"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

Puppy and Obedience Training Without Food or Fear

Cane Corso Concerns

– Posted in: Cane Corso (Italian Mastiff), Columns, Newsletters
Cane Corso Concerns

We took home a 8 week old male cane corso who is now 9 months. He has a good temperament in that once he warms up to people he is fine.

My concerns are he lunges and growls at the neighbors. How can I correct this? We are considering giving him to a cane cross rescue but I feel bad about it and would like to give him an opportunity.

He also is super hyper whenever guests come over. In one case, my nine year old niece visited and he growled, barked and started shaking. Once my niece went upstairs, he cautiously stayed away from her looking down and scared. I kept him on a leash and allowed my niece to throw him treats which he ate and then was okay but I still kept a watchful eye on him and on a leash. By the next day she could be around him not on the leash Is this normal behavior? Can this be stopped? I worry for the future because I don’t want him to be unsafe to be around children.

He also is afraid of cars so its difficult to walk him. Is this normal? How can I overcome this so that he walks normal and is not afraid.

We also take him to a day care and he enjoys it there so much that when I go to pick him up, he will refuse to listen to me and bring him in the car without a struggle. According to the staff he is a “nice dog but has no manners because he jumps on people.” How do I get him to listen in these circumstances?

I have taken him to a dog park and he plays fine with the dogs and doesn’t bother the human owners. He also is okay going to pet stores. I noticed that he is more standoffish towards strange men and is more excited to meet strange women. Is this normal?

What is the best training that the dog could have?

I am asking all these questions because I know this dog takes work but there is so much advice out here and everyone says something different. I want to keep him but if we cannot stop this behavior in particular with the neighbors and guests, I am afraid we will need to rehome him to a cane cross rescue.

Samone (Baltimore)

Cane Corso Concerns

Dear Samone,

It’s normal in the sense that it’s not an unusual story to hear when someone gets a breed of dog that is not quite what they’ve been led to believe it is. In fact if you search this site for Cane Corso, you’ll find many people have Cane Corso Concerns. (http://www.askthedogguy.com/?s=cane+corso)

It’s not entirely your fault. On average, I haven’t found that breeders (of any breed) provide a reasonably accurate overview of their breed’s characteristics. They tend to inaccurately attribute characteristics to their breed’s “nature” that are not breed characteristics at all but rather the result of proper socialization. They also under-emphasize characteristics of the breed that are not in themselves good or bad but could very well be very good or very bad depending on the household they end up living in.

Some people think that a dog is a dog and dismiss behavioural (and physical) characteristics that have been selectively bred for, generation after generation. Enough careful selection, to eventually constitute what we refer to as a dog breed. It seems that to them a retriever is a guard dog is a herding dog and if your household is suited to having a dog it is suited to having any breed of dog. This is where some dog owners get into trouble because it is flat out wrong.

Just as with the amount of conflicting dog training advice, you can even get a lot of nonsense regarding what a Cane Corso is or isn’t from Cane Corso owners but more so from the majority of breeders (who are being referred to as a breeder only because they apparently know the difference between a male and female dog as opposed to being qualified to breed great representatives of a breed). The fact is that this is not an appropriate breed for most people. There’s nothing the matter with a well bred, well socialized Cane Corso but in the wrong hands even a well bred, well socialized can be more then the average companion dog owner is prepared to deal with. They are in my view more of a hobby then a pet.

There is much in your correspondence to me that indicates you may be in over your head. In fact, I’m almost certain of it. You have great questions but they are the sort of questions that should have been asked when considering the breed not 7 months later. If this dog is well bred, properly socialized during critical socialization period, then yes training can turn things around. What training can’t do is make the nature of this breed a good match for some people’s lifestyles. He is after all a guard dog. I simply don’t know that many people with a lifestyle requiring a dog with the guarding instincts that a Cane Corso possesses along with the time to provide and maintain the sort of training the breed should be subjected.

Do some real research regarding this breed, what true socialization is (read my book – Socialize Your Puppy for Everything – John Wade) as if you don’t know anything at all and do not yet have a dog at all. If you conclude this breed is a good match for you for the next 12 years of your life, was properly bred, was properly socialized then seek out an experienced Cane Corso balanced trainer. Expect to be training with this dog pretty seriously for the next year or so in order to really get on top of him. If not, then give that Cane Corso rescue a call and see if they can find him a better long term match before he does something stupid and you lose your options.

John

2 Comments… add one
F

A dog of any breed can exhibit these behaviors. Don’t jump straight to “rescue group.” Your desire to actually correct the dog’s behavior shows dedication, and the “wrong dog” mentality won’t do anyone any good, just result in another homeless dog.

1. Get him neutered as soon as you can.
2. Ensure you’re socializing him enough; reward calm behavior where he gives you attention/eye contact, and give him a gentle leash correction to get his attention (and then reward him when you get it) when he acts up.
3. Do basic obedience training with him; it will build a bond of trust and establish boundaries for him.
4. For the jumping, a good trick is to grab his forepaws, when he does, and praise him–not in punishment–but hold them until he’s uncomfortable and squirming to get free. For a lot of dogs it only takes a few repetitions for them to decide it’s not pleasant to jump up.

He will likely always be somewhat aloof, and many male guardian dogs are less friendly toward men, but proper socialization should prevent any outright danger.

John "Ask the Dog Guy" Wade

While I agree that one shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don't_throw_the_baby_out_with_the_bathwater) I don’t agree that the “wrong dog mentality . . . just results in a another homeless dog”. If more people embraced the “Gee, maybe we have the wrong dog mentality.”, before things go to far down the wrong road (when it’s based on realities relayed by the original author) we would save the lives of dogs, a breed’s reputation and injuries to innocent bystanders (family, friends acquaintances and strangers). I’ve met many great Cane Corso dogs, owned by some great people. Many trainers fail to take into account all the variables that influence a positive outcome. Sometimes it’s a good match, sometimes it’s simply a bad marriage.

I don’t think saying that “A dog of any breed can exhibit these behaviours.” is particularly helpful. In fact I think it’s harmful. If the person had written that their Labrador Retriever was relentlessly bugging them to throw a ball we could say that “A dog of any breed can exhibit these behaviours.” and be correct however if it were a Golden Retriever doing these things it would be a lot weirder then coming from a Cane Corso. To quote myself, “Some people think that a dog is a dog and dismiss behavioural (and physical) characteristics that have been selectively bred for, generation after generation. Enough careful selection, to eventually constitute what we refer to as a dog breed. It seems that to them a retriever is a guard dog is a herding dog and if your household is suited to having a dog it is suited to having any breed of dog. This is where some dog owners get into trouble because it is flat out wrong.”

John

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