We're excited to share our Ambassador Spotlight with Karin, Colin, and their pup Ube (@ubethepotatoecorgi). Ube and his people live in San Francisco, and here they share their thoughts on raising an active herding breed in the city, why enrichment is so important, normalizing behaviors like barking, and more. Enjoy!
Hi Karin and Colin! Thanks so much for taking the time to share with us. First off, can you tell us a bit about Ube - how he came into your life, what kind of dog he is, and a bit about his personality?
Colin always wanted a corgi, he thought they were super cute! He would always post corgi videos on Karin’s facebook page. Karin was initially hesitant, but she met a corgi in her apartment building and offered to puppy-sit him, Moe, for free to see if she’d like that type of dog. Karin puppy sat Moe a few days a week for a few months as he grew from a puppy into teenagehood. She loved Moe, and all hesitations washed away.
Getting a dog has always been a life goal for us, and once we moved in together it seemed like more of a possibility. We figured that with Colin’s school schedule, 2020 would be the best year to get a puppy! We were actively searching for a reputable breeder, and were fortunate to find one. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit at the same time, but that gave us ample opportunity to bond with our new family member.
We think Ube has a classic corgi personality. He’s active, sassy, full of personality, expressive, and independent.
How did you go about deciding on a breeder?
We chose a breeder from the Golden Gate Pembroke Welsh Corgi Fanciers. It was really difficult to find a breeder. Most of the people on the Golden Gate Corgis page had long waitlists, and some people just didn’t respond! While we know about the waitlists, hearing radio silence also made it difficult to know whether we should wait for that breeder. We started looking in November 2019. Thankfully, two breeders responded to us by March 2020.
It is extremely important to “shop responsibly” when looking for a corgi breeder. Corgis, especially depending on how they are bred, have a high likelihood of developing hip and back issues. When two dogs who should not be bred together are, there is a huge risk to the litter in their health outcome. We have personally met or seen on Instagram so many corgis from questionable breeders who have hip dysplasia or other issues at a young age.
Shopping responsibly for a corgi is hard. We have no judgment for anyone who feels like they could have shopped better. All we want to do is raise awareness for why it’s important to shop responsibly. Lately, many corgis have been up for adoption and rescue because of the financial costs of an unpredictable temperament or poor genetic health outcomes. This is directly a result of irresponsible breeders / puppy mills.
Watch for an upcoming blog post where Karin will share more tips and recommendations for looking for a corgi breeder.
What has it been like raising an active puppy in San Francisco, especially a herding breed?
Raising an active dog known for its herding ability was challenging. Something to know about corgis is that they don’t just need exercise. Mental stimulation and variety is key. They are smart so they can get bored with just puzzles (although puzzles are fun!). Instagram often portrays corgis as lazy loaves, but they are so much more.
We have a one bedroom apartment that is not huge, so we do a lot of enrichment activities. First of all, Ube works for all of his food. We will not just put food in a metal bowl and leave it for him to eat. Ube may even find it suspicious! He loves working for his food and this cuts down a lot on needing to use treats. Favorite food puzzles we use: anything Nina Ottosson, snuffle mats, and wobble balls. One thing Ube loves to do is “dissect” things - it's an instinctual behavior that many dogs love to do. We tape cardboard boxes shut and he’ll pull off each piece of tape and spit it out, then take apart the box. He’ll do this even if there is no food in the box!
Besides enrichment, Ube loves learning tricks for treats or praise. He also has been enjoying learning the basic drills for treibball. He is ball obsessed so I want him to learn the drills really well before introducing the ball. He has learned to touch the ball with his nose while I hold it. But that’s where we are at!
We also love sniffaris! This is why we love the High Tail Hikes long line. We live in a neighborhood where there are so many big parks. I take him to different parks everyday. He hates walking on the streets. He will do it for potty walks, but it really is not enriching. It also makes me so happy to see him have so much fun in nature.
Ube, like many corgis, is vocal (likes to bark). Have you found this to be a challenge, and how have you worked through this?
Corgis are herding dogs. Herding dogs bark. This is a very normal behavior. Ube actually doesn’t bark that much inside. Sometimes he will get very excited playing and bark. But it is short-lived. He reserves his herding bark for when he is outside.
We have seen lots of people ask about how to stop their corgis from barking. I’ve seen people in corgi groups suggest shock or vibrating collars, shaking coins at a dog, or spraying vinegar or other bitter liquids at their dogs. We think this is really unfair. Going back to shopping responsibly for a corgi - if you do not want a dog that barks, do not get a corgi! Understand that there are intrinsic behaviors in certain dogs that cannot be trained out of them in a healthy manner.
There are many ways to teach dogs when it is appropriate to bark in certain settings. For example, Ube has learned not to bark at dogs when they play. While it feels natural to a herding dog, other dogs may not like it. We sought help for this from Prime Paw in San Francisco. We did their puppy school and puppy foundations courses. Ube learned to play bow and not to bark or herd dogs while they play.
Ube fulfills his herding instinct by herding pinecones, balls, and sticks. He will run right up to a pinecone and look at you, waiting. He knows they are inanimate objects. But when thrown, he will herd it. People will sometimes appear bewildered at his barking, but we often initiate conversations about why this is normal. Ube deserves to bark, and him barking like crazy over a pinecone or a stick when it is moving for a 10 minute play session seems fair.
Ube had a recent scary experiences where he was (sadly) attacked by a dog while on a walk. Tell us what happened, how you worked through it, and what you learned.
Our most recent harrowing experience was when I was walking Ube, and we were almost home. There was a Great Pyrenees I have seen often in our neighborhood approaching us on the street. I had Ube go to the other side of the sidewalk. Most times I would cross the street, but this time there were too many cars driving by to make it feasible to cross. After we had passed the dog, I relaxed a bit. All of a sudden I heard growling and yelping. I turned around and saw that the owner (who was staring at her phone during this interaction) had let her dog cross the sidewalk to our side. Her dog attacked Ube by biting him on the back. Luckily, he did not need to go to the emergency room and had no visible physical injuries. What was so disappointing is that in this situation the owner did not acknowledge our existence, let alone apologize. Please do not be on your phone while you walk your dog! There is plenty of other time to be on your phone.
Before this incident, Ube would walk by big dogs without stopping. However, after this incident, Ube would freeze at big dogs, crouch under bushes, jump behind planters, or other things. We felt horrible. Fortunately, Ube has improved dramatically since that attack. Now I advocate for Ube by not allowing on-leash greetings. While he may say hello to his friends he has known since he was a little puppy and sees often, Ube does not greet random dogs. I always treat him for neutral interactions passing dogs. If we are at a park, and a dog approaches Ube, I observe Ube's body language. When I can tell he does not want the interaction (he will tense up and freeze), I help him leave. I get his attention with a high value treat or a pine cone, and he can easily relax and move away.
While it’s important to be an advocate for your dog, sometimes, even if you do everything the best you can, things will still happen. We try to learn and move on.
Tell us about your journey in the social media dog world. What inspired you to start Ube's account? What are some of the highlights, and some of the challenges, of running a dog account on Instagram?
We started Ube’s Instagram account because we knew we wouldn’t be able to hold back on posting stories or posts about Ube. One of the challenges with social media is FOMO - Fear of Missing Out. Sometimes we have FOMO because we can’t go to big events like Corgi Con, but that’s because we have learned to prioritize Ube’s needs. He would be so stressed at big events like this!
We have met some wonderful amazing dog pawrents on Instagram who are now our friends. They don’t judge us for how much we love our dog, and we can make plans together that include our dogs to go on hikes or hang out.
Another way I have enjoyed using our platform is to raise awareness about issues we care about. Some people believe that a dog account should only be about dogs and “cute” things. But I disagree. Those who have a platform should be able to use it to raise awareness about issues that people may not know or think about. For example, I worked with an artist (@lotsoflovejenn) to create corgi stickers that bring attention to workplace health and safety. We used the stickers to raise funds for underpaid workers of color to access free training and legal assistance on worker health and safety issues. It’s a topic that is often not discussed and was swept under the rug until the pandemic hit. It was a great way to be creative and to make a difference. Check out the sticker fundraiser.
My tips for social media would be, instead of focusing on likes, story views, or followers, focus on connection and friendship. Be kind - on social media it can be easy to forget that. Talk things out if there is a misunderstanding, and unfollow profiles that make you feel bad or feel toxic in any way. Remember that not everyone will like you, and that is okay! When you need to, take a break, breathe, and come back. We are thankful this is a positive, engaging space for us and that we have found a community that is supportive.
What are some of your favorite High Tail Hikes products?
We love our long line. We have one with a handle and one without a handle. The one without a handle is perfect for a place like Mount Sutro Forest or Buena Vista park. That way he doesn’t get caught on logs or stairs. After his attack, Ube used to freeze when he saw dogs, and the long line helped us prevent unwanted interactions that could have resulted in Ube being hurt. I could use the long line to encourage Ube to come back to me, and I would treat him when he came back and touched my hand. Since we started using the long line, now, when he sees a dog, he voluntarily checks in with us, takes a treat, and ignores the dog.
I LOVE my High Tail Hikes two-tone leash with a customized traffic handle. High Tail Hikes offers the option of a built in traffic handle that you can customize to be placed higher on the leash. This is great for short dogs, so they don’t trip on the traffic handle. Since this leash came out, we have literally never used one of our other leashes again. Using the traffic handle, I can keep him very close to me where I can block him with my body if needed when passing another dog. Huge shout out to High Tail Hikes for customizing leashes without a huge cost differential. It’s really hard to find gear that fits Ube well, and their gear can be customized to fit short dogs, long dogs, or or weird dog proportions.
Our cloth, rope, fabric or even leather leashes don’t look as good as the BioThane, and they look worn a lot faster. BioThane is so easy to clean as well. Finally, these leashes are not bulky, even with the traffic handle. Ube is sensitive to bulky, heavy gear, so I appreciate that. Finally, High Tail Hikes just came out with auto locking carabiner leashes - which I love! I just ordered mine and can’t wait to try it out.
Ube with his paw-rents at the beach
Thank you so much Colin, Karin, and Ube!