Dilute the shampoo in a ratio of 6 to 1. His corded coat, which is more like felt than hair, is difficult to get thoroughly wet. You need to dilute the shampoo because his skin dries out and becomes irritated if you don't rinse off the shampoo thoroughly. It can take up to 30 minutes to rinse his coat, so you might want to get your sweetie to help you with this. Skin irritations can cause hair loss, and as with a flea infestation, could lead to a need for a shave, with the result being a bald baby dog.
Squeeze out as much water as you can with your hands after his bath and cover him with towels. One breeder recommends putting your puli in old sweatshirts to absorb the water, although you may need to change them two or three times because his coat holds a lot of moisture. Buy some from a thrift shop so your puli has his own bathing wardrobe. Total drying is essential for a puli because of his coat's texture. If he isn't dried thoroughly bacteria forms inside the cords and you'll have a very smelly pet. Now for the time-consuming bit. Once you've wrung out and soaked up as much water as you can, stand him in front of fans to finish the drying. It is unlikely he's going to stand still for hours, so you might find it easier to put him in a dog crate overnight and angle the fans so they blow a nice, warm -- but never hot -- breeze over him. Check his coat after several hours; if there is any dampness, put him back in front of the fans. Check through his cords again and make sure they are all separate and sitting perfectly.
- Get a vet or professional groomer to trim out any mats, especially on his underneath areas or around his tail.
- Tie his coat into bunches with fabric, particularly around his messy rear end, to keep him clean. Untie them every day, check the skin and coat, then retie them. Watch out that he doesn't eat the fabric.
Based in London, Eleanor McKenzie has been writing lifestyle-related books and articles since 1998. Her articles have appeared in the "Palm Beach Times" and she is the author of numerous books published by Hamlyn U.K., including "Healing Reiki" and "Pilates System." She holds a Master of Arts in informational studies from London University.