"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

Puppy and Obedience Training Without Food or Fear

Is a Cane Corso Right for Me – Asks Woman With Small Children

– Posted in: Cane Corso (Italian Mastiff), Columns, Mastiff, Molosser, Newsletters
Cane Corso with Child

Cane Corso the Right Fit – Maybe Maybe Not

Hi John,

For the last year I’ve tried to adopt a rescue Cane Corso, but either they weren’t good with children, or the rescue/shelter didn’t have resources to make sure the dog got along with mine/my children.

We finally found a breeder we liked (and was relatively close in case we have problems) and purchased a 4 month female Corso. (4 months due to it being one she kept to show, so she co-owns her with us)

She’s a great dog; I’ve finished the AKC puppy class, next step is the CGC class/test. She is wonderful with our 1 & 2 year old toddlers (they were taught to respect our dogs, and do so 100%).

My concern is; while researching 9 years ago on the Corso, I never came upon sites that stated they are the equivalent to Mike Tyson in his best years, a deadly weapon, a bomb waiting to go off, etc. Even people at our church mentioned to my husband “oh you have a Corso, you better not have children”.

Are we getting into something here that we cannot handle? I’m a dominant woman, will take any class needed to teach my dog what is proper, my children are well versed in respecting our dogs space, I would never allow any dog off leash outside of my home/yard, but yet I can’t shake all the negative comments. I’ve never second guessed myself, but after reading your site today, I’m just unsure of what to expect.

She is now 8 months old, and listens to even my 2-year old when he tells her to sit & then gives her a treat. I saw on your site that the aggression comes out at 18 months and can last upwards to age 3. My main reason for choosing a Corso over the Ovchacka (my first choice) is my husband travels for work so I’m home alone with 3 small children. We took our shepherd to be evaluated by a trainer who trains with police dogs, & he said our shepherd was too nice of a dog to protect me, should someone come into my home. I don’t believe that fully, but since he was an “expert” I thought it’s best to add a dominant dog just in case.

Any advice you offer is greatly appreciated.

Francine (name changed at requested of writer)

Hi Francine,

One of the problems with Cane Corso and similar breeds is that they behave to the untrained eye, pretty much the same as a Labrador Retriever when they’re puppies. The problem many owners have with them once they hit the 18 month mark is not necessarily the aggression which can be addressed (in theory) but the dog’s sheer size makes it hard for many dog owners to do so safely. The dogs are powerful and it doesn’t leave much wiggle room for handling error. It’s getting hard to find a trainer willing to take the dog on as well, again, not because it can’t be addressed but just out of concern for personal safety. I should add it’s not actually hard to find a trainer, it’s hard to find a good trainer. Lots will take the dog on until the first sign of aggression and then jump ship.

That doesn’t mean anything is going to happen to your pup. If handled correctly as s/he’s growing up you should be fine.

Here are a few things I noticed some of which are red flags for me based on the content of your email.

You refer to this dog as both a he and a she. People have far fewer problems with the females in my experience.

Huge red flag: – The age you purchased this dog was too late to properly socialize. People with any breed often run into problems when the dog hits 18 months as they start to notice anxiety/fear behaviours in their dogs. It is possible that the breeder did the proper things to socialize the dog but that in my experience is highly unlikely. To learn more you could purchase my downloadable book about socialization. It’s inexpensive and has a lot of great information. http://store.askthedogguy.com/socialize-your-puppy-for-everything-by-john-wade/

What this dog is doing for your 2 year old means absolutely nothing. If your 2 year had enough $50.00 dollar bills you’d be amazed at what she could get a whole lot of humans to do for her. It has nothing to do with those people being trustworthy. They may be, they may not be. The real question is could she safely take that treat/$50.00 bill away from once they had taken ownership in their own minds. Could one of your daughter’s friends? etc.

I personally don’t know anyone that needs a dog to be capable of being a man-stopper any where near as much as they need it to be reliable around their children, friends and other welcome and even slightly unwelcome visitors (sales people/politicians/religious zealots etc.) What people actually need is a deterrent which is simply a dog and almost any dog will alert when something unusual is going on. Alert – not act. People with ill intent scope out their targets and they pick targets without dogs. If what a person has is so superior to an alternate victim they simply kill the dog and move on. Whether the dog is trained to attack or not. People that get man-stoppers that don’t really need them and don’t have the time to keep them in check. That’s why I say they’re not pets so much as they’re hobbies as it’s a life time commitment to the highest level of obedience. There usually isn’t enough of a young mother left over at the end of the day to do this. They’re capable enough, it’s just a lot of work. A lot of fun too if you have the time for it but I’m just being practical.

Don’t let the comments overwhelm you. I’m glad they have you thinking. You bought a Ferrari and not a mini van. If you have the time to learn how to drive it, keep it in tune, you’ll be fine. The people that end up in roll overs and wreck themselves the car and innocent bystanders treated their ride like it was a mini van.

Join a Cane Corso club even if it’s Facebook based and look for the old-timers that post. It will be people that don’t trivialize these dogs and often comment that they’re not for everyone or even most people. They won’t be referring to their dogs as “fur babies” or boasting about how big they are at such and such an age. A lot of people will be inexperienced enthusiasts offering advice with confidence (with enthusiasm) that they don’t have the experience to back up. By experienced I don’t mean that just because they have owned or do own a Cane Corso they know any more about the psychology of the Cane Corso anymore than we as parents of children have sufficient experience to be considered experts on child behaviour. The real pros will have owned, trained, and perhaps even trialled many.

One of my favourite dog clients was a male Cane Corso owned by a woman. I met them because he started to show aggression towards other dogs and act on it when he hit 18 months of age. He lived a long happy thoroughly loved life. To the day he died he was aggressive around other dogs. However he knew (because of his training) that he had to ask the woman that owned him if he could, “May I kill this dog?” and she just said no and he listened.

Here’s a picture of Marcus and I.Marcus the Cane Corso Kissing John Wade

 

John
Difficult to Control Dog? – Try the WadeCollarhttp://store.askthedogguy.com/power-steering-wade-collar/

Francine wrote back:

Hi John,

Yes, I completely agree with you. We usually put our dogs up while people are visiting, like today, we are headed to a party, and are taking our Corso to an in-home puppy daycare so she gets more socializing with different dogs.

I also have a crate next to the kitchen where I place the Corso when I cannot watch everyone at once. Ha I’ve had a trainer ask if I take meds because she says I was nuts to take on a dominant puppy while having two little ones. (For the record, no meds😊).

Honestly, had I come across your page prior to purchasing her, I would not have. It appears I have a long road ahead of me.

On another note, do you believe the same in respect to German shepherds? I’ve always left every shepherd we have owned with my children, while I washed dishes, etc around the home. If they didn’t shed so much, I would have gotten another instead of the Corso. If yes, than I will start taking the same precautions with our shepherd as I do the Corso.

Please post my letter as a column, I’m very interested in the comments that will come in.

Also, thanks for the prompt reply; just ordered your book.

When we first took her home in May, I made sure my two youngest could feed/take food away from her, toys, climb into her crate, etc just in case anything like that occurred while my back was turned. My children, although only 1 & 2 years of age, are impeccably well trained on how to respect our dogs. I believe first and foremost, children are bite due to the parents not teaching them first, they must respect the dog.

I talk to the breeder a few times a month. I hope she socialized her properly. To say my days are exhausted is an understatement, two toddlers & 2 dogs and 2 older children, is a handful. But I do adore my Cane Corso, as her & my 1-year old daughter have a bond that is hilarious. My only concern thus far is the other day, my brother in law met us at a cafe, when he crouched down in front of my daughter to pick her up (my Corso was behind her) my dog growled/barked & lunged. She was not resource guarding my daughter, (I know the difference), but it was odd. Maybe she responded like that as we were in public & not home, and she did not know him? Either way, if you know of an experienced trainer in ********** area, please pass on their info. I’d just like to have someone who knows the breed & is confident to address any issues prior to them becoming a problem. My trainer, I don’t feel is the best for a dominant breed, although she does have a few pit bulls & is well known in the community; pit bulls are not a dominant breed though. Any thoughts on that I appreciate.

Thank you again for your reply. I will let you know how it goes as we approach the 18-month-3 year mark😊

-Francine

Hi Francine,

One last thing and it’s based on a considerable amount of personal research.

The way your dog – at this age interacts with your daughter – at this age doesn’t not mean things can’t change. In fact statistically speaking it in many, many case does. Again no reason to panic – just keep this in mind. We’ve had 40 years of programs teaching parents, school teachers, dog trainers etc. on how to teach children to behave around dogs. What the people that push these programs don’t know or don’t want to say as they are an income stream for some is that in those 40 years there hasn’t been any improvement in the number of children bitten by dogs. In fact one out of two children are bitten by a dog before the age of 12 something the CDC describes as literally an epidemic. These programs are part of the reason children are bitten by dogs. The fact is that children can’t stop being children. They just do stuff. For what it’s worth about 60 -70% of the time it is a visiting child that is bitten and the balance is the child bitten by their own dog.

The reason things might change:

Your pup will be an adult much faster than your children. Some dogs stop seeing them as litter mates as a result.

Your children change behaviourally as they mature. 8 year old boys are bitten by more dogs then other children because they move from saying, “Yes mom. I understand. I won’t do that to/around the dog again.”, and mean it – to saying to themselves shortly afterwards, “Hmm, but I wonder why?”, and off they go.

If it were me and this is how I advise clients regarding any dog. Until that dog is 3 years of age and has shown absolutely no intent/discomfort around the kids I won’t leave them in a manner where I can’t get to the dog before it gets to the child. (I leave leashes dragging on the dog and in to a nearby crate when I’m spread really thin – really help with the training when you’re a busy person – it’s covered in another book I wrote).

John
Difficult to Control Dog? – Try the WadeCollarhttp://store.askthedogguy.com/power-steering-wade-collar/

3 Comments… add one
Anion

I know this is old, but…a trainer said the GSD was “too nice” to protect her?

We had a GSD/collie mix, the sweetest boy in the world. Everyone (including us) thought it was cute how he was kind of afraid of cats. A friend of mine took her boyfriend with her to feed him once while we were away and reported that the dog was “kind of scared of [Boyfriend] but came out of hiding when he saw me.” He barked when people knocked at the door but readily and happily accepted everyone we invited into the house. Even the vet commented on how he must not be much of a watchdog because he was so friendly. A Very Nice Dog, in other words, and one that we’d given up on the idea of him as a Watchdog.

One night he thought my husband was asleep in bed with me, but Husband had actually gone into the room across the hall. I found out about this because I was jerked from my sleep at two in the morning by the most spine-chilling, unholy snarl I’ve ever heard in my life, and looked at my dog’s bed to see he’d been replaced by a slavering, threatening beast who looked ready to rip out my husband’s throat. Hackles raised, all his teeth showing, growling…we’d never seen our Very Nice Dog like that. We were both genuinely frightened. (My husband managed to switch on a light, at which point the dog recognized him and all was well.)

The idea that a Shepherd is “too nice” to be a good watchdog is kind of silly, IMO. But even sillier is the idea–seemingly more and more prevalent these days–that a good watchdog’s job is to rip an intruder to shreds, and if the dog won’t do that he’s worthless as a watchdog. A watchdog isn’t supposed to murder the man there to check the gas meter! A good watchdog is supposed to frighten or intimidate an intruder and chase him away, and only attack if he has no choice–isn’t that the case? (You mention it, but I wasn’t sure that was your actual point, sorry.)

I don’t mean to be judgmental about the letter writer (though I personally wouldn’t have a Corso anywhere near my kids; I’ll buy a gun if I want that much stopping power against intruders, because a gun at least can’t decide on its own that kids are prey), I’m just sharing a story–those “too nice to be a watchdog” dogs can surprise you!

Vincent

Do we have an update two years later from Francine? How is the dog getting along with her children?

John "Ask the Dog Guy" Wade

Hi Vincent,

Nothing yet. Perhaps when she gets notified that the there is interest in the thread she’ll update. It would helpful I agree.

John

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