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Assistance Dog Breeds: About Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh Corgis

Assistance Dog Breeds: About Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh Corgis

The Cardigan Welsh corgi and Pembroke Welsh corgi both hail from Wales and have much in common, but they are two distinct breeds with their own personalities. Pembrokes are better known in the US, ranked by the American Kennel Club as the 22nd most popular breed, while their Cardigan cousins come in a bit farther down at 76th. 

While their short stature makes them unsuited to some service dog jobs that involve providing physical support for human partners and other tasks requiring considerable size, both types of Welsh corgi can work well for certain niche areas of assistance. In particular, Welsh corgis are trained as hearing dogs for deaf and hearing-impaired people. They also sometimes work as alert dogs for those with conditions like diabetes, sensing and signaling when blood sugar reaches dangerous levels. 

If you need a hearing dog or an alert dog for a medical condition, Welsh corgis are worth looking into, especially if you prefer or need a smaller animal given space limitations or for other reasons. Here’s a basic overview of these two dog breeds to help figure out whether they might be a good match for you. 

Why Welsh Corgis Make Good Assistance Dogs 

Both Pembroke and Cardigan Welsh corgis were bred for herding, with a strong instinct for helping direct those in their charge. These are working dogs with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy to enthusiastically accomplish their tasks. They remain alert at all times, making them perfect for people with disabilities who need to be warned of dangers they can’t sense themselves. 

Welsh corgis have just the right combination of smarts, curiosity, and eagerness to please that makes certain dogs so highly trainable. Again, these medium-small dogs aren’t able to perform some of the physical assistance work that commonly used larger breeds like Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and German shepherds can, but when large size doesn’t matter, these are reliable assistance dogs. 

One important note, though, about Welsh corgis as service dogs: like other herding breeds, they have a significant protective streak. This can cause complications in public if the dog is too wary of strangers to focus on her responsibilities of if she believes her human is vulnerable and becomes aggressive. To be suitable for assistance work, individuals must demonstrate the ability to bypass protective instincts. 

Welsh Corgi Physical Characteristics 

Both types of Welsh corgi stand about 1 foot tall and are almost twice as long as they are high. They’re solidly built and strong, typically weighing in around 30 pounds, but Pembrokes are a little lighter boned and average a few pounds less than Cardigans. Don’t be fooled by their short legs—these dogs are surprisingly fast and agile with impressive endurance. Their fox-like faces and big, pointy ears give them a distinct air of intelligence. 

These breeds have soft but durable, short, thick, water-resistant coats. Pembroke Welsh corgi coats are red, fawn, sable, or black and tan, and they sometimes have white markings; Cardigan Welsh corgis are black, black and tan, blue merle, or any shade of red, sable, or brindle, and they also sometimes have white markings. 

Welsh Corgi Temperament 

Hardworking, smart, loyal, obedient, vigilant, and active, both Welsh corgi varieties display many classic herding dog characteristics. Pembrokes tend to be friendlier and more outgoing, while Cardigans are generally more reserved and less amenable to strangers, kids, and other animals. Both have plenty of affection for their loved ones, though, and both can be fairly vocal—a useful trait for certain types of alert dogs. 

Welsh Corgi Care and Health 

Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh corgis are generally healthy and have an average lifespan of up to around 15 years with maintenance of a healthy weight and regular veterinary care. These breeds have an elevated risk of developing glaucoma and spinal problems. 

Welsh corgis have hassle-free coats that usually don’t need more than a weekly brushing and have no special grooming needs beyond standard care. They do however need plenty of physical and mental activity each day to stay happy and well behaved. Also, because of their elongated bodies, Welsh corgis need to be carefully picked up and held in a supportive, balanced way to prevent injury; these breeds should only be considered by people who are able to handle them properly. 

Recommended Reading 

A lot of personal considerations factor into figuring out which dog breed is the best partner for you. Also, read about other breeds commonly trained for assistance dog use. 


Assistance Dogs International: Dog Breeds and Behavior

International Association of Assistance Dog Partners: Finding a Suitable Candidate for Assistance Dog Work

American Kennel Club: Meet the Cardigan Welsh Corgi

American Kennel Club: Meet the Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Dogster: Cardigan Welsh Corgi Dogs

Dogster: Pembroke Welsh Corgi Dogs

Animal Planet: Cardigan Welsh Corgi Guide

Animal Planet: Pembroke Welsh Corgi Guide

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