What the internet won't tell you:
A behind the scenes look at the enchanting Pembroke Welsh corgi
We talked to two owners, a rescue organization, and a breeder to take a deeper look into the breed that rocketed to social media stardom
*Note from Quirky Corgis* Photos have been replaced to only show Corgis that came from us. Information from unaffiliated dog professionals are included within this post. If you want to see the original article, go to the bottom of the page for the link.
The corgi's culture cachet extends to social media, television, memes and more
When it comes time to get a puppy, you might find it tempting to turn to social media or pop culture to decide which breed is best for you. Through the lens of Instagram, dogs like Pembroke Welsh corgis seem overwhelmingly cute, lazy, gentle, or generally easy. Whether a corgi is happily peeking out of a backpack or toddling around on stumpy legs, falling in love with this goofy breed is inevitable. But like all dogs, corgis are complex. Proper socialization, training, stimulation, and care are necessary for any dog. But corgis, as intelligent dogs bred to work and herd, demand responsible, diligent training — contrary to what you might see on Instagram.
Corgis ballooned in popularity in recent years, partly due to increased exposure in film, TV, and on social media platforms. According to the American Kennel Club, Pembroke Welsh corgis were the 11th most popular dog in America in 2021, a rise from their rank as 24th in 2011. Corgi accounts amass millions of followers on Instagram and Tiktok, virtually butt-wiggling their way into the public consciousness one viral video at a time. Many people fall for corgis because of their appearance– who can resist those short legs, fluffy bottoms, and sweet, dark eyes? But behind their innocent features lies a creature who was historically bred for strength, agility, and speed.
The origins of these social media darlings are curiously entrenched in the public performance of status and power. In the 10th century, medieval European kings were keen to make their lavish riches well known to their subjects, allies, and enemies. Donning the finest textiles and decorating chambers with intricate tapestries and rugs required skilled weavers, many of whom resided in northern Belgium. In 1107, King Henry I of Britain summoned these Flemish weavers to relocate to Wales, their short-legged, big-eared sheep and cattle herding dogs in tow.
One modern monarch is still influencing the corgi world, even after her passing. Queen Elizabeth II’s famous and well-documented love for the breed has contributed to the rise of corgi ownership several times over the last seven decades of her rule. According to the BBC, corgi ownership saw a spike first in the 1960s, when photos of the young queen and her dogs circulated in the media, and then again in the late 2010s after the release of the Netflix royal family drama, “The Crown.”
As one of the oldest and most popular herding breeds, corgis are typically powerful, vigilant, and independent dogs. Their centuries-long breeding history often results in modern corgis needing lots of activity and mental stimulation. Putting this bold breed in the hands of unknowing owners who thought they were getting a docile Instagram star can be a concerning combination.
Lauren Greco, proud corgi owner and creator of the Instagram account @simonstumps, recognizes the consequences social media has had on the public perception of corgis. While her page is full of undeniably cute photos of her Pembroke Welsh corgi Simon, she is transparent about the diligent training, socialization, and financial investment it can take to have a well-behaved dog. “While the internet loves to portray corgis as nothing more than fluffy loaves of bread that lay around all day waiting for snuggles, the reality of living with a corgi is quite different,” Greco told Good Dog. “Without constant training and a significant amount of daily activity,” she warned, “corgis will quickly become the head of your household, and not in a good way.”
Corgi ownership, like most responsible dog ownership, means committing to proper and consistent training, establishing a routine, setting firm boundaries, and maintaining mental stimulation. “If you do not give them a job to do, they will find their own job,” Greco insisted. “If you do not want a dog that will herd your children and your neighbor’s children,” she half-joked, “don’t get a corgi.”
Long-time corgi owner and journalist Julie Rovner echoed this sentiment, telling Good Dog, “Like all herding dogs, corgis need a job, not just exercise. They can participate in the growing number of dog sports, do therapy work, or some other organized activity, but their brains need to be engaged as much as their bodies do.” To keep their physical enrichment levels up, Rovner’s Pembroke Welsh corgis participate in AKC Sports Obedience, Agility, Rally, Fast CAT, and Tricks competitions. Rovner finds corgis to be represented “relatively well” on social media, but cautioned that corgis are “not beginner dogs ... Don’t let the cute fool you – they are a LOT of dog.”
Without the proper enrichment, resources, and training, corgis can become prone to behavioral issues that can be overwhelming to cope with as a new puppy owner and might even lead to relinquishment. Relinquishing or re-homing a puppy may seem like a worst-case-scenario solution, but breed-specific shelters and rescues insist that it’s a fairly common practice that is, unfortunately, becoming more popular. East Coast Corgi Rescue, which operates out of Washington D.C. and works collectively with rescue operations around the country, is on a mission to rescue as many corgis as possible. They have reported a dramatic rise in corgi relinquishments in the last few years, citing both social media misinformation and the Covid-19 pandemic as reasons for this increase. “It has been awful with surrenders,” they told Good Dog. “So many people want [corgis] and want to have a social media page for them. This isn't a good reason to get a dog… We've had a lot of behavioral related surrenders in the past 18 months.”
Picking the right dog involves much more than cultural popularity or aesthetic. Doing research beforehand is a crucial part of the process. After reading up on typical temperament and needs or speaking to a breeder, you might discover that a breed isn't a great match for your lifestyle. Even some of the best trained corgis are known for pushing boundaries, making it all the more important to be prepared.
Preparation is key for Eddie Quezada, one-half of the husband and wife team behind the breeding program Quirky Corgis. “We’re looking for people with a lifestyle that includes one of our puppies as a member of their family — not just someone looking for a dog… We are so particular about where each of our puppies go,” he told Good Dog. Before pairing a future owner with one of their responsibly-bred, well-socialized puppies, Quirky Corgis establishes that the candidate is emotionally and financially prepared for the years-long commitment of dog ownership. “These puppies depend on us to make decisions that will affect the rest of their lives, and because of that, we put them first.”
As a lifelong dog owner, Lauren Greco knew what she was getting into before adopting Simon. “Corgis should have long life spans, 12-15 years or longer, which is quite a time commitment for someone who isn’t prepared,” she said. “They also shed like crazy, all year round,” she continued, noting that the time and financial impact of grooming and upkeep can be a surprising hurdle for the unprepared corgi owner. Breeder Eddie Quezada is also no stranger to corgi shedding, lovingly referring to all the discarded hair as “little corgi tumbleweeds.” Julie Rovner, the dog mom to corgis Wallace and Aspen, agreed, suggesting, “Be sure you have an excellent vacuum if you want a corgi.”
Rovner also advises keeping a watchful eye on a corgi’s diet and food consumption. “They will eat forever if you let them, so you have to be careful not to let them get overweight.” Social media representation plays a factor in the public’s perception of corgi size, often giving audiences the wrong idea of how big the breed actually is. The breed standard for a male corgi is larger than some might expect – and it’s crucial to maintain a healthy weight to avoid future health issues. If not, misconceptions about corgi size and body type can lead potential owners to come up against unexpected, expensive medical issues such as obesity and joint problems.
Like most dogs, some of the health problems corgis struggle with can be avoided or lessened by good breeding practices. “Getting a corgi from a responsible breeder is everything,” says breeder Eddie Quezada. At Quirky Corgis, responsible breeding includes, at minimum, genetic health testing for certain diseases, and selective breeding for the good genetic traits and excellent temperaments. “If any of our dogs do not meet this high standard, they will not be added to our breeding program,” Quezada says, “but oftentimes stay with us as pets.”
The breed's rise in cultural popularity has unfortunately ushered in a new era of sources with unethical practices attempting to capitalize on the growing demand. East Coast Corgi Rescue stated that a number of relinquishments in the last few years have been a direct result of these irresponsible sources ramping up their breeding during the pandemic. Owner Lauren Greco pointed out that buying a corgi from an online source can be deceiving, “because these breeders often steal photos of puppies which are not theirs and misrepresent themselves."
Their warnings are warranted. If you choose to work with a breeder, finding a program that will work with you to find a good match is crucial, especially if you see a corgi in your future. Connecting with a responsible corgi breeder can take time, so be patient. As Greco said, a responsible breeder will “ensure their puppies go into well-suited homes, and will serve as a resource to you for the duration of the dog’s life.” Waiting to work with a breeder who performs temperament tests and commits to making good matches increases your chances of being paired with the right dog and decreases risk for future relinquishment.
East Coast Corgi Rescue holds deep appreciation for people who adopt corgis from shelters or rescues, and noted how different the experience can be than when going to a breeder, where critical socialization work is typically implemented early on. “Adopting from rescue is going to be totally different than getting a puppy where you have a chance to incorporate training early and regularly,” they remarked. “You don't know all the quirks of an older dog from a rescue, but they deserve love and a chance, too.”
Early training is a huge part of the puppy-raising process at Quirky Corgis. Responsible breeders understand that training at a young age can make all the difference in a puppy’s transition to their new family. Before the corgis pups go off to their forever homes, Quirky Corgis provides regular nutritional, developmental, and veterinary care, as well as robust socialization training. “After the puppies are able to explore our home, we introduce them to new friends,” Quezada said, describing their typical training methods. “They receive socialization from dog-friendly cats, large breed dogs, and other humans to help them see the diversity in the world they've been born into … We also introduce sounds and objects during their developmental stages to help them gain confidence in things that would typically cause anxiety to dogs in general.”
Quezada also recommended prospective owners and general fans of the breed to diversify the kinds of corgi accounts they engage with on social media. “If you follow dog trainers, breeders, or dog show competitors you're going to see what a Corgi can really do,” Quezada insisted. “You'll see what they're like without the view of popular culture and staged videos coloring what you think of this amazing breed.” Engaging with corgi content from smaller, more specific sources can feed the insatiable urge to see a fluffy puppy butt on your screen, and also give you a more realistic insight into what corgi ownership is actually like.
In spreading awareness about the challenges of the breed, it’s important not to lose sight of how joyful, quirky, and rewarding corgis can be. These intelligent dogs have the capacity to be loyal and loving companions. They are known to be protective and playful and can make great family animals. And there really is something magical about their inquisitive, spunky spirits and dashing good looks. But corgis don’t just leave a breeder’s house or emerge from an Instagram post as a fully-developed, perfect dog. They need to be understood and taken care of by their owners. They depend on their people for so much, and it’s so important to meet them halfway.
“If someone has enough time and patience and love, and enjoys having a dog that might be smarter than they are, then a corgi could be for you,” said the folks at East Coast Corgi Rescue. “They are definitely not for everyone, people are often shocked at how much work they do require. But they pay you back with loyalty and lots of love.”
Just as there are no perfect dogs, there are no perfect owners. But if you’re an active person with the space in your heart and your life for a charismatic, brilliant, bossy loaf of energy, you’ll soon start reaping the inherent happiness that comes with corgi ownership.
“My corgis always make me smile. They are always entertaining, and excellent company,” Julie Rovner said about her pups. “I love their attitude, and how pleased with themselves they are when they do well. And they can be stubborn. But they are fun to work with.”
Eddie Quedaza loves how every corgi is a little different, and how they all are so full of life and personality. “There is a spectrum from couch potato to herding insanity, and it's always fun to see where each puppy will fall… When I'm watching them and look into their eyes, I see a unique creature with its own hopes and desires. Corgis are animals for sure, but at the same time, these guys are just a little more than that too.”
Lauren Greco recognizes the growth and hard work that went into her journey with her corgi, Simon. She has forged a path of responsible, empathetic dog ownership that would make any corgi-lover proud. “Raising Simon has been my biggest challenge, and my greatest success,” Greco said. “It is such a compliment when I am told what a good boy Simon is, because when others see a calm, friendly, fluffy potato that listens, I see the payoff of my huge time and monetary investment in training.”
"A well-behaved corgi does not happen by accident," Greco concluded. "Simon was set up for success by his breeder, and good behavior was maintained in our household with ongoing training and firm boundaries … Simon is our loafy potato, our ultimate best boy and we can’t imagine life without him. Is he an easy dog to live with? Absolutely not, but we wouldn’t expect anything else– he is a corgi, after all!”