Barbara and David Miller, who live in Gig Harbor, Wash., bought their first Cardigan Welsh Corgis 12 years ago and began breeding them six years ago.
“Cardis prefer cool, damp weather, and our home in Washington suits them,” Barbara says. “Our motto is ‘Cardigan Welsh Corgis for home, work, and play.’ We strive to breed a well-rounded family dog that is up for whatever else its person wishes to do.”
Barbara had always wanted to work and compete with dogs. It wasn’t until she and David were visiting his parents in England that she saw her first obedience trial. The family had gathered around the television to watch Crufts (one of the world’s most famous dog shows, held in England each year). She knew instantly that this was what she wanted to do. After researching breeds, Barbara decided on the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, primarily for its size, attitude, and versatility.
AKC: How did you get started in breeding dogs?
Barbara: We never intended to breed and show dogs. I wanted to compete in high-level obedience. After buying our first two Cardigans that just were not physically built for sports, we decided we would need to breed our own dogs. We want dogs that meet the breed standard and are sound enough in mind and body to hold up to training and trialing.
AKC: What is the most important thing to know about Cardigan Welsh Corgis?
Barbara: They are natural students. They are either learning what is expected through your guidance or else they are learning bad habits through lack of guidance. We recommend at least one year of regular obedience-type classes for each new dog/person partnership. (Another thing to know is that they shed a lot!)
AKC: How has AKC Marketplace helped you find puppy buyers?
Barbara: Well-bred Cardigan litters are often reserved one year or more in advance. Cardigans are expensive to breed and raise, and most breeders only breed when they, themselves, are ready to keep another puppy. What AKC Marketplace has allowed us to do is identify people who suit the breed and get to know them well in advance of having our litters. This makes matching puppies to people much easier, as this is not a generic one-size-fits-all breed. Temperaments and energy levels vary from puppy to puppy. We also refer good potential owners to other careful breeders who may be able to help them more quickly than we can.
AKC: What is your favorite question to ask potential puppy buyers?
Barbara: We always ask puppy buyers how they envision their new dog fitting into their lifestyle. That helps us determine what personality will suit them best. There are few things worse than spending up to 18 years with a dog that does not make you happy, so we work hard to give people the puppy that seems custom-made just for them.
AKC: What are the main qualities you look for in potential owners?
Barbara: We look for potential owners who understand that a Cardigan is more like a toddler than a dog in many ways, and who understand and respect the mental needs of the breed. This is not a breed you can throw in the backyard and ignore. They need to be right there with you, “helping” you in any way they can, so we look for owners who have the time to want that deep connection with a dog.
AKC: What is the best advice you would give to novice breeders?
Barbara: Have a large bank account. Almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong with our first litter. We quit counting vet bills at $10,000. Although this is an extreme scenario, it is not unheard of. A friend recently had a litter come down with parvo. Her vet bills exceeded $20,000. Breeding well is not a moneymaking proposition. We have never covered our costs. Breed because you believe Cardigans should be saved for future generations, not because you think they are cute and will sell easily.
AKC: Do your dogs participate in AKC sports?
Barbara: Dogs we own and dogs we have bred participate in AKC Conformation, Herding, Scent Work, Barn Hunt, Tracking, Rally, Obedience, the Canine Good Citizen programs, and Agility. We also have a couple working on their Therapy Dog titles.
AKC: What do you like best about breeding dogs?
Barbara: We love nothing more than starting new puppies out in life. Puppies are so trusting and look at the world through brand new eyes, which helps keep things new and fresh for us. They learn so quickly as babies, so it is no trouble at all to get them started with basic obedience, housebreaking, crate manners, and so on. There is nothing more rewarding than getting those little puppy kisses throughout the day.
AKC: Do you have a favorite breeding story?
Barbara: Our favorite breeding story is recent and still brings tears to our eyes. In our last litter, born a few days early by C-section due to complications caused by the mother carrying too many puppies, we had a tiny little fellow named Spike. Often, the little ones require extra help, and Spike was no exception.
Usually, puppies thrive with extra feedings and more intensive care, and Spike was energetic and happy with a strong will to live, but he regurgitated his milk about a half hour after each feeding, and would aspirate (suck it back into his lungs). We were constantly suctioning his lungs, and we had him on oxygen and in an incubator while treating him for pneumonia.
It became clear that Spike was not gaining weight. He was critically dehydrated, and although energetic and happy, he was not thriving. We took him to the vet to be put down.
Our vet is a neonatal specialist, and due to Spike’s upbeat attitude, she asked if she could take Spike home and give him round-the-clock care. Of course we agreed. We received a call at midnight. Although the vet had been able to keep Spike from vomiting, something internal was just not right, and he had passed away. But, Spike passed away warm, well fed, and deeply loved.
The reason this is our favorite breeding story is because it shows how much the vet community and breeders care about each little life. A fund was established in Spike’s name to help cover the medical expenses of those less fortunate. Although Spike only lived for three days, he will never be forgotten.
For more information on White Hart Cardigans, visit their website.