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 bring home a Corgi, it’s essential you do your research. This includes research on shots, diets, exercise, temperament and more. But as a potential owner, you may be wondering, are Corgis smart?

Yes! Corgis are very smart dogs. Both the Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh Corgis are classified as “bright dogs” according to canine researcher, Stanley Coren. Pembrokes are ranked the 11th smartest breed, while the Cardigan was the 31st most intelligent.

There’s no denying that both variations of the Corgi are highly intelligent dogs. But what really makes them “smarter” than other dog breeds? Let’s examine.

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How We Measure a Corgi’s 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 “smart.” Likewise, there are many ways we can measure intelligence in dogs.

But because the current dog intelligence list is based on Stanley Coren’s trials, we must examine what he did to truly understand what makes the Corgi intelligent.

Coren’s Dog Intelligence Criteria

Stanley Coren is a canine psychologist and pHD from the University of British Columbia. He contacted obedience judges from both the American and Canadian Kennel Club to help with his trials.

In total, he received nearly 200 responses, representing half of the judges in North America at the time.

Stanley Coren based his dog rankings on these 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 percentage 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, only dog breeds that received at least 100 evaluations from these judges were taken into consideration for his dog intelligence rankings.

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

Now we don’t necessarily agree that this is the best method for measuring a dog breed’s intelligence. However, it’s a good starting point and base reference. For more information, check out his book on Dog Intelligence here.

How the Corgi Perform

Both varieties of the Corgi performed very well in Coren’s trials. As previously mentioned, both the Cardigan and Pembroke Corgi were classified as “bright dogs.”

For reference, there are only 20 dog breeds in this category. 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. What’s more impressive is that they’re both able to perform a known command on the first attempt with an 85% success rate.

This is incredible! The Corgi breeds passed with flying colors, safely securing themselves as one the top 30 smartest dog breeds in the world.

Other popular dogs in the bright dogs category include the Pomeranian, Bernese Mountain Dog, Cocker Spaniel and the Standard Schnauzer.

Corgi 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 the Corgi breeds compare to an “average” intelligent dog breed?

A dog breed with average intelligence will need between 25 to 40 repetitions in order to learn a new command.

Additionally, average dogs will be able to obey a known command on the first try with a 50% success rate.

The means that the Corgi learns between 2 to 8 times faster than the average! Plus, they’re 70% more likely to obey a known command than your average dog.

For reference, dogs in the “average intelligent” category include breeds like the Great Dane, Australian Shepherd, Siberian Husky, Boxer and Havanese.

Owners: 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 Coren’s obedience trials. But are they really smart dog breeds?

The best way to gauge their intelligence is to ask real Corgi owners themselves. So, we decided to survey real owners from the popular Corgi sub reddit and other forums for answers.

Here’s what they had to say to the question:

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. This means she’s also really good at escaping whatever enclosure I put her in…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. Using logic, while off leash for 1st time and she was slipping around out if the yard? All I had to do was say, do you want back on the leash? For her to come and sit.”

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. 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.

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.

The two other dimensions of IQ are adaptive and instinctive intelligence. Both of which, are just as, if not more, important as obedience/working IQ.

World Class Herding Dogs

Instinctive intelligence refers to the the ability or skill that the dog was bred for. Some dogs were bred to be guardians, others companions or retrievers.

Corgis were bred to be excellent herding dogs. The fact that these dogs are able to round up livestock with little to no further training involves a special type of intelligence. That is, instinctive intelligence.

Unlike adaptive intelligence, nearly all Corgis have roughly the same instinctive intelligence. However, some need more time to fully embrace the job.

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 cattle herding.

Plus, with their short stature, they can easily dodge the devastating kicks from the cows.

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 and mistakes?

According to Stanley Coren, adaptive intelligence can vary quite a bit among individual dogs. Still, many owners tell us anecdotes that clearly show signs of high adaptive intelligence in Corgis.

One Corgi owner tells us:

My corgi works smart, not hard. If there’s an easy way of doing something, he’ll figure it out. He’s learned the neighborhood and will lead me to a shorter route on walks when he’s feeling tired.

– Terry M.

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. Stuff like this makes me think he’s so much smarter than he looks….

– Arthur K.

These are just two examples of high adaptive intelligence in Corgis. However, if you ask any Corgi owner, you’re sure to hear plenty of stories just like these.

Though adaptive intelligence can vary, more often than not, a Corgi will excel with this dimension of dog intelligence.

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.

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 in obedience training. You’ll need a lot of patience, but it’s absolutely necessary. Without proper training, they’ll take advantage of you when they can.

A Corgi owner named Jennifer gives her stubborn Corgi story:

“So smart, but SO Stubborn! He knows when I am about to leave or go to bed and jets under the couch, refusing to come out for hours! I don’t understand why she doesn’t respond to the “come” command if she doesn’t want to. She won’t even look at me if I look under the couch at her! She does what she wants!”

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 months of hand feeding your Corgi to teach them to not be food aggressive around you.

It’s relatively simple teaching a Corgi to not touch the food on the table. However, Corgis (such as ours) will interpret and learn 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.

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.

All in all, Corgis are smart. Sometimes, they’re a little too smart for their own good. But does owning a smart dog breed matter?

Many owners make the argument that they prefer a dog that’s not too intelligent. It’s just easier dealing with a less intelligent dog breed.

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. Because they’re herding dogs, they have a ton of energy that needs to be dealt with.

Corgis also have double coats, meaning they’re excessive shedders. If you’re allergic to dogs, then it’s best you pick out one of these 55 hypoallergenic dog breeds.

And if you don’t have time to properly groom them, then be ready to deal with fur everywhere. Literally, everywhere.

If after all this, you still want a Corgi – go for it! They’re great companion dogs and some of the best dogs 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.


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