Komondor vs. Puli
When TMZ reported this week that Mark Zuckerberg was trying to decide between a Komondor and a Puli, we thought we needed to step in with some friendly advice.
As regular visitors to the Zoom Room – or to this website – know, our own pet dog is a Komondor: Clyde Orange, to be exact, the mascot of the Zoom Room.
Clyde, like all Komondorok (the plural of Komondor), is indeed quite the head turner. But when it comes to training one of these behemoths, he’s more like a head scratcher – as these are notoriously challenging dogs to train. (Not to mention grooming, another shaggy cross that all Komondor owners must bear.)
Pulik (the plural of Puli) might look quite like their Hungarian countrymen, the Komondorok, sharing the same distinctive dreadlocks known as “cords,” but they are altogether different in temperament.
So let’s take a quick look at each breed in the hope that we might help our favorite Facebook friend make an informed decision…
The KomondorAs puppies, Komondorok resemble Labradoodles, as well as vintage Steiff fluffy teddy bears. Their cords haven’t yet formed, so they have a soft, even delicate snow white coat. Enjoy that whiteness while you can – keeping your Komondor clean as he grows up is going to be the challenge of a lifetime.
To understand their temperament, it’s important to know that they have been bred since antiquity as livestock guard dogs. Picture one of these shaggy giants out wandering on a hillside with his flock of sheep, fairly well blending in, and not doing much of anything all day. A fairly cushy bank security guard gig in a sleepy town. So they conserve energy and tend to appear lethargic, as might a lizard on a sunny rock awaiting its meal.But when a threat to his charges appears, the Komondor reveals his sheer athletic muscularity and a deep, ferocious bark that would terrify most anyone – until they see how ridiculous the barker appears. They can vault over steep walls, and can suddenly bolt with incredible speed and dexterity when their perimeter has been crossed.
As a pet, a Komondor has many advantages: sweet, great with little kids, fun and goofy, infinitely cuddly, unflinchingly loyal.But then there are tremendous drawbacks. A Komondor will bark his head off when anyone nears any entrance to your home. Anyone passing by will receive an earful. They won’t attack – but there’s no way to fight against their genetics. You’ll need to tip your UPS delivery guy handsomely, because even if he drops off packages daily, your Komondor will never not bark at him. (In fact there is an old Hungarian superstition that if someone comes to your door and the Komondor won’t let the person in, you take the Komondor’s side and bar the door.) A well-trained Komondor will learn to stop barking on command, but he will always initiate barking upon the arrival of an outsider. They will even sleep across thresholds within your house, taking position. That said, this protectiveness doesn’t remain in place once you leave home. If you’re walking down the street with your Komondor and someone approaches, he won’t start barking. The last paragraph mentioned “well-trained.” That is a challenge. Due to their history and breeding, a Komondor – unlike most other dogs – has neither a prey drive, nor much of a food drive. They will rarely chase a ball. They will take limited joy in toys. They’re not big eaters, and thus are difficult to bribe. They are also incredibly environmentally stable – meaning hard to rattle – so any type of corrective training usually has little effect as they can put up with just about anything.
You’ll need a pretty experienced trainer to work with a Komondor. (Mark Zuckerberg, if you’re reading this, the Zoom Room has locations right here in L.A.) But once he’s trained, it’s hard to deny the almost indescribable joys of sharing your home and your life with such a wonderfully silly and magnificent beast.
We’ve barely touched on grooming – as this is an almost limitless topic. Simply know that your neighborhood dog groomer will likely never have encountered one – and great care must be taken in finding the right groomer. Helping the cords form evenly, separating them from one another as the matting begins around the age of nine months, is an ongoing process for the next year or so. After that, the challenge shifts to drying. Washing and shampooing a mature Komondor isn’t all that complicated. But if many hours of diligent drying aren’t carefully completed, your damp dog will develop mildew. This is to be avoided at all costs.
Normally you never cut a Komondor’s cords, and you certainly never touch a Komondor with a brush. The cords will continue to grow and grow, once formed, until they eventually reach the ground.
The PuliPulik also hail from Hungary, and share the corded appearance. But there the Puli and Komondor part ways. While a Komondor can grow to over 130 pounds, a Puli tops off around 25 to 30 pounds; Pulik are also about a foot shorter than Komondorok. Komondorok come in only one flavor: white. Pulik can be white, black, or various shades of grey.
Pulik also serve a completely different job: they are herding dogs. Their temperament is therefore much more like a Sheltie. They are quick and agile, and require plenty of daily exercise. A Komondor, on the other hand, can laze about for much of the day.There’s some history behind this, as traditionally Pulik would herd and watch the flock during the day (while the Komondorok slept), and like the old sheepdog clocking in in the old cartoons, the Komondor would take the nightshift, guarding the flock when they were most vulnerable to attackers.
The herding instinct is hard-wired; it isn’t something you teach your Puli. That said, if you do want to do some recreational herding, it’s best to practice starting at a young age. Puli can also be trained fairly easily in agility and obedience.
They share the exact same requirements for grooming as a Komondor, but of course since a Puli is tiny compared to a Komondor, the entire process – especially the drying – is vastly easier.
The other trait they share is loyalty and a penchant for protection. Pulik can also be stalwart watchmen, albeit without the sheer size and musculature of a Komondor.
Both breeds are infinitely lovable. And both will make it difficult for you to walk down the block without being stopped by countless curious passersby wanting to know what that creature is at the end of your leash – and is that his real hair – and did you braid it yourself – and you’ll soon find yourself answering a succession of questions while children gather round to hang on the cords. For celebrities, it might be a nice relief to find that your dog is being noticed and photographed more than you. For those reluctant to chat with strangers, these are not good breed choices!
The size difference alone can help make the decision between the breeds for most people. 16 inches and 30 pounds vs. 30+ inches and 100+ pounds isn’t even in the same ballpark.
A jet black Puli has the enviable advantage of hiding dirt when compared to the theoretically snow-white Komondor, whose cleanliness will always present an uphill battle.
As Komondor owners ourselves, we’re a bit biased, and can’t imagine life without our monster. Our one-year-old baby curls up in Clyde’s cords, and he truly completes – and protects – our family. And although he’s now a movie star and a certified Therapy Dog, he has kept his down-to-earth goofiness, and we couldn’t be more delighted.
But if unlike us you’re not professional dog trainers, think twice before inviting a Komondor to guard your threshold. Training them ain’t easy – believe us!