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With a "Hi! How are you?" expression and sparky personality, a Cardigan Welsh corgi is an immediate charmer. He's a lovable favorite among dog owners with active families because of his ability to learn, abundant energy, and eager response to positive reinforcement training. People willing to put in the time to to keep their corgis stimulated—offering quality enrichment—is the most compatible type of pet parent for a Cardigan.
Is a Cardigan the straight-A student of canine academy? Maybe! With a heritage as a one of the world's most popular herding dogs—he's rather zippy on those itty bitty legs!—he has the stamina and smarts to master just about any trick, sport, or activity you want to try.
Cardigan Welsh corgi puppies are pawsitively adorable, and they grow to be handsome, medium-sized adults, averaging 25–38 pounds and standing 10.5–12.5 inches tall at the shoulder. One of the primary characteristics of a corgi is a long, sturdy body with stubby, slightly curved legs. This means they're part of a line of canines known as the chondrodysplastic breeds, which have an evolutionary gene mutation that created a type of dwarfism. As a result, Cardigans are cousins of other long-backed dogs such as Pembroke Welsh corgis, Dachshunds, basset hounds, and Pekingnese.
These dogs have thick, medium-length double coats with an under layer that's usually white and downy-soft and a sleek topcoat of different colors. Whether you have a fluffy Cardigan Welsh corgi depends on his breeding. Usually family pets have more natural coats, and show dogs are a tad more refined in hair distribution: shorter in the front but longer in the back to form what conformation judges call "pants."
Cardigan Welsh corgi colors are quite varied, with masks often in the same shade as their outer coat, which might be black, brown, red, or a merle pattern of different hues. Their broad heads, topped with highly expressive wide, angular ears, might have the same topcoat color, or they feature a patch of white that narrows to a stripe traveling the length of their long muzzles. Tricolor Cardigan Welsh corgis have a lovely blending of red, black, and brown. Some corgis might also have brindle accents, which are flecks of another color within the topcoat.
We've talked about the snout and the ears—now let's take a peek at the rear! Corgi butts are a source of online comic relief because of their undeniable cuteness, but this is where you'll immediately notice the Cardigan Welsh corgi and the Pembroke difference: Cardigans have poofy fox-like tails, and Pembrokes often have docked tails. And although these two dogs look quite similar in their stocky body shape, Cardigans are a bit larger, with more angled hips. Another key aspect of these cousins is they actually come from different canine families. The American Kennel Club (AKC) notes that Cardigans are the oldest of the two by 2,000 years, descending from German teckel lineage. Pembrokes are descendants of Nordic spitz breeds.
The wide-open smile of a Cardigan is an outward example of his friendly disposition. Affectionate and sweet natured, he bonds well with children and adults, cats, and even other dogs.
Sara Austin, DVM, is the owner of Austin Veterinary Hospital in Beaufort, N.C., as well as a breeder at Salty Creek Cardigan Welsh Corgis. She describes her oldest Cardigan, Panda, as her "heart dog" and knows this breed as intelligent, loving—and a wee bit mischievous. To have a Cardigan, she says, "You must have a sense of humor! They will test you and push to your limit, but if you can laugh and have fun, they'll give you their all! They're very loyal and fun-loving dogs!"
Do Cardigans have to go-go-go all the time? No. Austin says they have an "on and off" switch. "They're happy to sit and watch a movie, but they're also ready to go on the next adventure. They love boating, hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding, and any other activity with their family. They're extremely versatile."
A Cardigan's herding instincts and quick ability to learn means he's at his best with diverse and engaging tasks to keep him mentally and physically active. "They're not 'obedient' dogs in the sense that they go out of their way to please their owners," Austin says. "But they can excel in many different sports, even obedience, as long as their owners keep things fun and interesting."
Your Cardigan Welsh corgi puppy can learn dog tricks pretty quickly. As he gets older, try new things! He may be lower to the ground but he's quick, so consider an exciting coursing ability test such as Fast CAT. Agility training, where he maneuvers through an obstacle course with you, is another good option. Tap into his natural herding ability with trials and scent work, too.
Early socialization as a puppy helps a Cardigan Welsh corgi be a good companion for the whole family, and it enables him to adapt well to other people and animals. Because he's such a go-getter, he can begin various types of training as early as 12 weeks old after he's received all his vaccinations.
Austin says Cardigans do well in any environment, from a small city apartment to farm life, as long as they're given the mental stimulation they deserve. But keep in mind—they're quite talkative. "They do bark. I wouldn't say excessively, but they tend to have something to say pretty often," Austin says. "They're definitely not a quiet breed."
Frequent romps at dog parks is a wonderful option if you don't have a fenced back yard for a Cardigan's exercise needs. He's prone to activities like chewing and digging if left alone for too long without interaction or things to do. Establishing "his" areas such as a dedicated sandbox with buried treat toys or coordinating fun games to play will keep this spunky pooch entertained and happy!
Double-coated dogs like Cardigan Welsh corgis experience shedding at its most intense in the spring and fall, when their under layer goes through a process called "blowing coat." Then, the fur will really fly for about a month or so.
To keep regular shedding to a minimum (and give your robot vacuum a chance to recharge!), brush your pup with a pin brush and deshedding rake—a few minutes weekly should do the trick. Fortunately, Cardigans are rather clean dogs and don't require a lot of baths, but use grooming time to check and trim nails if necessary.
Also take a moment and inspect his teeth and gums. Regular teeth brushing keeps his breath fresh, but more importantly, it's easy maintenance you can do to ensure healthy teeth before his annual professional checkup and cleaning.
Cardigan Welsh corgis are generally hardy, healthy dogs, with a long lifespan of up to 15 years. That's a lot of time to enjoy snuggles! They do have a few health issues, which are essential to note so you can create a wellness plan with your veterinarian.
Austin says most preservation corgi breeders will screen for inheritable diseases such as hip dysplasia, which allows them to avoid many health issues. "With that said, one thing we cannot avoid is the fact that this is a long-backed chondrodysplastic breed. This means they are inherently more prone to growth abnormalities and intervertebral disc disease (IVDD)," she says. "Luckily, the incidence of IVDD is much less than what we see in breeds such as dachshunds, but it's a risk."
To reduce the chance of back injury, Austin says it's important to avoid high-impact activity at a young age, and never allow jumping from high surfaces. Ramps might be helpful for your Cardigan to move up and down from the bed or couch, and consider the depth of stairs in your home and whether your pooch needs assistance on them, too.
The Cardigan Welsh corgi is an ancient breed whose roots date back to Celtic migrations from Europe to Wales around 1200 BC, according to the AKC. In Welsh, cor means "dwarf" and ci/gi means "dog," but some canine historians believe the origin of "corgi" is derived from the Celtic word for dog, "kergie."
Further clarification of their name comes from their home region, Cardiganshire in southwestern Wales. This is another distinction in the debate of Cardigan Welsh corgis vs. Pembroke Welsh corgis, who hail from Pembrokeshire in the southern part of the country. As noted above, the two breeds are similar but different, but they were interbred throughout the United Kingdom until the 1930s, when The Kennel Club categorized them as separate breeds. The AKC recognized Pembrokes in 1934 and Cardigans in 1935.
Welsh farmers used Cardigan Welsh corgis' herding skills as natural boundary protectors to keep neighboring cattle off their lands. Often referred to as drovers, Cardigans were also essential for animal relocation and as pasture guardians. Short stature and stamina helped them avoid being kicked by fast-moving hooved cattle and sheep, and their watchful nature and swift footing enabled them to respond to trouble at a moment's notice. Like many modern dogs in the AKC herding group, Cardigan Welsh corgis have lineage that makes them ready for action!
According to the AKC, “Ancient Welsh law called for severe penalties to anyone who harmed or stole a Cardigan Welsh corgi because his talents could help determine his family’s economic status.”
Welsh legend weaves tales of corgis as enchanted dogs chosen by elves and fairies to “pull their carriages and be their steeds in battle”—and the pattern across a corgi’s back and shoulders is a hint to where a harness and saddle used to be.
If you're ready for a major mashup of corgi love, check out the activities of the So Cal Corgi Nation, which supports local corgi and corgi mix rescue organizations.