Monday, August 27, 2007

Breed Of The Month - Pembroke Welsh Corgi

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is one of those dog breeds that people don't recognize by name. "A what?" Is often the response I get after telling people I'm getting a corgi. They are not popular in the trendy sense, yet they were in the top 25 of AKC's most popular dog breed list in 2005 and 2006 (not sure about 2007).

Corgis are those other dogs with long bodies and short legs. They are medium size and medium length fur. The most common coloring is red (this ranges from a dark orange to a light fawn) and white. There is also the black headed tri-color, red headed tri-color, and sable. The tris have a red, orange, and black coloring. Sable coloring is red fur with black on the tip of the fur. They have a fox-like look, and have a rather husky build. They shed year round, and have an all out "molting" twice a year. I plan to combat this dog fur infestation by grooming my dog often, everyday if I can find the time. Corgis have a docked tail, causing an effect that owners affectionately call the "bunny butt".

Corgis are members of the herding group. My theory is that this is what makes Corgis so "easily trainable". They were bred to do a specific job for people that requires them to have an understanding of what we want them to do, which is similar to obedience training. Dogs from the herding group need to feel like they have a job. That doesn't mean they have to herd, but if they become bored (which they inevitably will if they're being left home all day), they will give themselves a job, such as ripping up your carpet or chewing your table legs. If you have to leave your Corgi at home all day, you can do little things like leaving your tv on. Give your dog toys that will keep him/her busy for a while, like a Kong toy with a treat hidden in it. I've also heard recommendations like hiding treats throughout your house, so your dog can spend the day sniffing them out and getting a nice reward for it. Corgis should be walked twice a day, and taking puppy to run around the dog park off-leash on the weekend should be enough exercise to keep him/her happy and healthy (from what I've read, I'll have to let you know from experience later). The way I plan to keep my corgi "employed" is with lots of obedience and agility training. Corgis are known for doing great on agility courses, and they really like all the running around. Some Corgis also love the water, and if you live near a lake or ocean, a dog beach might be a good thing to check out.

I hear Corgis most referred to as big goofballs. They are big dogs in a small dog's body. They are bold but friendly. They are intelligent, obedient, loyal, and protective. They are very vocal, so they are known to make good watch dogs (not guard dogs though). It's very important to properly socialize your Corgi, or s/he will be standoff-ish to strangers, and worse with other animals. Also watch your dog around other animals, as s/he may try to herd them! This goes for kids too. Corgis are supposed to be very good with children, but you have to watch them because they think children running around need to be herded. Corgis herd by biting the ankles of the animal, which you would not want your dog to do with you or your kids! Nip this habit in the bud early by saying a loud "ouch!" and then ignoring your dog for a few minutes every time s/he nips you. And of course, praise lots when s/he plays nicely!

In terms of males vs. females, the jury is still out on this one. I've heard from my breeder that females tend to be bossier, and as this is already a bossy breed, it might be easier to start with a male. If you're planning on two dogs, the usual recommendation is one of each sex, though I've heard of people having two females and two males (neutered!) with no problems. All Corgis are bossy. If you let them, they will run your house. You need to establish yourself as the boss from day one. Things should be done on your terms, and you should never let your dog get the "upper paw". If you are the boss, then you and your Corgi can live together with love and respect for one another.

I've also heard that Corgis love to play with other Corgis. Check and see if there is a Corgi meet up group in your area, or look into starting one! If they're on the top 25 list of most popular breeds, they're hiding somewhere. You might be surprised how many there are in your city.

Since Corgis are smaller dogs, they can handle the indoor lifestyle, and you don't have to be stuck with a toy breed. Just make sure you let them spend their energy several times a day with walks, play times, etc. Corgis have their mind on food all the time (just like me!). They will eat a big bowl of food and then look at you with those big puppy dog eyes as if they haven't been fed in a week. Do not free feed your Corgi, or give in to their begging. A fat Corgi is a huge no no. The will get back and hip problems as a result, to say the least.

As I said above, Corgis shed. They have a dirt resistant top coat, and a soft undercoat. The combination helps keep them clean, dry, and their temperature regulated. Don't shave your Corgi. The only real upkeep besides keeping their teeth cleaned and nails clipped is the fur between their feet. You need to clip it periodically, but be warned that most Corgis apparently don't like having their feet touched (me neither!!!). Also, when they start to get that doggy smell, they should get a bath. Depending on your dog's level of activity this will range from every few weeks to once a month or so. Be careful not to wash too often, or his/her skin will dry out and become irritated.

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi comes from Wales sometime in the AD, but we're not sure when. This is not a new designer breed. This breed is old and was bred with a purpose (hey, some people care about that kind of thing). There's a cute little fairy tale about how the Corgi was used to pull the carriages of fairies, and when they came into the world of man, the saddles they wore were emblazoned on their coat, which explains their coloring today.

The bottom line:
Corgis are loud, hungry, energetic, furry bunny butts! But they are also funny, kind, playful, obedient, and smart. If you have the time and energy to devote to properly training and exercising your Corgi, this breed is for you. If you want a dog with a sense of humor and a playful energy, this breed is for you. This breed is not for you if you want a dog that is easy going, doesn't have a mind of its own, and will do everything you say without question.

**Well that was my first "Breed of the Month" post. I hope people can find it helpful. I'll also update these posts as I think of/find more information.**

Check Out Your Library

When I started a list of all the books I want to read on dogs before I bring home my puppy, I was daunted by all the money I would have to spend to buy them all. Then a friend suggested I check out our local library to see if they had any of them. It was such a good idea! Not only did the library have a few of the books on my list, but they also had a couple of books that weren't, that I also decided to check out. My local branch didn't have much, but I was able to get the books I wanted by requesting them from another branch. It only took about a week to get them. Now I have a huge stack of books to read at home, another daunting task! It's a fun one though. I love reading up on puppies!

Right now I'm focusing my reading on behavior, development, training for puppies, and corgi specific books, sprinkled with a book or two of authors who have written about their overall personal experiences with their dogs. Next I'm going to start focusing heavily on nutrition, since I'm feeding my dog home-cooked food.

Here's the books I have at home right now:

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi: Family Friend and Farmhand
Puppy Kisses are Good for the Soul
Welsh Corgis: Pembroke and Cardigan
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi : An Owner's Guide to a Happy Healthy Pet
The Dog Whisperer: A Compassionate, Nonviolent Approach to Training (not Cesar Millan)
Katz on Dogs: A Commonsense Guide to Training and Living with Dogs

It's quite a stack! I'll post most reviews as I trudge though them. Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Dog Whisperer Is A Phony

Have you heard of the dog whisperer? Some guy named Cesar Millan has a dog training show by that name on the National Geographic Channel. I don't get that channel, so I've never seen it, but my friend Mouth swears by it. Millan also wrote a book titled Cesar's Way: The Natural, Everday Guide to Understanding & Correcting Common Dog Problems. Coincidentally, I saw this book when I was buying some dog training books a few weeks back. I thumbed through it pretty heavily, and it didn't look that great to me. As I recall, I didn't think there was enough emphasis on positive reinforcement, which is what I was looking for.

I found this review of Millan's book, and it's a pretty interesting read. The reviewer says that this supposed Dog Whisperer puts dog training back 20 years. Apparently, it doesn't even provide tangible training tips, but instead focuses on the calm, confident energy you should exude to get your dog to do what you want. I spoke to my co-worker about it, and she confirmed that his show is the same way, and she wasn't very impressed.

I'm sure he gives a lot of good tips on his show, but I think I'm no longer tempted to go out and buy his DVD. Besides, every message board about dog training has so many people that reference him, who needs the DVD?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Grass Is Greener...With Pics!

As promised, I went out this afternoon and took some pictures of the grass we had put in over the weekend.

Here's the grass.

Isn't it great!? I know, the width is pretty tiny, but it runs the whole length of our house, so it's actually a pretty good amount. At least puppy will have some place to run around and poop. I want to make sure I point out that this little patch of grass is not going to be the only place my puppy exercises. It's mostly just a place for him when it's too early or late to go for a walk or to the park.

In that pic you can also see the very edge of the non-dog-friendly concrete that runs throughout the whole backyard. Remember to think of that stuff when buying a house, people!

Here's the problems we found along the way. First off. there's a big dip in the group where the gate in the fence is supposed to be able to open up.

We need to figure out a way to block that hole that still lets the gardeners get in to mow it. I'm thinking of just shoving a bunch of woodchips under there, and making sure to check it periodically to see when it gets low.

Second, there's the fence that is rotting because of years of overwatering by our lovely neighbor.

I don't even know what to do about that one. Can I just renail the base board there? Do I have to put up a whole new section of fence? Who is responsible for those repairs? Me? My neighbor? Our HOA? I so don't know to deal with this right now...

...but the grass looks great!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Book Review - How To Raise A Puppy You Can Live With

The first dog-related book I've picked up so far is How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With by Clarice Rutherford and David H. Neil. It's a short book (~150 pages) that covers puppy development from birth to one year, behavior, and training. Overall it is a very intelligent book that has a lot of good, useful information, with the biggest drawback being its small size. The advice is never very in depth, since it covers so many topics in such a short amount of space. The methods recommended I agree with, and make sense to me.

It starts off with choosing the right puppy for you, with the most emphasis on the right type of breed or at least group of breeds (i.e. hunting, retrieving, herding, etc.). That suited me very well, since I also believe that picking the right breed is important.

Next, there is a lot of emphasis on puppy development and its main stages, including the neonatal period, the transitional period, the socialization period, and the fear period. I learned that it's important to choose a good breeder because there is a lot that happens in the first 8 weeks of a puppy's life. If it misses out on experiencing certain things or at least new things, it could be stunted by the time you take the little guy home.

The book talks briefly about the puppy coming home with you, its first night, its first trip to the vet, etc. In these areas I wish it would have gone more in depth, but it at least serves as a warning that the first night and couple of days will be hard. Luckily, further reading on this subject can very easily be found online.

There is a lot of emphasis on the importance of play and socialization, which I 100% agree with. When you get your puppy, it's still a baby whose body and brain are developing. The more you expose your puppy to, the more its brain will develop and better understand the world around it. In the early stages of you dog's life, it will want to please you. Start training from day one, and always keep it positive. If your puppy does something you like, praise it, and it will continue that action because of that positive association. While the book doesn't go into a lot of detail, it does introduce many areas of training, and explains why so much training will lead to a great relationship between you and your dog.

The area of the book I thought was the most helpful was where it identified types of puppy personalities. These include the to eager to please puppy, the shy puppy, the dependent puppy, the independent puppy, the dominant puppy, and the extremely excitable puppy. It doesn't say that any of these puppy personalities are bad, only that puppies with these different personalities should be handled differently and these personalities should be kept in mind when raising it. This way of categorizing personalities really struck a chord with me. It makes so much sense. When you yell at an extremely excitable puppy, of course it's going to have a different reaction than an independent puppy. The excited puppy will immediately respond to the loud sounds you're making, whereas the independent puppy may refuse to give you its attention. I wonder what personality my dog will be? What would I prefer?

Another chapter I really enjoyed, but was way too short was the chapter on dog signals. By learning the specific behaviors that dogs do in certain situations, you can learn to better communicate with your dog. The most common signals most books talk about are "calming signals". These are the signals your dog makes when it wants the situation it's in to be calm. This can include signaling to its owner that it wants you to calm down (say, if your dog senses you are tense and upset because you had a rough day at work), or meeting a dog for the first time. Calming signals include yawning (yes, this doesn't always mean your dog is just bored or tired), avoiding eye contact, and approaching your side, rather than head on. I found this chapter very interesting, and I like the idea that by keeping an eye out for these behaviors I can better communicate with my dog. As they say, communication works both ways. It shouldn't just be about the dog learning what you want.

Overall I recommend this book to any first time puppy owner. Though it does give some training tips that dogs of any age can use, this book is too puppy-centric to bother with if your dog is older than a year old. If you don't yet have a dog, and haven't yet chosen a breed, this would be a good time to get an idea of what you're getting into, but I would recommend reading further on choosing the right breed and breeder, since this book is so brief. After reading this book, I feel armed with the knowledge that with patience, awareness, and positivity, I can raise a puppy that is the kind of companion I'm looking for.

The Grass Is Greener... my yard! My gardener came by this morning to put grass along the side of the house. Now puppy will have a place in the backyard to do his/her puppy thang. The puppy will still be an indoor dog, I just couldn't live with not having at least a small place for him/her to spend some time outside each day, off-leash.

Unfortunately, we discovered another problem. In the area where we put the grass is along the side of our house where we never really go. It was all just loose stones before, and it wasn't the main way between the front and back of the house. Well once the gardener pulled up all the rocks, we were able to really see the condition of the fence between our yard and the neighbors. It's all moldy and the vertical planks have rotten completely away from the base board of the fence. The gardener says the neighbor over-waters his plants that sit right at the edge of the fence. I don't really care about the condition of the fence except that I don't want puppy to escape and get into the neighbor's yard (he's a total grouch), or exposed to mold. *sigh* So I guess there'll be more work to this than we thought. Isn't that always the way?

I'll see if I can get some time to post pictures.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Fun Idea

I think it would be fun if each month I focused on a dog breed, did a little research, and talked about their temperament, needs (living, exercise, grooming, etc.), origins, and that sort of thing. Obviously, I'll start this off by talking about the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, since that's the breed I've done the most research about already.

I can take requests, so let me know if there's a breed you'd like to know about for September. Mixed breeds are obviously harder to find information on than pure breeds, so if you want to know about a wienerschnoodle or whatever, it may not be as in depth. It takes more time to wade through the BS about "getting the best of both breeds".

Or if you just want a quick reference go to It's a very accurate (from what I've seen) and concise database of hundreds of different breeds.

I'm doing this because I don't like seeing people get a breed of dog that doesn't match their personality or lifestyle just because they don't have the means for inclination to research for themselves before they buy or adopt. Also, I like learning about the different breeds of dogs. It's interesting, and I figure it couldn't hurt to know more about the dog breeds out there my dog might be interacting with. And lastly, I doubt my Corgi will be the only dog I ever get. Choosing a breed out of the hundreds out there is daunting if you're doing it all at once. Maybe this way I can spread out the research I do next time.

The other breeds I'm thinking of researching over the months are as follows:

French Bulldogs
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
Labradoodles (maybe...)

Like I said, let me know if you have a request and I'll bump it to the top of the list. ;)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Waiting Is The Hardest Part

My husband and I decided we were ready for a dog on Thanksgiving Day of last year. We decided on a Pembroke Welsh Corgi by January. And we had chosen a breeder and sent a deposit by March. Since then I've just been playing the waiting game. The litter I have a deposit on is due in November, which means I have to wait until December/January to take home my puppy. So basically I'll have waited over a year before I actually get to hug my puppy for the first time. It's no wonder I'm an obsessive, impatient mess! The months between March and August have been torture! It was too soon to really plan for the puppy.

I feel like now is finally the time to start planning. It's getting toward the end of the year. Ok, maybe I'm also just being impatient. I've gotten some books, which I plan to review when I get a chance. I'm going to start researching things like doggy gates, and where I'll need them. I'll need to plan on puppy proofing some areas of the house. This is really stupid, but the thing that has gotten me the most excited about getting ready for the puppy is talking to our gardener about putting in grass in our backyard. I guess it's because it's the first tangible puppy-related thing we're doing. Our backyard in concrete, but one side of our house is just filled with loose rocks. We're going to pull out the rocks, run our irrigation system from the front of the house to that side, and put in grass. It's not anything big, but there'll at least be an area for puppy to run, play, and poop outside.

I can't wait until the puppies are born and I can email the breeder everyday to ask about the puppies, or for new pictures of the litter and updates on the personality of each puppy. At this point I'm so tired of waiting that anything new is exciting. I think the next big bit of news will be when doggy momma gets pregnant, which is supposed to be happening next month. I can't wait!

Update: I just talked to the breeder, and she said her puppy mamma won't be in heat until the end of September. Dog's have a 2 month gestation time (pregnancy), so that means the puppies won't be born until the end of November, and that's if everything goes well. Ugh. I was thinking it would be more the end of August, beginning of September. The breeder said she told her puppy mamma to have an extra special puppy for me, since I've waiting so long. Awwwww.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Just Because Puppy Likes It, Doesn't Mean It's Good

Husband and I were planning to feed our dog home cooked food even before the pet food recall. There seems to be a negative connotation with feeding your dog "people food". They say it's not good for the dog and you should feed your dog pet food to make sure s/he gets a balanced diet. I find this ironic because most people wouldn't eat what they feed their pets, and what could be in my food that's so bad for a dog (minus the obvious things like chocolate), but is ok for me?

It's no secret that what they put in pet food is not healthy by any means. Pet food, as I understand it, is made from the food that was not fit for human consumption. That means dead and rotting meat and moldy grains, all tied together with lots of soy, which dogs actually have trouble digesting. How is that better than a steak, brown rice, and broccoli?

Some might say it's too expensive to feed their dog home cooked food. Well I would argue that first, it's probably not much more expensive if you take into account that your dog will probably need less vet visits because s/he'll probably be a healthier dog. Also, it wouldn't be so bad if you shopped at costco. You can buy a huge bag of frozen chicken breasts for $12. Second, if you can't afford to feed your dog in such a way to keep him/her healthy, then you shouldn't own a dog, period. Would you have a baby and feed it rotten food with the argument that you couldn't afford better food?

I've heard people say that if the dog doesn't mind eating the food, then what's the problem? It's pretty common knowledge pet food companies spray dry kibble with fat to get the dog to want to eat it. If food looks appealing to a dog, they'll want to eat it. Even if it makes them feel sick later, they'll still eat it. A co-worker last week told me about his dog that reinforced this fact with me. My co-worker likes very spicy food, and his dog, of course, always wants some of what his owner is eating. So my co-worker started offering his dog jalapeno peppers when he ate them. The dog would happily gobble up the peppers, and pay for it later when his little booty was on fire after digesting those things. The next day my co-worker offered his dog the peppers again, and again the dog happily ate them up, forgetting his discomfort from the day before. The dog wouldn't associate the food with what was causing him pain hours later. So just because a dog likes his kibble doesn't mean it's good for him.

I'll still need to do some research into doggy diets, proportions, recipes, that kind of thing. I'll post when I find out more.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Reverse Sneeze

Dogs have a behavior that people refer to as the "reverse sneeze". What in the world is a reverse sneeze? Apparently it is when the dog has a brief period of going into spasms. The dog makes a snorting or hacking noise that makes it sounds like there is something in their throat. That sounds pretty serious, but from what I've read, it's no big deal. There's nothing in the dog's throat, they're just sucking in too much air through their nose. The dog will either recover from it in a couple of minutes, or you can help him/her to stop sooner by covering his/her nose with your hand to block to air from entering it.

One of the causes is when a dog pulls hard on his/her collar. This can irritate their throat and bring on the reverse sneezing. When I read this I realized that I've actually seen this before! A few months ago my friend and I took his three dogs to the dog park near his house. One of his dogs, wearing a regular around-the-neck collar, was so excited to get there that he kept pulling on the leash in an effort to get me to walk faster. We had to stop every 2 minutes or so because his dog would start doing something that sounded like wheezing. It would take a few minutes of my friend calming him down before we could get moving again. It was really annoying. It completely freaked me out and I thought the dog was collapsing his own windpipe or something! It's good to know that it's a completely normal thing, though I think it would be better if my friend just trained his dogs to walk without pulling the leash!

Reverse sneezing can also be caused by everyday activities like eating, drinking, and running. It sounds like getting overly excited in general can provoke this behavior. Don't panic, your dog isn't having a seizure. Try doing the hand over nose technique and speak calmly to your dog, and it should go away.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Why A Corgi?

There are so many dog breeds out there, how do you possibly pick one? That was the first big decision once we decided to get a dog. We had some criteria:

*a medium to small breed
*a breed that didn't need huge amounts of exercise (normal amount was fine)
*a breed with a good temperament
*a breed that was smart and trainable
*not a Jack Russel Terrier (no offense to this breed, but I just cannot handle the JRTs I've met...)

I hate to say it, but cost was also partially a factor. Sure $2000 isn't a lot to pay for something that will give you 10-14 years of love and affection, but my husband just wasn't having it. After looking into French Bulldogs for a while, my husband decided he didn't want any breed that has been bred to be cute over functional. What I mean is, dogs with the smooshed faces like Pugs, French Bulldogs, etc., have those adorable faces because they've been bred that way. Dogs don't normally have this look because it's not really functional for the dog in some ways. They have breathing problems because their nasal cavity is shorter than normal (or something like that), and they have issues with their teeth and jaws because they have to fit the same amount of teeth in a smaller mouth. Also, dogs like that usually have to deliver puppies through cesarean because of the way their heads are shaped. My husband hated the idea of breeding a dog that has so many health issues just because it looks cute. I tend to agree with him, though they are just so darn adorable!

I told my husband it was his turn to suggest a breed when he vetoed the French Bulldog. He asked me to look into Corgis. Why? I'm embarrassed to admit it (though I doubt I'm the first), but it's because of an Japanese anime show called Cowboy Bebop. It featured a Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Ein, who was basically a genetically engineered super smart dog. I normally would have laughed in his face, but I remembered a friend of mine in junior high had a Corgi. His name was Gizmo and he was probably the smartest and most well behaved dog I have ever met. Once I read about Corgis (specifically Pembrokes), I was convinced that this would be the breed for us. They met all of our criteria, plus they're described as having a big dog personality in a small dog's body. My husband really liked that.

So with that decided we set off to look for breeders, and the rest is history...

PS: a great reference I found for anyone looking into dog breeds is this website. It has really great, and from what I've researched, accurate information on the temperament, health, living requirements, grooming, and origin of any dog breed. If you're thinking of getting a dog and you're not too familiar with the breed, I highly recommend checking out this site first.


The reason why I'm completely puppy obsessed before I've even gotten my puppy is that I have wanted a dog my entire life. Whenever I would ask for a dog when I was little my parents would tell me that when I was 18 and living on my own, I could get a dog. What a crock! I'm now 25 and I'm just now at a time of my life where it's feasible to get a dog. Between college dorms and tiny city apartments, the early years of adulthood just don't lend themselves to a good dog environment. Finally, we are done with school (well almost, anyway), working well-paying stable jobs, settled into our house, and ready to add to the family (I'm referring to the puppy, of course. No kids on this couple's horizon yet!)

But the devil is in the details. There were still a couple more snags along the way. My husband actually wanted to wait until we bought our next house before we got a dog! We have a small concrete backyard with our current house, which wouldn't be good at all for an outdoor dog. We were planning on getting a larger dog, and we didn't want to keep the poor guy locked in the cramped house all day while we were at work, so at first we decided to wait until we bought a house with the right backyard. Then one day a friend of ours asked a novel question: "Why don't you guys just get a smaller dog?" I slapped my forehead, turned to my husband, and said "why can't we just get a smaller dog, honey?" He didn't have an answer.

I think he was adverse to getting a smaller dog at first because he envisioned bringing home a 3 pound chihuahua name Tinkerbell. Once I helped him realize that there were smaller dog breeds that weren't necessarily toy breeds, he was much more open to it. So that's when we decided, we were finally ready for my dog! A 25 year dream realized!