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Corgi

The Corgi is among the most recognizable and agreeable of all of the small house dog breeds.

When you think Corgi, you are probably referring to the Pembroke Welsh Corgi. It is in fact, a close cousin to the Cardigan Corgi, and was originally bred to herd sheep, cattle, and horses.

You have probably seen these adorable dogs in the award-winning series “The Crown” where a young Queen Elizabeth II is surrounded by pups of this breed, which have been her favorites ever since the 1930s.

In Wales, there is a folklore tale about the origin of the Corgi, and it suggests that Corgis were used by fairies and elves for pulling their carriages, or for riding them, which is another reason why this Welsh dog breed is so special and magical.

Corgis are perfect pets for apartments, as well as for homes with children, other dogs, cats, or other pets. They are incredibly smart, easy to train, and are among the top 15 most popular dog breeds in the USA.

Read on to find out more about these happy-go-lucky dwarf dogs.

Highlights

Temperament: intelligent, alert, loving

Height at the shoulder: 10-12 inches

Weight: up to 30 lbs. for males, and up to 28 lbs. for females

Life expectancy: 12-14 years

Breed Group: Herding Group

About the breed

Corgi means “Dwarf dog” in Welsh, and the Pembroke Welsh Corgi is just that – a real dwarf dog.

It is one of the two Corgi breeds and originated in Pembrokeshire in Wales. The other Corgi breed is the Cardigan Welsh Corgi.

Both Corgi breeds have long and heavy bodies on top of short but thick legs, large heads and upright ears. The Cardigans are slightly heavier and can weigh up to 38 lbs., and have long foxlike tails unlike the Pembroke Welsh Corgis which have tails docked close to their bodies.

The Pembroke can be sable, red, and tricolored (black, tan and red), while the Cardigan corgi can also be black and white with brindle or tan, blue merle, sable and red with white markings or brindle.

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi was developed to be a cattle herding dog in Wales, and it is the newer of the two Corgi breeds.

Reaching a height of only up to 10-12 inches, the Corgi may have short legs, but it is truly athletic, pretty strong and an agile and capable small-sized herding dog. In fact, it is the epitome of the saying “a big dog in a small package.” After all, they were developed to do hard work and herd and move cattle, sheep, and horses.

The dogs from this breed are highly agreeable and affectionate companion dogs, but without being too pushy or needy.

The Cardigan Corgis are believed to have descended from dogs brought by Celtic tribes to Wales in 1200 BC which were German Teckels – the ancestors of the Dachshund.

The more popular Pembroke Welsh Corgis descended from the Nordic Spitz-type dogs which were brought to Wales by the Vikings in 1000 AD.

Today, the Pembroke is the better known of both types of Corgis, and is commonly referred to as “Corgi”.

It is currently the 13th most popular dog breed in the USA and is also the 11th most intelligent dog breed in the world.

Pembrokes are sensitive and bright pups which are easy to train if you can bypass their streak of stubbornness. They are also great with children and loving family pets.

At the same time, they are highly capable herding dogs and vigilant and alert watchdogs. They are the smallest of all the herding dogs which are currently registered with the American Kennel Club.

These dwarf dogs are active and very sturdily built, and have keen and intelligent expressions. Corgis should never be fearful shy or aggressive.

Corgis have a big dog bark, and they love to use their voice, so keep that in mind if you live in an apartment building and want a quiet dog.

Their strong herding instincts can cause them to want to herd anything and anyone including kids. They usually nip the heels of the people or animals which they are trying to herd, which is another thing to keep in mind when adopting or buying a Corgi.

Although they adapt very well to apartment and city-dwelling, and they are considered small dogs, Pembroke Welsh Corgis do require exercise every day. Daily activity is also essential to keep the Corgi fit because this dog breed is prone to overeating and becoming obese.

Corgis have weatherproof double coats and specific fur shapes on their backs which are referred to as “fairy saddles.” In fact, Welsh legends have it that fairies used to ride these dwarf dogs.

Overall, the Corgi is a natural charmer, a very smart and lovable companion dog, but is also a hard worker and requires a lot of exercises, and proper socializing and obedience training.

Today in the US, the breed standard is maintained by the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America, accepted by the American Kennel Club.

The Corgi is so popular in America that there are annual “Corgi Meetups” held in many large cities, including New York, Los Angeles, and Boston, where the dogs and the owners get together to celebrate this unique dog breed.

Personality

Even though Pembroke Corgis are still occasionally used as cattle herders and working dogs in Wales and elsewhere, they are mostly popular as family pets and companions nowadays.

These pups are merry, very smart and loving dogs which learn quickly, but do have an independent and sometimes stubborn streak. This means that sometimes training the Pembroke may not be as easy as training dogs of other breeds, especially for newbie dog owners.

They are natural herders and reliable watchdogs which will keep you informed about any stranger approaching or anything unexpected happening.

As mentioned previously, they do have a habit of nipping children, animals, and people by the heels in order to herd them, which is something you should teach your dog is unacceptable while it is still a puppy.

Also, teaching the dog to respond promptly to your recall commands and a secure fence or leash should be used to restrain the dog from chasing anything that is moving.

The fact is they have a deep bark, and they are pretty vocal, so you may want to work on curbing the excessive barking from early puppyhood, if this tendency worries you or your neighbors.

In order to avoid aggression and anti-social behavior, later on, it is important to socialize the Pembroke Corgi from an early age.

Overall, these sturdy dwarf dogs are very affectionate and love being involved with their human families, and yet are not too needy. They are eager to please and easy to train but only if you use a consistent, firm, fun and award based training method.

Corgis love food, and treats are the best way to motivate them during the obedience training or housetraining process. This should be done in moderation in order to prevent the dog from becoming obese.

Using punishments or other harsh training methods is not recommended for the Pembroke Welsh Corgis, as they are a sensitive dog breed, and such treatment may have a negative emotional effect on them.

If you socialize and train your Pembroke to become a well-rounded and well-behaved dog, it will become the perfect, friendly, playful and lively four-legged companion you can ever have.

Being intelligent and sensitive, your Corgi will create a strong bond with its owner and will sense what its owner senses.

The dogs from this Welsh breed love being around their humans and want to be involved in all family activities. They do not take to isolation too well, so they are not a suitable breed for people who travel a lot or spend long hours away from home.

Nutrition

The average Pembroke needs about ¾ to 1 ½ cups of top quality dog food per day. You should divide the food into two meals.

You can choose high-quality commercial dog food, or prepare your own homemade food, but make sure your pup gets meals which consist mainly of proteins, lesser fats, and low in carbohydrates and grains.

The dogs from this herding breed need about 750 calories a day when they mature. Puppies may need more calories as they are growing up and playing. Senior dogs will stay healthier with lower caloric daily intake.

Since Corgis are prone to becoming overweight and obese, stay away from lower quality foods with a lot of fillers and by-products. Also, do not be tempted to feed your dog with table scraps, with high fat or salty human food or other treats from the human food shelves, which can not only be fattening but in some cases can be toxic too.

These are just general guidelines to give you an idea of how much you should feed your Corgi. How much your specific dog should eat to stay healthy, fit and well depends on its activity level, its age, its metabolism, its weight, and its health. The food quantity also depends on the type of food you choose. If you are feeding your dog with high-quality, nutritious and highly digestible food, it can do well with smaller portions.

Because of its tendency to overeat, you should carefully measure the meals you feed your Corgi. Also, keep an eye on your dog’s weight, and if you are worried that it weighs more than it should make adjustments to its daily diet by decreasing the portion size, or choosing a less caloric food.

Ask your vet or a nutritionist for advice on the best diet and exercise regimen for your Pembroke, if you want it to lose weight and get into perfect shape.

Obesity in dogs is extremely harmful and can lead to a number of serious health problems, as well as shorten the pup’s lifespan significantly.

Since treats are an essential motivator for Corgis, you should be careful not to overdo it with the rewards. Stick to healthier or lower-calorie treats, and try to limit the treats to less than 20% of the overall caloric intake of your pooch.

Grooming

Pembroke Welsh Corgis have thick double coats which are weatherproof and consist of a coarse and longer topcoat and a soft and light undercoat.

Some Pems have longer and fluffier coats with more feathering on the chest, feet, legs, and ears. They have the so-called “fairy saddle” on their backs, which is caused by a change of the direction and thickness of the hair there.

Corgis do shed on a daily basis and shed heavily during the spring and fall shedding seasons. This means that you should brush your dog once a day with a slicker brush to remove the dead hair and prevent it from getting stuck on all of your furniture.

When shedding season begins, you can help control the process by bathing the dog and waiting until it is dry and then use a rake to strip out the falling undercoat.

During the rest of the year, you should bathe your Corgi only occasionally or when needed.

As part of its weekly maintenance, you should brush the teeth of your dog 2-3 times a week. This will help prevent the buildup of tartar and will remove any bacteria which can cause tooth and gum problems. Washing the dog’s teeth also helps prevent bad breath.

In case your dog is not wearing off its nails naturally, and you can hear clicking on the floor as it walks, you will need to trim your Corgi’s nails on a regular basis as well.

Make sure you are careful when trimming the nails, and use a dedicated dog nail trimmer because canines have blood vessels in their toenails. You can ask your groomer or vet for pointers on how to safely trim the nails.

You should also check the pup’s ears once a week for redness or a bad odor which can indicate an ear infection. To keep the ears clean, use a cotton ball and balanced dog ear cleaner and gently wipe the inner parts without sticking anything into the ear canals.

As you groom your Pembroke, take the time to examine its body for any rashes, scratches, redness, tenderness, hair loss, bumps, ticks or other signs of health problems.

Also, look at its eyes, nose, and mouth, so that you can spot any unusual or worrying indicators of a health issue as early as possible.

It is recommended that Corgi owners start teaching their pups to get accustomed to the grooming process from an early age. Reward your Pembroke for staying still and for not protesting the brushing, trimming or cleaning, and it will learn to behave itself in the future.

This will save you a lot of time, and effort and will make life much easier for you and for your pup, as well as for your vet and groomer.

Exercise

Pembroke Corgis may have short legs, but they are a breed which has been developed specifically to herd and drive cattle and livestock and thus are athletic, agile and strong.

The fact is, even though they are perfect apartment dogs, Corgis do love physical activity and mental stimulation. If you give your dog a job to do – tie will be the happiest pup in the world. And vice versa – a bored dog is an unhappy and potentially destructive dog.

Pems need daily long walks or slow jogs. Their short legs are not suited for accompanying on high-speed runs or when you are cycling.

Make sure that you don’t overwork your Corgi when the weather is extremely hot or cold, and also do not make your Pembroke jump up and down on furniture or on moderately high stairs, because their long backs can easily be fractured.

Many Corgis are excellent performers at canine sports and activities such as herding, obedience, agility or tracking too.

Even though your Pembroke Welsh Corgi will appreciate it if you have a backyard where it can romp around for some time, it is not a kennel dog and needs to live inside with its family.

Corgis are not too good with extreme weather conditions, isolation, and separation with their families.

Training

As we mentioned earlier, Pembrokes are the 11th smartest dog breed in the world. They are also eager to please their owners and handlers, so if you have experience, time, patience and desire to train your Corgi you shouldn’t have a problem with that.

The only problem which timid or inexperienced dog owners may meet when training a Pembroke Corgi is its stubbornness, which can cause the pup to decide to do whatever it wants instead of following your directions.

This is why you should establish yourself as a loving, fair, but firm leader of the pack.

Also, Corgis are best motivated with treats and food, so use delicious treats when obedience or house training them.

Always use positive training methods, rather than harsh ones, because Pems are highly sensitive dogs and the results of such mistreatment can cause long-term emotional trauma to the dog.

The best time to start socializing and obedience training your puppy is between the ages of 7 weeks and 4 months.

Enrolling the dog into puppy kindergarten is a great way to socialize it and allow it to polish its social skills.

Also, taking the puppy to meet new people, inviting friends over, meeting it with other friendly dogs, exposing it to new sights and sounds will help prevent the dog from becoming anxious, shy or aggressive later on.

Corgis notoriously love and get along with children, but just like with any other dog, you should supervise the interactions between them. Also make sure you explain to your children how to properly and safely play with the dog, as well as to never try to take the food away from the dog while it is eating, or touch it when it is resting or sleeping.

Pembroke Corgis will get along with other dogs, cats, and pets at home if socialized properly, or if they have been raised together.

Overall, training the Corgi is not such an arduous task, but given the intelligence and stubbornness of this dog breed, it may not be the best choice for first-time dog owners.

Health

Pembroke Welsh Corgis are sturdy and strong dogs, which are generally healthy. Still, like all other purebred dogs, and especially given the fact that they are dwarf dogs, Corgis can be prone to certain hereditary and other health conditions which owners should be aware of.

Here are the most common health issues associated with the Pembroke Welsh Corgi breed (in alphabetical order):

Cataracts

This eye disease causes the lens to start losing its transparency and develop an opacity which can affect the eyesight of the dog. The eyes of a dog with cataracts will look cloudy-like. The other early symptoms are that the dog will become clumsy, reluctant to move on and off the furniture, and may start rubbing or scratching its eyes.

It can be hereditary, but in some cases may happen due to an infection, a nutritional disorder or an injury.

The treatment for the condition can including placing eye drops, but in some severe cases, it may require the surgical removal of the cataract.

This affliction causes opacity on the lens of the eye, resulting in poor vision. The dog’s eye(s) will have a cloudy appearance. Cataracts usually occur in old age and sometimes can be surgically removed to improve vision

Cutaneous Asthenia

This condition is also known as dominant collagen dysplasia, Ehler-Danlos syndrome or dermatoosparaxis. It causes the connective tissue of the skin of the dog to become stretchy, loose, droopy and fragile. The blood vessels of the skin too are affected which can cause excessive blood blisters and bruising.

This is a hereditary disease, caused by a genetic mutation which is why dogs with this condition should not be bred because mating can be dangerous for both the male and female dogs, as well as for the eventual puppies.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Cutaneous Asthenia. There are ways to manage it through medication and by isolating the pup from other dogs or kids to prevent them from injuring the skin.

Cystinuria

Cystinuria is a health condition which causes cysteine, a form of protein to be excreted in the dog’s urine in high quantities. They can cause the formation of stones in the urinary bladder. This condition usually affects only male Corgis.

Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative Myelopathy is an incurable progressive disease which causes the degeneration of the supportive tissue of the lower back spinal cord. This degeneration can lead to weakness, lameness, loss of bladder and colon continence, and paralysis of the rear legs. It is often mistaken for disk disease.

This condition cannot be treated but can be managed with rehabilitation, dietary supplements, exercise, and acupuncture. In dogs which are paraplegic, a cart or harness can be used to increase its mobility.

This is yet another hereditary disease, which breeders should test their dogs for before mating them.

Distichiasis

This inherited health issue causes extra hairs to grow on the inner part of the dog’s eyelid. These hairs rub the eye surface and can cause discomfort, chronic pain, and corneal ulcers.

The treatment is the removal of the abnormal hair by a veterinarian because if you try it yourself, you can actually make matters worse and aggravate the condition.

Epilepsy

Epilepsy is often inherited, but not always. It can cause mild to severe epileptic seizures in Corgis. The seizures may exhibit themselves in different ways, including the dog hiding away, running frantically, staggering, or falling down and losing consciousness.

These seizures are a horrible experience for the dog owners but actually, the long-term prognosis for epilepsy in dogs is pretty optimistic.

It is essential that a vet determines whether your dog’s seizures are caused by inherited epilepsy, or are caused by another condition which may need to be treated.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a common genetic condition among dogs of most breeds. It is inherited and gets worse as the dog ages, or can worsen as the dog is growing and its bones and joints are developing.

Hip dysplasia is a luxation of the hip joint where the thigh bone cannot fit properly and snugly into the joint.

It may cause no symptoms at all, but it can also cause pain, discomfort, and lameness.

It is diagnosed with X-rays, and in some cases can be treated with food supplements which support the joint health, but in more severe cases may require a hip replacement.

Dogs with hip and elbow dysplasia should never be bred, so always ask your breeder for valid health clearance for both parents.

Intervertebral Disk Disease

Because Corgis have such long bodies and backs, they like the Dachshunds and other long dog breeds are prone to ruptures of a spinal disk.

The symptoms of Intervertebral Disk Disease include difficulty climbing up and going downstairs, loss of stability when walking, weakness, knuckling of the limbs, and paralysis.

The treatment can include surgery and a wheelchair for severe cases, and medications for the milder cases.

The best way to prevent this devastating condition is to stop your Corgi from jumping on and off furniture, and making long or high jumps anywhere. Strenuous running can sometimes cause this rupture in these dogs too, so if you want your Pem to be your running buddy take it on slow jogs.

Obesity

Pembroke Corgis love eating, and are at high risk of overeating and becoming overweight and obese. This is why you should carefully measure your dog’s food portions every time. Also, monitor your pet’s weight continuously in order to make adjustments to the type of food and the quantities you are feeding it.

Exercising also helps burn any excess calories.

As the dog goes into its golden years you should switch to specialized food for senior dogs in order to lower the calories you feed it and reduce its risk of becoming obese or developing other health problems such as kidney disease, diabetes, heart issues, and others.

Obesity can shorten the life of your four-legged companion with several years!

Some health conditions like hypothyroidism can cause obesity so make sure to talk to your vet if your dog is gaining weight without a change in its diet, eating habits or activity levels.

Patent Ductus Arteriosus with Pulmonary Hypertension

PDA is a hereditary defect of the vascular system of the dog which allows unoxygenated blood to flow go around the lungs instead of through them. This genetic condition can be detected when the puppy is young. Pulmonary hypertension can sometimes occur in dogs with Patent Ductus Artesriosus, and it causes high blood pressure in the lungs.

PDA can be corrected surgically.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

PRA is another inherited eye disease, which causes the degenerative deterioration of the photoreceptors located in the back of the dog’s eye. It is an irreversible health condition which will eventually cause the dog to go completely blind.

The good news is that dogs cope with blindness pretty easily and adapt to it quickly, as long as you keep them in the settings they are used to and do not move furniture around the house.

Dogs with PRA should not be bred, so ask your breeder for health clearance for this incurable disease as well.

Retinal Dysplasia

This is an abnormal development of the retina of the eye which can sometimes cause it to become detached and thus cause blindness.

There is currently no treatment for this condition.

It can be avoided if dogs diagnosed with Retinal dysplasia are not bred, and are neutered and spayed instead.

Von Willebrand’s Disease

Corgis can suffer from this genetic disorder of the blood which affects the ability of the blood to clot properly. The symptoms can include nosebleeds, blood in the stool, bleeding gums, prolonged bleeding during a heat cycle or after whelping, or prolonged bleeding after surgery.

Von Willebrand’s cannot be cured, but it can be managed with the help of blood transfusions during surgery, and by proper and timely suturing and cauterizing of injuries. Certain medications which can worsen the condition should be avoided as well.

All breeders should test their dogs for this genetic anomaly.

General health advice for the health of Pembroke Corgis

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is a true dwarf breed which gives it a stature and a build which make it more prone to certain genetic and some non-inherited health conditions and diseases.

Genetic testing is available to determine whether the Pembroke Welsh Corgi puppy is carrying any of these mutations.

Always look for responsible breeders who care about the breed and about the health and quality of their dogs. Such breeders test their dogs for all common mutations and hereditary diseases and should be able to provide you with health clearance issued by authorized institutions such as the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, Auburn University, the Canine Eye Registry, and others.

The life expectancy of a Corgi is 12-14 years. With the proper care, and with the right food regimen and exercise, a healthy Corgi can live a long and happy life.

History

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi originated from Pembrokeshire in Wales and has a magical mythical history connected to its origin.

According to a Welsh folklore legend, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi came from the homes of the elves and fairies.

The legend claims that two children who were out in the field watching their cattle found a couple of puppies. The kids first thought they were fox cubs, but then saw that they were dogs, and brought them home with them.

The parents told the children that the puppies were gifts from the elves and fairies, which used to ride them and to pull their tiny carriages.

As proof that this magical story is true, the parents showed the children the special “fairy saddle” marks on the backs of the puppies.

Naturally, the children loved the story and cherished the puppies even more. As the dogs grew, they became irreplaceable guards and herders for the cattle of the family and were a great help to all family members.

Well, we must say that even if you don’t believe in fairytales, this one about the Pembroke Welsh Corgis is absolutely charming and suits this amazing dog breed.

For those of you who are interested in the more actual facts surrounding the history of the Pems, it is believed that today’s Pembroke Welsh Corgi descended from Nordic spitz-type dogs which the Viking brought with them to Wales in the 9-10th centuries. These northern dogs were namely the Swedish cattle dogs called Vallhunds.

Other fanciers of the breed are more inclined to believe that the Pems descended from dogs which were brought by the Flemish weavers from Belgium to Wales in the 12th century who were invited by King Henry I of England to relocate.

Whichever story you believe, this special breed definitely has a misty ancestry.

The cattle farmers in the Pembershire area who kept working dog bred them for what they needed them for, without having the time, or feeling the need to keep precise records of their mating and breeding history.

It is essential to distinguish the Pembroke Welsh Corgi from its cousin the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, because Pembrokes are a much newer breed, and there are some noticeable differences between the two – especially in the shape of the ears, the type and length of the tail, as well as the overall size and color of the dogs.

In the 1920s, the Corgis were recognized by the UK Kennel Club. In 1925 they were officially recognized as Welsh Corgis when dogs from the breed were exhibited at a dog show in 1925 for the first time.

One of the most famous fanciers of the Pembroke Welsh Corgi breed is the English Queen Elizabeth II. She got her first Pem named Dookie back in 1933 as a gift from her father King George VI and has had over 30 dogs from this breed since.

Her last Corgi Willow passed away in 2018 when the aging monarch decided she didn’t want to breed any more dogs from this precious breed because she didn’t want to risk dying and leaving one or more behind.

She still has a couple of Dorgis which are mixes between Corgis and Dachshunds named Vulcan and Candy though.

Queen Elizabeth was among the first to breed Dorgis by mating some of her Corgis with her sister Margaret’s Dachshund named Pipkin.

In 1934, the UK Kennel Club finally recognized the Pembroke and Cardigan Welsh Corgis as separate breeds. The American Kennel Club recognized the two breeds pretty soon when the first dogs of these breeds were shown in the USA in 1936.

At first, when Corgis were first imported to the US their popularity was pretty low, but today, Pembroke Corgis are the top 13th most popular breeds, and the Cardigans are 68th in the list.

Corgi lovers and owners meet up at the annual SoCal Corgi Beach Day at Hamilton Beach ever since 2012.

Other cities in the USA organize annual Corgi meetings, which get together thousands of Corgis and their owners. Some of these cities include New York, Boston, and Los Angeles.

Corgis were featured in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London in 2012, alongside the Queen herself and of course James Bond.

In the UK, Corgis had started losing their popularity in the past few decades, but thanks to the hit BBC series “The Crown” depicting a young Queen Elizabeth II and her love for these sweet dogs, a recent boost in the interest towards the breed has become evident.

This year, an animated movie named The Queen’s Corgi starring Dame Julie Walters as the Queen, and Jack Whitehall as the Corgi Rex was released, and its success will probably further boost the popularity of this special dog breed around the globe.

In Japan and in other Asian cities, there are special “Corgi Cafes” where customers can go and spend time with these amazing pups while enjoying a hot beverage, and they have proven to be a great success.

With their fairytale history, and their lovable and fun-filled personalities and looks, Corgis have become a popular breed around the world.

Overall, it looks like they are such special dwarf dogs, that their popularity will probably never stop growing, and the legend of the fairytale dog carrying fairies and elves will hopefully go on!

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