I've been wanting to write this for awhile and just found the time. I hope people find it helpful. I've gathered my information from personal experience, the stories of people on this site, and some reputable breed resources.
We regularly get people asking if a Corgi is the right dog for them, so I'm hoping this can help people see what it's like to live with Corgis. I have focused on the issues that might be problematic for some people or situations, with the most focus on those issues about which new Corgi owners (and some experienced ones) frequently ask advice. Feel free to add comments with anything I might have missed (and I'm sure I missed plenty!) Thanks!
So you think you want a Corgi.
Who can resist a Corgi? With that foxy face, stubby legs, and bunny butt they are cute as can be. Pick up a book on dog breeds, or visit a breed-selector web site, and you will find that Corgis 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 don’t require acres of running room. 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?
Corgis have several breed traits that can cause problems for many homes, and here on MyCorgi we have seen more than a few cases of people needing to rehome their pets because of typical breed behavior that the owner had trouble handling. Here are some of the Corgi traits that all future owners should be aware of:
Almost all dogs bark. Corgis 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 Corgis 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.
He may also bark to let you know you left a light on, there’s a dirty dish on a counter, it’s ten minutes past bedtime, or that you forgot to give him his after-dinner treat.
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.
Corgis 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 Corgis 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 Corgis 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 that many Corgi owners refer to affectionately as “Wookie” or “Chewbacca” noises.
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. Corgis 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.
Corgis’ short legs are a problem here 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 Corgis. All will need regular walks and some playtime and training to be happy. Many Corgis need much more than that. Some are almost impossible to tire out, and young Corgis (under 2) may never stop moving. One of mine can go for a two-hour off-leash hike, take a thirty-minute power nap, and start dropping tennis balls at my feet to play. Corgis like this need to learn some sort of “settle” or “enough” command or you won’t have any peace, and quite a few Corgis need a job (agility, herding, competition-level obedience) 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.
My own experience is with Pembrokes and my understanding is that Cardigans can be a little bit more laid-back in energy level.
Need to be with you:
Corgis 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 Corgis 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 Corgis 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. If your family likes to spend evenings scattered in different rooms, you may want to consider a different breed.
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 Corgis learn new behaviors easily, which means it won’t be hard to teach her to sit, stay, and come when called. It also means she’ll learn that you can’t catch her if she’s not on a leash and runs the other way. She’ll remember that you stashed her favorite tug toy in the laundry room. She won’t forget that the last time you made chicken you gave her a piece and she’ll start drooling every time you make chicken. She may make associations you do not want her to make and learn in which situations you make her listen and in which ones you don’t follow through.
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 Corgis can sometimes be bossy. Corgis 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. Corgis 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. Corgis 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 just 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.
My Livvy has an extremely high herding instinct and wants to control every other dog along with the goats. This has been a battle but we have learned to exercise her 2-3 times as much as the others to run off the energy. She's a lover but when she gets excited she wants to be in control and also barks continuesly.The others ignore her. Livvy is high maintenance but worth it, For an inexperienced owner this would be very difficult For a dog owner that wants a mellow dog this wouldn't work either.
Great discussion on the pros/cons of corgis... lol...I can definitely relate to a lot of it. When we adopted our corgi a year ago it became clear fairly quickly that we needed help to learn how to manage/train him ;-> Not that he was a bad dog, just that we didn't have enough knowledge of the "corgi mind" to train him on our own.
I think one of the biggest differences that we noticed from our previous dogs (which were labs or lab mixes) is that our corgi is much more independent and shall I say, mercenary. Whereas our labs were always eager to please Chewey often gives us the "what's in it for me" look when we ask him to do something. Not sure if that's typical or not. Fortunately he is _very_ food motivated so that has saved us...
Many of you may have already seen the article "The Truth About Corgis" that's on the Golden Gate Corgi's web-site.. but if you haven't and you are a corgi lover you should definitely read it. It's hysterical (and all too true!).
Do you have the time and can you be consistant? Corgis are fairly easy to train if you can set out the rules and gently but firmly let them know what you want. Since they are so smart they can also figure out ways of getting around what you are asking and if you let things go they will do what they want.I believe a well trained Corgi is much happier.
I always suggest at least one obedience class. This helps everyone get on the same page as it is me who sometimes has needed the training just as much as the dog.
Even though all of this is 100% truth, I couldn't help but to grin while reading this list. Not because I wasn't expecting all of these things before getting Ellie, but because she fits the corgi stereotype almost to the letter! She loves to bark at a rolling ball (herding instinct, check!), she barks incessantly at Yuki when he has a toy or if he's playing while she's in her crate (bossy, check!), she makes all sorts of noises if she's in her crate and wants something (corgi vocals, check!). After being let on the couch just once she assumes she is entitled to hop up whenever she wants, especially if we have guests over and I'm not paying attention (intelligence, check!). She will play fetch, literally, for as long as you're willing to continue throwing that ball (high energy, check!). And just yesterday, as I was bringing her in from a romp in the mud, she shook herself and I saw puppy fur flying everywhere (shedding, check!)
I knew all this before I brought her home. I'd have to be completely insane to never be even just a little bothered by the barking or shedding, especially when we have guests over and a corgi-and-eskimo-dog-fur tumbleweed goes floating right by us as the dogs frap and bark through the house. But you know what? I absolutely love her and all of the quirks and hard work that come with her. People should view owning a dog (or any pet, for that matter!) the same as having children. You have a lot of work and a lot of responsibilities when you're caring for another, but the love and laughter that you receive back is more than worth it!
The bossiness fit Scout to a tee. LOL She's not barky at all, but pretty much does everything on that list. And I also get comments on how clean she looks when I go out. And the most grooming I do is brush her.
I loved this post! I agree with everything! They are a breed apart and you have to be willing to understand their needs and wants. I love my babies more then I thought I could love a "dog". But people do have to know what they are getting with corgis or any other breed!
I just commented to a friend that I am worried that the new corgi fad was going to lead to many homeless corgis. I will readily admit to knowing nothing about corgis other than the herding instinct when I decided to get one- I waited until the kids were older. We have been lucky. Snickers is not a barker or a shedder. Her energy level is reasonable- but then we had a Jack Russell before her, so maybe that is relative. Snickers' favorite game is for us to throw the ball for Jack Spaniels, so she can chase Jack. If he doesn't run fast enough, she nips his ankles. He is so sweet and gentle he would never retaliate- he sits down to protect his back legs and whines. I started using a water gun and she is getting better about hurting him. Both Jack and Snickers will nip fingers when grabbing for a treat (so much for the soft mouth bird dog). Dolly on the other hand will sniff the treat and then very slowly take the treat with her tongue and lips- her teeth will never touch you. Her mouth must be the Pekenese part! LOL
This was great! I thought the random appearance of dirt was the consequence of having a fluffy. Good mother of corgi does that dog bring in a lot of dirt. And yes, he LOVES to bark.
As for pushy, yeah, he's super pushy. Especially how he plays with other dogs. No idea when he's going to learn to not be so pushy other than by trial and error. He will insist on a dog playing with him even after the dog has made multiple attempts to make it clear that they don't want to play.
Loved this! Excellent job, Beth!
I love this discussion and have bookmarked it so I can give it to anyone I see that is thinking about getting a corgi. I have just recently been getting more and more involved in helping displaced corgis and its just ridiculous how many people take home corgis that just have NO idea what they are getting into. Thanks for all your work on this Beth!!
Great idea Chris...I just did the same but would have never thought of it:)
This made me laugh, and made me realize how much I love my corgis for all these traits! Thank you so much for writing it, as I know some people that would never have this breed because of the above mentioned. Hopefully it will help decrease the dogs in shelters!