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Cane Corso as a Guard Dog – Need or a Want?

Cane Corso as a Guard Dog

Hello John.

My question is, we are looking at getting a Cane Corso this weekend in a couple days. We have a choice of a male or female. My dilemma is, we have two dachshunds. My boy is 12.5 years old and our female is 6 years old. We want a Cane Corso to be our family guard dog and defence for my wife who isn’t very big. How will the female or male interact with the Dachshunds? With proper training can they be trusted to be alone with them? Would a female be better than a male with them?

Your advice is appreciated.


Hi Robert,

While being a “family guard dog and defense for my wife” is a common enough reason to get a Cane Corso, I can’t say it’s the best or even a very good reason for getting one and rarely in my experience does it pan out that there is an actual need. Maybe it’s different for you, on the basis of your email I can’t say but on the law of averages based on my considerable past experience with owners of Cane Corso and similar breeds I can say my response regarding very few people needing the guarding power of a Cane Corso ever do and in the end many regret it and the dog pays a heavy price. So I’m suggesting give this some careful thought.

The man stopping power of a Cane Corso is not something to be trifled with. It’s not like buying a gun, it’s more like buying a gun – with a brain. A very big, very powerful gun – with a brain. As a result, the level of obedience the dog’s owner should expect from the dog is far greater than one might expect from a couple of Dachshunds and few companion dog owners have the desire and/or the time to achieve that level.

Cane Corso
Cane Corso

Before committing to a Cane Corso (and trust me by the time that dog enters adulthood you’ll know what I mean when I say it is a commitment) ask yourself,

1.  How many of the people walking by my property, on to my property or through my door in the last 12 months required the man stopping power of an engaged Cane Corso?

You could also look at your track record with the Dachshunds to get a sense of what you might expect your obedience success might be with the much larger and potentially miffed at a friend that shows up at your door unexpectedly Cane Corso?

2.  Will your Dachshunds, when asked to stay do so without the need for treats or your monitoring their every twitch long enough for you to make a cup of coffee?

3.  Do your Dachshunds come when called around any distraction?

4.  Do your Dachshunds keep the leash loose regardless of distractions?

Finally, ask yourself,

5.  Do I really need a family guard dog or do I need the presence of a dog to act as an alarm and as a deterrent?

I have to wonder if 99 out of 100 Cane Corso owners that think they need a dog with the guarding/man stopping potential of a Cane Corso – actually have a need for that level of dog and can they demonstrate even basic control over their Cane Corso in a non-guarding context let alone when he or she goes into protection mode. (Just in case anyone is wondering, I actually don’t have to wonder – they don’t.) Any idiot can let a dog’s genetics go with the flow but it takes a responsible dog owner to know how to channel that flow and upon occasion brings it to a “grass stains on the pads of the feet – stop and recall”.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not slamming the breed nor responsible Cane Corso owners. I really like the breed and I don’t think you need to have to be public enemy number one or live in a high crime area or be a boar hunter to own one but before you bring a gun with a brain into your life you owe it to yourself, your neighbours, visiting friends and the dog itself to really ask yourself if you have what it takes of the next 10+ years to assume the responsibility that is the reality (or should be) of being a Cane Corso owner.

People new to, or inexperienced with the breed often get miffed when I write about the Cane Corso and similar breeds in such a matter of fact way – but frankly, I could care less any more. Sadly the number of people that understand the breed and are willing to make the commitment to obedience etc. are now outnumbered by those thinking it’s not the dog, it’s the owner while ironically not realizing that they are in fact one of “those owners” that dooms a breed to infamy.

Far too many of these dogs are being euthanized because of this very sort of Cane Corso dog owner.

If the Cane Corso is the right match for you I wouldn’t be worried about the two Dachshunds as long as you’re doing your part. The biggest risk to them is typically accidental injury during play because of the disproportionate sizes. Gender can impact attitude but there are a lot of variables that could mess up any prediction. I’d need to know more about the dogs.

John Wade
Difficult to Control Dog? – Try the WadeCollar

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8 thoughts on “Cane Corso as a Guard Dog – Need or a Want?”

  1. I am new to the Cane Corso breed. I have to say. I love my dogs. One mistake I made was getting a brother and sister. I would get one then get the other a year or two later. I do put time into training and socializing. Believe me, it’s well worth it

    1. I absolutely agree Jeff. Getting one dog is a lot of work. Getting two is three times the work and in my view owning a single Cane Corso and doing it right is at least twice the work in the first place. There isn’t a lot of people left over at the end of the day in this day and age so it’s a worthy consideration.


  2. My husband and I have always owned large powerful breeds. In 2007, we got our first Cane Corso and completely fell in love. He was a very lovable couch potato, but would still protect when needed. He was, however, rather low energy. We did take him to basic and intermediate training, which was sufficient for this dog. We also socialized him and his sister, a100 pound German Shepherd, a lot. Sadly, he passed away at the age of five, from cancer and we were devastated. Shortly thereafter, my husband brought home our next Cane Corso, a very large male puppy, who actually looked like a bear…very impressive looking. From the beginning, his demeanor was the complete opposite of our first Corso. Despite the number of previous protection dog breeds that we owned, we were ill-prepared for what was to come. Regardless of the socializing and standard training he received, by the time he was a year old, he became very aggressive and unpredictable. We were in touch with his breeder and after taking our dog to visit him, he offered to take him back and give us another puppy. He once said that he had dogs all over the country but ours is the one he worries about. He is absolutely fearless, high energy and clearly genetically different, but our dogs are our life and we didn’t want to give him up. We traveled to another state for several sessions of intense training and then followed that up with four months of aggression class and a year of additional training which involved attending at least three days per week. We were dedicated and he did turn around. Our neighbors were amazed, but I must say that he is who he is. I still watch his body language at all times when he is around strangers. Although he is completely different than my first Cane Corso, they still have many similar qualities, including complete devotion and wanting to be near us 24-7. I love him with all of my heart, but to say owning him is a job is putting it lightly. There may be Cane Corso owners who do not understand what you are saying because they may not have encountered a dog like this. (I know I hadn’t.) I have absolutely no doubt that my dog could have easily been euthanized if he ended up with the wrong well-intentioned owner. Having said that, to us, the Cane Corso is the most special breed we have encountered and I cannot imagine my life without one in it. We now have two…the boy I described above and a girl, who love each other and us with all their hearts. I have no doubt, they would defend us with their lives.

    1. This sounds like my lad through and through. For me personally this is a great thing. A lot of Corsos are not what I’d call lazy, but not exactly high drive either. Certainly not from a sporting pov. The first 18 months has been wild, high intensity stuff. Considering I’m into igp type training and other sports such as water rescue etc I couldn’t imagine a better Corso. Outgoing, fearless, high energy, dedicated and sees a job through once he’s into it.

      What ive found with him at this stage (nearly 20 months) is he’s calmed down significantly, but is much more attentive and behaviours are much more natural seeming. Which touches neatly on the point of getting them to heed information without luring, without treats etc. Repetition over considerable time is the only way this can be achieved. There aren’t any shortcuts. You will get direct feedback, good or bad with these dogs.

      I would hate to see a dog like this, which is a lot of dog in size, but more so in personality go to people who aren’t in it for the dog as much as themselves. It would be a disaster. One ive seen quite a few instances of here in the uk of late. Theyre very hard to turn around if spoilt. Mine has been worked across a broad spectrum of activities all his life and is calming into it at this point. I must say I don’t want him to calm down too much as that driven, bully the litter mates nature was what drew me to him like a magnet in the first place. But if you aren’t actively interested in stimulating them massively then get something else. They will walk all over a soft touch owner. Ive been around young and old ones now for over a decade and have seen a broad range but they do all have that determined nature. I’ve not met a push over one yet.

      Overall though they make great dogs, but only if you want the job. And it is literally a part time job to get any kind of decent outcome from a dog like this. So I agree totally with the job statement. I was fortunate enough to get mine from a breeder who shares this Outlook and mine comes from stock that are worked in obedience, protection etc. Not many around that are of this standard.

      Bottom line is find the right breeder, the right dog for you but make sure it’s the right time for you to dedicate yourself to the proper management of them.

      You’ll end up with whatever you truly want from them if they respect you and you’re fair.

      1. Hi Dave,

        Well put. Thanks for your input.

        – John “Ask The Dog Guy” Wade – Embracing Science and Common Sense

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  3. I have owned a couple of Akita’s as an adult the first was the best dog ever! He died of bloat just before turning 2. My 2nd Akita came about 2 years later and he was a wolf! Every aggression you could think of and completely unpredictable eventhough he was very socialized and trained like my first Akita. he listened when he wanted to or when he thought you had food period.

    I grew up in Detroit where there was a serious need for real guard dogs (rotties and dobies).
    Now days I don’t live in Detroit with my family but I have a house full of girls 1 son and a wife and all my children are under the age of 13 and I work nights. I worry about them and their safety. I own a firearm but it’s with me while I’m out the house. There are a lot of sexual predators and loose dogs from time to time. So when you compare a guard dog or specifically a guard dog to a loaded gun …thats kind of the point is it. which is why I had Akita’s but don’t get me wrong their is definitely a lot of responsibility that comes with owning a guard dog or a gun (so don’t think I missed your point because I didn’t) the problem with the Akita was I needed a family guardian that was going to be a more obedient dog and one that would respond to commands from all members of the family regularly once trained. the Akita was very independent. Which is where my cane corso comes in.

    He is the best dog in the world! He loves people….loves my family. He will accept other dogs without a fight…I can take him anywhere. He accepts strangers as long as I do (so the neighbor is safe for the most part ) but it’s my job to keep it that way.

    My Corso has a great temperament…he doesn’t stray far from family or home. He aims to please his family… he even follows commands from my children to the point they can teach him little things like the command “paw” which basically means “give me a five”! Don’t get me wrong he can be stubborn at time but nothing like the Akita. So to my family My corso is a breath of fresh air.

  4. Hello everyone. I have owned a male Cane Corso for 6 years now. My experience has been a wonderful one. I am 57 now, and the dog is literally my 24/7 companion, which is important to this breed, they live to be with their owner(s) and are happiest when allowed to do everything with them. I socialized my dog as early as 4 mos. of age with other dogs, many other dogs, as often as was possible. This breed needs socialization early with not only other dogs but many different people as well to learn the difference between threat and non threat. It’s maybe the most important thing an owner can do for a young Corso. My family and I also exercise him regularly every day, as Corsos require more exercise than most large breeds. This is a very agile and athletic mastiff breed, and if not exercised enough it affects their personality in a few ways. They act sad and also irritable when not allowed to exercise, and the pent up energy can surface at times as a more aggressive nature than is normal in the breed without proper exercise. We have two small dogs in the house as well, and though he almost always tolerates them tugging on him and jumping on him, when he is “pent up” from lack of exercise he tolerates this less. He has never hurt one of them, but his disposition to them changes at that times. The owner of a Corso needs to be prepared for two good solid walks per day or the equivalent in exercise. Mine loves to play fetch with his fav toys, and often I can burn off his energy with a good 20-30 minute session of fetch twice a day when I cannot walk him. Exercise is a must for this breed to keep them happy and balanced. As others above have said, they are supremely devoted to their family and though they will not start something when it is not called for, if there is any sense of real danger they go into full protection mode. The Corso does not defend with its mouth (biting) so much as it does by using its weight and strength to overpower and knock down a threat. This breed uses its front legs and paws like arms to grapple what it wants to bring down. Mostly a Cane stops any threat by a show of force, a body language and bark accompanied by a very serious look. This in almost all cases will back down any threat. And the Corso will then shield its family without engaging unless provoked further. It would not be wise to further agitate the dog at this stage and if you have trained the dog properly, it will stand down on command. Most of this breeds time is spent as a pet, and they are wonderful pets. Mine loves nothing more than to ride in the pickup with me and take walks, sit on the couch with me watching a movie or just playing with the family members. But with a Corso, you have an animal that was bred to protect, and that instinct is always there. So socialize them early and train them to obey commands early. They will be your best friend if those conditions are met and a wonderful family member. Most loving dog I have ever owned tbh, and loyal as hell.

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