Komondor Dogs: The Ultimate Guide to “Mop Dogs”

Komondor (Hungarian sheepdog) posing in the park

The Komondor dog breed, also known as the Hungarian sheepdog by American Kennel Club (AKC) or the United Kennel Club, is a large, white breed of livestock guardian dog with a long, corded coat. Sometimes referred to as “mop dogs”, the tangled parts of their fur form naturally when the puppies are about nine months old.

What often happens with these animals is that hair in the overcoat and undercoat gets twisted together to form a mop-like resemblance, and some people have even referred to this look as “dreadlocks”. 

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The Look of the Komondor 

Make no mistake, the Komondor is a large dog. Most of these dogs can weigh over 100 pounds and they give off the appearance of strength and dignity, with a very courageous attitude and a long life span. Working Komondor dogs live most of their lives out in the wild (or at least on wide pastures), and the distinctive “mop” coat that they have can really help them blend in with sheep and protect them from weather extremes.

This dense, protective coat is relatively soft when found on the puppies, but as the dogs age, their coats tend to form cord-like curls. The young adult coat, or intermediate coat, consists of very short cords near to the skin that can be hidden by fluff on the outer ends of the cords. The older coat comprises a dense, soft, woolly undercoat (much like the puppy coat), as well as a coarse outer coat that is quite curly.

The coarser hairs of the outer coat completely enclose the softer undercoat. A grown dog is entirely covered with a heavy coat of these cords. Since the length of the Komondor’s coat is a function of age, younger dogs should never be expected to develop long coats. 

Also, it is clear to see that the Komondor has a large head. The skin around the eyes and on the muzzle is dark. It has a powerful, deep chest, which is wide and muscular. The shoulders are well laid back and the forelegs are straight and muscular. Viewed from any side, the legs looked almost like vertical columns. The legs are also straight when they are viewed from behind the dog.

Komondor (Hungarian sheepdog) shaking dreadlocks

A Komondor’s mop-like coat is actually used as a clever form of camouflage.

The Function of a Komondor

Komondors are often used to guard livestock and other property. The Komondor is one of three breeds of working dogs that have been native for ten centuries to the sheep and cattle livestock of Hungary. Ancient Magyars used these Puli and Kuvasz breeds of these dogs to protect their livelihoods, and in Hungary, the plural form of komondor to this day remains “komondorok”.

Today, the Komondor is still a pretty common breed in Hungary. Many Komondors were killed during World War II. According to local folklore, this was because when the Germans (and then the Russians) invaded, they had to kill the dogs before they were able to capture the farm or house that it guarded. This fearsome reputation is still intact to this day. Also, the Komondor is now not as often used for herding in Hungary, but it is generally seen more of a protector or guardian when it accompanies the flocks. 

A Komondor as a Working Dog 

Most Komondors will also treat other domestic animals as members of their flock. But they have solid reasons to drive away animals who do not belong to their family. Many Komondors dog breeds can be extremely dominant or aggressive toward animals they do not know. Because of the strong bone structure and impressive size of the Komondor, this powerful breed is highly capable of seriously injuring or killing all kinds of other animals. 

Komondor puppies certainly look very cute and they often seem to have a cheerful personality, but if necessary, the grown Komondor dogs can easily take on wolves or bears if they are a threat to the flock. Even though so many people know them as “mop” dogs, Komondorok are really strong and effective sheepdogs that have guarded large herds of livestock for many centuries.

Having a Komondor in Your Home 

Although energetic and playful as a puppy, the Komondor matures into a serious, dignified, self-reliant adult at two or three years of age. Though calm and quiet indoors, he is emphatically not suited to an apartment. The ideal environment for these dogs is a large home with a spacious yard and secure fences, out in the country without close neighbors. Komondors have a deep, loud bark which they use often, especially at night when they are the most aware of potential threats to their flock.

Some Komondors never actually become completely comfortable with any outsider. Indeed, it is true that most Komondors must be very carefully introduced to guests through appropriate obedience training, and then the dog should be closely supervised while those guests are present in your home. Not taking enough care in this regard can lead to disaster.

Despite the massive bulk and a really heavy coat, the Komondor is actually quite an agile dog with fast reflexes. It is vital to provide early and ongoing socialization if you are trying to control the territorial instincts of the animal. The Komondor is generally patient with his familiar children, but it might be a bit of a challenge to allow other neighborhood kids around the dog. Similarly, a Komondor may be very protective of familiar pets while aggressively attacking any others that might be nearby. 

Traditionally, all livestock guardians were expected to keep watch and make their own decisions, and this is exactly what the Komondor does. The dog has developed strong instincts and judgments, so as the owner, you will need to establish yourself as the alpha (number one) to have any type of control over the dog. This can be done by offering obedience training from an early age.

Komondors often take well to training if it is started early (between 4–8 months of age). A Komondor can become troublesome when bored, so training sessions are generally upbeat and happy. It is important to praise the dog constantly. Once a Komondor gets away with hostile behavior, it will start thinking such behavior is appropriate.

So, consistent corrections with young puppies are vital to ensure well-adjusted adult dogs. Socialization with a wide range of humans is also extremely important. Because it is a natural guard dog, a Komondor that is not properly socialized may react very aggressively when encountering a new situation or person.

Breed-specific legislation requires some breeds to be muzzled in public places. Romania is the only country that requires Komondors to be muzzled. Adolescence can be marked by many changes in temperament, eating habits, trainability, and general attitude. As in any breed, you will find quite a wide range of personalities, so try to identify the personality that would be happiest as an independent livestock dog or that which wants more to please and would make a good family pet. 

Komondor Dog in snow

Photo: World Dog Finder

Komondor Personality and Temperament 

They are loyal, affectionate, and gentle toward their families and are especially good for families with children. The Komondor needs to be with an experienced dog family who will provide plenty of obedience training for the dogs. They can be aggressive toward strangers until they are sure the strangers are safe.

You should consider getting a Komondor only if you want a dog who is large, shaggy (unless the coat is kept clipped short), and imposing, will protect your horses, sheep, goats, llames, and chickens, is steady and dependable, rather than playful, and is protective of home and family. 

You should not consider getting a Komondor if you don’t want to deal with providing something for this working dog to do, such as guarding livestock. These dogs can cause massive destruction when they are bored. They are often suspicious of strangers and aggressive to other animals.

You can possibly avoid some of these negative traits by choosing a grown dog from an animal shelter or rescue group. With adult dogs, you can usually see what you are getting, and plenty of adult Komondors have already proven themselves not to have negative characteristics. If you want a puppy, you can avoid some negative traits by choosing the right breeder and the right puppy.

Unfortunately, you usually cannot tell whether a puppy has inherited any temperament or health problems until much later on. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the potential pitfalls when it comes to having your very own Komondor as a first-time owner.

Always Give Them Something Worthwhile To Do

Komondors are generally quite happy and satisfied to be working at guarding livestock. If you don’t have any farm animals, you can try to get the dog to pull a cart or sled, or something that is equally as taxing. But without something constructive to do, most Komondors have a high energy level and they tend to become bored very quickly. When this happens, they can even start destroying your property if you are not careful. 

Always Give Them Enough Socialization

Komondors need a lot of exposure to friendly people so they are able to learn to recognize the normal behaviors of people who are not a threat. This allows them to recognize the differences when somebody starts acting abnormally, such as an intruder. Without sufficient careful socialization of humans, they may just be suspicious of every person around them. 

Beware of Potential Animal Aggression

Most Komondors will treat other domestic animals in their own family as members of their flock. But they have strong instincts to drive away all other animals who do not belong in close quarters. Many Komondors can be very aggressive and dominant toward dogs that they don’t know. Also, some Komondors are not safe with cats. Always keep in mind that this powerful breed will seriously injure or kill other animals if you don’t take the appropriate precautions. 

Grooming Your Dog

If you want your Komondor to look at all neat, be prepared to spend plenty of time and energy grooming your dog. The wiry hairs of the outer coat often fuse with the wooly hairs of the undercoat to form felt cords. If you like this appearance, be sure to separate the cords every few weeks. Bathing the dog will take you at least an hour because all the cords must be thoroughly rinsed.

Then, the drying process usually takes at least 24 hours, even with a hairdryer and a couple of box fans. Another option is to brush out the cords as soon as they start to form. This will lead to a natural “shaggy” look that will require a whole lot of regular brushing and combing from you as a groomer. 

 “Shaggy Dog Syndrome” 

Like all shaggy dogs, Komondors are certainly going to be messy dogs with plenty of tassels. You can expect to find mud, leaves, snow, excrement, and other debris stuck to the rough coat and ultimately ending up all over your house. When these dogs drink, their beard absorbs water, which drips all over the floors.

When they eat, the beard absorbs whatever is in their bowl of dog food, which contributes to the whole white coat becoming quickly matted with a layer of dust and insects. This matting can really make general house cleaning and maintenance of order very difficult indeed for a Komondor owner.

A person with a Komondor in a field.

Thanks to their herd dog heritage, Komondorok are excellent protectors.

Accepting the Strong Temperament of These Dogs

As guard dogs, Komondors are built to have an independent mind so they can protect their vulnerable flock from all kinds of natural dangers. They prefer to make their own decisions, which may cause problems if you want to bring them inside as indoor companions. In other words, Komondors are very willful dogs. As a responsible dog owner, you will need to show them that you mean what you say if you expect them to follow any of your commands.

Dealing With a Large Amount of Noise

Unless you live on a farm or another property that is far enough away from close neighbors, Komondors should never be left outside unsupervised for any period of time. Their booming barks of this dog breed will really resonate through the entire neighborhood and you might find some of your more prickly neighbors reporting the dog as a nuisance. You might know that your dog is only being a responsible flock guardian, but your neighbors might not!

Bringing a Komondor Dog Home

To be completely honest, most Komondors might be “too much dog” to fit into the average household. This breed is a serious working dog with a great deal of energy and strength, and very few people can really provide the type of home or lifestyle that will be necessary to raise a successful Komondor. The Komondor needs a lot of daily exercise that only wide open fields can provide. 

Without this type of environment, the dogs can quickly develop health issues such as bloat, hip dysplasia, or other serious ailments. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC) and Komondor Club of America, these dogs can often experience entropion. This type of defect, which usually becomes obvious by six months of age, causes the eyelid to roll inward, which irritates or injures the eyeball.

One or both of the dog’s eyes can be affected. If your Komondors develop entropion, you may notice your dogs rubbing their eyes constantly. Luckily, entropion is a condition that can be corrected surgically when the dog reaches maturity. For all of the reasons above, you have hopefully come to the sensible conclusion that Komondor dogs are not chihuahuas or other dogs that are really suitable for most households.

Only specific living situations can provide the activities that keep these dogs satisfied. If you are looking for a dependable guard dog to herd your livestock, Komondor dogs can be excellent choices. But they can certainly be a whole lot of work if you are wanting to get some as pets for your house.

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Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady is an animal lover and the proud dog-mom of a Golden Retriever named Brody and an Italian Greyhound named Jessup. Unfortunately, Jessup developed serious allergies to many different types of dog foods and ingredients when she was just a puppy. Meanwhile, Brody could eat seemingly anything and carry on as healthy as could be. Sarah spent hours of time researching and testing different foods and brands before finding something that worked for little Jessup. She wants Dog Food Care to simplify this experience for future dog-parents who face food allergy or tolerance issues of their own.