The Corgi Puppy Experience

by Amanda
7 minute read

Milo is 5 this year so Zach and I are seriously starting to look into getting another corgi. I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a corgi for conformation, but I’m not 100% confident on that yet. That idea might have to sit back for another dog some time down the road. The one thing we do need to make sure we’re ready for is the puppy-ness of it all. Anyone who has met Milo now knows he’s quite mellow, chill, and rather obedient. Anyone who we’ve trusted to watch him for an extended period of time loves him and lets us know he’s so easy to care for, but he wasn’t always that way! Milo as a puppy was a menace.

Looking back on it, there were a few things we did that we need to make sure we do again for our next pup.

1. Establish boundaries and be consistent about them

Zach and I picked a few “rules” we always wanted to make sure Milo followed. We have a release word for him that lets him know he has permission and we only ever use it when we’re ready to give him the go-ahead.

  • No crossing physical boundaries without permission (opened doors, up/down stairs, up/down furniture, etc.)
  • No snatching food or treats without permission
  • No free/off-leash play without first giving attention

It probably sounds like a bummer, but we wanted him to be respectful. We stuck to these 200% for the first year of his life and only started to relax them as Milo got older. Nowadays, Milo will bend the rules here and there, but he still follows these rules as long as we’re clear. We had a funny situation happen when my in-laws were visiting. We used to live in a place with a small fenced-in yard and they came back from their day out before we came home from work. They tried to let him out back but they didn’t know his release word yet, so he just sat at the opened door. They eventually got him to go out but said he was very reluctant and unsure that was the right thing to do. We’ve learned now and will always let people know what his release word is whenever someone else needs to care for him.

I feel like no snatching food/treats should always be trained for any dog, but again, we wanted him to be respectful. He is the most food motivated dog in all of the land. I have to be patient about my meals so it’s only fair he must as well! He knows when his mealtimes are and he’ll politely go sit in his bed until it’s all ready and prepared for him. This also makes giving Milo chews a much more enjoyable experience. There’s no chance he’ll bite your hand off, but he’ll very politely make eye contact as if to ask “May I?”

And lastly, we love giving him the freedom to be a dog but he needs to know when to pay attention when he has the freedom to roam everywhere. Anytime it’s off-leash time at the beach or park, he always has to acknowledge we’re there first, show us he can give us a couple of seconds of attention, then we’ll let him loose. I’ve always been afraid of letting him off leash in case we lose him, so doing this also helped me calm my nerves a bit and get more comfortable with the idea. If he couldn’t give us his attention, we hold him back until he does or keep him on leash.

2. Be patient and set reasonable expectations

I am quite possibly the most impatient person ever. I also tend to set lofty goals and am regularly disappointed when I don’t meet them. Both Zach and I were so frustrated with puppy Milo, at puppy Milo, just everything. Looking back on it now, we definitely expected more of him (and of ourselves), than was reasonably possible. Sometimes he’s just going to be a puppy.

Leash walking was our biggest frustration. Milo is still only about 80% capable of loose-leash walking and that’s only when he wants to. When he was a puppy, we wanted to go on walks and we wanted to take him on these long walks, but he would not walk anywhere without pulling on the leash. Puppy training class told us it was a matter of attrition – we just needed to wait him out when he starts pulling and he’ll stop. That literally never happened. We had stretches where we’d just stand in one place for hours and he would be pulling in every direction. SO, we pivoted. We stopped setting the goal of “going on a walk” or going to a specific destination. Our activity was just to stand there. When we lowered our expectations, I feel like it decreased how tense we were and Milo felt that as well. Some days, we made it a few feet! ????

Other than leash walking, being patient with him helped tremendously when training tricks. Those dog tricks books make it seem so easy, just follow steps 1-2-3-4 and ta-da! But no, I had to break a lot of tricks into even smaller steps. I would start giving Milo treats and praising him for even just twitching the right paw or turning his head in the right direction. He learned quickly, but it could take a long time. I always had to remind myself that whatever progress he made, no matter how small, was still progress.

3. Recognize mistakes are ok and perfection isn’t necessary

We thought we had to be absolutely perfect to make sure Milo grew up to be a well-trained dog. Turns out, that’s not necessary! Yes, you still do have to train a dog properly, but it’s ok to make a mistake here and there. We had our lives to live too – we couldn’t just stand there in one place with Milo until he figured out how to walk on a leash. We needed to get to puppy classes or we wanted to just go somewhere with him. There were ways around doing all of these things that didn’t affect what he learned. This also takes SO much pressure off you, as an owner. Zach and I were so stressed in that first year with Milo that it affected our relationship as well. It took a lot to realize that a lot of our frustration was because we both wanted Milo to be perfect, but… he’s a corgi. They’ll do what they want. We were as consistent as we could be and that was all he needed. ????

By the way, no amount of training will get a corgi to be the most obedient dog. Corgis are notorious for their stubborn personality and that’s why we love Milo (and all corgis). We just want him to be a respectful dog. I think of it like people! You can be polite and still be unique as a person. Being kind and respectful doesn’t take away from who you are and it certainly doesn’t take away from Milo’s corgi-ness. He’s easy to handle and he’s polite with strangers – this helps us tremendously when we need to take him to the vet and with general grooming care. We’re also able to frequent dog-friendly restaurants, shops, and other public areas with ease (for the most part).

I’m not a professional dog trainer (and neither is Zach), but we’ve found what works for us. Let’s hope the general idea also works for our next puppy otherwise we’re back to the drawing board.

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