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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
Affectionately called the “yard-long dog” in his native Wales, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi is active and good-natured — and he loves to be busy. Cardigans make excellent watchdogs, but they can become nuisance barkers if they’re not properly trained.
You can tell a Cardigan apart from a Pembroke Corgi if you remember that the Cardi has a long tail, like the sleeves of a cardigan sweater, while the Pembroke has a “broke” tail.
The Cardigan is best described as a Corgi with a tail, but he stands out from his cousin, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, in other ways. The Cardigan has larger, more rounded ears and he comes in a variety of colors, including tricolor (black and white, with tan or brindle points), blue merle, brindle, sable, and red. Most Cardis also have white markings on the neck, chest, feet, and tail tip. They weigh between 25 and 38 pounds, making them a little larger than the Pembroke.
Although Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh Corgis were both developed in Wales, they have different ancestry: twin sons of different mothers, you might say. The Cardigan, nicknamed the yard-long dog in his home shire of Cardigan, shares ancestors with another long breed, the Dachshund. Unlike the Dachshund, the Cardi was used to drive cattle by nipping at their heels. Today, he’s more of a companion and a show dog, but he still has strong herding instincts.
This is a loving, good-natured, and active dog, so be prepared to keep your Cardigan engaged. Athletic and tireless, he excels in dog sports, especially agility, herding, flyball, obedience, rally, and tracking. He also enjoys going for long walks and hikes. Due to his herding background, he has a watchful nature and will bark to ward off critters or strangers who approach his domain. And while you may think of him as an outdoor dog, nothing could be farther from the truth — a Cardigan Welsh Corgi loves to play in the yard, but he’s happiest at home with his family.
The Cardigan Welsh Corgi is believed to be the older of the two Corgi breeds. Although no one knows for sure, his ancestors may have arrived in Wales alongside ancient Celts who migrated from central Europe. The dog that we know today hails from hilly Cardiganshire, which once teemed with farms and valleys that were perfect for raising cattle. His predecessors drove cattle to market, nipping at their heels to get the cattle to move, and pivoting out of the way if the livestock kicked back.
Industrialization eventually put an end to the Corgi’s usefulness on the farm, and people began crossing the dogs with other herding breeds, including Collies and early Pomeranians, who were much larger than today’s standard Pom. The Collie cross may have thrown the blue merle coloration into the Cardigan’s gene pool.
For a time, it looked as if the Cardigan would go the way of the dinosaurs because he was less popular than his cousin, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi. At one point, the two were even considered the same breed, but the Kennel Club separated them in 1934, giving the Cardigan more of a chance to survive on his own. The Cardigan Welsh Corgi Association wrote a standard for the breed, and thanks to a 1931 importation of some Corgis by Mrs. Robert Bole of Boston, Massachusetts, the dogs became known in the United States. In 1935, the American Kennel Club recognized the breed. The descendants of Mrs. Bole’s dogs did well in the show ring, including Ch. Swansea Jon, CD, who took Best of Breed at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show three years running. Today, the Cardigan is still less popular than the Pembroke — the Cardi ranks 84th among the breeds registered by the AKC — but he’s definitely in no danger of disappearing.
The fun-loving Cardi is a classic herding dog: even-tempered, loyal, and affectionate. His true goal in life is to spend time — and please — his people. His moderate size and activity level makes him adaptable to any type of home or family, and he’s sturdy and tolerant of children and other pets. In fact, the company of another dog or a cat is a big bonus for him.
Cardigans may not look like athletes, but they are agile. You’ll be amazed at how fast a Corgi can run when he’s chasing a ball or competing in agility trials. If he can twist out of the way of an angry cow, he can certainly navigate A-frames, tunnels, jumps, and other obstacles. The Cardi has lots of stamina — he can even scramble along hiking trails — but he’s also satisfied with a shorter walk or playtime in the yard.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
The Cardigan is naturally suspicious of strangers, thanks to his herding heritage, so early socialization is important. To counteract this tendency, invite people to your home, so he grows accustomed to regular visitors.
Cardigan Welsh Corgis are a generally healthy breed, but they are susceptible to some health conditions, including intervertebral disc disease, and such eye problems as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and cataracts.
Veterinarians can’t predict if an animal will be free of these maladies, so it’s important to find a reputable breeder and insist upon seeing independent certification that the parents of the dog have been screened for defects and deemed healthy. The Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of America (CWCCA), which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program (CHIC), a health database. For Cardigans to achieve CHIC certification, they must have hip evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), eye clearances from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF), and a DNA test for PRA. Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the database, which can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents.
Careful breeders screen their dogs for genetic disease, and only breed the best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy can develop one of these diseases. In most cases, he can still live a good life, thanks to advances in veterinary medicine. And remember that you have the power to protect your Cardigan from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping him at an appropriate weight is a simple way to extend your Cardi’s life.
The Cardigan has a thick, medium-length double coat that sheds a lot, but it also repels dirt, lacks an odor, and is easy to maintain. To remove dead hair and distribute your Cardigan’s natural skin oils, groom his coat weekly using a shedding blade, slicker brush or fine pin brush. Baths are rarely needed. Cardigans also go through heavier seasonal sheds twice a year, so brush more often during that time to keep flying fur under control.
The rest is routine care: Trim his nails every few weeks — you can also trim the hair on his feet for a neater look — and brush his teeth frequently for good overall health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Selecting a respected breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. Reputable breeders will welcome questions about temperament and health clearances, as well as explain the history of the breed and what kind of puppy makes for a good pet. Don’t be shy about describing exactly what you’re looking for in a dog — breeders interact with their puppies daily and can make accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality.
Lots of breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags to look out for: multiple litters on the premises, puppies always being available, having your choice of any puppy, and being offered the option to pay online with a credit card. Breeders who sell puppies at a lower price “without papers” are unethical and should be reported to the American Kennel Club. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
To start your search, check out the website of the Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of America and choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the CWCCA’s code of ethics, which specifies that members not place puppies prior to 12 weeks of age, prohibits the sale of puppies through pet stores, and calls for the breeder to obtain recommended health clearances before breeding.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Cardigan Welsh Corgi puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, the sex of the puppy, the titles (ideally working or hunting) that the puppy’s parents have, and whether the puppy is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life. If you put as much effort into researching your puppy as you would when buying a new car, it will save you money in the long run.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Cardigan Welsh Corgi may better suit your lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a good deal of time and effort before they grow up to be the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training, and he’ll probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy. With an adult Cardigan, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Cardigan in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Cardigans available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Cardigan. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Most people who love Cardigans love all Cardigans. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of America’s Rescue Networkcan help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Bulldog rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Corgi home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Cardigan, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Cardigan to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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