Our Cane Corso (named Tito) is about 14 months, and he is just a very powerful stud of a dog. He is extremely playful and well tempered, he responds to commands extremely well for a 14-month-old ball of muscle with extremely high energy, however, after adding a 2nd into the family pack Tito has become aggressively protective of his food and his toys.
Tito will now act out aggressively if anyone gets near his food or his indoor toys. His outside toys he doesn’t seem to care about if anyone else plays with them. At first, Tito would respond to loud, aggressive voice commands while he did this such as sit, lay down, heel…however now he doesn’t. We now have to be very loud, very dominant in posture and tone of voice. We are currently locking him in his kennel and completely ignoring him for an hour after he acts this way. It seems to be working however it’s slow, step by step. The Cane Corso is a breed that you must continue to work with constantly. They are not just a family pet they are more of a responsibility.
For what it’s worth if you read any of the other many Cane Corso articles I’ve written you’ll learn you’re not alone. Get on this sooner rather than later and you should be able to get things back on track.
You may be at or are approaching the point where many of their owners begin to learn that they’ve been driving a Ferrari like a mini-van and having left the driveway and neighborhood side streets of puppyhood for the main arteries and highways of adulthood they are finding it’s getting harder to keep the vehicle on the road.
Keeping in mind I’ve not met you or your Cane Corso I suspect your Cane Corso is entering into the age-related period where for many, Cane Corso ownership becomes less “fun”. Which may very well be the reason there are quite a few “you’re reaping what you’ve sown (or not sown)“ red flags in your letter.
So while you are correct in saying the Cane Corso is a breed that you must “continue to work with constantly.” It would be more accurate to say work with correctly constantly.
If you have to shout and are working around a 14 months old Cane Corso’s behavior with timeouts – in my opinion, something is wrong.
If you will allow me to play devil’s advocate I suspect it’s likely because of two things.
- The first is the manner in which you have been training.
- The second is the manner in which you live with your Cane Corso when you’re not formally teaching.
“Tito has become aggressively protective of his food and his toys.”
My father used to constantly tell me and my siblings, “Look around this house. Everything you see here is mine. You just get use of it.” Your Cane Corso should be well aware of this by now. Those toys aren’t his. By this age, he should be crystal clear as to which end of the leash he’s on. This article I wrote about resource guarding might be helpful in understanding different reasons for how a dog gets on the resource guarding track. – Click Here To Read
“We now have to be very loud, very dominant in posture and tone of voice.”
Whether a dog, wolf, ape or a human being there are indeed moments of “I’m not asking you I’m telling you.” However, if you are having to be loud either in voice or attitude continually, it’s not because your Cane Corso can’t hear you. It’s more often than not in good part because you haven’t done the right things while you live together that would convince him he should be listening to you or as is more often the case, you are unknowingly doing things that are undermining your authority.
I show clients how to make peripheral deposits of credibility throughout the day, every day so that there’s something in the authority account when they need to make a withdrawal. When there’s credibility in the account yelling and extreme physical posturing is very much the exception.
We are currently locking him in his kennel and completely ignoring him for an hour after he acts this way.
This “timeout” strategy is one of the more ridiculous artifacts propagated by ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free’ dog trainers. I’m all for putting a dog in a crate to give the dog owner time to compose themselves if they find the dog is overly frustrating them – if they’re also using the time to think about what has led up to a dog behaving in such a way that leads to frustration.
Can timeouts work? In the context of common companion dog ownership – possible – but not probable. It’s certainly not the best way to go. The sort of “timeout” suggested by dog trainers is a human construct and not something that would ever be used in a natural setting. A mother dog would return to retrieve her puppy from a “time-out” and find blood, bones, and fur.
On the surface, much of the advice given by dog trainers seems sensible enough. However, when we look at many of these things in the light of ethology much seems to border on the ludicrous. This explains a lot with regard to the frustration people have in shaping dogs into civilized canine companions. Our dogs live under house arrest, not for a lack in the dog or the dog owner. It’s what dog owners are being told with regard to training.
Look at a timeout from the perspective of ethology. Mother dogs, wolves, apes, etc. deal with undesirable behavior decisively and at the moment. They succeed without using timeouts, treats or beatings because when they ‘speak’, they speak with authority that they have accumulated in their account through the manner in which they live with their charges.
For the most part, they communicate with the subtle use of tone and body language. They rarely use physical discipline and to the best of my knowledge never use treats. Can you get your Cane Corso to wag his tail by looking at him? Can you get his tail to drop and ears to flatten somewhat by looking at him in a different way? If not, something is wrong and you’re both having to work too hard to understand each other.
Being an authority figure to your Cane Corso is not being alpha, pack leader, dominant. Yes, those terms have legitimacy in the context of ethology but they tend to convey to lay people imagery of becoming Arnold Schwarzenneger in their dog’s eyes. No easy feat for many men and women. Think more in terms of an authority figure in the context of a teacher/student or a parent/offspring manner. These are the energy efficient roles behind efficient teaching/training, preventing problems and problem-solving.
Far too many dog trainers think that authority stems from the providing of treats (‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free’). The trainer looks at the dog while the dog looks at their fingers. That is not how it’s supposed to work between a parent and a child, a teacher and a student. That’s the relationship cultivated by a dealer with an addict.
On the other side of the pendulum are the ‘Might Is Right’ dog trainers. Instead of treats, they the resort to shock and awe (alpha rolls, yanking and cranking on prong collars, etc.). Before traveling down that potentially dangerous road it’s a good idea to understand that dogs aren’t wired for “leader of the pack dominance” in the manner so many ‘Might Is Right’dog trainers mistakenly believe. In truth, no dog’s memoirs would conclude in the final chapter, “I was a failure in life because I was never top dog.” Statistically, in nature for any member of a social species it’s possible to be the “leader” but for most, it is not probable. The truth is that yes, some member of the pack has to take on that role but it would be a cruel joke for evolutionary biology to play if a dog’s self-worth were entirely tied into – “I must be the leader.”
Part of the way dogs are wired makes them sensitive to a leadership vacuum. The reality is that nature hates a vacuum and in most situations, problems with a dog are not because the dog is obsessed with being “leader of the pack dominant”. The problem is that the dog owner living with the dog lives in such a way that constantly projects human to dog: ‘I am subordinate’ or at best ‘Aren’t we great college roommates’.
If you want to read a really good example of how far off the rails dog training has come and how with dog trainers help, companion dog owners are being set up for failure when their Cane Corsos are puppies I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this article about Puppy Mouthing, Nipping and Biting. Every Cane Corso breeder on the planet should give this article along with Essential Tips Especially Prepared For Cane Corso Puppy Owners to everyone that leaves with one of their puppies.
Even many veterinarians are recommending the nonsense outlined in the Puppy Mouthing, Nipping and Biting article and by following the silly undermining of authority advice of redirection, ignore bad, reward good etc end Cane Corso owners lay a foundation that leaves their puppies thinking they’re destined to be the teacher.
As I keep alluding to, whether it’s a dog, a wolf, an ape or a human being, when raising a youngster, real authority comes from perceptions developed during the small seemingly insignificant day to day relationship interactions. I suspect that a good part of getting your dog on track will lay in learning what you might be doing that is undermining your authority and what you can do to instead add to your “credibility” account, a little here and a little there throughout the day.
I think it’s very possible that what’s happening with your Cane Corso is less due to the sincerity of your efforts and more a reflection of getting lousy training advice. Probably not your fault at all. As the Puppy Mouthing, Nipping and Biting article demonstrates, companion dog training is just getting weirder and weirder, and Cane Corso (and other dog owners) are inundated with two of the wrong choices, ‘Might Is Right’ or ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free’ approaches to training and problem-solving.
Nature uses a different template. One of my books, The Beautiful Balance, Dog Training With Nature’s Template describes it. I have always found a more balanced approach to be the most efficient and dog and dog owner user-friendly. If you want a more thorough (and free) review of dog training options I would recommend reading this short guide to dog training methods that I put together recently – What Are The Different (and best) Puppy and Dog Training Methods. Probably another good thing for Cane Corso breeders to give their puppy buyers.
It’s a .pdf, and a short read so download it and read it in your spare time over a coffee. There’s no requirement to provide an email address or sign up for a newsletter. I’m currently in the midst of writing an additional section fleshing out what I meant above about “the manner in which you live with your Cane Corso when you’re not formally training” as in many cases where people are looking for help it has arguably more to do with how successful training will be over both the short and long term. Send me an email through this site and I will forward you the update when it is complete.
If you’re on a Cane Corso Facebook, Reddit or other group feel free to share any of these free resources.
P.S. because you mentioned that you’ve recently added a 2nd Cane Corso? I’d also highly recommend reading my other article Essential Tips Especially Prepared For Cane Corso Puppy Owners as it will help you get ahead of some of the things that I think may have contributed to your older Cane Corso’s attitude.
John “Ask The Dog Guy” Wade