By B. M. Morgan, Elsdyle Corgis, England
There is nothing spectacular in the Corgi's appearance. It has no oddities or fashion appeal, and before it became so well known it must have appeared to many people as just "another little brown dog". The slow and steady rise to popularity can only be attributed to one thing, suitability as a family pet, the first essentials of which are good temper and trainability. Intelligence makes training easier, and for brains Corgis are hard to beat. It is a fact once you have owned a Corgi it sets such a high standard that few other breeds can rival or attain.
This extreme intelligence carries with it disadvantages for inexperienced or novice owners. It is only right and proper for a lively puppy to try its strength and willpower against its owners, and the more intelligent it is, so is it the more determined. When finally trained this kind make the most delightful companions, much more rewarding (to me anyway) than the easy, happy-go-lucky dog which cannot think for itself and only asks to adore its owner.
The correct way to train a Corgi puppy is discipline from the age of eight weeks. At that age, an angry voice will usually be enough correction and thereby the puppy grows up to respect authority. A Corgi prefers to have a master it can respect, but can be perfectly beastly with someone it feels it can boss. Generally, if one hears complaints of a dog's behaviour, on enquiry it will be found the dog has never been checked as a baby, for "fear of breaking its spirit ", and the little quirks which were amusing in a tiny are not so funny in a dog of adult size. The poor chap who has been allowed all his own way for what is quite a long time in a dogs' life cannot understand being punished, and not unnaturally resents it. This situation should never arise.
When I first started going to Obedience Classes, I was asked by one dog owner "Don't you find these classes a wonderful help?" Well, frankly I didn't. They were fun, but anyone who has kept a number of dogs for years has either the habit of authority, which dogs quickly recognise, or else find themselves overwhelmed, by a lot of troublesome dogs. I can have three stud dogs and eight to ten bitches all running loose in the garden, and provided I am with them I know they will behave. In my absence I would not, however, feel too happy about that many together, for Corgis are not pack dogs.
The very nature of the work a Corgi was bred to do calls for individuality, or as Mr John Holmes, the well-known trainer expressed it "agility of mind". Where Hound and Gun dogs have been bred so many years to scent and retrieve, it sometimes seems that their whole minds are so concentrated on these two functions they have little inclination to spare thought for any other extraordinary conditions which may arise, but make no mistake, dogs and Corgis in particular can think and work out problems. There is more to herding cattle than racing round barking and nipping their heels. The Corgi has to work out problems for itself. When all the cows but one go through the gate, the odd one has to be rounded up and driven back to join the herd. A missing heifer has to be found and brought home. Instinct helps, but it is amazing how quickly Corgis can size up these situations and rise to the occasion.
It is their intelligence, smart obedience to commands and general trainability, that has endeared the breed to so many people. These traits so fully proved by our many Obedience winners, which include at the present, two Obedience Champions.
The Corgi puppy starts to evince its intelligence at the early age of three weeks at which age, because it dislikes a dirty bed, it is determined to get on to the floor to relieve itself, whereas other breeds need clean beds every day. The super smart ones early develop "lavatory habits", choosing a corner of their kennel and run and always using it. It is a sign of a stupid puppy to soil its run near the wire where it usually sits or runs. The average puppy sold as a pet becomes house trained in two to three weeks. I have never found a kennel dog over six months requiring house training, beyond letting out at regular intervals.
Two habits to which Corgis are prone should be strongly discouraged. They are nipping legs (which after all is only natural) and too strong a guarding instinct. In the first instance no harm is meant, it is merely a game, but not everyone understands this and it is better completely stopped. (Maybe easier said than done. I have a young bitch who never does it to anyone else but me. She catches me just under the back of my knee, and as it is a mark of her special affection for me I have not checked her.) The guarding can be very tiresome on the Show Bench and gives a bad impression to passers-by. It should be made clear to the dog when it is permissible to guard and when not. It will soon learn if you are firm.
The odd nervous dog has been with us since before the war. It is no new appearance, different things upset different dogs. One dog may be shy of strangers but not care a button about fire and bangs. Another may love all visitors and yet be terrified in a thunderstorm. The main issue is that any timidity should not be combined with nervous aggression.
Certainly Corgis have improved in one respect. Pre-war, at the big shows, the top dog classes were pandemonium, most of the exhibits showing their teeth, hackles up and struggling to get at each other. Nowadays, it is rare indeed to see such a display of bad ring manners.
Corgi bitches, with their strong maternal instincts, make the most delightful mothers. They love their families and welcome human visitors to admire their beautiful puppies. They seldom have that jealous possessiveness which can be such a nuisance. Since 1936 I have heard only of three bad mothers, and in each case I have wondered if the dams had been disturbed in some way by lack of privacy. A young bitch with her first litter sometimes takes a little time to realise the puppies she has painfully brought into the world are really part of herself. If she growls at them when first presented to her, take them away and keep very warm. Give her time to get over the ordeal of giving birth. When she has had a sleep, smear a little of her discharge on a puppy and offer it for her to lick. I have never known this fail. Even after they have finished rearing the puppies they still like to return to them for a game, once the pups realise the milk bar is finally closed.
The Corgi has a long memory and does not forget old friends. Three years is nothing to an adult Corgi. It will give you the same welcome as it did every morning when it lived with you. If brought up with children who are taught to treat it properly, the Corgi revels in family games. I know of one dog which lived with a family for three years before a baby arrived, and at once, instead of being jealous the baby became the Corgi's special property. He watched it being bathed, fed and dressed with great interest, and when the pram was put outside with the baby asleep in it, he would invariably settle himself beneath it and only people he knew were allowed to approach.
The Corgi, with its prick ears and sharp hearing, as a house dog is second to none. It will hear the gate click before callers arrive at the door. He quickly recognises the difference between the sound of the engine of its owner's car and that of a stranger. Once a visitor has been admitted check the barking. Make the dog understand that once it has notified you of the stranger's arrival that is all that is required.
I think I have covered all the characteristics of Corgi temperament as I know it. However, they are such amazing little dogs and so quick to react to any unforeseen circumstances I should never be surprised to hear of individuals accomplishing feats about which I have never dreamed. Of one point I am sure - of all the breeds I have tried, and I have tried several, none pleases me as much as the Corgi, and without one, or two, or even more, life would not be the same to me. I am grateful to them all for the pleasure they have brought me.
From The Welsh Corgi League Handbook 1962