Does my Corgi puppy have a behavioral problem - too aggressive?

We added Sadie to our home on Friday, 04/10/09. She is 9 weeks old today and is so cute. I took her to her first vet check and the veternarian feels that she has a behavioral problem and is very concerned because I have a 4 year old son. Sadie did not act afraid of anyone or anything at the vet's office including the vet himself. She would jump up on him and ask for his attention, before and after his exam of her. However, while he was examining her, she growled furociously. That was the first trigger that concerned him. Then while visiting with me about injections, etc., he picked her up and was playing with her. After about 30 seconds, if that long, she began growling and snapped at him a couple of times. It was not at all playful behavior. There were times when he would hold her in a submissive position, i.e. on her back in his arms, and she would do fine. So we began to narrow it down to she mostly did it when he would rub her head, mostly around her ears. He checked real good around her ears and head to make sure there was no sore spots, lumps, or problems. I have never seen her act like this in the time we have had her. We have not played aggressive with her and I have tried to correct her from nipping, biting, or pulling at things with a firm NO and removal from the situation. The vet was concerned enough that he said he would not give her a shot today and let me think about our future with this puppy first. He was comparing her to all the puppies he sees everyday and says it has been a long time since he has seen one do what Sadie did and it is very rare. He is concerned for my son and/or any friends he might have over. Has anyone seen this kind of problem before or have any advice? Thanks.

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I agree with the observation that most vets have an anti-corgi bias. Corgis, for their part, don't seem to help their case much: Dooley is at his absolute worst at the vet and is quite the drama king about getting vaccines.
Corgis were bred to be brave, independent dogs, and to be wary of any possible 'danger.' Corgis NEVER back down to bullies, as evidenced recently by the killing of one of the Queen's corgis, who died trying to protect a child from a bull terrier.
Vets are just another type of bully in the eyes of a corgi. I went to the vet today for two vaccines for Dooley and was put off by her biased, rough demeanor. First, she muzzled Dooley for the simple fact that he was a corgi. "This is a very ornery breed..." Though I understand that as a vet, it's better safe than sorry when it comes to animal bites.
She also lectured me on my control over his behavior even though he was pleasant until they started sticking needles in him. I informed her that she alone brings out his worst behavior and that Dooley is a dream dog when DVMs aren't using him for target practice.
So, a shout out at anti-corgi vets: perhaps the problem is not the corgi. Perhaps it's you.
In (human) medical school, we are trained NOT to stereotype: every patient is unique. Imagine if doctors made stereotypical gross generalizations based on the patient's 'breed' (race, marital status, et al.) There would be lawsuits galore.
We are also trained to adapt to various situations to maximize patient comfort and compliance, especially with young children. If a child is upset over a shot, the parent may hold the child, or a nurse may be called in to hold and help calm the child. I can't imagine a physician upbraiding the parents becuase their toddler feared needles and rough handling by strangers intent on inflicting pain to the point of tears.
Yeah, Jack has always been good at the vet, but when he was a puppy my vet mentioned that a lot of them can be a little nasty. I was a little surprised because I'd met several and none were nippy, but then again my state is puppy mill central, and as a smaller breed, Corgis are sadly frequently bred by puppy mills. I have met several other Corgis since we got Jack, and for example, only one had its tail done correctly, and many of them are noticeably undersized.

As cattle dogs, Corgis are instinctively a mouthy, pushy breed. My experience is they are not dominant per se, but will try to push people around. My dog plays sooo rough with other dogs; he easily flips a 75 pound lab onto its back. And I think that because of those traits, if they are poorly bred or not really trained or not well socialized, they can likely be quite nippy. We had to train Jack not to jump and bite at us as a pup. I would go down the basement with him, where there is lots of empty space, and I would run and let him chase me. The second he nipped, that was it: game over. It only took him a few days to get the point. But with other dogs, he always bites when he's playing.
I wouldn't be too worried (not an expert) Owen is fine at the vet - happy to be there - unless you want to change a bandage or wip out a thermometer, then it is game ON! He is the same way with us clipping his nails or drying him with a towel. He has never bit us doing that but is SUPER dramatic about it. If you didn't know him (of if the vet didn't) you might think he was about ready to rip you a part. He is just very vocal. Honestly - I would growl defensively if they tried to take my temp that way too... He growls with that and then shakes the entire time until it is over. Our vet has handled and loves Corgis- so he just dismissed Owen's bad behavior as corgi drama. We don't let him boss us around with his paws and nails. It might take more time and effort but we win every time.. and Owen gets cookies.. very motivated :)
I see Amanda has not posted again. I hope she is still around, and I wonder how the puppy is doing?
On our get to know your vet appointment for Samantha she behaved very well up to the time the vet wanted to look at her teeth. She didn't like that one little bit, didn't try to bite or anything like that but just pulled away wouldn't let her look. She told us you are going to have to work hard at this with her. So I put my finger in Sami's mouth opened it up and said "Funny she doesn't mind when I do it, which tooth would you like to look at first. She LOVES to have her teeth brushed"! As far as being aggresive well as Wendy said and most definately did work with the pup as that is where our Sami came from. Heavens we play with her food while she is eating it or her goodies. So maybe take Wendy's advice and look into a trainer. What can it hurt you get good advice, learn how to work with your pup and peace of mind around your son and other small ones that come to visit. Good luck.
Lots of great advice!

We have a corgi pup that's 12 wks. old and also exhibited the same kind of behavior around 9 wks. He aggressively bit my husband on the chin when he was trying to correct him. (BTW, my husband's a vet :-)!) Pongo is completely fearless and plays hard with our 70 lb. lab, and 9 yr. old corgi. We made sure to let him know who's the boss by rolling him on his back and even growling at him! (Make sure you handle his paws and ears as often as possible too). He's much better now - albeit very spirited. Fortunately, our other dogs help keep him in line. He also goes to work at the vet clinic with us and hangs up front with the receptionists - who happen to be excellent at training!

You may want to get a trainer in to help out at this critical period to help out. Best of luck, but it doesn't seem like she's a lost cause by any means.
Jayne, I think it's awesome that your husband is a DVM who loves corgis! One of Dooley's littermates went to a vet's daughter...I wish I had a vet here in Iowa City who loved corgis. The two that I have seen in the practice I currently take Dooley to have both walked in the room and announced how nasty the breed is; my mom's vet and staff expressed a similar dislike of the breed.
I have heard tell of a very decent vet who works well with 'difficult' dogs. He is very expensive but I think he would be worth it. I just want to find a vet who can not only handle corgis, but likes them! The lady we see now is very a quiet, mild mannered type and I think the vocal bossiness of the corgis is upsetting to her.
Oh, also, when I brought Dooley home at 9 weeks, he was very mouthy and nippy. It took a few weeks of yipping in pain, saying 'no', and holding D on his side with a hand on his scruff, staring him down, for the behavior to cease completely.
But it is possible to 'nip' it in the bud!
Also, some children hate doctors (or anyone in a white coat) and begin crying as soon as you enter the room. Does anyone know if maybe corgis are worse at the vet when they are puppies and behave better when the get older?
Amanda, the vet told me that corgis are particular about having their ears and paws touched, and told me (at Dooley's 10 week checkup) that it would help if I frequently handled these parts. Dooley is very calm whenever I touch or squeeze his paws, and even lets me look in his ears with my otoscope, but at the vet it is a different story! Maybe your best bet is to switch vets; call around first and inform them of your corgi's anti-vet behavior and see if they seem eager to take on the challenge. Good luck!
This has turned into an interesting discussion about vets that don't like corgis. Our vet has a dachshund so I doubt if the corgis bother him. Some of the other vets that are just out of college are not so confident. (we have a vet school nearby) Our major drama dog, Sparty, would give any vet pause so I always ask for the owner for him. Any vets on this site care to comment on being biased and expressing it to an owner?? Corgis were bred to herd a 1 ton cow and only weigh 20 to 30 lbs so they really should be a little expressive! There are lots of other breeds with a worse rep and cats are usually a big problem so I just can not see corgis as such a big problem. I always have them muzzle Sparty just because he is such a baby and of course that means he has had to undergo many painful procedures over the years so the vet does not have his trust! They can't all be Labs!!
I'm puzzled by it myself. There's another Corgi in our therapy dog group, and she's as sweet as could be. We had a neighbor with two, and they were both angels. Between two breeders I visited, I met about 8 or 9 adults and all were pleasant.

They ARE nippy as puppies, very much so. I was raised with mostly soft-mouthed hunting dogs, and when I got Jack I was surprised at how hard he bit. I tried all the usual things to get him to stop and to no avail. I finally went online and came across an article from a trainer that said if you have a very nippy puppy, you might not be able to get them to stop biting all at once. What he recommended (and it worked for us) was to actually encourage the pup to bite on you, and tolerate biting that was about as much as you could handle without it really hurting, and when it got harder than that, say "No bite" and walk away. Then gradually, over days and weeks, say "no bite" at lighter and lighter pressure, til the dog will barely touch you with its teeth. Then and only then will you build up to the "no teeth on me" rule. This worked so well with us that you can now play mouth games with Jack (using your hand the way a dog would use its mouth) and he is gentle as a lamb, and as soon as you say "enough" he stops.

Basically, the trainer's point was that for a very mouthy dog, they may need to learn bite inhibition before you can work on "no biting" at all.

I wonder if it is this nippiness, and owners that don't correct it, that makes vets think they are nasty? Also, as you say, they are cattle dogs, so stubbornness is born into them. One other thing we noticed is that Jack frequently grumbles at us. It is not a teeth-baring growl, not really a growl at all, but to someone who did not know him it sure SOUNDS like a growl. I was watching The Dog Whisperer once, and they had on an Australian Cattle Dog mix that was making the same sort of grumbles. Caesar quickly pointed out that the dog was NOT growling. He said cattle dogs are very vocal, and let you know whatever they are thinking, and the dog was not growling as a threat but simply grumbling to let everyone know he was not pleased. Caesar also said that if people then respond fearfully to the dog, as if it were growling, it can actually alarm the dog and sometimes cause it to escalate to genuine aggression. I wonder if this grumbling and the sharp Corgi yaps puts off the vets?

The final thing I can think of is that our guy HATES to be held still. When he was a puppy, if you tried to hold him tight (to tape his ears, do his nails) he would panic and fight to get loose, and scream the whole time. That could also be offputting to a vet. I know when Jack got neutered, when we picked him up he had made friends with everyone in the joint and they loved him, but the tech mentioned that he wigged out when they went to hold him still to draw blood. Our vet is a very doggy person (owns several herself) and she apparently instructed everyone to NOT hold him still, but just steady his head, and he was fine. But I imagine a different vet who tried a more forceful approach might have had an unhappier outcome.
My dogs have always been very good at the vets -- and the vets and vet techs ALWAYS comment on it, as if it were unusual. Mine are the only Corgis I've known well, so didn't know they had this reputation among vets. But I have seen 3 vets -- one in Manhattan and one here in CT, both of whom believe Corgis to be nippy and nasty. The third I went to see because she HAS Corgis herself -- so she had no such beliefs at all. But Bertie has a big notice on his vet file that says GOOD DOG, because even when they shaved his incredibly painful hot spot, he just stood there stoically, didn't even whimper or turn his head, much less nip at anyone.
My other two corgis, Izzy and Buffy, would never dream of snarling at anyone much less bite. So for us Sparty is the exception! Buffy had a lot of pain and illness in her short life but her main problem at the vet was that she was so stoic that you could not always tell what was hurting her. Sparty can yelp like a banshee if he even sees the toe nail clippers. However, they all have been talkative. Buffy used to make pig noises and Izzy yaks.
This sounds like a pup that has confidence problems. It is important as part of raising a pup that we teach them gently that it is ok to be handled and sometimes restrained. All to frequently I have seen vets that interact with an animal far too quickly causing this sort of response. Most vets truly have little knowledge about dog behavior. His decision was based on a dog that was frightened and in a different environment. Not a fair assessment.
On the flip side this should alert you that your pup may have some challenges with her comfort level with other people and being handled. I think it would be a grand idea to start some new routines in her life. I am thrilled when a pup will let you lay them on their back but I do not find this imperative. My best working dog never tolerated it without tension. What is more important is to be able to examine each part of their body. You should handle ears, be able to wipe eyes, open their lips and touch their teeth, handle their paws and feel every part of them. Daily practice would be great. This will also help you be most aware of any changes, lumps, bumps, ticks etc. When the pup is fully vaccinated I suggest an obedience class. Visit more people, go more places and let your pup get used to many new things. My dogs are great at the vet. I attribute that to much early handling and socialization. Good luck!


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