I've seen a lot of mention of leg length as being the difference between the "show" corgi and the "working" or "old style" corgi. There's a strong implication that a longer leg makes a more "herdy" or "historic" corgi and is somehow healthier than the show-type corgi.

Leg length is NOT what you should be worrying about.

Leg length allows the dog to take longer strides IF all else is equal (if joint angles are equal and so on). So, yes, a Border Collie will take longer strides than a corgi. If what you care about is taking longer strides, I'd strongly suggest that you go get a different breed, but I honestly don't get heated about the absolute length of a corgi's legs.

What I see as very troubling is the trend toward breeding CARELESSLY and then saying that what a person is producing is a "working-type" corgi. Dogs always, always move toward the generic. Any time you stop breeding to the standard, the back shortens, the neck get shorter, the legs lengthen, the head becomes larger and plainer. That's not a legitimate choice where a breeder has decided that a particular feature is desirable; that's a breeder producing a poorly bred puppy and then saying that it's going to be healthier because it doesn't look like a show dog anymore. 

So let's TOTALLY ignore leg length and look at what you must insist on to know that you have a good, sound dog regardless of breed, and why I said earlier that when early breeders found the Pems they started with they knew they had lots of work to do.

Here's a show-type Pem. 

The first thing you should do - and this is not a corgi-specific evaluation; it's something we're taught to do in any breed - is to draw a line from the elbow through the shoulder, and another line across the topline.

In a good, sound dog, the entire head and most if not all of the neck should be both above and in front of the lines you draw.

The next thing you do is draw a line up through the middle of the front paw and toward the sky. This is the line of weight bearing on the heaviest part of the body. That line should look like it is through the front part of the body, NOT through the neck.

The next step is to make sure the dog can take good deep breaths and get lots of oxygen. The rib on a corgi should end more than half-way down the body.

Finally, you want a dog who is "balanced" - the angle formed by the shoulder joining the upper arm should be roughly like the angle formed by the femur joining the knee (in dogs we call it the stifle). On this lovely bitch you can see that the angles are very similar (it's normal for the rear angle to be turned a little bit; they're not supposed to be identical in inclination, but in the openness of the triangle).

Let's look at one of the early corgis, Ch. Rozavel Red Dragon.

Divide him in fourths first.

Do you see how much shorter his neck is, how much more upright the whole shoulder and front assembly is? His head is barely out of that quadrant and most of his neck is under it.

The weight-bearing line:

His front leg supports his neck, not the big mass of weight that is formed by the front half of his body. You should be able to see now why it is that his topline sags in the middle - if his shoulder and arm were set further back, the topline would be straight.


His rib is just slightly past the middle of his body; not as good as the modern corgi.

And balance of angles:

He's not badly balanced, but there are two things that worry me - the angle in the rear is appreciably more open than 90 degrees, which means that the "hinge" of his leg was already open. He's not going to be able to get much more drive from the powerhouse of the rear than he's got at a standstill; he'll have to move from the hip instead of from the knee. Second, see how very much shorter the upper arm is than the shoulder? The upper arm should be as close to the same length as the shoulder as it possibly can be. 

If someone is trying to sell you a "working" corgi, ignore the leg length. Ask for an eye-level stacked photo - you CAN get any dog to stack; put them on a stone wall or a countertop and they'll stand still - and draw these same lines on them. If the dog is sound, the lines won't lie. You should see a good straight topline that's created by a well-angled front that supports the body, not the neck. You should see lots of "hinge" created by a front and rear that are at 90-degree angles or very close to them. You should see a long arm, not a short one. You should see a good long rib. You should see a head and neck that are well up off the body. A dog built like that will be able to move easily and efficiently, and won't break down with activity. Leg length, in the end, means very little. 

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This was very interesting and extremely informative! I appreciate it :)
Thank you Joanna, excellent information.
Having come from horses, I know enough to know that conformation is the starting place, not the finishing place. Horses are much more fragile, physically, than dogs. Conformation is how you judge your young stock's potential, but the proof is in the pudding and breeding stock for horses is generally chosen based on performance, or performance of very close relatives. And yes, that means that individuals within a breed have much more variability in form than we see in the dog-show world.
It would be very interesting indeed if todays show dogs also had to have working titles(if said breed is a working class) to go along with the show titles, they prob. would be different than the show dogs of today(please keep in mind that I don't breed, show or work my dogs) But from being a companion owner only looks really aren't all that important to me as health and temperment is. I want my corgi's to look like corgi's but 1 inch in leg height is not important or a plain head, I wouldn't even know if my current corgi's have plain heads anyways, they are beatifull to me =) So I would hope that temperment and health rise above all else in the furture breeders minds that I'll be adopting corgi's from in the next 50 years or so.
I COMPLETELY agree with this! I just wrote a blog about my adventure finding a good performance Cardigan breeder.

A performance dog is built differently than a conformation dog for good reason, like you said.

My breeder wrote a pretty good article about the build and attitude of a Cardigan. You may find it interesting to read. Your thoughts would be appreciated!

Honestly... er, maybe I'm getting something different out of your pdf there, or misunderstanding who you're agreeing with.

But looking at the dogs, the dogs she picks for agility prospects are the pups I'd pick to show and for the same reasons. :) Total package - not over angulated. Not turning out. Not too low or too high on the leg. A performance dog is built the same as a good conformation dog -- in fact, she even says that cosmetic faults (such as being a fluffy, or having a bad ear set) often get you a really nice dog that won't cut it in the show ring, but is an excellent prospect.

In fact, her opening paragraph is spot on to what I think personally. :)

The structure of the agility prospect should
not be too different from the structure of a conformation prospect. Many breeders are
reluctant to let puppies go to performance homes that have the correct structure for
conformation showing (and therefore agility competition) but it is possible to find a
Cardigan puppy (with a fault such as mismark, fluffy coat, bite that has gone off or
cryptorchid) with excellent structure that may be available to you. Otherwise, you can
possibly obtain the puppy you need by committing to finish his/her championship title.
Let me stress that your puppy should NOT be a conformation reject, but should fit the
standard of the breed as closely as possible, with the possible exception of size, as
explained later, and the cosmetic features already described

So basically, what she's saying is a performance dog should be pretty darn close to the breed standard, and that the one thing you should look for for sure is NOT an oversized dog, which I do agree with wholeheartedly.
For what I'm doing with agility yes, a dog not too long in leg is important and definitely not an oversized dog. I actually want a lower dog that will measure short enough to qualify for 8" jump height in AKC, CPE and NADAC.

If you are planning on competing in Worlds then you need a dog taller in leg. It depends on the venue you know you are going to compete in. (This is probably why you hardly ever see a corgi on the World Team because for most corgis 14" would be too high for them to jump over and over again for years).

It can vary but size is most important when looking for a working dog. Some pems and cardis are just too big to be doing agility safely because conformation dogs are generally kept bigger.

The big part in her article is attitude and temperament for a working dog and what to look for.
Nancy evaluated Bronte's litter last year; she's lovely, isn't she?

I completely agree with her that top agility prospects meet the standard. They may be a little lighter in bone (or "less dog" all around) but they should be the beautiful movers with sound construction that would woo a good judge were they put in the ring despite their color or coat or whatever reason they didn't become show dogs.

In terms of competing at Worlds, I have an issue with the way the whole thing is done; there's absolutely no reason a tiny dog should have to train at 14 inches (that's the thing that hurts them - the repetitive training - not the ten or fifteen jumps they do in actual competition) and I honestly wonder how much of it is based on a flashy performance (little dogs jumping reeeeeaaaaallllly big) when agility is supposed to be the equivalent of horse cross-country (testing speed, flexibility, conformation, and brain), NOT the equivalent of horse show-jumping (let's make them take a five-foot fence so we can gasp).

I also think - and this is my honest opinion - that there are breeds that are suited to agility and some that are not, and maybe if you want to be at Worlds you need to reconsider buying a dwarfed dog. Nobody should be breeding Irish Wolfhounds so they're short-coupled and under 80 lb; a breeder who does that is a BAD Irish Wolfhound breeder, even if their dogs do great in the agility ring. I am not going to produce a Cardigan who can consistently train at 14 inches, just plain not going to do it, because I would have to change the body structure of the dog so much that it would no longer be suitable for its "real" job.
I agree. I think the 14" jump height is too high for a lot of dogs. Likewise the other two jump heights at Worlds.

I'm an agility instructor and I can't tell you the number of times I have to repeat myself to clients telling them to set the bars lower for practice due to the number of repetitions done. Despite me explaining about growth plates and trying to keep a dog healthy for many years I still have clients putting bars up higher because, "He jumps over the couch at home and that is twice as high as this! I know he can do it!" There are some nights when I just want to bang my head into the A-frame. Owners with puppies under 12 months of age are the worst when you put bars on the ground.

Like I said, I don't want to go at Worlds I'm just saying - a Pem bred with longer leg could certainly do it (and will be doing it later this year) but I would question the overall structure of the dog and how sound they were.

My first Pem is really tall for a corgi but has shoulder issues that I'm still looking into. I wonder if any of it has to do with the way she's carrying weight in the front. Just had her x-rays transferred to a new vet for a second opinion.
Also wanted to add:

Some breeds can be close to conformation to be a healthy build for performance and other breeds need to be further away from that build. If you look at border collies that have great run times in agility they are much sleeker than those you see trotting around a conformation ring. Same with shelties.

I think I got two ideas mixed there while posting my original comment, hence the confusion with the PDF. It has been a long week.
Ah ha! I see... That makes more sense to me. Thank you, Magnolia. :)

No problem -- long week here too. ;) Here's to the weekend!
It's true, the job of the corgi has evolved. Al & Gwynn might not know which end of a sheep is which, but they do have the temperament, drive and character for their current occupation:

corgwyn at work today



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