So, you think you want a Corgi?
Who can resist a Corgi?
With that foxy face, stubby legs (and bunny butt for the Pembroke's) they are cute as can be. Pick up a book on dog breeds, or visit a breed-selector website, and you will find that Corgi's are smart, easy-to-train, and have an easy-care, dirt-repelling coat. They are loyal to their people, can live peacefully with other animals, are good watch dogs and so on...
Toss in a convenient size and the fact that they can be happy in most climates, and they sound like the perfect dog. But no dog is right for everyone. The question is, is the Corgi the right dog for you? Corgi's have several breed traits that can cause problems for many homes. Here is some of the typical breed behaviour that all future owners should be aware of:
Almost all dogs bark. Corgi's bark a lot. If you have never lived with dogs that bark a lot, you may want to spend some time in the home of someone with a barking breed to see if you can live with it. It’s true that many Corgi's make excellent watchdogs. As herding and farm dogs, one of their historic jobs was to notice anything “different” and alert the owners. This means your Corgi is likely to bark if someone walks up your sidewalk or if a stray cat starts digging up your flowerbeds. Your Corgi may also alert you if your neighbor left a gate open, if a car is parked on the opposite side of the street from its usual spot, or if the wind is rattling your gutter. He may bark to warn you that someone is entering your neighbor’s house--- and oh yes, it IS your neighbor. He might be best friends with the Labrador up the street, but that won’t stop him from barking to warn you that the Labrador is walking past your house.
While you may be able to train your Corgi to stop barking on command, you may never stop him from giving the initial warning. His job is to let you know something is different, and your job is to see if the thing that’s different is threatening. He may not stop barking until you acknowledge what he saw or heard, which might be fine at lunchtime but is not as fun at 3am. Corgi's also tend to bark when playing. As cattle- and geese-drovers, they moved their stock by nipping at their legs and barking. Because of this history, many Corgi's bark when things move, or to get things to move. So they may bark at a thrown tennis ball, bark to get you to throw the Frisbee, or bark whenever other dogs run. This type of motion-activated barking can be difficult to control and almost impossible to eliminate. Finally, many Corgi's are “talkers” who use a wide range of vocalizations to express any number of opinions or to get your attention. Corgi vocalizations may include low woofs, whines, grumbles, short howls, and a series of whining grunts.
The bottom line is, if you don’t like barking dogs, don’t get a Corgi...
Nipping falls into two categories.
The first is nipping at legs. This comes from the herding background of a Corgi. The behavior is easy to stop in puppies (if you want to participate in herding with your Corgi, please consult a herding trainer before training this out of your Corgi pup, since you can eliminate the herding tendency completely if you handle this the wrong way.) If a Corgi has reached adulthood with the nipping behavior still present, it can be harder to stop, but it can be done. Before you get a Corgi puppy, you should be prepared to deal with this behavior appropriately.
The other type of nipping is puppy play-biting. Just about all puppies must be taught that it’s not ok to bite people in play; dogs bite each other in play and this behavior is normal. The difference is that compared to most gun dogs and some other soft-mouthed breeds, many Corgi puppies bite hard. This type of biting is easy enough to stop if you are diligent and consistent, but in some puppies the behavior can take weeks or more to eliminate. If you have frail people in your home, people who are afraid of dogs, or small children who you won’t be able to keep away from the puppy during the training process, a Corgi puppy may not be for you. An adult or older puppy may be a better choice.
That weather-resistant double coat comes with a price.
Corgi's shed a lot. I mean a lot. Most dogs shed, but double coated breeds blow coat once or twice a year, and the Corgi undercoat is very dense. You may see a tiny eighth-inch clump of dead hair sticking out of your Corgi and give it a tug only to find yourself holding a two-inch chunk in your hand as the loosed undercoat expands. When your Corgi is shedding, you will find wafting balls of hair in corners and under furniture. And on your clothes. And in your food. No amount of brushing will prevent this because the hair just keeps coming until your dog has no undercoat left. You will wonder how a dog can lose so much hair and still have a full coat on his body. In addition, light shedding can be expected year-round.
The other issue is that the Corgi coat is truly amazing at repelling dirt. We get regular compliments on how well groomed our dogs are, yet the fact is that except when they are blowing coat I only brush them once a week for perhaps three minutes each. Their colored bits gleam and their white parts are spotless. They can run through the mud and within ten minutes there is hardly a spot on them, and what is left can easily be brushed off. They only need a bath if they roll in something that smells. What is the downside to this? The downside is the Corgi coat picks up dirt in one place (outside) and deposits it somewhere else (on your floor). You will bring your Corgi in from a walk, and she will lie on the floor, and ten minutes later when she gets up there will be a fine sifting of grit on the ground that came off her belly. Their short legs are a problem too. Corgi bellies always get wet. In the summer they get wet from dew. In the spring and fall it’s from rain, and in the winter from snow. If having a towel hanging near the door all year is something that doesn’t appeal to you, don’t get a Corgi. If a clean house is important to you, then another breed might suit you better.
Energy level varies widely between individual Corgi's. All will need regular walks and some playtime and training to be happy. But, many Corgi's need much more than that. Some are almost impossible to tire out, and young Corgi's (under 2) may never stop moving. Our Jazz can go for a two-hour off-leash hike, take a thirty-minute power nap, and start dropping tennisballs at my feet to play. Corgi's like this need to learn some sort of “settle” or “enough” command or you won’t have any peace, and quite a few Corgi's need a job (herding, competition-level obedience, agility) to be happy. Their bossiness (see below) and tendency to bark (see above) can make a Corgi with unspent energy very difficult to live with.
Many people who say they like smart dogs have never owned one! Having a Corgi means making sure you always stay one step ahead of her. Most Corgi's learn new behaviors easily, which means it won’t be hard to teach them to "sit", "stay", and "come" when called. It also means they’ll learn that you can’t catch them if they’re not on a leash and run the other way. They’ll remember that you stashed their favorite tug toy in the laundry room. They won’t forget that the last time you made chicken you gave them a piece and they’ll start drooling every time you make chicken. They may make associations you do not want them to make and learn in which situations you make them listen and in which ones you don’t follow through.
NEED TO BE WITH YOU
Corgi's in general are not prone to separation anxiety when you are out of the home (any dog can develop this, but some breeds are more prone than others).
However, when you are home your Corgi will want to be with you. Most Corgi's don’t like being left in a yard alone. They will follow you around the house, helping you cook, do laundry, and even take a shower if you let them. They also don’t like if their people are scattered through the house. Most Corgi's want everyone to be in one place at one time and may act anxious or unhappy if someone is upstairs and someone else is downstairs. This behavior is common to many herding breeds and its intensity varies from individual to individual.
When you go out, they want to be with you even more! Whatever you're up to, as long as it involves them, they're happy! A trip out in the woods, a hike, to the sea, visiting grandma, going swimming, going on a holiday or even just going shopping!
Bossiness is not the same thing as dominance. Cows and geese are stubborn and can be aggressive, and a Corgi that backed down when confronted was a dog that could not do its job. Even submissive, people-pleasing Corgi's can sometimes be bossy. Corgi's may talk back, exhibit “selective hearing,” bark to demand treats or play, or shove you with a nose or paw to get you to move in a certain direction or pet them on command. Corgi's do not tolerate manhandling, but they do require owners who are consistent and don’t give in to all their demands. Even a submissive Corgi can become a pushy, domineering brat if you don’t show him that you are a calm, effective leader who does not let the dog make all the decisions. Those of us who love Corgis find them endearing and the bossiness amusing, but some common Corgi bossy behaviors include planting feet on walks and refusing to move if you choose a different direction than the Corgi wanted to travel; barking incessantly to demand play-time; and pawing/nudging for belly rubs. If it is important to you that your dog be obedient and deferential most of the time, don’t get a Corgi.
Remember that hard-wired breed behaviors are difficult or impossible to eliminate and physical attributes can’t be changed, so if you get a Corgi you should be comfortable living with these things for the life of the dog. Corgi's were bred to be independent problem-solvers who could work for hours. It is unfair to own a Corgi and not provide her a healthy outlet for that type of energy.
If you read this and thought “How funny! That’s what I’m looking for!” then welcome to the large club of Corgi-lovers.
If not, then admire them from afar and continue your search until you find the breed that’s perfect for you.