Welsh Corgi Breed Information: What You Really Need to Know
There are a lot of dog breed descriptions out there already—numerous dog encyclopedias and databases with concrete information—but I often feel they do not elaborate enough. That's why I want to give you a description of the Corgi that's as detailed as possible. This is a dog I've researched extensively and have personal experience with—I own a Corgi right now, and I know quite a few other Corgi owners. Each Corgi most definitely has its own personality, but there are a lot of similarities and traits that are typical to the Corgi.
What Is the History of the Corgi?
The "Fairy Steed" Myth
A lot of Corgi owners (myself included) like the fairytale Corgi story. You might have already heard people refer to Corgis as "fairy steeds." The story goes that the fairies living in Wales decided to share their steeds with us. They brought some puppies to the edge of the forest where they left them in the grass, knowing humans would find them. And a little later indeed, two farmer's children walked by and saw the puppies, which they thought they were little abandoned foxes, and decided to take them back to the farm.
The parents saw that they were not foxes at all, but a mysterious breed of dog they had never seen before. They decided to raise them on the farm, and as the pups grew older, the father noticed their great herding abilities. Ever since then, that has been their main task—herding cattle, sheep, and geese—and the Welsh gave them the name "Corgi," meaning "dwarf dog."
The Real Story
This story sounds great, but I will have to disappoint you, because that is not the actual story of the Corgi. The Corgi, or its immediate ancestor, was supposedly brought to Britain by Flemish weavers during the Middle Ages. That story could make perfect sense, considering that Flanders (now the northern part of Belgium) was then a part of the Netherlands that leads as a bridge to Scandinavia, from where many Spitz breeds hail (including possible ancestors of our modern Corgi, such as the Swedish Vallhund).
What Are the Two Kinds of Welsh Corgis?
As you may know, there are two kinds of Welsh Corgis:
- Pembroke Welsh Corgi
- Cardigan Welsh Corgi
It has been said that the Cardigan is a direct descendant of a cross between the Swedish Vallhund (which was brought to Britain by the Vikings—a very old breed indeed) and the Flemish weavers' dogs. The Cardigan is the older of the two breeds. The Pembroke developed a little later, and it has been said that there is some Samoyed and/or Pomeranian in its lineage.
The Pembroke comes in red, fawn, tan/sable, and black, with some minimal to medium amount of white marking. The Cardigan comes in red, black, sable, brindle and blue merle. You can find white markings on a Cardigan as well. In these colors, we can clearly see how the Swedish Vallhund has influenced the Cardigan Welsh Corgi and how the Pomeranian has done the same for the Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
A lot of Cardigans have a long, elegant tail, and the Pembrokes have either a short "nub" for a tail or a shorter, more ratty tail—although Pembrokes with long foxy tails also exist. It all depends on where you live. Some Pembrokes, like the one I own, can be born with a naturally shorter tail. My Pembroke's tail is about 10 centimeters long (4 inches), but most Pembrokes in the USA will have docked tails that are only 1 to 2 inches (2.5–5 cm) long. In a lot of European countries, you will see either long, fluffy "foxlike" tails or the naturally shorter tails, as docking is illegal in parts of Europe.
Other Physical Differences
The Cardigan is the bigger of the two. He is a little higher and longer, and he looks a little tougher (in my opinion). Cardgians' ears are also larger, and they have smaller, more almond-shaped eyes that stand more to the side of the face. It is hard to detect the difference when you don't know much about the breed, but it's easy to notice once you get more accustomed to the different types of Corgis.
How Are Cardigans and Pembrokes Alike?
We've already talked about the different colors they have; let's talk about their similarities in height and weight. They are both that awkward size in between small dog that you can hold and bigger or medium-sized dog. When an adult Corgi jumps on you, you can definitely feel it! They are quite muscular and strong-boned. They can look "chubby," but a lot of that is actually muscles—although it is important not to let them get overweight, but more about that later.
A male adult Corgi has an average weight of 27 pounds (12.5 kg) and has a height of 10 to 12.5 inches (25.5–30.5 cm). The average female is 25 pounds (11 kg), and about the same height as the males, just a little more elegantly built.
They both need enough exercise to be happy. They might seem small because of their rather short stature, but they do have the body and the endurance of a medium-size working dog.
Both are herding dogs, and due to their short legs you might not think of them as good cattle herders, but the contrary is true. They will fall flat on their bellies and roll away in order to avoid the kicking foot of a cow! The funny thing is that they already know this when they are only a few weeks old. While playing on the carpet with my own dog when he was only two months old, I gently pushed him, and he immediately dropped to the ground and rolled away. It is one of their techniques to escape, and it's quite hilarious when you see it.
All Corgis are very loyal dogs and really want to belong to the family: They want to feel like a true family member. In the past I have read that Pembrokes as well as Cardigans are friendly and social dogs but need time to warm up to strangers. From my own experience, I do not agree with that. My own Corgi, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, loves everyone immediately: strangers, children, men, and women. Anyone we may simply meet while walking on the street is immediately his best friend. According to all the other Corgi owners I know, that seems to be the norm for at least the Pembroke (I can't say anything about the Cardigan).
Things to Think About Before You Get a Corgi
There are a few things to consider when getting a Corgi puppy:
Is this breed healthy?
Every dog breed has its typical diseases it could develop when it's older (for example, short-muzzled dogs often develop respiratory-related issues). Corgis have short legs and long spines, so they can develop joint- and bone-related issues. They are more predisposed to canine hip dysplasia, canine degenerative myelopathy, and progressive retinal atrophy. To prevent future hip or spine damage, it's best to not let them go up or down any stairs until they are fully grown.
Is a Corgi right for me if I live in an apartment and have no yard or porch?
It can be. However, I would advise you to always pick out a puppy that matches your lifestyle. Some breeders will even do this for you: Depending on your lifestyle, they will match you with one of their puppies they feel will be good for you, or you can go to the breeder's house and observe the puppies. Make no mistake, the Corgi is definitely a medium to high energy level dog! If you are looking for a lapdog or a couch potato, you will need to look for another breed. If you do have a Corgi and don't exercise them enough, they tend to turn into obese, nervous dogs because of their lack of exercise.
You can, however, perfectly own a Corgi and live in an apartment. If you build up a routine of daily walks and playtime with your Corgi, then everything will be just fine. Also, owning a large house with a big yard is NOT enough and doesn't mean you get a pass: Corgis get bored if they are stuck in a yard and need some variety, so an hour walk a day is recommended for a Corgi.
Is a Corgi going to ruin my couch (and can I never wear black clothing again)?
Unfortunately, yes; they shed a lot. Due to their Spitz ancestry, they have a rather thick undercoat to keep them warm, as well as an upper coat of longer, coarser hair. They need to be brushed a minimum of twice a week—preferably more often, especially during shedding season. During the spring, they will shed and get rid of the majority of the undercoat, and then you might need to brush them daily.
I personally use a Furminator shedding brush, but you can find all kinds of specific shedding brushes on the market. I don't use that every time I brush my Corgi though, only every once in a while. I prefer a slicker brush because that gets all the loose undercoat hairs out.
Do Corgis get along with children, other dogs, or cats?
Corgis tend to get along great with other pets in the house. They might try to herd them, though: Because they are herding dogs, they might see other animals as something they need to herd. They love children but might try to herd them a little, too. Consistency is the key, and as with any dog breed, it is important to train both the dog AND the child how to properly interact with one another.
Video: Cardigan Welsh Corgis Herding
Do Corgis bark a lot?
Some people say they do; some say they don't. When I first started researching this breed years ago, I found that a lot of dog encyclopedias contradict each other. It partly depends on the owner, too. Corgis bark to herd. The Border Collie has the famous "stare," but the Corgi will try to move its sheep by barking while chasing. Check out the video above and you will see how a Corgi herds. He will also do the same to his toys in the beginning.
You can make Corgis bark when you want them to bark. I have the "speak" command that I use with my Corgi; when I say that word, he will bark. Also, he will bark when provoked: If you are playing and you "fake" throwing the ball, he will get irritated and bark.
When Corgis are desensitized to outside noises or people walking by, they can be very quiet. My Corgi will bark while playing sometimes, but when we are sitting outside on the porch or inside with him in front of the window, he will not respond to noises, cars, children yelling, other dogs barking, people talking or walking by. He watches them and stays quiet. He doesn't even respond to the doorbell. It might be that I have an exceptionally quiet Corgi, but I have heard from fellow Corgi owners who own both Corgis and other dog breeds at the same time that the other dog is usually the louder one.
What training method is best?
Corgis are very smart and fast learners. They have a good memory and will pick up new things very fast. They are a bit stubborn and sometimes it might seem like they are not getting it, but they are actually just bored. So make training sessions short and keep it interesting. They respond best to reward training/positive reinforcement. Corgis are very sensitive dogs and can shut down when you are too rough with them.
What's a good motivator for the Corgi?
Food! Corgis are extremely food-driven dogs, so food can be a good help when training your Corgi. On a side note: Be careful and measure their food intake every day, because they can become obese if they're eating too much.
What sports are they good at?
Corgis are excellent herding dogs—it is in their nature—so sheep herding would be a great thing to do with your Corgi. Agility is also something they are great at, because they are fast, have great endurance, and are very smart.
Corgis are basically compact dogs with the endurance, energy, and mentality of a bigger dog, the sense of humor of a clown, and the cuteness of a puppy throughout their entire lives.
Questions & Answers
© 2014 D. Lemaire