The corgi, a dog breed so ridiculously appealing that he has surpassed even cats in some Internet meme circles, might be cute as a button dressed up as a banana for Halloween, but some corgis have an aggressive streak. Because corgis were bred as herders, they can be feisty.
Pembroke Vs. Cardigan
The Pembroke Welsh corgi and the Cardigan Welsh corgi have similar backgrounds. The Pembroke is the newer of the two, dating from 1107, according to the American Kennel Club. Flemish weavers brought the Pembroke to Wales. The weavers were also farmers who put the Pembroke corgis to work herding cattle. The Cardigan is one of the earliest dog breeds in Britain, dating from about 1200 B.C., according to the AKC. The Welsh, who owned little land at the time, grazed cattle on common land. They trained Cardigans to nip the heels of cattle to drive them away to cover more land. The Cardigan and the Pembroke were officially recognized as separate breeds in 1934. The biggest differences in appearance are that the Cardigan has a tail and is larger, and the Pembroke has more of a foxy look with pointier ears.
It’s almost unbelievable that this short dog who reaches only 10 to 12 inches tall -- the Cardigans can get to be as tall as 12.5 inches at the shoulder -- was bred to herd cattle. You need to be somewhat aggressive to deal with an animal six times your height. Corgis are. They nipped the cattle’s heels and then dodged and ducked to keep away from the mighty hooves. Corgis needed to be almost nasty to get the cattle to move. Bring a corgi to a toddler play date and expect some herding action to occur there, too.
You Be the Leader
Not only are corgis tough little dogs, they are highly intelligent. If you don’t establish yourself as boss -- pack leader, alpha or whatever term you prefer to use -- your corgi will assume the role. When a corgi thinks he’s boss, he’ll herd you and the rest of the family. You can change that behavior with basic obedience training. You need to be firm with your corgi, letting him know you are the boss and you will not tolerate being herded. If, for example, your corgi nips at your child’s heels and is scaring her, nip the nipping in the bud: As soon as your corgi gets near the heels and is ready to nip, say “Ah!” or “Eh!” in a loud, commanding tone. Step between your toddler and your corgi so he understands that you are in charge of your child.
Aggression With Food
If you are not an established boss in your home, your corgi might be aggressive with his food. An aggressive, bossy corgi is likely to growl if you get near his bowl -- and the growl might precede a bite. You can’t have that going on. Employ a philosophy that you own everything, including his food, and you choose to give it to him when you are ready. A good way to bring home the message is to have your corgi sit and look at you while you hold his food bowl. He needs to remain in sit position and maintain eye contact with you for as long as you like, whether that be 20 seconds, a minute or whatever you want. Then put the food down. You should be able to put your hand in the food dish without him growing. The food is yours, not his.
Aggression With Toys
If your corgi is aggressive with a toy, stare him down, say “Mine,” hold out your hand and stand over him and the toy. Take away the toy, and let him have it when he’s calm. If your dog is being particularly aggressive with the toy by continuing to growl at you and bare his teeth to get you to back away, don’t risk being bitten. Call a dog trainer to show you what to do.
Aggression With Other Dogs
Corgis, maybe because of their instinctual herding behavior, generally won’t back down from a dogfight. If they can stand up to cattle, they don’t care how big the other dog is. Your best plan is to keep your corgi on a leash anytime you are outside your home, according to Richard G. Beauchamp's “Welsh Corgis: Pembroke and Cardigan.” If your corgi reacts aggressively to another dog, keep the leash close to your body and continue walking away.
Laura Agadoni has been writing professionally since 1983. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appear in her local newspaper. She has also written and edited for a grassroots outreach effort and has been published in "Clean Eating" magazine and in "Dimensions" magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. Agadoni has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University-Fullerton.