The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to Corgis" by David Anderson. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.
Author Credit: David AndersonOnce you get your Corgi puppy home, pretty much everything changes. It is an experience that you will never forget. Starting with a puppy means starting with all of the potential that your puppy has – it is a commitment to making sure your Corgi is raised and trained in a way that will make your dog happy and healthy.
Those first seven days establish a lot about the kind of environment the puppy will be living in, the first steps of turning that potential into your perfect dog. Now that you have completed all of the puppy-proofing, you get to start on the fun stuff – the care, training, and fun of owning a Corgi.
Preparation and Planning
The time to start is actually before your puppy arrives – the planning and preparation. You need to make sure you have everything set up for your Corgi so that you are not trying to figure everything out as you go (you will be doing enough of that as it is).
Start with one final check to ensure that you have adequately puppy-proofed your home. Corgi puppies are small, so you may need to get down on the floor to see your home from their angle. This should be done over the course of the week before your puppy comes home.
Have a list of everything your puppy will need right from the start. That list should include (but won’t be limited to) the following:
- Water and food dishes
If you plan to fence your puppy into a particular area of your abode, you will also need gates and items to make sure your Corgi cannot get out of the designated puppy space. You should have everything on this list before the puppy gets to your home because you are not going to have time to go purchase them later (especially not on the first day you have your puppy).
Sit down with your family and make sure everyone understands the rules, especially children. They need to be trained in proper puppy handling, and you will need to be as strict with your kids as you are with your puppy when it comes to taking care of the newest family member. Make sure you know who is in charge of the basic puppy care (feeding and walking). Training should be everyone’s job, but there will likely be a primary trainer as well. You can establish paired responsibility if your child or children want to help – one child and one adult who make sure the puppy gets the food and water required every day, for example.
Finally, plan on having a routine for your Corgi puppy. It is nearly certain that the plan will change, but you need to have somewhere to begin so that you are working the training and regular care into the day, every day. You can tweak the schedule as needed, but have a schedule you can work with before the puppy arrives. Once in your home, the puppy is going to be more than enough to occupy your time so that you will not have time to think about much else.
That last week before your puppy comes home, make sure you have everything planned and ready. It will never be quite enough, but it is much better than trying to wing it with an intelligent puppy that may be able to use your lack of planning to its own canine advantage.
The Ride Home
Training begins from the moment the Corgi puppy gets into your car. Everything that puppy needs to know happens during that first trip.
Yes, you will be tempted to cuddle and play and make exceptions to the rules, but that is exactly the kind of behavior that is going to undermine your training. Your puppy is learning about you from that first impression, and you want that impression to be that you are the one in charge. That adorable little face is backed by a lot of brains, and it is going to use what it learns during the first car ride to understand the nature of your relationship.
All intelligent working dogs require a firm, consistent hand from the very beginning – Corgis are no exception. The first ride helps the puppy to understand the structure and organization of the pack.
If possible, you should have two adults on the trip. Find out if the puppy has ever been in a vehicle before, and if not, make sure you have someone else present for that first ride. One person will drive, and the other will comfort the puppy. Even though Corgis are not prone to being afraid, cars are not a natural phenomenon and that first trip may be scary. Start teaching your puppy how enjoyable car rides can be.
If you plan on using a crate for the trip home, ensure that the puppy will be secure. You do not want the crate to shift and move with the Corgi inside of it. Being jostled and feeling powerless about it is not a great first impression of car trips.
First Night Frights
The first few nights away from Mommy can be intimidating, if not downright frightening. However, there is only so much you should do to help reassure your puppy because at some point the puppy learns that certain negative behaviors get results. It is a balancing act that will be difficult to get right, but will ultimately be worth it. Your job is to teach your puppy that nighttime is not so scary and that your home is safe.
If you want to keep your Corgi off of the beds, you have to start now. That means you cannot bring the puppy onto the bed at night. Once you allow your Corgi on the bed, there is no convincing that canine that you actually mean “no dogs on the bed”.
There will be unfamiliar noises and sounds, and your Corgi puppy will hear each and every one of them. In return, your puppy will probably make a lot of noises too. These noises let you know the puppy is uncomfortable, afraid, or simply lonely. This is to be expected, considering the constant companionship that the puppy had at its previous home with Mommy and the siblings.
You cannot think of these noises as being bothersome to you, even though they will be (especially as you try to sleep). Do not move the puppy further away from you so that you can sleep better or be less annoyed. That will only frighten your puppy more, causing anxiety and reinforcing the fear of being in your home. No matter how much you are bothered by the noises, you must keep the puppy in the room with you during those first few terrifying nights. Over time, the puppy will be reassured and calmed simply by having you in the room.
Are you likely to get good sleep? Absolutely not. It’s a lot like bringing home a human infant; this infant is just furrier and smaller. It’s part of the deal when you decide on a Corgi puppy instead of an adult dog.
You should already have a designated sleeping area for your Corgi, whether a crate, pen, or bed. The area should definitely be set off from the rest of the room with boundaries that the puppy cannot escape (not for a little while, anyway). When your Corgi starts to make noise, you have to learn to ignore the noises. This will be extremely difficult, and extremely necessary. If you give in to the whimpering, whining, and crying now, the dog will expect that to work in the future (and will get louder with each time you try to ignore it later).
Finally, you need a plan for bathroom breaks. This may be a small area within the puppy’s space, or it could be a trip outside every few hours (depending on how you want to house train your Corgi). Whatever your chosen housetraining path, you will need to get up to help your puppy several times during the night.
First Vet Visit
You should take your new puppy to the vet within a day or two of its arrival at your home. This will help you ensure that your puppy is healthy and will create a rapport between your Corgi and the vet. That initial assessment of your Corgi will help you learn more about your pet and will give you a chance to ask the vet for advice on anything that you are unsure of. This trip is the baseline by which your vet will gauge your puppy’s growth and development.
The trip will certainly elicit emotions from your Corgi, whether excitement or anxiety. Odds are good that your Corgi will want to explore everything in the office, especially the other animals. After all, this is probably your Corgi’s first chance at socialization with other animals outside of your home. Make sure to ask before your puppy approaches any of the other animals at the vet’s office – you do not want the first encounter with another dog or cat to be horrifying. You want the other animal to be mellow or interested (though not too excited) about meeting the puppy. The owner will be able to tell you if it is alright, or warn you that it is not a good idea. Remember, the older animals may be sick and not feeling well. Introducing them to a puppy could be a risky idea.
Also, make sure to give your puppy positive feedback for good behavior at the office. Being comforting and affectionate will teach your puppy that the vet’s office is not a bad place (something that they will probably learn after repeat visits of “torture”). Creating a positive environment will help your puppy learn to be at ease even when visiting the vet.
The Start of Training
Training begins the moment the puppy gets into your car, and it will continue over the course of that first week. You will build on this training over the coming weeks and months.
This is the time to start minimizing the behaviors you do not want.
Corgis are notorious nippers. As small dogs, they relied on their bite to get the point across with cattle that ignored their bark. There is a good chance that your puppy will start nipping during that first week. Be prepared to start correcting your puppy the first time it happens.
If you want your pet to be uncharacteristically quiet (for a Corgi), you must start during that first week when your puppy barks. It will probably mean a few extra treats, but that is how you will teach your Corgi what quiet is. Your puppy will also be noisy when trying to get your attention, so you will be training yourself to react in a certain way to the noise as well. Doing that now will be much easier than re-training yourself later.
Leash training will probably be pretty easy since your Corgi will be excited about going outside. This training is actually just as much for you as for the puppy. You do not want to get used to dragging the puppy away from things that it is sniffing. You will need to start finding ways to keep your puppy walking without being too forceful.
With any smart dog, respect is essential to the training. You want to teach your puppy to respect you without fearing you. Consistency is the best way to do that. Do not make exceptions during the first week because you will be fighting to correct that lesson for the rest of your Corgi’s life.
Acclimation to a Wide Range of Sounds
Your Corgi’s exceptional hearing is going to be obvious right from the start. Watch those ears perk up and that face start to look for the source of the sound. You want to be with your puppy as much as possible, exposing your dog to as many sounds as you can. This will help your dog know which sounds are safe, reducing the puppy’s anxiety while helping the puppy learn when it is okay to bark.
Grooming (They Shed; Get Used to Constant Grooming)
That beautiful dirt-resistant coat comes at a very high price – the shedding never stops.
You should get in the habit of brushing your puppy. Often. At least weekly, but even more if you want to fight the shedding that is about to go on in your home. This will help cut down on the amount of fur that will make its way all around your home, as well as teaching your puppy how to behave during grooming. You can rotate the responsibility between different people, making sure children are supervised when brushing the puppy. It should be an enjoyable and quick task that takes just a couple of minutes (as long as you groom often).
It isn’t compulsory, though. If you are okay with having little balls of Corgi fur traveling around your home like tumbleweeds, all you have to do is stick to grooming your Corgi once a month or once a quarter – just be prepared for a whole lot more housework.
The First Month
By the end of the first week, you are probably tired but already getting an idea what your puppy’s personality is like. With an idea of what works (and what probably doesn’t), you can spend the next month really working on training. Despite being an adorable little bundle of fun, your Corgi will let you know that you have your work cut out for you (as you saw during that first week).
As with most challenging tasks, when you successfully train a Corgi puppy, it is highly rewarding. The daily practice and training will start to yield results relatively quickly, helping to keep you motivated. The eager look on your puppy’s face can be an even better motivator. And remember, when your Corgi is tired, there is no energy left to misbehave.
Keep this in mind over that first month.
Not up to Full Strength
Once your Corgi is an adult, you will be able to take your dog nearly anywhere to play, hike, and explore. Right now though, you are largely homebound. Of course, you will be able to go out to teach your puppy how to walk on a leash, but the excursions will generally be close to home for that first month. You will also need to break up the walks and exercise so that they are spread out over the course of the day (you can’t take your puppy on two long walks – the little guy simply does not have the energy for that).
On the positive side, there will a lot of naps mixed into the day. That means after you head out for a walk, you can plan on getting some work done as your puppy crashes. However, you still need to keep your canine restricted to the puppy area. If you have bedding in the room where you will be working, that could be alright, as long as you plan to drop what you are doing as soon as the puppy wakes.
By the end of the month, you will probably notice that your Corgi is able to go a good bit further than it was able to in the beginning. You will need to adjust your routine to meet the needs of your Corgi. It could mean fewer walks that last nearly twice as long.
Setting the Rules and Sticking to Them
Corgis like to have things their way, and given their incredibly cute demeanor and physique, they are quite accustomed to getting it. It is incredibly easy to feel that your new puppy isn’t ready for the firm hand you know you will need later.
It’s not true –they need it more now than they will later.
If you neglect to keep your puppy under control, you will find it next to impossible to gain control later. After all, you have already taught your puppy that you are not the one in control, and once that idea is in your Corgi’s head, there’s really nothing you can do to change the dog’s mind.
You will be tempted to let it go.
Your puppy is going to try to convince you that it needs more attention, fewer rules, and more food, but you have to let your Corgi know that your way is the way of the house.
If you can get through that first month without giving into that feeling that just once won’t hurt, you will have a much easier time with your Corgi. Your young, impressionable Corgi will learn to respect you from the very first month, and that makes all the difference in the world. You can start making exceptions much, much, much later (when your dog is around five or six years old). There is no point while your Corgi is a puppy that you should be making exceptions in training and rules.
Corgis are very individualistic, and if they are not socialized, they can be little terrors. Early socialization is critical to ensuring that your Corgi is well behaved around other dogs and people. Socialization should be an activity that you focus on during the first month after your Corgi arrives.
If you have family and friends with dogs that are well socialized, make play dates with them. You can either have the dog over to your home, or you can take the puppy to the dog’s home (unless the dog is territorial, then it is best to meet at your home or on neutral ground). Socialization could even be built into your walks if you know people nearby who are willing to walk their dogs with you and the puppy.
You also need to socialize your Corgi with people. This will probably be easier since you just need people nearby who want to play with a puppy (yeah, pretty easy to find that). This can include small children, but you will need to be very careful. Because of a Corgi’s sensitive hearing, you want the children to be calm enough not to shout and make loud noises around the puppy. They also need to be old enough to understand to be gentle with the puppy. If a child is rough with a Corgi puppy, the Corgi is much more likely to nip and bite.
Strive to make socialization an activity that you do several times a week, or if you can manage it, make it a daily activity. The more you socialize your Corgi, the more activities you will be able to enjoy out and around the town, state, or country. Since they are travel-sized, you want to have a Corgi who will be happy to see people and other dogs, not one who is wary and snappy.
You should avoid dog parks at this stage. During that first month, there is a lot for your puppy to learn, and going to a dog park will expose your Corgi to a lot of things over which you have no control. At this point, you want the puppy’s meetings and socializing to be in a controlled environment.
Do be kind to your older pets at this stage as well. They are going to need a break from the high-energy fur ball that does not understand limits and boundaries. Make sure your older pet has plenty of time away from the puppy over the course of the day. If your older pet is particularly irritable, it may be best to try to keep the two apart most (if not all) of the time.
Treats and Rewards vs. Punishments
When people think about dog training, treats are one of the first things to come to mind, followed quickly by punishments for puppies in the early stages. There are problems with both of these courses of action, and you cannot rely on just one way to train your puppy. It is a balancing act to make sure your puppy learns when something is a good behavior, and when it is unacceptable behavior.
When it comes to Corgis, though, positive reinforcement is far better – especially positive reinforcement that comes in the shape of more attention, activity, and toys.
All you have to do is look at a Corgi to see how dangerous it is for the pup to gain weight. You do not want to rely on treats to train your new family member (just as you don’t teach children with a constant stream of candy and sweets). Treats should be given sparingly, and other forms of positive reinforcement given freely and often. After all, you don’t want your Corgi to learn to listen to you only when there is food involved.
Teaching your puppy that you are the alpha and that you should be respected is the best way of making other positive reinforcements more effective. Corgis want the alpha to be happy with them. If they respect you, most training will be unbelievably easy.
Occasional punishments may be necessary, especially for nipping. Keep in mind that the crate should never be used as a way of punishing your dog. It is meant to be a safe space that is your dog’s refuge, not a prison. Instead, place the puppy in a time out where it can see you, but cannot interact with you. Then you need to ignore the puppy no matter how much barking, whining, or whimpering it does to get your attention. If you are seen as the top of the pack, this will be more painful than any other form of punishment. It is nearly impossible to overstate just how much Corgis want to be with their people. Denying them access while still being able to see you is a stark reminder of just why they need to behave in a certain way.
Exercise – Encouraging Staying Active
Your puppy may not be up for those long walks quite yet, but that does not mean that your puppy wants to sit around the house. This is the perfect opportunity for you to start being more aware of how sedentary you are.
Don’t worry, you will want to exercise your puppy, if for no other reason than that you can have a few minutes of peace after the exercise is done. Make the time to play with your puppy, whether inside or outside, so that you can be sure that when your puppy is an adult it will be accustomed to moving and exercising. This is absolutely critical for Corgis since they can start to gain weight later in life if they do not get enough exercise.
Be creative in the kinds of activities you do (keeping in mind that your puppy is still a puppy). There will be things that your new family member won’t understand, like fetch. You can still start to train, just don’t be too pushy. That puppy is smart, and when it is ready, it will learn to bring the toy back to you instead of running away with it.
Other people and dogs can be great helpers when it comes to puppy training – especially adult dogs. Things are much easier for the puppy to understand when an adult dog does it first.
Make sure that the leash is a good fit. Your Corgi probably isn’t going to be able to break it (unless it is an old, frayed leash), but they can be incredibly fast when it comes to working their way out of collars and leashes and taking off. You can bring this up with the vet to make sure the collar is adequately tight without choking your Corgi.
Activities Based on Breed
Keeping your Corgi active is relatively easy, but the two types tend to do better with activities that are more to their respective liking. Keeping in mind that every Corgi is different, the following can help you figure out what kinds of activities your Corgi is likely to enjoy during the first month. That way you can plan for it and get the right equipment to start training.
Keep in mind the fact that this is not true for all of them – there are Pembrokes that prefer to stay home and Cardigans that want nothing more than to be out doing things. Ultimately, you need to tailor the activates to your Corgi’s interests and abilities. During the first month, you can help shape that personality, but you will be working with the foundation that is already there.
Pembrokes love to have a purpose, even when they are young. You can start training them to participate in performance events, even during the first month. Remember that they are still puppies, so you shouldn’t set your expectations too high –this is about having fun and tiring your puppy out. The Pembroke Corgi is incredibly agile, and you can start getting a good look at what it can do during that first month living with you.
This also serves the purpose of giving you an idea of just how much you have to pay attention to your dog over the coming months and years. Once you get an idea of how high it can jump and other surprising feats, you will start looking at your home in an entirely new light. This is good because you will probably need to start making adjustments to keep the growing dog from getting into things that it shouldn’t get into.
Pembrokes are also great therapy dogs. While a puppy isn’t going to be able to do much, you can start taking the puppy places to socialize where it will also be of some assistance. Make sure you are not overstraining your Corgi, though, as too much attention and stimulation can be overwhelming.
Cardigans tend to be more content at home. Focusing on training and fun activities that help you bond can be all your Cardigan Corgi needs. Hide and Seek is a fantastic game you can play with your puppy either in the house or in the yard. Being with you and getting your attention probably makes your Cardigan happier than being out and meeting new people.
Fetch may also be a rewarding activity for Cardigans as they get your full attention and get to make you happy.
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