by Marieann Gladstone, Aragorn Cardigans
This appeared in the Dec 1999 AKC Gazette Cardigan column.
From its origin and purpose the Cardigan was bold, fearless, and determined to stand ground when working cattle. They were quick thinking, intelligent, with a willing-to-please attitude. A shy, scared, or spooked dog would not be selected either for work, as a companion, or for further breeding. This was the foundation of our breed.
In old Wales, the Cardigan was valuable to the farmer and was brought inside the home as a family companion, watchdog and guardian. They are naturally reserved with strangers.
With keen eye and astute hearing, they held their own against any bovine. The Cardigan’s large ears were sensitive to the “swoosh” of a cow’s kick. They reacted swiftly to sudden noises when working. Survival depended upon this quick defensive response. This should never be faulted. It is an instinctive part of their temperament. Cardigans are sight and sound sensitive.
We see this behavior in many ways:
- Moving past a door, a Corgi may refuse to go near that strange, dark, rectangular opening. He may curve away, never losing a step or he may stop, growl and bark at the door.
Cardigans are protective and aware of suspicious situations.
- At a specialty held in a hotel ballroom, the Cardigan is doing the recall exercise. When called he moves out purposely, but stops halfway under the ballroom chandelier, looking up at the pretty, shiny lights. Another breed of dog might just stop there and flunk the exercise. This corgi lowers his head and purposely moves to complete the task at hand; going to his master.
Cardigans are curious, purposeful, intelligent, and willing-to-please (and entertain).
- At an indoor show, Cardigans hop over the wide electrical tape securing mats to the floor. On a rug, they might avoid strange paisley patterning in the carpet.
Cardigans had to be aware of their footing over unsure terrain while working stock.
As a class circles the ring, a crate is dropped with a sudden crash while the Cardigans are being shown. One Cardi spins to the ruckus but then returns to the task of showing. Those large ears are at work and the instinctive Cardigan responds naturally.
In the breed ring, judges have had to excuse more and more poorly-tempered Cardigans. Some Cardis are pulling back, fearful of being examined. Shy temperament is just as faulty as a roached topline, straight front or shoulders, no, it is worse! Producing a Cardigan with both sound temperament and sound conformation should be the critical goal to guarantee a sound companion dog. Our foundation breeders never would have bred a dog of shy or spooked temperament; nor should it be bred today.
Socialization and obedience is of utmost importance. Reputable breeders introduce puppies to the oddities of living, as the litter begins to become aware of life and its surroundings. Early household and community activities are necessary to learn new sounds, smells and sights. Socialization familiarizes the strange occurrences in life and encourages self-confidence. Eventually, the oddity is no longer the intruder, but an accepted novelty.
Cardigans display a sense of humor with their comic, clownish antics. These devoted family members bond in loyal companionship. They are happiest at your feet, in your lap, in your bed (or your swimming pool!). This is a breed that mixes well with other dogs, making them quite habit forming! A single Cardigan household is a delight; the multi-Cardi home has a ball!