How Do Corgis Rank as Far as Intelligence Goes?

by Rebecca Bragg
The short-tailed Pembroke Welsh corgi is descended from the long-tailed Cardigan.

The short-tailed Pembroke Welsh corgi is descended from the long-tailed Cardigan.

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People keen on owning brainy dogs should understand what they might be letting themselves in for, warns Stanley Coren, author of "The Intelligence of Dogs." Take the clever Welsh corgi, for example. With firm leadership and obedience training, Welsh corgis are lively, affectionate bundles of fun. But when permitted to vie with their significant humans for control of a household, which species will prevail isn't necessarily a foregone conclusion. For a cautionary tale of what can happen when corgis rule the roost, look to Buckingham Palace.

Common Ancestors of Two Breeds

The two breeds of Welsh corgi, Cardigan and Pembroke, are like "twin sons of different mothers," according to the Vetstreet website. Even though they look a lot alike and until 1934 were widely considered to be the same breed, they have somewhat different ancestries. Around 1200 B.C., the forebears of both arrived in the Cardiganshire region of Wales with the Celts. Pembroke corgis, meanwhile, are a younger breed with more terrier and less dachshund in their bloodline. To keep them straight, Vetstreet suggests, use this mnemonic device: The Cardigan has a long tail, like the sleeves of the sweater, while the short-tailed Pembroke has a "broke" tail." The Pembroke corgi was granted breed recognition by the American Kennel Club in 1934 and the Cardigan in 1935.

Corgis and Canine IQ

In "The Intelligence of Dogs" published in 1994, Coren, psychology professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia, presented the results of a survey involving more than 200 professional dog obedience judges. Of 110 breeds ranked on the basis of intelligence, the Pembroke Welsh corgi took 11th place; the Cardigan, which the AKC says possesses "almost human intelligence," came in 26th. While high intelligence and trainability often go hand-in-hand, Coren cautions that a smart pooch can be more difficult to control than a dumber dog because bright dogs quickly learn how to manipulate their masters to their own advantage. Consequently, "Intelligent dogs are inadvertently taught many unwanted behaviors," Coren wrote.

Temperament and Personality

Strong-willed, assertive corgis "are not the best choice for families with children under 8 years old" or inexperienced dog owners, cautions the website of northern-California-based ForPaws Corgi Rescue. The American Temperament Test Society, which promotes uniform temperament standards for dogs, ranks breeds based on the percentage able to pass an on-leash test simulating a walk in the park. Each test is judged by three ATTS evaluators who assess friendly, shy, aggressive and protective responses as indicated by reactions to various visual and auditory stimuli. Of 75 Cardigans tested, 80 percent passed, putting them on precisely the same temperament level as beagles. Of the 207 Pembrokes tested, 78.7 percent passed, putting them temperamentally on a par with Australian cattle dogs.

The Queen's Incorrigible Corgis

If the ability to manipulate owners is a sign of canine intelligence, the notorious Pembroke corgis of Buckingham Palace must be geniuses. The pack of corgis has thinned considerably from the days when Princess Diana described it as "a moving carpet" but the dogs still keep their mistress, Queen Elizabeth II, on a short leash. "Nobody is allowed to raise a finger or a voice to any of the dogs," Brian Hoey, author of "Not In Front Of The Corgis," told the "Daily Mail" newspaper. "They cock their legs and do what corgis do wherever they want -- on antique furniture, priceless carpets." Servants scamper after them, cleaning up messes. These incorrigible corgis are also notorious for biting palace staff, visitors and other dogs. In addition to ordering a fresh menu to be cooked for them every week, Her Majesty allegedly feeds the dogs breakfast from her own plate.

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