The Cardigan Welsh
Corgi - A Portrait
By Shelley Camm, Canada
"Oh look, it's the Queen's dog!" or "That's a corgi mixed with Border collie, right?" I think that these have to be the two most common questions that we get asked as Cardigan Welsh Corgi owners. Like the lesser known sibling of a famous movie star, Cardigans have their own special traits and their own personality. The Cardigan is actually the older of the two breeds of Corgis, and comes from the Cardiganshire area of Wales, a more mountainous, rougher terrain than the beaches of the maritime Pembrokeshire.
As such they have adapted differently. Cardigan Welsh Corgis have big fat marshmallow feet for travelling over rough terrain, they are a longer and heavier dog, and being primarily a farm dog, they have a less outgoing "let's party' personality than the Pembroke. They are a more serious dog in all they do, be it working livestock, participating in obedience, taking care of the children or watching the homestead.
When you meet a corgi for the first time there are several differences that should clue you in to which type of dog you are looking at.
The colour - Pembrokes only come in red and white, sable and white, and red-headed or black-headed tri. That is it. The Cardigan gives a greater variety of colours; in addition to red and white, and sable and white, there are also brindles of all shades from wheaten, through red and black, and there are blue merles. The black and whites also come in two varieties, tan pointed (red cheeks and eyebrows) and brindle pointed (brindled cheeks and eyebrows). We call it the luxury edition of the corgi because you have a greater variety of "upholstery".
The head - Pembrokes have a head like an equilateral triangle measuring ear tip to ear tip to nose. The Cardigan head is more of a blunt wedge with the muzzle being 3/8 and the back skull 5/8 of the head.
The Cardigans' ears are larger and rounder than the Pembrokes' and set lower.
Pembrokes have tear dropped shaped feet and oval bones, Cardigans have big fat round feet and round bone.
A Pembroke front should be straight from the shoulder to the ground. A Cardigan should have a curved upper arm around the chest, and straight pasterns, with feet turning out no more than 15° on each side (like 11 and 1 on a clock face).
And the last sign is the tail. In most of North America, tail docking is still allowed and it is common to dock tails on Pembrokes. This is not permitted in Europe or Australia, so you will see Pembrokes with tails, but they are immediately identifiable as Pembrokes by the characteristics listed above. Cardigans always have had and always will have full tails.
Unlike the happy-go-lucky Pem who knows no strangers, the Cardigan is more discerning in who they are willing to become friends with and will ask "Have we been introduced?" Once you have been accepted by a Cardigan you are "in" and immediately become part of the pack to share his or her joy and protection.
When working, the Cardigans take their job more seriously, be it herding, agility or obedience. Because they are intense, care must be taken to keep them happy and not let them become bored or lose interest.
Cardigans should not be worked in higher level agility activity or jump on and off heights (like furniture, stairs) until they have reached their full growth (between 18 and 24 months) and the growth plates have closed. Because they are a front heavy dog with a deep chest, this type of pounding on the growth plates could cause valgus deformity as a result of premature closure of a damaged growth plate.
Cardigans and Children
Most Cardigans are good with children when raised with them, and are excellent companions ready for any adventure. Care must be taken that children do not hurt the puppy especially by picking it up incorrectly, and that young children are taught to respect an older dog's "space", whether that be a bed or a crate where they put themselves for "time out". I have several homes where older Cardigans have become slavishly devoted to newborns in the house who arrived, later willingly setting themselves up as pillows, teething rings and walkers. Know your dog, and if it shows signs of being uncomfortable (walleyes), lip licking, pulling away) teach it to go to it "safe spot" and prevent children from following. Never leave toddlers unsupervised with a dog.
Cardigans are an all-around fun dog and will work very hard to please you. Although not every puppy is good for every job, a responsible breeder can match you with a puppy solely as a companion, or for obedience, agility, herding, therapy dog work, tracking, or nosework. There are so many fun things you can do with your Cardigan. If you are interested in trying your hand at showing, go to a local show and meet with breeders who are doing well in conformation, and be prepared to wait to find the right puppy.
The Good the Bad and the Ugly
Cardigans have so many wonderful breed traits that attract newcomers to the breed. They are extremely intelligent and learn quickly (both the good and the bad). They have a fun personality that makes them want to be part of their families' activities, be it sitting on the couch, taking a hike, or swimming in a lake (Some are waders, and some are swimmers). On the negative side they can be barkers if not trained early. They shed like a buffalo twice a year blowing out their full undercoat that you literally pull out by the handful. And some individuals can be stubborn about housebreaking - however with firm consistency they will get it - and once they get it they don't lose it.
Where can I find a good breeder?
The best place to start your search for a quality breeder is with the National Club for the Cardigan in your country. These could be:
Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of America
Canadian Cardigan Corgi Club
Cardigan Welsh Corgi Association (UK)
In other countries it's usually the Welsh Corgi Club catering for both breeds.
What health testing should I be asking about?
For Cardigan Welsh Corgis, the following health testing is recommended by OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) / AKC Canine Health Foundation:
HD - OFA or Pennhip evaluation for Hip Dysplasia
PRA - Genetic testing for hereditary condition causing juvenile blindness
DM - Genetic testing for hereditary condition causing loss of control and eventual paralysis
CERF - Eye testing for other congenital eye issues
Shelley Camm (02.04.1957-10.08.2020)
successful breeder of Cardigans in Canada under the kennel name Yasashiikuma.
The full article was published on Laurie Eno's blog The Daily Corgi on October 28, 2016 and republished with kind permission.