I've always loved both corgi breeds and when I originally set out to get my first corgi it was suggested I get a Cardigan as they are typically more laid-back. I wanted to go full-throttle so I got a Pembroke. Bernie was quite an adventure for a first-time dog owner. She still keeps me on my toes thinking ahead and taught me a lot as a dog trainer.
My second corgi came from the same breeder and we got a gorgeous male tri-color. He is laid-back but loves to play. He makes the perfect combination for a consistent agility dog. He learns things pretty quickly and loves to play agility even when he's tired. I'm lucky he also likes water so much that we've had some fun learning dock diving too.
The last month or so, while preparing Basil for competition later this year, the inkling of a Cardigan puppy has kept popping into my mind. One Sunday afternoon on a whim I did a bit of research and e-mailed a few breeders to get some feelers out there. I found a good one that fit way more than my usual criteria and may end up getting a puppy from her later this year if the breeding goes as planned.
I wanted to share what my process is for finding a good performance dog breeder since it is a bit more robust than the typical pet dog owner looking for a breeder.
- I will only go with a breeder that does extensive health and genetic checks.
- This will include checks on hips, elbows, eyes, knees, thyroid, cardiac, spine and degenerative myelopathy. For some people this may be complete overkill but I want my agility dog to have the potential to run with me for years and be very sound. For hips, elbows and knees I prefer a breeder to do both an OFA check and a PENN-HIP check as one seems to catch things that the other might miss since they are tested differently.
- Dogs must test OFA Good or Excellent in the breeding program for me to consider getting puppies from that litter. I don't agree with breeders that breed dogs that rate OFA fair or worse, especially for performance dogs.
- I will only go with a breeder that understands the importance of socialization at an early age.
- The Early Neurological Simulation program is very important and useful for agility dogs that need to learn how to deal with walking on different surfaces, hearing different sounds and coping with stressful situations.
- Socialization needs to begin at the breeders home before the puppy even goes to the owner. The puppy should come into contact with as many strange men, women and children as safely possible prior to arriving at the new owners home. Puppies should be exposed to new situations on a daily basis (sheep, loud cars, men shouting during a football game, bicycles, playing children, cats, horses, grocery stores, etc.). Breeders that take the time to do this are giving new owners an INVALUABLE asset in the new puppy that can never be trained later in life. Puppies socialized at an early age have an easier time dealing with new or scary situations than puppies that were kept in sterile environments the first 8 weeks of life.
- I will only go with a breeder that understands the disposition needed for a good agility (or other performance event) dog
- Attitude is everything. If the puppy isn't motivated to tug or take food it is going to be difficult to train agility. You need lots of drive in the puppy to keep going on a course. Performance dogs tend to be very smart and want to explore everything. They typically tend to be one of the more outgoing dogs of the litter.
- You want to make sure the breeder has a temperament testing program in place so she can decide which puppy would be more suited towards performance in the venue you want to compete in. A puppy for agility may rate completely differently on a temperament test than a puppy for obedience. A good breeder will be able to observe the puppies and tell the difference.
- Some breeders use the Volhard Temperament Test to assess the dogs.
- I will only go with a breeder that shows her own breeding stock in conformation or another venue
- A breeder that understands good conformation is important. If the breeder doesn't show her dogs that should always be a warning sign for a buyer looking for a performance dog.
- Bonus points to breeders that do conformation along with other sports like obedience, herding, agility, tracking, etc.
- As far as agility goes, titles are not as important as course run times. You should ask for course run times and compare them to other Cardigans that regularly place highly in national and invitational competitions to get an idea where their breeding stock is. Titles come in second after speed. Ultimately you want the combination of a fast, consistent dog and not all dogs have both.
- I will only go with a breeder that understands the build necessary for a healthy performance dog
- Agility dogs are usually built a bit differently than conformation dogs. You want a sleek, fast dog. Some conformation dogs are heavier
boned and muscled than what would be safe for a performance dog. Angulation and layback are important for a breeder to understand and recognize in a puppy what will be healthy in the long-term and what will not.
- I will only go with a breeder that I have a good dialogue and rapport with.
- This may seem obvious but situations crop up during breeding and sometimes you may have to take a puppy on a co-ownership contract with a breeder if it turns out the puppy is excellent. Breeders generally keep the best dogs of the litter for themselves. Occasionally they will sell the puppy and request that the owner keep the dog or bitch intact so they can look at it as it gets a bit older and see if it looks good enough to continue in their breeding program. If you have a good relationship with a breeder this will be a great opportunity for you. Co-ownership comes with it's own set of challenges so I would caution that you should only do this if you really trust the breeder you are co-owning with in case decisions have to be made to neuter a dog due to behavioral or health problems.
A great article was written detailing what to look for in an agility Cardigan
. It has pictures so you can visualize what to get and what to avoid. :)