Dog Training Smartest Dogs

Are Corgis Smart Dogs? – Here’s Why They’re Highly Intelligent Dogs

Depending on the variation of Corgi, they are some of the smartest dogs.
Written by Richard Jeng

If you’re thinking about bringing home a Corgi, it’s essential you do your research. Not only does this include research on vaccines, diets and exercise, but also temperament. As such, owners may be wondering just how intelligent Corgis actually are.

So, are Corgis smart? Welsh Corgis are very smart dogs. According to canine researcher Stanley Coren, the Pembroke and Cardigan Welsh Corgis are the 11th and 31st smartest dog breed, respectively. But what makes them really intelligent is their ability to learn from themselves and their herding intelligence.

There’s no denying that both variations of the Corgi are smart dogs. But what really makes them “smarter” than other dog breeds? Continue reading to discover the reasons that make the Internet’s favorite dog, intelligent canines.

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Measuring Corgi Intelligence

Stanley Coren measured dog intelligence based on two criteria that the Corgi excelled at.

There are a lot of ways a dog breed can be considered intelligent. Consequently, there are many methods we can use to measure the intelligence of a Welsh Corgi.

The current list of smartest dog breeds was developed by Stanley Coren, a famed canine psychologist and researcher. It was Coren who coined the term, “obedience & working intelligence,” which he used for these trials.

Coren’s Dog Intelligence Criteria

Coren’s intelligence criteria isn’t perfect. However, it is perhaps the most objective way of measuring canine intelligence. He contacted obedience trial judges from both the American and Canadian Kennel Club to help.

In total, he received nearly 200 responses, representing half of North American judges at the time. The judges evaluated and assessed as many dog breeds as they could based on the following two factors:

  1. The number of repetitions it took a dog breed to learn a new command. Dog breeds that learned with fewer repetitions were considered smarter.
  2. The success rate that a dog breed will successfully obey a known command on the first attempt. The better the success rate, the more intelligent (and obedient) the dog.

Furthermore, not all breeds made the final cut. Only dog breeds that received at least 100 evaluations from these judges were taken into consideration for his intelligence rankings.

Because both the Pembroke and Cardigan Welsh Corgis were highly popular breeds, they had no problems qualifying for the intelligence rankings.

How the Corgi Performed

Both varieties of the Corgi performed very well in Coren’s trials. As a result, both Cardigan and Pembroke Corgis were classified as “bright dogs.” In fact, they’re in a highly exclusive class with just 21 dog breeds!

But what exactly does it mean to be a bright dog? Both Corgi breeds were able to learn a new command with just 5 to 15 repetitions. In other words, you may be able to teach a Corgi a basic command in a few minutes!

What’s more impressive is that they’re both able to obey a known command on the first attempt with an 85% success rate. That’s one super-obedient dog, despite Welsh Corgis infamously known for their stubbornness.

And for reference, there are plenty of popular breeds in the Corgi’s intelligence class. Other bright dogs include the Pomeranian, Bernese Mountain Dog, Cocker Spaniel, Weimaraner and the both Standard and Miniature Schnauzer.

Corgis vs. The Average Dog

Needless to say, not all dog breeds performed as well these the Corgis. After all, not every dog can be above average in intelligence. So, how did both Corgi breeds compare to the “average” intelligent dog breed?

A dog breed with average intelligence will need between 25 to 40 repetitions in order to learn a new command. This means that Welsh Corgis are at least 65% faster at learning new commands and tricks!

Plus, average dogs will be able to obey a known command on the first try with a 50% or better success rate. In other words, Corgis are 70% more likely to obey their commands on the first try.

There’s nothing wrong with being “average.” For reference, dogs in the average intelligent category include breeds like the Great Dane, Australian Shepherd, Siberian Husky, Boxer and Havanese. All very good company, if you ask me.

Is Your Corgi Smart?

We surveyed real Corgi owners and asked them, is your Corgi smart?

It’s great that Corgis performed so well in the trials. But are they really smart dog breeds? We believe the best way to gauge this dog breed’s intelligence is by asking real Corgi owners themselves.

So, we decided to survey real owners from the popular Corgi sub reddit and other dog forums for answers. Here’s what they had to say to the question:

Real Owner Answers

1. Mutoid says Yes:They’re a lot of fun and the high intelligence means you can train them to do some really fun tricks. Like other herding dogs they’re very high energy and need to get their daily exercise.

2. Curigcorgis says Yes:They are crazy smart and understand a situation quickly… BUT that doesn’t mean they’re going to be easily trained to do what you want. As herding dogs they need to think for themselves and these guys certainly do that.”

3. Tokisushi says Yes:Corgis are highly intelligent dogs. Many (if not most) NEED to be mentally challenged to be happy. Try incorporating more activities that require brain work into your routine.”

4. Happyft says Yes:In terms of trainability, they’re quite intelligent – they may not be on anyone’s top 10 smartest breed list, but my little girl catches on pretty quick. She also once tricked me into lying down by pretending that she lost something under the couch, in order to lick my face.

5. Americasnexttopramen says Yes:I’m amazed at how intelligent [my corgi] is, but also very persistent, vocal, and difficult to calm down at times.”

6. Shir01kabocha says Yes:But the energy and intelligence [that Corgis] have as a herding breed can be challenging to manage. They can be quite independent and willful.”

7. Axollot says Yes:Corgis are very smart…My girl has to use a leash. She hates it. She must know why she has to wear it and what will get it removed.”

8. Mr_oberts says Yes:The important thing to know is that they are smarter than you and they know it.

9. Sparklerainbowduck says Yes:They’re smart and they know exactly what they need to do to get what they want…anytime they want. But if they’re not mentally and physically exercised, they will own you.”

10. Trexarms9104 says Yes:My corgi leaned so many tricks very quickly. I just love how smart they are!! That’s a very good doggo you have there.”

Other Reasons Corgis Are Smart

Do Corgis get along with children? Yes!

Believe it or not, there’s more to dog IQ than just obedience and working intelligence. In fact, that’s just one of three components of dog intelligence, according to Canidae. Even Stanley Coren will admit this.

It’s just that obedience & working IQ is the most objective to measure. So, unfortunately, we have to rely on just that for the time being. However, we cannot ignore the other aspects of dog intelligence.

The two other dimensions of IQ are adaptive and instinctive intelligence. Both of which, are just as, if not more important than obedience and working intelligence. But unlike many other dog breeds, Corgis excel at all three dimensions.

World Class Herding Dogs

Instinctive intelligence refers to the the special ability or skill that the dog was bred for. In the past, dogs were purpose-bred for specific tasks and jobs. For instance, some breeds were developed to be guardians, others companions or even retrievers.

Corgis were bred to be excellent herding dogs – seriously, they’re some of the best. But the fact that these dogs are able to round up livestock with little to no human training involves a special type of intelligence. That is, instinctive intelligence.

These dogs have all the qualities that make a world-class herding dog. For example, they have a “pushy” personality, which makes them ideal for pushing cattle on the field. This herding instinct is something that you can still see with all Corgis.

Whenever Harper gets hyped, all she does is nip and bite. I have scratches all over my legs and arms. It’s getting to the point where at times, it seems impossible that she will ever get over it.

– Harper Rose (Corgi Owner)

It’s not unusual for Corgis to nip at the heels of children, or even adults. While this type of behavior should be discouraged through training, it’s important to understand this is just the herding instincts kicking in.

Don’t believe us? Check out this amazing Cardigan Welsh Corgi in action:

Their short stature (dwarfism) is essential so that they can easily dodge the devastating kicks from the cows. And with their deep loud barks, Corgis pack a punch when directing livestock into groups.

Corgi’s Adaptive Intelligence

On the other hand, adaptive intelligence refers to the ability of the dog to learn for itself. How good is your dog at learning from past experiences or previous mistakes? All these are questions when examining a dog’s adaptive intelligence.

And unlike instincts, adaptive intelligence can greatly vary among individual dogs from the same breed. But fortunately, many owners tell us anecdotes that clearly show signs of high adaptive intelligence in Corgis.

One Corgi owner tells us what makes his dog intelligent, saying:

My corgi works smart, not hard. He’ll figure out the easy way for everything. He’s knows the neighborhood and will lead me to a shorter route on walks when tired. Brilliant dog.

– Terry Parks (Corgi Owner)

Not only did Terry’s Corgi learn the walk-routes of the neighborhood, but also knows where to go for the shorter route. This is clearly a sign of adaptive intelligence, as the Corgi had learned from his past experiences on walks.

Another Corgi owner explains to us why her Corgi is so intelligent:

Tofu, our 2 yo corgi, is so good at understanding our intentions. If I put on socks, I’m leaving the house. If I put on sunscreen, we’re going for a walk.

– Arthur Klein (Corgi Owner)

Tofu is undeniably smart. Being able to associate objects and actions with a consequent action is another prime example of adaptive intelligence. Our Corgi was able to make these associations too!

Of course, these are just two examples of high adaptive intelligence in Corgis. The sample size is small. However, if you ask any Corgi owner, you’re sure to hear plenty of stories just like these. Plus, Corgi forums are filled with them!

Owning a Smart Corgi

Here are the major problems that arise with owning an intelligent Corgi.

Both owners and researchers believe Corgis are smart. But is it really that great owning a smart dog breed? We’ve followed up with some real owners to ask for their opinion. Here’s what most had to say about dealing with these dog’s high intelligence.

The Stubborn Corgi

There’s no doubt Corgis are very smart, but they’re equally as stubborn. Corgis are smart and they know it, which may explain why they develop their own thoughts and ideas. And sometimes, they’re a little too persistent with their own ideas.

The key to dealing with this is to be consistent and firm in obedience training. You’ll need a lot of patience, but it’s absolutely necessary. Without it, they’ll “take advantage” of you whenever they can.

A Corgi owner named Jennifer gives her stubborn Corgi story:

“He’s so smart, but SO Stubborn! He knows when we’re about to leave the house or go to bed. But he’ll jet under the couch, refusing to come out for hours!

You could argue that the most stubborn dogs are the most intelligent. It’s because they’re smart that they feel like they don’t need to do your bidding.

Blessing & Curse

According to Coren, Corgis are fantastic learners given the right motivators. They’re able to learn a new command with just 5 to 15 repetitions.

But their ability to learn is a blessing and a curse. Not only do they quickly pick up on good behavior, but also the bad ones. For example, it could take you 5 minutes to teach a corgi to “shake” or “lay down.” Maybe 10 minutes to teach him to “roll over.”

However, it can take many months of hand feeding your Corgi to teach them to not be food aggressive around humans. It’s simple teaching a Corgi to not touch the food on the table, but Corgis may interpret that any dropped food is free for all.

Another owner mentioned that her Corgi has been caught trying to knock food off the table to try to swoop in for a free treat. If you ask me, that’s one intelligent dog.

Does Owning a Smart Corgi Matter?

Sometimes it's best to own a dog breed that's not as smart as the Corgi. Here's why.

There’s no denying, Corgis are smart. Sometimes, they’re a little too smart for their own good. But does owning a smart dog matter? Many owners make the argument that they prefer a less intelligent dog. It’s just easier.

However, it’s not always a great idea picking a dog breed based on how intelligent they are. All dogs will be “smart” enough to give you what you need. Instead, it’s better to see if the breed’s temperament and personality matches yours.

Both the Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh Corgis are affectionate, loyal and alert dogs. In the home, they can be as sweet as any dog. But because they’re herding dogs, they have a ton of energy that needs to be dealt with.

If you read all this and still want a Corgi – go for it! We have a Pembroke Welsh Corgi and we have no regrets at all! They’re great companion dogs and one of the best dog breeds in the world.


Do you own a Pembroke or Cardigan Welsh Corgi? Let us know what you think about your Corgi’s intelligence. Leave a comment in the section below!

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About the author

Richard Jeng

Richard has been raising dogs his whole life, including a Poodle, Pomeranian, Corgi and Australian Shepherd. He's always working with animal shelters and dog rescues because of his passion for all dogs. Fun fact: his all time favorite breed is the German Shepherd. Read More.

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