All dogs are cute, but somehow curly-haired canines are even cuter. There’s something about the way their hair stands up on their heads in an almost-human way, how they have a different hair-do depending on the humidity, and how your hands sink into their coats when you give them a pat that makes curly-haired dogs especially lovable. Breeds with curly hair are also more fun to groom, since every fresh cut gives them a whole new look.
If you’re looking for a curly-haired breed, you’ve got plenty of options. Whether you want a big, active dog or a smaller, laid-back companion, you can find just the type you’re after with that coveted curly hair. These are twelve of the most popular curly-haired dog breeds, both big and small.
Perhaps the most famous of the curly-haired breeds, poodles have long been a classic. Since they come in three sizes, they can satisfy the desires of almost any potential owner. Toy poodles, the smallest, are less than ten inches tall and make for perfect “lap dogs.” They’re also great for smaller apartments. Miniature poodles are between ten and fifteen inches tall, making them an excellent option for people who want a smaller dog but not so small that it will get lost among your feet. Standard poodles are over fifteen inches in height and can weigh up to seventy pounds, meaning they are very much full-sized dogs.
Poodles are proud and smart as well as surprisingly athletic. They might be gorgeous, but that doesn’t mean they’re sissies as often portrayed. In fact, they love running through open fields and playing outside with their owners. Their pride can make them quick to assume “alpha dog” status, which is why obedience training is a must. Grooming requirements are also quite intensive, since all that curly hair grows quick. With the proper care and attention, however, poodles are beautiful dogs and excellent companions.
If a shaggy dog is up your alley, then you can’t go wrong with a barbet. Their curls tend to cover their entire bodies, making them look at times like a bearded man. Their unique appearance certainly makes these medium-sized dogs stand out in a crowd, and it also makes them incredibly endearing.
Not only are barbets easy on the eye, but they’re also awesome pets. They are loyal and affectionate, leading them to stick close to their owner’s side. They also love to swim, a characteristic that stems from their origins as French fowl-hunting dogs. If you’re a water-lover yourself, then a barbet could make a perfect companion. They love nothing more than hitting the water with a splash. When they emerge, those coils of hair dripping, they usually make a beeline straight for their owner.
3. Bedlington Terrier
If you’ve always wanted a pet lamb but figured a dog will have to do, then a bedlington terrier might be just the breed for you. Their white fur, medium size, and rigid stance gives them a distinctly ovine appearance. Once you have one in the home, however, you’ll quickly realize that these terriers have a quintessentially canine spirit. They are sweet, affectionate, and generally love to play, making them an awful lot of fun to have around the house. They also possess a jealous streak and like to hog the attention in the home, so they’re often best kept as the only dog on the premises.
Bedlington terriers have truly gorgeous hair, but it’s not the easiest to deal with. They are prodigious shedders and usually require professional grooming. This extra work will seem well worth it when you experience the joy of having one of these fun-loving dogs in your home.
4. American Water Spaniel
These medium-sized hunting dogs were bred for retrieving waterfowl, and their curly coats developed to keep the water off their skins. Still a favorite among hunters, they’re also great as house pets, provided you can give them plenty of exercise.
Like most spaniels, American water spaniels hate to be cooped up inside. They’re naturally inclined to run, jump, and swim. This makes them perfect companions for active, sporty owners. If you love hitting the trails or swimming laps in a local pond, then this could be the perfect breed. If you prefer to lay low at home, then you might want to give this breed a pass.
5. Irish Water Spaniel
With a unique appearance and a striking personality, these mid-sized hunters make for a challenging but rewarding house pet. They like to run and they love to swim, so giving them plenty of exercise is an absolute must. They’re also playful and bent on having as much fun as possible, so there’ll never be a dull moment if you have one in your home.
So much energy and rambunctiousness can be a lot of fun for an owner, but it also creates a lot of work. You need to commit to exercising your Irish water spaniel every single day. It helps if you live near a body of water, since they’re natural swimmers with an unbounded love for the water. Training these dogs can be a little complicated. They’re remarkably intelligent, but they’re also quite stubborn. Dealing with a dog that knows what you want it to do but decides not to do it can be frustrating for unskilled trainers. If you’re an experienced owner with an active lifestyle, however, then there’s no limit to the memories you could make with this one-of-a-kind breed.
6. Spanish Water Dog
This medium-sized breed, also called “perro de agua español” in its “native” language, is sturdy, sporty, and easy on the eyes. Their floppy curls and rigid posture gives them a look that’s simultaneously laid-back and proper. While they can be wary towards strangers, they’re known for their fierce loyalty to their owners. Both athletic and strong, they make for great active companions without exhibiting the hyper-energetic streak common to spaniels.
Highly intelligent and able-bodied, Spanish water dogs have a history of adroitly serving humans in a number of capacities. They have been used for bomb detection, search and rescue missions, therapy work, and narcotics investigations. When not being heroes, they’re also adept at that more common canine labor: providing companionship. For a good overall house pet with a unique look, you can’t go wrong with a Spanish water dog.
7. Portuguese Water Dog
Just like their aforementioned Iberian neighbors, Portuguese water dogs are loyal companions that make for excellent pets. While occasionally distant with strangers, they quickly warm up to their owners and are usually quite affectionate. Weighing around fifty pounds, they’re quintessentially medium-sized and are capable of adjusting to life in an apartment.
Portuguese water dogs have a fascinating history. They were once mainstays on Portuguese fishing ships, where they did much more than just keep the fishermen company. With webbed paws and a natural swimming ability, they threw themselves into the water to retrieve gear and chase fish into the nets. Plenty of animal lovers own a sheepdog, but with a Portuguese water dog you’ll have something much more unique: your very own “fishdog!”
8. Curly-Coated Retriever
As the name suggests, this breed sports a beautiful coat of tightly-wound curls. With curly heads, curly backs, curly legs, and even curly ears, they could be the ideal dog for someone who truly loves a dog with curls. They’re also sporty, affectionate, and loyal, making them a great overall option for an active, fun-loving owner.
Like all retrievers, curly-coated retrievers were bred to fetch game. Great swimmers and easily trained, these adorable dogs quickly became favorites among English hunters. While they’re still used for hunting today, they’re even more popular as family pets because of their loving personalities. They need plenty of exercise, but once they’ve gotten their fill they like nothing more than keeping their favorite people company on the couch. Unlike most retrievers, however, “curlies” can be quite reserved around strangers. Take this into account, and don’t be concerned if your curly-coated retriever seems wary of guests. Once they really get to know a new person, there’ll be just as friendly and loyal as they normally are with their owners.
With curly gray hair, an elongated muzzle, and super-cute ears that perk up in an instant, the pumi is a truly adorable breed. Not only are they aesthetically-pleasing, but they’ve also shown themselves to be remarkably versatile over the years. While traditionally considered sheepdogs, they’ve also proven to be effective hunters, ratters, and guard dogs. What’s more, they make for excellent companions in the home.
Pumis are affectionate and loving with their owners, but they tend to be wary of strangers. This characteristic, combined with their tendency to bark, is what makes them such great watchdogs. They’re very smart and easily trained, and if you want to control their barking you’ll have to teach them to keep quiet. Once this lesson is instilled, pumis will stop the barking and serve as excellent, loyal housemates.
10. Bolognese Dog
Small dogs from Northern Italy, these little fluff balls make for excellent best friends. They are loving and social, and prefer to keep by their owners’ sides at all times. If you’re looking for a dog to mind its own business in the yard, then this is not the breed for you. If you want a dog you can take with you wherever you go, then a Bolognese dog might be just what you’ve been looking for.
Weighing less than ten pounds, their diminutive size makes them perfect for apartments. They’re also easy to carry and love to go along on outings. If you imagine yourself with a prototypical “lapdog” accompanying you through your daily life, then a Bolognese is probably what you’ve had in mind. Just be aware that life with a Bolognese is not all fun and games. They are certainly loving, but they’re also stubborn, which can make training difficult. They combine their obstinacy with a galling sensitivity, meaning you’ll follow every bout of anger with conscience-racking remorse once your pup gets that sad look in its eyes. For effective training, combine consistency with positive reinforcement while eschewing a harsh tone. If you have the patience for such a strategy, your Bolognese will learn to behave and you’ll have a true life companion.
11. Bichon Frise
These small, white dogs pack a lot of personality into a tiny frame. Playful, energetic, and full of love for their owner, bichons make for excellent companions. They love nothing more than to go out and play with their owners, and they’re experts at cheering you up when you’re feeling a little blue.
The key to owning a bichon is matching their enthusiasm and energy. If you plan to leave your dog home alone for long stretches of time, then this probably isn’t an appropriate breed. They’re as mischievous as they are energetic, and left alone they’ll cause a world of trouble. With the proper attention, however, they make wonderful pets. Not only are they fun and personable, but they’re also breathtakingly gorgeous. With their fluffy hair and erect posture, they’ll quickly become the pride of the neighborhood.
12. Kerry Blue Terrier
Bred for ratting and vermin hunting, these terriers maintain their natural desire to seek prey. This means they’ll keep your yard’s rodents at bay, but it also means they’ll yearn for free time outdoors. Their rectangular, block-like muzzles and bluish-gray hue give them a truly unique look to accompany their distinctive personality.
Kerry blue terriers have a serious moody streak, which means you have to train them with a patience that accounts for their sensitivity. If you limit your stern corrections and stick with positive reinforcement, you’ll wind up with a loving, well-trained companion.