"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

Puppy and Obedience Training Without Food or Fear

Cane Corso Considered Aggressive and Unadoptable – Rescued by ‘Rescue’ and Rehomed

– Posted in: Aggression, All Positive Dog Training, Cane Corso (Italian Mastiff), Columns, Mastiff, Molosser, Newsletters
Cane Corso

Cane Corso Considered Aggressive and Unadoptable

Rescued by ‘Rescue’ and Rehomed

I just adopted a one yr (approx.) male Cane Corso who was on the kill list at the shelter. He was considered aggressive and unadoptable.

He came to the shelter as a stray, adopted out twice, supposedly they were told no other dogs could be in the home, they brought in another dog anyways, and back Luke went to the shelter. A rescue pulled him, and I brought him home a week later.

He showed no aggression whatsoever, knows basic commands, very affectionate. Now after a month, things are not going well.

He jumped all over my 70 yr. old landlord when he was in the yard, He had him on the ground was jumping all over him in obnoxious puppy way, not aggressive, but still very hard to get control.

He went after a friend of mine the other day, (aggressive!) when I had him on a leash (prong collar), it was all I could do to get him into the house.

A couple of days before that, I took him in the car to my son’s house, and when he approached the car, Luke was slamming against the window to get him.

I cannot vacuum, mop, use the weed eater, lawn mower, etc. without him going insane and trying to attack.

He also barks non-stop when I am even 5 feet from him in the yard when he is on the lead, and I am trying to do yard work. I had a trainer come to the house the other day, and she told me that it is fear aggression, and he can be helped.

My question- Can he be rehabilitated? Is it too late to socialise him? I am sick about this situation. I had a Corso that I rescued at 9yrs, just put him down a few months ago at 13. Best dog ever!!!! I am feeling kind of pressured by the rescue to keep him. I don’t want to be the 4th person to have failed him. He can be very sweet and lovable, but I can’t have anyone over right now or take him anywhere.

Brigette A – NY

Dear Brigette,

A dog’s critical socialisation period is over at approximately 12 weeks of age so yes it is “too late to socialise him”. However, some dogs, even if they were poorly socialised during this period can improve their behaviour. Part of the path to improved behaviour is through clearing up some things that you do have more control over at this point.

It appears from your inquiry that you’ve embraced your Cane Corso into your life as if he is a pet. If you’ve read any of my multiple articles about the Cane Corso they, in my opinion, are not entirely – just a pet. They are hobbies. I’m not trying to be humorous. They are a breed that requires a greater commitment than many other breeds. Greater than many companion dog owners have the time or the skill set.

What currently passes for obedience in North America is not an option for responsible Cane Corso ownership. The sort of ‘all positive’ all the time obedience that revolves around a treat is not the sort you should be seeking. This nonsense is to true dog obedience what fast food is to nutrition. Nor am I talking about the ‘might is right’ methods. I don’t find either particularly effective or for that matter, respectful of dogs.

What I’m talking about is learning how your Cane Corso sees the world. How he makes connections as to who is the teacher and who is the student. (What you are describing is I think, a Cane Corso that thinks you are a roommate.) With a proper respectful relationship, you go on to teaching him his foundation exercises without distractions and only when it is clear he understand do you move on to low-level distractions and finally (in your case) around the sort of things that are triggering his episodes.

The type of training I do and describe in my book ‘Nature’s Template – Dog Training with Nature’s Template’ in addition to building a healthy teacher/student relationship includes conveying to a dog through structured exercises that sometimes you won’t be asking him to do something but in fact, are telling him.

Addressing fear aggression (if that is what this is) caused by poor early critical socialisation (which is almost always the cause) is a high-level behaviour problem and regardless of the potential for significant improvement in the dog is not one that the average companion dog owner or companion dog trainer should be taken on lightly.

When things get to this point with a Cane Corso the difference I mentioned earlier regarding Cane Corso not being pets but hobbies no longer applies. In a case such as you’re describing where family and visitors are in jeopardy from a fearful dog physically capable of killing a person you now have a new 24/7 job. A job in which if you fail someone will very likely get seriously hurt.

I am absolutely not suggesting that this dog can’t be turned around. I can’t say that because I haven’t seen the dog. However, even had I seen the dog and believed that the potential for recovery was good we would still have to factor in your experience in dealing with this level of behaviour problem and whether there are local training resources with the level of experience required to guide you through the process. We would also look at how much of you is realistically left over at the end of each day to take on such a project.

I admire your desire to embrace the responsibility of dog ownership by reaching out in an effort to save this dog. However, in this day and age far too many companion dog owners, dog trainers and rescues fail, in the decision making process with a dog like this, to take into consideration the responsibilities we also have to family, friends, neighbours, visitors etc.

As you are mulling over what I and perhaps others have to say as to what it might take to solve or sufficiently improve this dog, it is wise to keep the big picture (consequences of failure) in mind as well. It is no small thing you are taking on.

If you have difficulty locally finding someone you are confident has the expertise to guide you buy my book or consider booking a telephone consultation with me.

John

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