"What kind of dog is that?"
"Is that a Border Collie mix?"
"Oh! I know that breed; it's an Australian-something, isn't it?"
"Um, is that a ... Corgi? I've never seen one with a tail before, and aren't they supposed to be tan?"
These comments and more are common when you find yourself in a relationship with a Cardigan Welsh Corgi. What is a Cardigan Welsh Corgi, exactly? There are probably as many answers as there are people who live with Cardigans, or Cardi's, as they are familiarly known.
My own answer is deceptively simple. In my opinion, the Cardigan is the ultimate working farm dog. This is the dog who is capable of babysitting your kids all morning, rounding up your cows in the evening, while spending the rest of the day keeping the foxes out of the henhouse, welcoming your guests while warning off intruders, helping the cats dispatch mice, rats and other unwelcomes, and they were even used to help Welsh farmers hunt birds and rabbits for supper. To view my collection of historic Cardigan photo's, click here.
Today, Cardigans excel at such sports as Agility, Tracking, Herding, Obedience, and Fly-Ball. There are even Cardigan Dock dogs, Therapy Dogs, Assistance Dogs, Search and Rescue dogs, retrievers used in hunting, and Weight-Pulling dogs.
The dog capable of such versatility must be intelligent, independent, biddable, a little willful and stubborn (a pushover would NEVER be able to handle cattle). He must be energetic when duty calls, and patient and quiet when it does not.
How does this translate into modern life? Well, first I must warn you that if you are a total couch potato who wants a dog to quietly spend its life sleeping at your feet, this is NOT the dog for you. If you are somewhat active, know how to go for walks and throw a ball regularly, this MIGHT be a dog for you. If you are creative, good at inventing games, interested in entering a training partnership with your dog and want a lifelong companion, keep reading.
Cardigans are known as the large dog in the small body, only that body isn't as small as it looks. According to the breed standard, dogs can weigh up to 38 lbs, and bitches slightly less. While roughly 40 lbs might not sound like too much, imagine this weight tugging at a leash with you on the other end before you decide to skip obedience class.
Cardigans are naturally clean and very easy to housetrain, but they do shed twice as much as you think they ought to. We vacuum our house daily and sometimes think that is not enough.
My boys have very deep, German Shepherd barks, and Lucy sounds more feminine. I'd like to say my dogs never bark, but that would not be entirely true. While they almost never bark, Leo occasionally warns of strangers, and Charlie howls at the ambulance. If you care about your neighbors, you'll want to be sure your Cardigan never becomes bored enough to be a nuisance while you are away.
Cardigans can be very stubborn, but generally in a good way, if that makes sense. They want a job to do, and they want to do it well. They will be very stubborn about doing what they think they are supposed to do, so make sure your lessons are clear and understood. At the same time, Cardigans hate repetitive training. Once they get it, they've got it, and drilling an exercise only makes them despise training or start inventing new behaviors. After all, they must be doing it wrong, or you wouldn't keep asking them to practice. Right?
Cardigans can also be emotionally sensitive. Although they go through life with a smile on their face and a bounce in their step, if they have not found a way to make you laugh, this may worry them. My "kidlings" are also known to sulk if they feel they are being reprimanded unfairly, but each one of them accepts full responsibility when they've made an honest mistake. They are quick to apologize.
Although the breed standard calls for the Cardigan to be aloof with strangers, my own dogs aren't. They race to say hello to anyone they meet. Because of their short height and charming faces, they are frequently rewarded by strangers for jumping up, but remember how heavy a 40 lb dog is compared to a child or elderly person, and do what you can to dissuade this bad habit.
Cardigans live a very long time. I have heard of many who have made it to 18. If you aren't ready to commit to a child, you aren't ready to commit to a Cardigan, as both will be your in-home responsibility for pretty much the same amount of time.
Cardigans cannot be shut in a room or kept in the backyard to be forgotten. These dogs were bred to participate in every aspect of Welsh farm life, and they expect to be at your side as much as possible. They are curious and interested in absolutely everything. My own dogs are never more than four or five feet from me, and they'd accompany me everywhere, if they could.
Please research the breed as much as possible. Visit dog shows. Talk to other owners. Review the breed standard and become familiar with what you can expect from one of these dogs. Give it a lot of thought. Then think some more. Check the Cardigan Rescue group to see if any second-hand dogs are available that might fit your needs. Know what your needs are. Know what you can compromise on, and what you cannot.
Ask yourself why you want a dog. Don't tell yourself that you'll start going for a daily jog AFTER you get a dog. If you aren't doing it before, you probably won't do it later, either. Be honest with yourself. Cardigans, like any dog, are a lot of work, and these are working dogs. Know what job you'll be giving to the dog and have a training plan in place. A Cardigan will take over your life, which is generally a good thing, but make sure it is something you expect and look forward to.
After you are certain that the Cardigan is right for you, please put as much time into researching breeders as you have put into researching the breed. Be careful and make sure you are making a responsible decision. You want a breeder who will be right there with you, hand-in-hand, throughout the life of your dog.