By Eve Forsyth-Forrest (Helarian Corgis)
I think that some owners of Corgis are rather apt to forget that they were originally herd dogs, - probably one of the earliest breed of such, - and that the instincts referred to by Mr. Martyn are still very much a part of them.
In common with other working dogs, their idea is to get-together with animals, and not to chase or kill out of mischief. Unfortunately, the early stages of development of this instinct are often misunderstood by over-anxious people, and sometimes the wave of alarm and excitement imparted by them, conveys itself to the dog, and ends in a flurry and an accident. Corgis are very sensitive to atmosphere, and most of them extremely intelligent. They have extraordinary powers of discrimination, and a strong sense of taking their place in the world as useful members of the community.
Any good brain which is left unoccupied, and consequently bored, is apt to develop peculiarities, and I think this is the answer to the fortunately few, bad tempered, nervous and undesirable corgis. I do not profess to have studied the art of training dogs, or to be an exponent of such, but most of my life has been spent working with, and observing animals, both wild and tame.
It soon became impressed on me that a dog should be a help as well as a companion, and not an anxiety, and a nuisance to oneself and one's neighbours. No breed can fill the former requirements better than a corgi. They first came into my life 35 years ago*, and I soon realised that within reason, they can carry out all the numerous jobs demanded of dogs in the country. It is not necessary to have a terrier to catch rats and rabbits, or a collie to herd cattle and shepherd the livestock, a gun dog, or any other specialist. A corgi can do all these things and do them well and with obvious enjoyment.
I generally give puppies a certain amount of liberty at 3 months old, and the latest litter comes for short walks with the rest of the pack, usually following close at heel until they gain confidence in the unknown world of the wood. This does give them the appearance of growing a bit leggy, and in some cases, though they eat well, they get rather thin, but their "fronts" do not seem to "go" nearly so much as kennel dogs, and they acquire much more elasticity of movement. The bitches soon develop and let down when they have a litter, and the dogs when they are about 18 months old. I never try to force puppies along any particular line, but leave them to develop their own interests, with a little encouragement or suppression as required. A few of them prefer some special occupation but most will have a go at anything.
Most puppies make straight for the ponies, who put their heads down to investigate the new "herd", and after a little mutual sniffing, alarming liberties take place with heels and tails, but a horse seldom kicks AT a dog if they are left alone. There is occasionally a wave of heels, but no evil intent. Corgis who like working with cattle and ponies have a great gift of getting the confidence of their animals. They are quick to realise where you want or do not want a herd or individual beast, and their way of collection or removal is by the nose and heel method. When herding they single out the leader and appear to have a little conversation on the desirability of obeying instructions. Usually the horse or cow puts its head down and follows, and any insurrection in the rank and file calls forth more persuasive conversation, a deal of threats and an occasional nip at the heels.
Apart from moving animals to pastures new, they go in search of, and bring home, any which may have strayed, but this seldom happens, as corgis have a great idea of confining their "charges" within their appointed limits and will guard any gap which is made.
It is a great help having the company of a corgi with a young or nervous horse, and with the aid of its moral support, unknown and suspicious objects are soon accepted.
Great interest is shown at the arrival of a new calf or foal, and given a chance they will help the mother with its toilet, and lie down alongside when the baby is resting. This protective instinct is very strong in corgis and at a very early age they will take upon themselves to guard any animal or object which they think is in need of protection.
They have a very active poultry sense, and I personally have only owned one which killed a bantam, and she was led astray by a visiting Border Terrier. It is not permitted for cockerels to fight or the hens to squabble over tit-bits. With a seizing of tails, the combatants are separated and stood over till peace is restored. Geese are kept in their place, ducks removed from the pond at bedtime and I have known even the most pompous and ferocious turkey bow to discipline.
A useful trait in connection with poultry is the gift of smelling out and, after pointing, retrieving eggs in hidden nests, and I once had a bitch Hela who kept us well supplied with Plovers eggs.
They have wonderful noses and very good mouths, and will carry a hare or an egg with equal dexterity. Some of them tend to be gun-shy, but a great many make very good rough shooting dogs, and will go into water or face the thickest gorse and brambles. Corgis are not naturally killers, their instinct, as I have stressed, being to protect other animals, but as they grow up they seem to realise that there are certain vermin who are a danger to the animals in their charge, or to their home and property.
As a pack Corgis will hunt rabbits, fox and hare, and, on a good scenting day make a very pleasant noise providing one has a balance of voices and not too many falsettos, which by the way I am afraid are on the increase. The old Corgi has a pleasant deep voice, and I think breeders should concern themselves more over this. At the same time it must be admitted that some strains hunt silently. I have owned several Corgis who would go to ground to fox or badger, and having large feet and strong claws they dig very quickly, but most of them are too big and deep bodied for the job.
The Welsh Corgi League Handbook 1947
*) i.e. around 1912, well before the Corgis were officially recognised as a breed by The Kennel Club in 1925.
Photos from E. Forsyth-Forrest's book "Welsh Corgis" published in 1955 by Ernest Benn Ltd., London, now only available from second hand book sellers.