Finding a Pembroke Welsh Corgi

I do not have any pups available at this time or in the near future, nor do I sell dogs via the internet. But here is some great information on how to go about finding the right breeder!

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America (PWCCA) has a list of breeders by state, or check out the list of regional clubs on my Links page. While AKC currently has Classified Ads with puppies for sale on their website, I do NOT recommend purchasing a puppy from this venue any more than I would from any other multi-breed puppy selling website, Facebook, Craigslist, etc. The majority of sellers do not do full health screening on their breeding stock. Many will declare their breeding stock “health tested,” however they typically only do inexpensive DNA testing for DM, EIC, and vWD while pretending the more serious issue of hip dysplasia and various eye problems don’t exist. Testing for those is expensive and takes more time than a quickie cheap DNA swab. Also note that “AKC” simply means the dog has been registered with this organization, not that it meets any health or quality standard.

Is a Pembroke Welsh Corgi right for me? As a breed, Pembrokes generally make good family pets. They shed a lot, so if you don’t like dog hair all over the house, do not get a Pembroke. Pembrokes are very intelligent dogs bred for herding, so need plenty of mental and physical exercise or they will start entertaining themselves, usually at the expense of your house or landscaping. They make great agility dogs. Being so smart, they can be trained very quickly, although are sometimes stubborn in obeying.

Why should I do research before buying? Buying a puppy is like buying a car. You should research BEFORE you start shopping and fall in love at first sight with that “puppy in the window” who later turns out to be a lemon. Visit pups only AFTER you’ve determined that a certain litter, pup, or even the breed is the best choice for you. People fall in love with cute faces, buy without asking the right questions or despite getting the wrong answers, and often regret it later.

The RIGHT puppy is just as cute as the WRONG puppy;
you’ll get a better lifetime friend instead of an expensive heartbreak.

What you want is a puppy who is mentally and physically sound (well socialized, parents tested clear of genetic disorders). Improper socialization results in a dog which cannot properly interact in strange locations, or with other dogs or strangers, instead of taking it all in stride as a well socialized dog should. Pups should not leave their mother and littermates before the age of 8 weeks, preferably not before 10 wks. Pups that leave too early often are very mouthy with your flesh as they don’t learn proper bite inhibition from their littermates and dam.

Where is the best place to find such a puppy? There are basically 3 groups which sell puppies:

Pet stores/puppy mills. Pups from pet stores usually cost much more than from reputable or backyard breeders, usually are improperly socialized, are not screened for genetic problems, and often have been exposed to deadly diseases such as Parvo. Pet store pups also have often been bred in puppy mills where the sire and dam live in sordid conditions with little care or human touch. Occasionally they come from backyard breeders. Buying or “rescuing” a pup by purchasing it from a pet store only encourages the pet store to buy more of that breed since they were successful in selling one to you. This also encourages their puppy mill suppliers to breed more. Puppy mills (often called commercial kennels) typically directly sell pups at a lower price. However, puppies from mills have had no socialization, usually no shots, often are diseased, and have had no screening for genetic problems. Puppy mills often advertise in dog magazines, on the internet (“We have over 20 breeds to choose from”), in the newspaper, or yellow pages.

Backyard breeders. Pups from backyard breeders are usually better socialized than pet store/puppy mill pups as they’re typically exposed to most typical household adventures that a puppy mill puppy would never have seen. However, they are normally sold before they receive adequate socialization from their dam and littermates. Backyard bred dogs are rarely screened for critical genetic problems such as hip dysplasia, heart issues, and eye issues, and rarely come with a money back guarantee for future problems. Many newspaper and internet ads for a single litter/breed are from backyard breeders.

Reputable breeders. The best place to get a healthy, well socialized puppy is from a reputable breeder. Breeders that show and title their dogs are the category of breeders to start your search with. Titles are earned by competing in conformation, agility, obedience, and other performance events to show their dog is of good quality physically and mentally. These breeders are the best place to look for a good dog. They in general screen their dogs for all testable genetic defects and socialize their pups properly. Do note that not all show breeders are reputable breeders. You should determine this by asking questions. The paragraphs below will let you know how to tell a reputable breeder from a bad or backyard breeder. Reputable breeders are often hard to find. They rarely advertise in the newspaper or on internet sites and most of their buyers come from word of mouth or from previous puppy buyers. They usually have less than 3 litters annually, so don’t have pups available all the time. Be prepared to get on a waiting list for a pup of good breeding. The best place to find good breeders is to go to dog shows, or go to the websites of various Pembroke Welsh Corgi clubs (see Links page) which have breeder lists. Often a reputable breeder will have a web page, but it will only showcase their dogs and not advertise that they have anything for sale.

Dogs Advertised on Websites
Scams: Use great caution if thinking of purchasing a dog via a website.  Many very professional looking websites nowadays are scams where no dogs are available.  You send them money and no pup ever arrives.  You can sometimes find out if they’re scams by googling sentences or images from their sites.  Googling will show the same image or text on other sites.  Many will have awkward wording, and they rarely show parents of the dogs they’re selling.  
Not So Reputable Breeders: If a website is offering to sell and ship you a dog as long as they get payment, stay clear.  These aren’t reputable breeders that care where their pups go, and are highly unlikely to have properly screened their breeding stock for all Pembroke health issues.  Reputable breeders screen pup buyers to make sure the pup has a suitable home that can care for them.  Reputable breeders often will have websites but they rarely advertise dogs for sale on them, instead they’ll showcase their dogs.  
Puppy Selling Websites: PuppyFinder, etc where there’s large lists of pups for sale.  See Not So Reputable Breeders above!  And yes this includes the AKC pups for sale website.  

Adult vs Puppy? Many people are quite busy and do not have the time to properly train a young puppy. Often an older pup or dog is the best choice. You may find a retired champion, an older puppy that didn’t quite fulfill it’s original show potential, a dog that was returned to the breeder as his owners had to give it up, or a rescue. Rescue dogs are generally well tested for behavior problems. If they have minor problems, rescue people will tell you about them and see if they fit your circumstances (e.g. no children or other dogs in the house). They will not place dogs that they know have had severe behavior problems. The majority of rescues are from people who have to give their dog up due to an unfortunate change of circumstances, have no problems, and are great pets. Click Here for a list of Pembroke rescue organizations in your part of the country.

Genetic Problems in Pembrokes. Pembrokes, as all canines (including mixed breeds and wild breeds like wolves) have some genetic health problems. Fortunately, Pembrokes do not have many. Hip dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, various eye problems, and von Willebrand’s Disease are the main genetic problems known in the Pembroke. A genetic cardiac problem, Patent Ductus Arteriosis (PDA), is becoming more common. The affect on each of these problems on quality of life ranges from insignificant to major. There are other genetic problems that occur in small numbers in all breeds of dogs that are not tested for, as tests are not available for all problems and a breeder could not afford to test for each and every problem that occurs in the whole canine species. But they should do their best to test for problems common to their breed. If a breeder says a dog (sire, dam, or pups) is “clear” of a certain problem, always ask for the original paperwork as proof (if the sire is not owned by the breeder, the breeder will probably only have a copy of his paperwork). Breeders who are legitimate about their claims will understand and even greatly appreciate you asking. It shows you really care about the pup you’re looking for and have done your homework. If a breeder is hesitant or does not want to show you proof, beware!

Hip Dysplasia (HD). Despite the claims of many people (“HD is a problem in big dogs only…oh my lines don’t have that problem…it doesn’t affect Pembrokes much”) HD is a problem in the breed. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) found that 20.1% of Pembrokes who had x-rays submitted for evaluation had hip dysplasia (based on data collected through 2018). That’s quite a lot. In addition, many x-rays that show hip problems don’t get submitted because the owner knows they won’t get a passing OFA rating.

What’s an OFA rating? OFA rates dog hips as normal, excellent, good, fair, borderline, mild, moderate or severe. Normal (a rating that was only given when OFA first started rating hips), excellent, good, and fair are passing ratings and the dog is given an OFA number if the dog is older than 2 yrs (age at which hips are quite stable). The other ratings are indicative of hip problems. A “Preliminary” (sometimes called “Prelim”) rating can be given before 2 yrs of age. “Preliminary” means that there is a chance that the rating may still change (for the better or worse) by the time the dog reaches 2 yrs of age. See Orthopedic Foundation for Animals for more detailed information.

At the very least, the sire and dam of pups you’re looking at should have OFA ratings. However, since hip dysplasia results from many different genes (polygenetic origins), hip dysplasia often skips generations. That’;s why you want to see a pedigree with several generations, at least 3, behind a litter that are all have OFA passing hips. A purchase contract should guarantee hips as no matter how hard a reputable breeder tries, sometimes an unexpected genes pop up. However, the more generations of clear hips in a pedigree, the less likely the pup will have problems.

A breeder should show you at least a 3 generation pedigree of the litter showing all hip ratings available. If they do not have this information, or you would like to research the information yourself, ask for a copy of the pedigree and look up the individuals in the pedigree on the OFA web site (go to Database Queries, Search By Other Criteria, and search with only the abbreviated part of one of the words in the dog’s registered name to avoid typo problems in the database). If the dog is not in the database, you can assume one of 5 things: the dog was from another country, the dog lived back when people didn’t check for hip problems (ca pre-1987), the breeder didn’t care what the dog’s hips were like, the dog was under 2 yrs of age, or the dog was dysplastic.

Dogs from other countries are determined by indicators such as a foreign title (Eng. Ch), or by asking the breeder. Unfortunately not all countries do check for hip dysplasia, or their databases are unavailable. Dogs way back in the pedigree (4-5th generation) might not have an OFA rating as it was not as common 12 yrs ago to check for hip dysplasia. It is common now. You can ask the breeder the age of the sire or dam to see if it was too young to have an OFA number, but even then, the dog should have a passing Prelim rating. Determining these should eliminate all but the breeder not bothering to x-ray or the dog being dysplastic. If the latter two, it’s time to find another breeder.

Eye Disorders-Eye exams can be done at any age. Since some eye disorders can appear at any age, parents of the pups should have Normal rated eyes during a checkup with an ophthalmologist within a year of the litter being bred. It’s good to get a guarantee in your contract against eye disorders that severely affect a pup’s vision. However, most eye disorders do not affect quality of life.

Persistent Pupillary Membranes (PPM’s) are very common in Pembrokes. In small numbers they do not affect a dog’s vision and aren’t a problem, but when found in large numbers or in sheets they can obscure vision and are not good to have in a pet. These are blood vessel remnants in the front clear part of the eye which do not degenerate as normal before the dog is 3 months old. Pembrokes often have some which are retained after this age, but most usually disappear before the dog is 1 year old. Retinal folds fall into the same category as PPM’s, a couple are ok, but many affect quality of life, and most often disappear during puppyhood. Juvenile cataracts and Retinal problems are a quality of life condition often causing blindness at a young age. Some bottle fed pups have been found to develop non-progressive cataracts induced by the ingredients of the formula, but most breeders now avoid the formulas that cause this.

Bleeding disorders. Von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD) is a bleeding disorder that occurs in a few breeds in different magnitudes. Pembrokes can have a mild form of vWD which rarely causes life threatening symptoms. A DNA test is available to determine if a dog is a affected (will show signs of the disease), carrier (will not have the disease but carries the gene), or clear of this disease. Getting a dog with with either a clear or carrier status is fine.

Patent Ductus Arteriosis (PDA). PDA has been in the breed for a long time in very low rates. However, it is currently on the increase. Pups should have been screened by the breeder’s veterinarian for heart murmurs before they go home, and a buyer should take a newly purchased pup to their vet immediately for a general health exam and a heart checkup. PDA is a very serious genetic heart condition that often results in heart damage and death if the dog does not have major and risky surgery while very young.

Degenerative Myelopathy (DM). DM is a disease found in both Corgi breeds, German Shepherds, and a few other breeds. It’s a spinal cord disease where dogs gradually goes down in the rear, slowly loosing innervation from the rear forward. In Pembrokes and Cardigans symptoms start in old age, typically 10-12yrs of age. There is no cure or treatment for slowing this disease and they go from fine to final stages in about 2.5 years. Research has developed a genetic test which became available to breeders in 2008. This test is available to anyone through the OFA website.

Clear (no mutated genes) and Carrier (one mutated gene) Pembrokes will not get DM. The test unfortunately does not give the full story, as At Risks (two mutated genes) might or might not get the disease before they die at the common Pem lifespan of about 12-13 yrs. Research is ongoing to attempt to find a “Factor X” which in combination with having the two mutated genes leads to DM. It could be either environmental or genetic, but genetic is suspected. Unfortunately this test has shown that the DM gene is very common in the breed and is hard to avoid. Many (but not all) are gradually working away from producing At Risks. However, it’s slow going as initally only breeding the very few clears would have devastated the genetic diversity of the breed and would have lead to even worse genetic issues.

Pet vs Show Quality. There is usually very little difference between pet and show quality dogs. Most certainly not in the heart and soul of a dog, which is the most important part. What difference in the heart of a Best in Show winning dog and somebody’s couch potato? None. Sometimes the dividing line between pet and show quality dogs is the shape of a dog’s ears, a snip of white going beyond the dog’s withers, or a topline that isn’t perfectly level. A breeder breeds for show quality, but the nature of genetics rarely provides all the right bits and pieces in the same dog. Neutered dogs cannot be shown in the conformation ring, but can participate in any of the AKC performance events (obedience, agility, tracking, herding).

Temperament. “Outlook bold, but kindly. Never shy nor vicious.” Temperaments are amazingly influenced by genetics. If possible, meet the sire, dam, and relatives of the litter. Are they good around other dogs? Are they friendly with strangers? Note that the dam might not be showing her everyday temperament due to her maternal instincts for protecting her pups from strangers. Often the sire of the litter isn’t owned by the dam owner, so it may be harder to determine his temperament.

Pembrokes range in temperament from soft to dominant and hard. Soft dogs need a gentle hand. Hard/dominant dogs need a very firm (but not physical) hand to let them know that humans are the alpha in the family, or they can become snappy and controlling. It’s best to avoid hard/dominant dogs if you have little experience with dogs and dog behavior. The best temperament is a good solid in-between.

From there, what kind of playmate do you want? Some Pembrokes make good couch potatoes, some are busy bees that want to do things all the time. Which fits your lifestyle best? Ask the breeder which type the pup might be based on its parents and the pups themselves. Also find a book on puppy picking for clues on which individual pup in a litter is likely to be the best if the breeder gives you a choice of pups. Observe the behavior of the pups. Do they hide behind the chair when you approach? Usually the one that comes boldly up to greet you seems to have “picked you,” but beware, that often indicates a dominant temperament. Often the best breeders will pick a puppy for you as they can best match an individual pup’s temperament with your lifestyle. It’s best to pass on the litter if the temperament of the bloodline doesn’t suit your lifestyle.

Fluffies. A fluffy is a recessive coat type in Pembrokes which is like a sheltie coat. This coat type should not be shown in the conformation ring so breeders place them in pet homes. Fluffies are extremely cute, although they do need more grooming.

Contracts. Most reputable breeders require a contract. Contracts are to protect the puppy from you if you turn out to be a less than ideal home, and to protect you in case of a defective puppy.

What should be in a pet contract? The main points of a good contract:

-Money back or replacement for a pup which has severe problems such as hip dysplasia or severe eye problems. Usually this guarantees a dog through just over 2 yrs of age when most Pembroke congenital problems will have shown up. One can’t expect the breeder to guarantee through the dog’s old age when geriatric problems start showing up. All reputable breeders should have this guarantee, as no matter how many generations of good hips and eyes are behind a pup, bad genes that have been recessive can still show up. Note that guarantees to replace a pup only if you return the “defective” dog to the breeder are worthless as the breeder will often put the dog down. Would you do that to the pet you’ve loved? No. Contracts that give refunds or replacements without demanding return of the dog are best.

-Dog should be neutered no sooner than 6 months. Modern thinking has suggested that waiting till the dog is over 15 months is better. Growth plates have closed at this point, and there’s less chance of structural issues long term. However, some people do not want to deal with female going through a season or some of the behaviors of a young unneutered male. Neutering protects the dog from ending up being backyard bred and pups ending up in pet stores, puppy mills, or accidentally bred through no intentions of the owner. Show breeders breed for the betterment of the breed; i.e. only the highest quality animals should be passing their genes on. Pet quality dogs should not be bred as they will pass on the traits that determined they were pet quality.

-Dog is registerable with AKC (typically limited registration unless dog was previously registered with full registration) and the pedigree is correct. Protects buyer against false claims by breeder.

-The dog must be returned to breeder if the buyer cannot keep it so the breeder can place the dog in a good new home. No fault put on anyone. Sometimes people loose their jobs, get severe dog allergies, divorce, etc. This protects the dog against being taken to the pound where it may be euthanized, or given to a neighbor or relative who might care less about the dog and care for it properly.

-Dog can be returned within X days (usually 2-7) for full refund (but buyer better not run dog over within those X days, nor take it to a park where it will pick up Parvo and die). This protects the dog and buyers in case family members turn out to be allergic, hubby hates the dog, an initial vet checkup finds a problem, or a buyer just find it’s all too much for him or her.

-Dog is in good health at time of sale and buyer must take to a vet for a full checkup (usually within 1-3 days). Protects buyer from undiscovered problems, and getting a sick pup. Many breeders give their own shots so might inadvertently miss an internal problem that a vet might find in a full exam. Many breeders prefer to give their own shots so pups aren’t exposed to deadly diseases like Parvo at a vet’s office.

Now, go out there and start hunting!

Liz Myhre, Emrys


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