THE HERDING PULI

The Puli is a vigorous bouncing vocal herder. His job is to move 300 to 400 sheep (most with foot rot) in tall grass. He bounces so he can see over the grass. He barks because he must move a large sluggish mass of sheep which don't want to move. This is the real world. The herding 'show ring' of the AKC Herding Trial is not the real world.

CH. Szeder's Making Headlines, CD, HI, HX, AX, OAJ is the first Puli to complete the AKC requirements Herding Intermediate and Herding excellent. She is also a Herding High in Trial.


The Puli and his herding style today is a reflection of selection based on the demands of his work and environment. In Hungary, historically and to this day, the Puli is in charge of flocks numbering 300 to 400 sheep. This size of these flocks demands that the Puli be a forceful, vocal, close working herder. And he is. The AKC wants us to exhibit a dog which works well back, and quietly. The Puli can learn this, but it is not what he is meant for. Much of the Puliís personality and approach to life are a result of the demands of such large flocks. His impatient and sometimes vocal response are a result of his frustration with us for not providing him with a suitable arena to work. The demands of AKC trials are simply that and no more; they are not a suitable comment on the breedís ability to perform useful work in his own environment.

Pulik are represented in AKC trials, though as a relatively rare breed, they do not participate in the numbers of some of the more common breeds. Ch. Szederís Go For It, HS is pictured doing Agility on the Other Resources page; Pete has two Reserve High inTrials. His half sister, Szederís Making Headlines, HX, CD is the first Puli High In Trial (herding), and the first Herding Intermediate and Excellent for the breed.

The skills of the Puli, when in his own environment, include the ability to instantly lift an entire large flock, and to turn it, if not on a dime, then certainly on a quarter. Once on the move, he will join his shepherd at the rear of the flock to drive. While grazing, the flock is observed from a place where his shepherd may also be observed, or can be kept in his peripheral vision while he is at play, if a companion is available. This is not your average Border Collie, folks. A gesture from the shepherd will send him off to zip around the flock to tighten it up or turn it, then back to taking it easy until the flock needs more attention.

Morzsi and Jozsef at Mesofalva

I cannot be clear enough about the power required of a dog under these circumstances actually encountered in Hungary. One of the working dogs I have seen there was working with a flock at least 50% of which had hoof rot, in tall wetland grass on a hot afternoon. These animals understandably did not wish to move, but did, and exhibited the ability cited above - to turn on a "quarter". I donít know how many individuals of some other breeds would have required to elicit this response. I suspect that any number of some breeds couldnít do it at all. So please letís not sell the Puli short due to a misunderstanding of what his job really is.



PULI CLUB OF AMERICA

PULI HERDING DESCRIPTION

Approved by the Puli Club of America April 1992


Introduction: The Puli was developed in Hungary as an all purpose herding dog, bred to gather and drive the flock as the shepherd commanded. He can work and control all types of stock, but was developed particularly for sheep. The Puliís power lies in his bouncy, active movements, and occasional high pitched yelp that starts the stock moving. The Puli is a loose-eyed dog and rarely grips or bites except as a last resort.

Historically: Flocks were kept on huge pastures and vast plains. Pulik gathered the stock from the villages and drove them from one area to another to graze. This often involved moving the stock for miles along the roads and by crops. Driving the stock to market from the grazing lands meant the dog often worked a full, hard day. The Puli was developed as a medium-boned, wiry, agile dog with a thick protective all weather coat, often of black color to enable him to be easily distinguised from the sheep.

Shepherd/Puli Relationship: The relationship between shepherd and Puli is fundamental to understanding how the breed herds. There was an unwritten law that a Hungarian shepherd did not sell a Puli to anyone other than another shepherd or as a gift to a family member. The shepherd felt that non-pastoral people would not understand the Puli temperment and intelligence. To the shepherd the Puli was more than "just a dog"; he was the flockís "second man". The Puli serves as a constantly alert foot dog for the shepherd. When the sheep are grazing he is at the shepherdís side. When commanded verbally or by gestures from the shepherd, he responds with a tremendous burst of speed and activity, forcing movement of the stock away from him by his bouncy, bounding manner. Then he returns to the shepherd to await the next order. Although clearly subordinate to the shepherd, the Puli is expected to work on his own initiative. A Puli who is familiar with the order of things will hasten to correct even a complex problem without a command. The Puliís bouyant, self-confident and joyous enthusiastic working style can be very effectively turned off by inappropriate training. This occurs when attempts are made to make the very sensitive Puli work in a manner not natural to him, such as insisting that he work in a highly precise manner, as is done with some other sheepdog breeds and/or by making excessive corrections during training. When this happens, frustration sets in for all and the Puli can lose his self confidence and with it his desire to herd.

Training: Upon the Puliís first exposure to stock, he often shows a definite gathering instinct. In Hungary, the Puli grows up with stock and learns all about them at a very early age. He receives on-the-job training with the experienced dogs and he gradually learns to drive the stock from the farm and down the lanes to the grazing lands or from pasture to pasture while keeping the flock loosely gathered. The Puli is one of the most intelligent breeds of dogs. He is a willing worker and can be trained easily to follow commands and directions. In this country, the ideal situation would be to have the novice Puli start working with the more experienced Puli as they did in Hungary. Care must be taken, however, that the younger dog does not get overly accustomed to acting in an assistantís role, thus reducing his ultimate task, that of learning to carry responsibility for the care of the flock. This trainability combined with the Puliís natural urge to gather and move the stock make the Puli an ideal herding dog.



Herding Style:

    1) The Puli has a strong desire to please his master. He works in harmony with him and is usually at his side. He does not work away from the shepherd unless performing a task. After responding with his characteristic lightning speed, he returns to his shepherd. While at the shepherdís side he may be standing, sitting, or lying down, but he is always alert.
    2) The Puli does not use "eye" to control the stock but rather he utilizes his natural bouncy, erergetic, quick, feinting movements and the occasional high pitched bark.
    3) The Puliís approach to the stock is usually close running but may be widened through training. The Puli works close to the stock, often stopping and turning them with his body.
    4) The Puli is fully capable of moving and gathering the stock as directed by his shepherd. The Puli does not work with the intensity of some of the other breeds and this looseness of style is natural for this breed.
    5) The Puli who is with his flock attends only to his shepherd and will remain aloof from the casual human bystander. The Puli will pretect his shepherd and the flock from predators and strangers even if it means his death. This was the unfortunate fate af many Pulik during World War II.


Applications To Testing: The Puli works from his shepherdís side. Typically he is not in constant motion patroling the flock. The Puli will not naturally patrol a boundary, but can easily learn to guard a boundary from a position near the shepherd.
The Puli should not be faulted for returning to his masterís side after completing a task. The Puli runs rapidly towards the livestock. Sheep worked by other breeds may at first find the Puliís speed upsetting.


Summary: Lest we forget the Puli was developed by and is still used by very practical men. Men who most likely did not (and do not) have the time, patience or desire to spend endless valuable working hours going over and over practice exercises with a dog in order to teach it how to work with the mechanical precision seen demonstrated in many of the herding trials today. They depended on the Puliís intelligence to enable the dog to pick up and learn from the older Puli. The men who developed the Puli could not afford to feed a dog who did not work. A dog who could not measure up within a reasonable time was disposed of. Whether from a lack of mental or physical abilities, "weak" dogs were thus eliminated from the gene pool. In either case, with neither the competition of the breed ring nor the organized herding trial to goad him on, the practical shepherd sought only to produce a practical dog for his own personal use. The Puli has stood the test of time. He was then as he is today, a practical dog for the average farmer or rancher to work with, to treasure and to brag about when he takes the stock to market.


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