How Smart Are Corgis? An Insight Into Corgi’s Intelligence


Corgis are both playful and hard-working, but most of all, these short-legged dogs are loyal and loving companions and superb family dogs. As a bonus, Corgis have a goofy side, too, which means fun is guaranteed!

All of these traits are important and make Corgis what they are, but there is one thing that sets Corgis apart from many other breeds – their intelligence. Therefore, the question of the day is: How smart are Corgis?

So, are Corgis smart? Or, are Corgis dumb? Stay tuned to find out where do Corgis rank in intelligence!

Are Corgis Intelligent?

If you are a Corgi owner, you already know the answer to this question. It is pretty apparent, and even first-time dog owners can see right away that Corgis are highly intelligent dogs.

The following logical questions are:

How intelligent are Corgis? Are Corgis the smartest dogs?

Corgis are extremely smart, says Stanley Coren, author of the book “The Intelligence of Dogs,” which was published in 1994. This psychology professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia conducted a survey that has included around two hundred professional dog obedience judges. 

The goal was to rank 110 breeds of dogs on the basis of their intelligence. So, where do Corgis rank in intelligence?

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi breed took 11th place while Cardigans, even though the AKC praise them for having “almost human intelligence,” came in 26th. Does it mean that you’ll have no trouble training your Corgi puppy?

Not really.  Professor Coren questions a common belief that high intelligence and trainability usually go hand-in-hand. He thinks that smart puppies are often able to manipulate their owners to their advantage. According to him, you are better off with a “dumber” dog since they are easier to control.

Professor Coren claims that  51% of a dog’s intelligence stems from its genes, but the remaining 49%  depends on environmental circumstances. Therefore, nothing is written in stone, and bringing your dog up with love, patience, and proper discipline can do wonders for his or her intelligence as well. 

Besides, there are three different types of canine intelligence: 

  • Instinctive
  • Adaptive
  • Working & Obedience

Working and obedience intelligence is deemed most important from the point of view of dog owners. It is thus most widely discussed when considering canine intelligence. This type of intelligence has to do with a dog’s ability to learn from humans. Professor Coren’s ranking we have discussed earlier is based preciselyđ on working and obedience intelligence. 

We are sure that you are at least slightly intrigued by this list and want to find out how other dog breeds rank. For example, are Corgis smarter than Labs? You can check the complete Stanley Coren’s dog intelligence ranking list for yourself and find the answers to all the questions that interest you. 

What Makes Corgis So Smart?

There are many intelligent dogs out there, but Corgis are set out by their incredible herding intelligence. Only a few breeds can compare with them in that regard. Besides, Corgis have a superb ability to adapt and learn on their own. All this makes this breed great at communicating and problem-solving, and that is why AKC sings praises the intelligence of Corgi dogs and even goes so far as to compare it to human intelligence.

Is Coren’s Dog Intelligence Criteria Flawless?

Nothing is perfect; Coren’s intelligence criteria are no exception to this rule. Still, no one has yet developed a more objective method of measuring canine intelligence. After all, the professor did not work alone; his study included obedience trial judges from both the American and Canadian Kennel Club.

Almost half of the judges from North America sent professor responses (that was nearly 200 responses from them alone).  These judges had a task to evaluate and assess as many different dog breeds as they could. What were the set criteria? Judges observed the following two factors:

  1. How many repetitions it takes for a dog to learn an entirely new command. Of course, the fewer repetitions the dogs needed, the more intelligent they were considered to be.
  2. How successful were the dogs at obeying a known command on the first attempt? Their success rate was used to single out more intelligent dog breeds.

Why Are There Only 110 Dog Breeds On The List?

Only dog breeds that received at least 100 evaluations from the judges were considered. The rare breeds were not included since there were not enough tests to secure accurate data. 

Besides, since all the judges were either from North America or Canada, only the breeds that the American or Canadian Kennel Club recognized at that time were included in the study. It is important to note that no hybrids were included in the study either, not even the most popular ones such as the Horgi.

How The Corgi Breed Performed In Professor Coren’s Trials? All The Details

As we have already implied, Cardigan and Pembroke Corgis performed very well in Coren’s trials. Even though Cardigans are lagging behind a bit, both varieties of the Corgi breed were classified as “bright dogs.” 

What Does It Mean To Be A Bright Dog, According To This Particular Study?

Bright dogs are those that can learn a new command with just 5 to 15 repetitions. Consequently, you can teach your Corgi puppy any basic command in only a couple of minutes!

That is impressive on its own, but you will be wowed to see the success rate of obeying a known command on the first attempt. Namely, both Cardigan and Pembroke Corgis have an 85% success rate. So even though this breed is infamous for its stubbornness, in reality, with proper training, it is super-obedient! 

How Do Corgis Compare To Other Popular Breeds?

Corgis share their intelligence class with the likes of Pomeranians, Cocker Spaniels, and both Standard and Miniature Schnauzers.

Are Corgis average when it comes to intelligence? Not at all. Corgis are definitely above average in intelligence. How do we know that?

“Average” dogs will need you to repeat a new command 25 to 40 times in order for them to learn it. Since your Corgi requires 15 repetitions at max, it is at least 65% faster at learning new stuff!

Besides, there is a 50% chance that dogs of average intelligence will obey a known command on the first try. In other words, Corgis are 70% more likely to do what you ask them without you having to repeat your commands.

Of course, we have nothing against “average dogs.” All dogs are perfectly capable of becoming well-behaved pets, especially with proper training. The only difference is that some will require a little bit more effort and time. Dogs such as the Great Dane, Siberian Husky, and Boxer are all in the average intelligent category, and they are highly popular, appreciated, and sought of breeds.

Adaptive And Instinctive Intelligence Of Corgi Breed

As you already figured, canine IQ is not only about obedience and working intelligence; there are two more dimensions. These aspects should not be ignored even though they cannot be measured objectively, like obedience & working intelligence.

The two other dimensions of IQ are:

  1. Adaptive intelligence
  2. Instinctive intelligence

All these three components are equally important. The good news for all the Corgi lovers is that, unlike many other dog breeds, these short-legged dogs excel at all three dimensions. That is why Corgis are so bright!

1. Instinctive Intelligence

In the past, all dogs had a special role, and they were purpose-bred to excel in it. Instinctive intelligence applies to this specific ability or skill that a particular dog was bred for. For example, some dogs were bred to become the best guardians while others had a much more relaxed role of companions.  

What about Corgis?

You probably already know a little bit about Corgi’s breed history. Corgis were bred to be superb herding dogs – and they really were excellent at that job! The mere fact that Corgis can now round up livestock with almost no training from their owners is a clear sign of a distinct type of intelligence called instinctive intelligence.

Corgis now have all the qualities they need to thrive as herding dogs with little or no help from humans. Most of all, they possess a herding instinct and a pushy personality. This combo makes them great at driving cattle on the field. 

Even though a lot of Corgis now are family dogs, their instincts did not fade away. They are rarely expected to herd these days, but that did not compromise their status. Corgis are still recognized as one of the best cattle herding dogs in the world. As a result, their instinctive intelligence is deemed as one of the highest in the canine kingdom.

Sometimes, a Corgi herding instinct becomes a problem, especially in families with little children. Namely, Corgis often nip at the heels of kids.  Of course, you should not encourage such behavior but rather try to eliminate it through proper training. Do not be too harsh, though; your poor-little Corgi is not to blame for the herding instincts kicking in. It will take time to conquer generations of instincts bred into your pup.

2. Adaptive Intelligence

Adaptive intelligence is the opposite of instinctive intelligence. While instinctive intelligence is something your puppy cannot control much, adaptive intelligence indicates your Corgi’s ability to learn for itself. Therefore, you can assess your pet’s adaptive intelligence by answering the following questions:

  • Is your dog good at learning from past experiences?
  • Does your pet often make the same mistakes? 

While instincts are usually less the same among all the members of one dog breed, adaptive intelligence is not. Even though they belong to the same breed or even the same litter of puppies, two Corgis can differ in their adaptive intelligence quite much. 

How does the adaptive intelligence manifest in your Corgi’s everyday life?

For example, you take your Corgi for a walk every day, and you always follow the same route. One day you are in a hurry, and you take a shortcut. In a few days, your Corgi feels tired and opts for the shorter route too. Your dog’s ability to learn from past experience and memorize the walking routes is a clear sign of adaptive intelligence.

There is another excellent example of adaptive intelligence. If your dog starts whining as soon as you start putting on your work clothes, it is a sign that he or she knows where you are going. Similarly, you taking a leash turns your dog’s tail into a wagging machine at the very exact moment. The ability to associate objects to future actions is yet another obvious sign of adaptive intelligence. The good news is that most Corgis can make these associations.

There are dogs with low adaptive intelligence, and they are more dependent on their owners.  For example, such dogs are incapable of naturally picking up on where they are and can easily get lost when they are off the leash. 

Pros & Cons Of Adopting A Dog As Smart As Corgi

As we can see so far, researchers and owners agree – Corgis are extremely smart! The question is: Is having an intelligent dog such a good thing? 

Dealing with your dog’s high intelligence can sometimes prove to be a handful. Intelligent dogs, just like intelligent kids, are often hard to control. The problem is more or less the same. They know what they want, and they know how to get it!

The fact that Corgis have a stubborn streak adds fuel to the fire. Corgis are aware of the fact that they are smart and can develop their own ideas. That would not be an issue if only they were not as persistent with those ideas.

The only solution is to start obedience training as soon as you adopt your Corgi. The sooner, the better. You have to be consistent and firm no matter how cute, or goofy your Corgi pup is.

Arm yourself with patience. If you fail at this task, your Corgi will develop techniques to “take advantage” of you whenever possible. Yes, Corgis are that smart!

For example, many Corgis refuse to go for a walk by hiding under the bed and staying there for hours. Not even their favorite treats help; they are that stubborn!

Many dog owners claim that the more intelligent the dog is, the more stubborn it will be as well. These dogs think they are too smart to live by your rules. Therefore, having a highly intelligent dog is both a blessing and a curse.

Let’s get back to Corgis. Remember how they can learn a new command with as little as five repetitions? This can be good and bad too.

Namely, Corgis can pick up on bad behavior just as quickly as they can on the good one. Allowing such a dog a mischief or two every now and then can be quite dangerous. They can interpret it as the desired behavior model, and you will have trouble undoing the wrong.

As we have already warned you, smart Corgis do not take things for granted. You give them a simple command or a rule to follow, and they build their own ideas around it. 

For example, you teach your Corgi that food on the table is not to be touched. Your Corgi might interpret that any food that drops on the floor is a buffet. The problem is that Corgi is intelligent enough to keep on contemplating and even come up with an idea such as this: ” If I knock off some food off the table, it is free for all!”

Does Owning A Smart Dog Matter?

When choosing a dog, you should not consider only the fact of how intelligent it is. It is far more important to find a canine companion that has a personality and temperament that matches yours. All dogs are smart enough to make excellent pets and bring joy to your life!

As you could see, sometimes dogs can be too smart for their own good. It turns out that having a less intelligent dog can be much easier for the owner. This is exactly why many owners prefer such dogs. You should think twice before choosing your pet, too!

Final Words

Are Corgis smart or dumb? You now know the truth, but you also know that being smart is not all that matters!

Both the Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh Corgis are highly intelligent but also very affectionate and loyal. You should carefully consider their temperament and personality before you choose to bring one home. They can be very sweet but have tons of energy and a stubborn streak too.  

Only when you do thorough research can you decide if you really want a Corgi. That is the only guarantee that you will not live to regret your decision. The good news is that most owners have no regrets at all! Corgis are one of the best dog breeds in the world.

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