Written by Dr. Marcelle Landestoy, DVM
You hear the word Corgi, and you can immediately picture this breed of dog. But beyond a name and an appealing image, the more pertinent question is whether the Pembroke Welsh Corgi will make a good family dog.
How do you take care of a Pembroke Corgi, and can you trust her to play with your kids and not eat the family cat?
Using my experience as a veterinary doctor, I’ve put together this one-page guide for Corgi owners. Read on to learn more about this popular breed and what you can expect from living with these dogs.
1- Brief Introduction
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is a small dog with a mind of her own and a fascinating history. You will have an engaged and friendly companion with a watchful eye and a playful nature.
Corgis have low care needs but require a lot of attention. They are great with people, children, and other pets.
Before you settle on a Corgi for your family, you want to know as much as you can about the breed.
- Will your dog be nice with guests or try to snap?
- What are some major health concerns specific to the breed?
- Will you be able to train your new dog? You want the answer to these queries and in-depth exploration of any breed-specific quirks.
2- About the Pembroke Welsh Corgi
The Pembroke Corgi is a small-breed dog that belongs to the herding group.
Its name translates to “dwarf dog,” or as the Welsh say, “Cor Gi.” The breed’s charm and liveliness translate to an engaging companion indoors and an intense worker in the pasture.
Corgis have endearing traits with a foxlike expression, short legs, a relatively long back, and no tail.
They are friendly, clever, and quick. The Pembroke is an excellent family companion, getting along with children and other dogs alike.
3- The awesome history of the Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Many associate the Pembroke Welsh Corgi with Queen Elizabeth II. After all, the queen was responsible for much of the breed’s global popularity from the time she acquired her first puppy, Susan, in 1944.
Her family had turned her onto the breed when they acquired a Pembroke puppy named Dookie in 1933. However, the Pembroke’s roots extend way before British Royalty.
Folklore richly interweaves the history of Corgis with fairies.
According to prominent myths:
“Pembroke Welsh Corgis were esteemed mounts of fairy warlords before they ever became herding dogs for human shepherds.”
The lore goes further to the defining moment when fairies gifted two Corgi puppies to a couple of children who ensured their overwhelming popularity in family homes.
Experts have found Pembroke Welsh Corgi lines from at least 1107 AD. The date is where the theories of the ancestry of the breed agree.
Many historians concur that the Pembroke has a separate heritage from the Cardigan.
However, one theory suggests both descended from Northern Spitz breeds, specifically the Swedish Vallhund and Norwegian Luhund, in different eras.
Another thought says that upon their arrival in Wales, settlers bred their Spitz descendants with dogs from the Teckel family, which also produced the Dachshund.
These Teckel crosses became the “original Corgis” or Cardigans. When the Flemish weavers arrived in Southern Wales with their own Spitz-like dogs, they bred them to native dogs such as the Cardigan Welsh Corgi to produce the Pembroke.
Still, other sources say the Pembroke and Cardigan developed independently until the mid-1920s.
Regardless of which theory you believe, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi developed 2,000 years later than the Cardigan Welsh Corgi in Pembrokeshire, a different Wales region.
Moreover, the two breeds were distinct by the 1800s, although they would come together later.
In 1925, British show rings recognized two variations of one Corgi breed.
Corgis and Cardigans appeared in the same arenas and competed for the same prizes, their fates often decided by a judge’s preference for one variety over the other.
A Champion or Best of Breed could be arbitrary and caused a lot of angst among owners.
Simultaneously, the two Corgi types underwent frequent cross-breeding, thought to account for their similarities.
In 1934, the Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh Corgis split for good under the English Kennel Club, stopping future interbreeding efforts.
The American Kennel Club recognized the Pembroke Welsh Corgi in 1934. Sierra Bowhit Pivot was the first British Pembroke import to win a breed championship in the US in 1935.
He would later win Best of Group and cement the breed’s ever-growing popularity in America.
4- Interesting facts about this furry friend
- The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is the shortest herding dog but not the smallest in the class – The Shetland Sheepdog is smaller
- Queen Elizabeth II has owned over 30 Corgis, all descendants of Susan. Susan, registered as Hickathrift Pippa, was a gift for the princess’ 18th birthday.
- Tail docking of the Pembroke Welsh Corgi had as much to do with lowering taxes in England as it did with preventing injury to the working dog. Docking a Corgi’s tail gained the animal status as a working dog. As of 1786, England taxed all nonworking dogs.
- Corgis have a “fairy saddle mark” demarcated not necessarily by color but by distinct ridges of different-growing fur at the withers and again at the hips
5- Pembroke Welsh Corgi Characteristics
Corgis possess particular characteristics because fanciers worked carefully to establish a breed standard.
They are low-set on short legs and appear neither coarse nor wispy.
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi should be 40% longer than tall. There is a discernable difference between the genders, females appearing feminine without being too fine of bone.
A Pembroke’s head is one of its most essential features in the show ring. Pembroke Corgis should have a foxlike head with a wide flat skull and tapered muzzle.
However, they lack the crafty expression of a fox, having larger eyes and a rounder face.
Rather, their expression is smart, friendly, and happy, appearing to laugh when their mouth is open. The Corgi’s ears are upright and slightly pointed at the tips.
Along with his headset, a Corgi’s movement is vital for a show dog. Despite their short legs, Corgis must have a fluid and balanced gait.
When a Pembroke moves, it should look so effortless as to appear the dog could trot all day.
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi breed standard calls for almost no tail or a maximum length of two inches. Outside of the US, many countries ban artificially docking dogs’ tails.
In such cases, Corgis can have a wide variation of tails.
Some are born with natural bobtails, while others have long, straight tails. Many Corgis have tails that curl in a semi-circle, probably reminiscent of Spitz ancestors.
You have undoubtedly noticed the limit to the number of allowable colors for the Pembroke.
Your dog can be solid colors or may have white in certain stereotypical areas.
White can exist as a blaze (Stripe that divides the face) and on the chest, belly, and muzzle.
White on the neck is a collar, or it can span the entire area. Predominantly white dogs are called whitelies and receive heavy penalties.
Other unapproved colors are any dilutions such as blue or liver coloration and white anywhere but the designated pattern. Acceptable so-called self colors are the following:
- Black and tan
Black and tan Corgis with white are, of course, tricolors. Sable dogs have banded hairs where one strand of fur is several shades of red and brown.
Corgis usually resemble sable Collies rather than sable GSDs.
Some Corgis, however, have the saddle gene that may linger like a black stripe or wide patch on the back or express similar to a classic black and tan German Shepherd.
6- How adaptable your little friend is
Corgis, despite their drive and intensity, are easy-going and adaptable dogs.
+ Good for novice owners
Pembroke Welsh Corgis are suitable for inexperienced owners as long as you become knowledgeable about dogs and quirks of the breed.
Corgis have a strong will, can bark a lot, and like to herd small children.
What makes them great for novices is their intelligence, willingness to learn, trainability, small size, low maintenance, and friendliness. Moreover, they really enjoy being with people.
+ Adapts well to apartment living
Pembroke Welsh Corgis adapt well to living in an apartment as long as they get plenty of attention and exercise.
It is crucial if you have a Corgi that you address her high energy and work ethic by taking her for long walks and offering her vigorous exercise.
+ Sensitivity level
Corgis have a high sensitivity level in a variety of situations. They are sensitive to loud noises, which may explain their tendency for frequent barking.
More important, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi is emotionally attuned to you.
He will be sensitive to harsh words, raised voices, and any sense of disapproval. Sensitivity makes training a Corgi challenging if you are not a patient person.
The good news is Pembroke Corgis do not tend to be sensitive to changes in the environment.
They will often go with the flow with new visitors if they get time for an introduction, and if they can look to you as a calm and steady influence.
They also adapt to different living arrangements, such as apartments or condos.
+ Tolerates being alone
Being in the herding group, Pembroke Welsh Corgis do not tolerate long periods alone at home.
First and foremost, Corgis have developed into companions and love being with their owners.
Your dog will want to remain engaged with your daily routine. Second, Pembroke Welsh Corgis will get bored if you leave them alone for too long.
Corgis are working dogs and will find destructive things to do without a meaningful job. A meaningful job includes accompanying you.
+ Tolerates cold weather
Corgis have a medium-length double fur coat that serves them well in cold weather.
Their thick, rather woolly undercoat protects them from cold temperatures and repels moisture, while the stiff guard hairs of their outer fur protect them against the wind.
They still cannot tolerate extended periods in the harshest of elements, especially if not exercising.
Your Pembroke requires shelter against extreme wind and frigidity.
She can lose heat because of her small size and her proximity to the ground, especially when there is snow.
+ Tolerates hot weather
A Pembroke Welsh Corgi’s double coat paradoxically protects him from hot weather as well as the cold.
His undercoat provides circulation of cooling air against the skin.
The stiff hairs of the outer coat protect against ultraviolet rays and promote airflow to the insulating inner fur.
7- Friendliness of the Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Like any dog, socialization and environment play large roles in how friendly your Corgi is.
However, you can make generalizations based on a Pembroke Welsh Corgi’s inherent nature.
+ Affectionate with Family
Pembroke Welsh Corgis are exceptionally affectionate with their families.
Where other breeds like the GSD may tend to bond with one person, Corgis spread the love to all family members.
The Pembroke usually likes to snuggle and cuddle. She will learn to love you picking her up and holding her if you accustom her to it at a young age.
Ensure everyone in your family knows to provide support at the front and rear halves when lifting your corgi.
Even when it is not the time for hugs, your Pembroke will like being by your side. It is not a breed prone to running off or escaping.
Love for children appears to be a prevailing characteristic of Pembroke Welsh Corgis.
Without proper training of acceptable behavior, some Corgis may try to herd small kids, even nipping painfully at their heels.
Otherwise, Corgis are small, robust, playful, and bomb-proof, a perfect combination for children.
Make sure your young ones know and exercise appropriate etiquette around dogs.
Although Corgis are small, always supervise them around children under nine years old.
+ Friendly with other pets?
Corgis are especially friendly with any dogs or cats living in their home.
You must socialize them with felines, but Corgis can develop bonds and engage in playful romps with cats and kittens.
Be aware that many cats do not have a sense of humor in regards to chasing games.
Their longstanding history and selection make Pembroke Welsh Corgis amiable and cooperative with other familiar dogs.
On the other hand, Corgis can exhibit moderate aggression and territorial hostility against strange canids.
This behavior makes sense considering shepherds programmed their dogs to see unfamiliar animals as threats to the flock or herd and the farm.
A proper introduction allows your Pembroke to warm up to most other dogs. It is no rarity to see Pembroke Welsh Corgis playing in the dog park with other canine friends.
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi also does not have a high prey drive.
While your bird or hamster may not be safe alone with your Corgi, you will not likely experience your dog tearing off after every squirrel or other small animal he sees.
+ Friendly towards strangers
The more you socialize your Pembroke puppy with people, the friendlier she will be with strangers. Corgis usually make good watchdogs.
Once she has announced the intrusion, your Pembroke Welsh Corgi is likely to be amiable.
Some are slower to warm up to new people than others, but most are notably warmer than a few others in the group.
Your Pembroke will likely even appreciate a few pets from your friends and will play with their children.
Most Corgis are more outgoing with human guests than the Cardigan.
8- Health and grooming needs
With the Pembroke breed, you will experience easy grooming needs and few health problems.
+ Amount of shedding
Pembroke Welsh Corgis are heavy shedders. The breed’s double coat is similar to a German Shepherd’s, albeit softer.
Your Corgi will shed the entire year while “blowing” his undercoat in the fall and spring.
+ Drooling potential
Corgis, like other herding dogs, have tight lips with minimal fullness and thus a very low potential for drooling.
+ General Health
Pembroke Welsh Corgis enjoy generally good health and can live 11 to 13 years.
Like any purebred dog, Corgis can fall victim to moderate to severe and often hereditary problems.
One of the more common health problems among Corgis, as you might expect, are back issues. Intervertebral disc disease, specifically, affects Corgis to a lesser degree than Cardigans but can lead to extreme pain and paralysis.
Another severe neurologic problem is degenerative myelopathy.
DM affects Pembroke Welsh Corgis at an alarming rate, according to the OFA data bank.
About a third of the Corgis who presented for the study were carriers of DM. Another common problem in Corgis is hip dysplasia, affecting almost 20% of Corgis in 2019.
Corgis do not suffer as many eye problems as some of the other herders like Aussies and Collies, but you can see progressive retinal atrophy and lens luxations.
The AKC recommends all breeders evaluate and certify eyes and hips on their dogs.
As you look for a Pembroke puppy, it is vital to buy from reputable breeders whenever possible and visit the premises to see one or both parents.
+ Potential for weight gain
You will notice the longer you have your Corgi that he is an easy keeper. He will not need much food to maintain his ideal weight.
Corgis love to eat, and combined with their efficient use of calories makes them prone to obesity.
Some people like the appearance of a round Corgi, but being overweight is detrimental to a breed that already has structural stresses on his bones.
Hip dysplasia is married to genetics, but its severity often ties to environmental factors such as being too heavy.
Moreover, you need to remain conscious of how excess weight may affect your pet’s back, forelegs, and knees.
Your dog should have an obvious abdominal tuck when you view her from the side. This means her belly should rise from chest to hip, not remain in a straight line with the ground.
When you look down, you need to be able to visualize a waist behind the rib cage.
As you pet your dog, you should easily feel her ribs under a little bit of padding. Keep in mind your Corgi should move in a smooth and efficient manner and not waddle.
+ Easy to groom
You may think your Pembroke Welsh Corgi will be difficult to groom because of a plush thick coat. However, you can maintain your Pembroke by brushing a couple of times a week.
Daily brushing gives you a head start on shedding by removing loose hairs on a more frequent basis.
Corgis are not vulnerable to matting, except on the hind legs, so most of your grooming sessions will be short and easy.
The only time you have to expend more effort on grooming your Corgi is during the two big seasonal sheds.
Your dog will be losing abundant tufts of undercoat, and daily brushing will improve your life and facilitate your Corgi’s process.
This shedding will not be anywhere as dramatic as for a Husky or GSD.
When you bathe, always use a mild canine shampoo. You should bathe as infrequently as you can to avoid traumatizing your Corgi’s sensitive skin.
If your Pembroke’s skin seems dry, talk to your veterinarian about the type of shampoo you should use and any possible conditioners.
Likewise, skin allergies will warrant similar discussions with a medical professional.
A Pembroke Welsh Corgi is only 10 to 12 inches tall at the shoulder. Despite its small stature, the Pembroke is a robust, muscular dog under its thick fur.
Males weigh 22 to 31 pounds, and females are slightly smaller with a maximum weight of 29 pounds.
As far as herding breeds go, the Pembroke is shorter at the shoulders, longer from chest to hips, and heavier than the Shetland Sheepdog.
The breed is smaller than the Miniature American Shepherd, which can reach 14 to 18 inches tall and weigh up to 40 pounds. One of the major differences between the two Corgi breeds is size.
The Cardigan Welsh Corgi is longer in the body and heavier, weighing up to about 40 pounds.
Heights are very close, with the Cardigan standing 10 to 13 inches at the shoulders.
The Pembroke Welsh Corgis is highly trainable with a self-assured owner and plenty of positive reinforcement.
+ Easy to train
A Pembroke’s eagerness to please and willingness to learn make her easy to train.
Pembroke Welsh Corgis learn quickly because they are intelligent and have a good work ethic.
Stanley Cohen, who evaluated the working intelligence of 80 dog breeds, ranked the Pembroke No. 11.
The breed scored 85% on the obedience of first commands and did well in adaptive intelligence, or the ability to solve problems.
+ Prey drive
Pembroke Corgis have a moderate prey drive in line with the average dog.
While the Corgi’s predatory instincts are not absent, they do not come close to the obsession possible in many terriers and hounds.
+ Tendency to bark or howl
A Pembroke Corgi does tend to howl, yelp, and bark, defying classification as a quiet breed.
Part of their herding strategy involved barking as they had to maneuver animals much larger than themselves.
Corgis have retained that trait, barking at strange noises, suspicious occurrences, intruders, and other animals. They also may bark while playing or if excited.
+ Potential for mouthiness
Like many puppies, Corgis are very mouthy when young. Corgis will continue to mouth as adults if you do not curb the behavior.
Moreover, the Corgi’s mouthiness does not involve simply holding your hand. Pembroke Welsh Corgis can be nippy, and their bite hurts.
Think of how hard they must have had to nip to get the attention of a cow.
Nevertheless, Corgis tend to be less mouthy than most of their counterparts in the herding group.
10- Physical needs
A Corgi’s intensity tends to fit the situation. They are very intense when they work or perform a sport and are extremely engaged when their owners are involved in activities.
However, they can turn off their intensity and lay by your side contently when you want to relax.
+ Energy level
The Pembroke Corgi breed has a high energy level. Their small size does not prevent them from having the abundant stamina you expect from dogs of the herding group.
+ Exercise needs
Exercise needs are moderate to medium-high. Your Pembroke will require an hour or more of daily exercise.
Many dog owners may believe they can satisfy their Corgi’s exercise needs with a daily walk. That could not be further from the truth.
You can use a short stroll as a warm-up, but your furry friend needs rigorous running and tumbling to expend her loads of energy.
High-intensity exercise should account for 15 to 25 minutes of your daily sessions. You will also need to incorporate 10 to 15 minutes of training into your exercise schedule to provide mental stimulation.
This is why programmed activities with changing goals are so beneficial.
You can address most of your Pembroke’s physical and intellectual requirements simultaneously through training and competition in herding trials, fly ball, agility, or lure coursing.
However, you can also change up your routine frequently with chase games, fetch, jaunts to the dog park, puzzles, and hiking.
Exercising your dog is most effective and safest if you split it into two or three sections throughout the day.
+ Potential for Playfulness
Pembroke Welsh Corgis are very playful. They maintain a youthful exuberance and liveliness throughout most of their lives.
11- Size of the breed
The Pembroke is the shortest dog breed of the herding group at about a foot tall at the top of the withers.
Solidly built relative to height, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi can weigh up to 30 pounds per the AKC.
Despite the Pembroke Corgi’s dwarf size, her temperament will make you think of a much larger dog. Corgis are confident, assertive, and sometimes pushy.
If you do not establish your authority early, your Pembroke will be happy to take charge. Do you wonder why this is?
Pembroke Welsh Corgis were semi-independent herders. Like many other herding breeds, they often guarded livestock with other dogs.
She had to make split decisions about her herd without always relying on her human for guidance.
Therefore, your Pembroke has an inherent self-assurance that will not waver in the face of inconsistent direction, uncertainty, or lack of training on your part.
With the Pembroke Welsh Corgi’s confidence comes affection for her owners, an eagerness to please, playfulness, cleverness, protectiveness, occasional intensity, boldness, and high energy.
Corgis are bouncy, infectiously joyous, and dedicated to their job if they have one. They are also loyal and make excellent watchdogs.
Novice owners may see them as stubborn and willful.
There are several health problems you should be aware of if you have a Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
- Hip dysplasia – An abnormal developmental problem of the ball-and-socket hip joint exacerbated by genetic and environmental factors as well as obesity and overnutrition.
- Degenerative myelopathy – A progressive painless neurologic disease that causes paralysis.
- Intervertebral disc diseases – IVDD is when a disc bulges from its space and impinges on nerves in the spinal cord to cause pain and possible paralysis.
- Luxated lens – Lens moves out of position.
- Progressive retinal atrophy – Can cause blindness; heredity mode is unclear in some breeds.
- Chondroplasia – Dwarfism is present in 100% of Corgis, but its long-term potential effects cannot be dismissed. Luckily, Corgis do not have shortened faces, so they can live athletic lives with good care.
- Cystinuria – Bladder stones may be on the rise in Corgis, a condition that relates closely to diet and genetics.
- Patent ductus arteriosus – PDA is hereditary in particular lines of Corgis. It is a congenital problem where the opening between two main heart vessels does not close. Severe cases lead to pulmonary hypertension and heart failure.
- Von Willebrand’s – A bleeding disorder of concern for surgery and other procedures. A lower incidence in Corgis than other breeds.
- Epilepsy – Unexplained seizures, possible genetic component.
- Bloat and GDV – Uncommon in Corgis, but their love for food makes it possible. The stomach swells with gas and fluid and can rotate, resulting in organ damage and death, electrolyte imbalances, and cardiac irregularities.
13- Grooming and care
Pembroke Welsh Corgis are relatively low-maintenance dogs. Areas that will require your greatest focus are training and spending quality time with your Corgi.
It would also help if you were mindful of potential back problems, not allowing your Pembroke to jump on or off high surfaces.
- Moderate exercise requirements – One hour or more.
- Low grooming needs – Brush once to twice weekly.
- During seasonal copious shedding may need to brush every day.
- Trim nails every month.
- Brush teeth once or twice weekly – Start when a puppy to get your dog used to a dental hygiene routine.
- Bathe every 4 to 6 weeks and spot clean heavy soiling.
- Check ears for signs of infection weekly – Odor, discharge, redness, pain, or itchiness.
14- How to feed your Pembroke Welsh Corgi
You can feed your Pembroke Welsh Corgi one or two meals a day of high-quality dog food.
You can research the plethora of premium diets on the market or consult with your veterinarian for a recommendation.
Whether you want to feed your dog a diet specifically for Corgis or one that mimics their wolf ancestors’ nutritional balance, learn how to read and interpret dog food labels.
High-quality protein from animal-based sources should be in the top ingredients.
Much debate exists about how much protein dogs should acquire and whether they should obtain any of their nutrients from grains.
Protein quality is usually more important than the quantity, and puppies require more than adults.
Dogs, contrary to wolves, have developed the ability to acquire nutritional value from starches.
Your Pembroke, however, can develop intolerance of grain or simply not thrive on a diet with abundant carbohydrates in it.
Work with your veterinarian to address the needs of your Corgi as an individual.
Feeding a homemade or raw diet is a viable option for some owners or a few rare health conditions but consult with your veterinarian to ensure proper nutritional balance.
You may need to add important trace minerals or vitamins.
Corgi puppies should eat multiple times a day while they are growing. If your Pembroke is under three months old, he should eat four times a day.
Feedings decrease to three times daily between the ages of three and six months.
Once your puppy reaches six months of age, he will approach an adult schedule and eat two times a day.
While Corgis are not prone to bloat, many dogs do better with two small meals a day rather than a big dinner.
Dividing meals for adult Corgis can reduce the risks of digestive problems.
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Veterinary Hospital Director at UCE
Dr. Marcelle is a general veterinarian with a Small Animal Medicine Specialty | Director of the UCE School of Veterinary Medicine | Certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society