Joe seeks an escape from the deadly dinosaur fangs of a teething, five month old corgi puppy. He finds refuge in the escapee’s usual area of perpetual confinement. Loki runs towards him, desiring to sink his teeth into the socks of distraction, and realizes with regret his fangs cannot find purchase with the plastic wall of dissatisfaction in place. With nowhere for his hormonal malice to go, our tiny, angsty dinosaur regards the human in his cage, and asks the question on everyone’s mind:
We have an almost five month old Pembroke Welsh Corgi puppy named Loki. Years ago, our youngest became obsessed with Corgis and passed his love of them on to us. It wasn’t a hard sell because Corgis are cute. But there are things to know about these sweet, funny puppers before you add one to your family.
They are herding dogs, which means they are definitely not for everyone. Because we’d already owned a herding dog, when we began looking for a second dog, we were well aware of what to expect from one. By nature, herders are incredibly intelligent and energetic. Perhaps the most difficult part of owning a herding dog is understanding that they know what they want, and it can be very difficult to convince them to do something they are not interested in doing. When our border collie was a pup, I took her to training. She would do the requested behavior three to four times and then decided she knew what I was asking for and had enough of doing my bidding. She would then stubbornly sit down and refuse to play any longer. We have discovered some of this same stubbornness in our Corgi, but this is softened because he is highly food motivated and will do almost anything for a snack. Herding dogs are good at amusing themselves, which can be a positive if they do so by playing with a squeaky toy or a negative if they do so by chewing on your carpeting. Overall, we found herding dogs to be our favorite group because of their intelligence and independence, but they can be handful until they are trained and settled in with your family.
Corgis have become quite popular in the last thirty years. Depending on the list, they rank somewhere between 11th and 20th in breed popularity. They draw a crowd wherever they go. We can’t take him anywhere without people stopping to ask if they can pet him. He is eager to meet everyone too. He loves all dogs and all people. I’ve heard them described as the clowns of the herding group, and that is absolutely correct. They can be doofuses. They are endlessly entertaining, tearing around the house with their unlimited energy doing their zoomies, sliding under furniture with their stubby legs (Corgi translates to “dwarf dog” in Welsh), and dramatically flopping themselves down into a Corgi sploot when they are tired or annoyed. They often sleep on their backs, which is adorable. Their appeal is undeniable.
Although Loki is only 19 weeks, he is almost fully housebroken and already knows several commands. He has most of the basic commands (sit, come, watch me, touch, and leave it) and is learning to walk on a loose leash. I’ve also been able to teach him some tricks. He will spin in a circle on command, stick his nose through a donut toy (I call this command “boop”), and use an “inside voice” (quiet bark).
But it hasn’t been a non-stop honeymoon. There were a few times over a few weeks when I wondered if we had made a mistake. He is super high energy. On days when we don’t give him enough exercise or mental stimulation, he can be a giant pain in the ass, barking a lot and chewing on every single thing he can find (including our flesh). Since we discovered that our lack of attention and lack of puppy exercise leads him to boredom, which ends in angst, life with our Loki has been infinitely better. We have created a routine that keeps us on track with him. He eats, goes outside, get training time and then play time or a walk, and then gets a nap. With that cycle more or less in place (minus eating more than twice a day), Loki is a charming and sweet little fellow.
During those moments when I thought perhaps we had chosen a demon, I took solace in the fact that in corgi groups on Facebook, many people had multiple corgi dogs. Certainly people wouldn’t purposely subject themselves to several demon dogs if they didn’t at some point become amazing family pets. And, indeed, like many dog breeds, when you understand them and what makes them special, you can curb the less than ideal traits and harness the good ones. Although we were around Loki all the time, on some days we weren’t giving him the mental stimulation he needed. As soon as we changed how we interacted with him, everything turned around. It’s all about understanding the creature in your house.
So, would I get another corgi and join the legions with multiple, short-legged corgi floofs? I would, but I definitely do not think these dogs are for everyone. I knew enough about the breed to realize that naming our puppy after the Norse trickster god of mischief was a good idea. If you aren’t prepared for situations like this, you might want to skip over corgis and get yourself an affectionate lap dog:
Sometimes you make a choice and feel really good about it. You buy yourself an adorable corgi puppy and bring him home. He is fun and sweet and a good boy. He is the joy on your difficult days, the sunshine when it’s cloudy. And then, one night you’re watching television and look over at your sweet puppy and this is what you see:
The chances of being killed by your corgi are low, but never zero.
We live in an area that is currently being developed southwest of Denver. It’s a part of town that up until now has been characterized by small, family-owned ranches. Little by little, though, the landowners here have been cashing out as Denver has expanded and housing costs have skyrocketed. We moved out to this new development from Denver last year because we wanted to have a little more open space and a little less traffic congestion and street noise around us. We were thrilled to buy a house that backs to a natural ravine, which is characterized as open space as we have no one living directly behind us. In the past year, we have seen deer and coyotes in this open space. One day there was even a moose spotted further up the ravine. Today, though, we were fortunate enough to witness something different.
The people who own the development put on a cattle drive through our neighborhood. Since Denver was originally a “cow town,” it was fitting today to get to experience a little of that history. The cattle were driven up the open space behind our house to a pasture behind the neighborhood where they will graze for the winter. The beauty of this is that we were literally able to stand in our yard and on our deck to see this spectacle. While many of our fellow neighbors who turned out for the event had to find a spot along a street from which to watch, our yard was within feet of the ranchers on horseback who were herding the cattle up the ravine. Even our three-month-old corgi puppy enjoyed the experience, barking at the cattle he felt compelled by nature to herd as they jogged on by.
It’s a privilege to live in Colorado every single day, even if driving here can be a nightmare. On this particular Sunday, though, it was epic that there was no Broncos game so the only traffic we had to deal with was the four-legged kind moving briefly behind our home on the way to better pastures.
House training a puppy is a lot of work. Loki is 11 weeks old. It feels like we are letting him outside constantly, but he still has a couple accidents a day. I know it is going to take time. We’re trying to be consistent as possible. Honestly, we’re just grateful he sleeps from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. without asking to go out. He is a good boy. And so very handsome. Still, I’ve been reading advice online to determine if I can help the house training process along because, as darling as kids are when they are young and energetic and funny as they experience the world through fresh eyes, every parent just wants to stop talking about pee and poop all day long.
In more than one place, I’ve seen it suggested that you attach bells to your doors to house train your dog. When you take them out, you ring the bell and then when they go potty outside you praise them like crazy. Supposedly, this teaches the puppy to associate the bell with needing to potty outside. Eventually, at some point your dog learns to ring the bell when they want to go out. It’s all very Pavlovian.
I haven’t decided how I feel about this. On the one hand, many people have said it works well, so it might be worth trying. On the other hand, I have to say that with a dog as smart as a corgi is (and man…he is smart), I fear Loki will learn that when he rings the bell, I come running. So, maybe he does learn to ring the bell to go outside, and my house training problem is solved. But then he starts ringing the bell all the time, and I become his butler, running in every time he summons me. Then I have a different problem. I’m conditioned. He’s become Pavlov, and I’ve become the dog.
I might just give him a couple more months grace period on this, time for his tiny bladder to grow while I learn to be more consistent taking him outside. That way he can remain the dog in this scenario, and I don’t start running to open a door every time a bell rings.
Our sweet puppy, Loki, is not-quite-so-little-anymore. He’s 11 weeks old now and has gained almost four pounds since his Fetcha Day four weeks ago. His front paws seem huge, his eyes are darker, and his markings are becoming more pronounced, He has met our neighbor dogs to the south, a golden retriever named Sawyer and his buddy Teddy, a yellow lab. He has zero fear of these dogs who are about 75 pounds heavier than he is. He stands at the fence on his hind legs with his nose to his new friends. He can’t wait to play with them. The neighbor dogs to our north, a Wheaton terrier named Finn and a chocolate-colored schnauzer named Chewie, Loki is not so sure about. They scared him the other day by sneaking up to the fence and barking at him while he was peeing. Loki stopped mid-stream and tore off towards our front door, not looking back but barking complaints the entire way.
Today was Loki’s first opportunity for play time with other dogs. We’d been waiting to take him until we were certain his vaccinations were on track. At his first visit to his new vet on Thursday, he got the necessary shots so we enrolled him in an hour long Playful Pup socialization class in Denver. When we arrived, there was already one dog there, a much larger mixed breed named Vaquita. Not long after we entered, a cattle dog mix named Pablo arrived. There were just three dogs in class today, and six nervous parents hoping their fur babies would play nice. The other dogs dwarfed Loki, but it was obvious from the start that Loki was the least fearful.
The dog trainer allowed the two larger, more fearful dogs to meet and figure out their dynamics first, while Loki watched from a safe distance behind a wire gate. Pablo and Vaquita were tense around each other. Their hackles were slightly raised and there was some doggy trash talking and flashing of pearly whites. Steve and I stood there wondering what the hell we had gotten our little guy into. After a while, Pablo and Vaquita began taking breaks from their interactions. The trainer had assessed that Pablo would be a better first meet-up for Loki, so Pablo was allowed into the gated area with Loki. Loki was eager to see what this bigger dog was all about, and Pablo was eager to prove he was the bigger dog. The early doggy tussles had Pablo in the lead, but as the minutes wore on we began to see Loki figuring out how to use his diminutive size to his advantage in play. Pablo and Loki played amicably but vigorously for about 10 minutes until both of them were dog tired. When Vaquita was reintroduced into the mixture, Pablo became protective of Loki. He clearly liked his new playmate and was not keen to share. Loki, for his part, seemed like he could use a nap. Vaquita got a bit aggressive with our tired pup, and Loki did something we hadn’t seen him do before. He scrunched up his puppy nose and bared those piranha teeth to let Vaquita know he was D-O-N-E. The trainer told us Loki had done a great job at his first play date and had earned some rest. So, we said our goodbyes and took our baby home.
I have to hand it to the trainer. She had her hands full today with two larger, more fearful puppies and one tiny, scrappy guy who had been itching for a play opportunity. She didn’t just carefully monitor the puppy language; she also watched the anxious parents who were simultaneously fearful for their babies and fearful their babies might hurt someone else’s baby. She took care of all nine of us without blinking an eye. And I left Loki’s first puppy class feeling both proud of Loki for being a typical, assertive Corgi despite his size and proud of Steve and I for not freaking out when the bigger dogs got a little riled up around our 9 pound boy.
All in all, the day was a great success. We’d started Loki on the path to being a good dog citizen and we’d learned to relax a little about dog interactions ourselves. It’s hard for people who are conflict averse to watch discord, even puppy discord, without feeling uncomfortable. I think we learned as much today as Loki did. And we’re ready to sign him up for another socialization session, which means all three of us grew today and will grow more soon.
Today was Fetcha Day for our new furry baby. After spending the night in Vernal, Utah, we drove into Duchesne and met the breeder at 9 am. She was wonderful, and Loki (whose full AKC name shall be Happy Go Loki Seven) was perfect from the get go. He played with a kitten, ran around the grass, and then settled into our arms like he had always belonged with us.
The drive from Duchesne to our house is approximately seven hours, and with a new pup we wanted to get home as quickly as possible. Along the way, we stopped several times at parks to let Loki use the grassy facilities and stretch his three-inch long corgi legs. By the time we hit Interstate 70, a point where we should have been a little over three hours from home, traffic came to a dead stop and then proceeded at a snail’s pace. That was about 1:30 pm. We got home at 7:30 pm. You do the math. At least it was a gorgeous Colorado fall day with plenty of color on the mountains to make the sluggish day bearable.
Loki could not have been a better travel companion, all five pounds of him. He did all his dirty business on the stops we made and never in the car. He missed his dinner time, but never whined about it. He entered his new kennel on his own and took several naps in there unprompted. And he tolerated ten hours in a car like a seasoned pro. He is a puppy to be sure, all sharpy teeth and nails, but he loves people and could not have a sweeter disposition. I can tell he is going to give us a run for our money, though, because he is smart. He has already proven he learns quickly. We are going to have to be careful because he is sure to pick up bad habits as quickly as good ones if we are not.
When we got home, we had a plan to slowly and respectfully introduce Ruby to the new brother she did not request. We had Luke walk her before we came home to get her in a calmer mental space. We let Loki run around the yard as soon as we arrived and then we put him in his small kennel, carried him in, and set him where Ruby could see him. She came close to investigate, clearly was not thrilled, but walked away without a snarl or as much attitude as I had expected. Then we left the puppy with Luke and took her for another walk. We are going to work to keep them separate by keeping Loki in his pen or crate when he is around her and not allowing him to play around her until Ruby is ready to accept her new roommate. It might take a couple weeks, but I think our slow approach will work. Fingers crossed.
We are all exhausted now after a long day, so it’s time to settle in for the night. So far so good with the puppy, the doggy introduction, and an only mildly sassy Ruby. Life is better with a furry dog friend or two.
We don’t even have the puppy yet. We are picking him up this weekend, but I have been on Etsy looking at dog paraphernalia. I have become that person. I did not plan for this to happen. I turned on the news earlier, which was an epic mistake that sent me into a negative spiral. To claw my way out of the crevasse I slipped into, I started looking at clothing items for dogs because nothing says “I need to get out more, but we’re in a global pandemic and not everyone is willing to get vaccinated” more than a puppy in a knock-off Burberry bandana. So apparently I have stopped myself from focusing on the miasmal political nightmare our country finds herself in by losing my mind in a treasure trove of puppy merchandise.
I suppose, however, if you’re going to lose your mind, indulging in puppy Burberry is preferable to going on a murderous rampage or drowning yourself in a river, right? At this point, bandanas, Halloween costumes, and personalized toys for our new family member seem like a healthy mental escape given the alternatives. At least that is what I keep telling myself while simultaneously shaking my head at the notion that this is where I am in my life.
So when you see me walking down the street with my dog dressed to the nines and cute as a button, be nice. Just remember I haven’t lost my mind. This is how I saved it.