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Getting a Dog

I am considering getting a dog, a Cane Corso. It is just my wife and myself. We own our home, 1 acre of property and are planning on fencing in the back yard. We both work during the day and are home after work and on the weekends. We recently had a English Bulldog who passed away. Before that I had an Akita. I know that socialization is extremely important. And I plan on also hiring a trainer for puppy training all the way through advanced training. I hear so many good AND bad things about this breed. Especially as they get a little older. Is there any info you can give me on what I should look out for or be concerned about? I know this is such a open ended non specific question. I guess my worry is aggression towards strangers or family. For example my parents come and watched our Bulldog a few times a year when we went on vacation. They live a few hours away so they will be able to come visit and get to be around the dog but 3 years from now I don’t want them to come and watch the dog and be attacked. So just how aggressive are we talking on average if socialized and trained?

Jason – NY

Hi Jason,
Very briefly, anyone considering getting a dog of any breed, should know that a good pure bred dog is made up of several components.
  1. Picking the right breed for the owner with a mind to probable personal life developments over the normal life span of a dog.
  2. Picking the right breeder. There are breeders and their are ‘greeders’ and the latter by far outnumbers the former. I have found that most breeders are just puppy mills with better living conditions, that know the difference between a male and female dog. Those that are the exception invest a ton of time in selecting the right breeding pairs, doing the genetic testing and developing and following up on their puppies through out their lives. They will be able to prove that their dogs have more then ribbons for the way they look. They will have obedience and working titles galore. Fair warning, it’s very, very, hard to find good breeders of any breed, particularly once a breed achieves popularity, as has the Cane Corso, as the opportunists are all over the place cashing in on the money train. Good breeders can’t make money. At least not if they’re doing all of the above and more I haven’t mentioned, particularly if they take into consideration the time they invest. They are out there but you have to be willing to do your homework.
  3. Picking the right puppy. Good breeders will likely do the selecting as they should have a general sense of which pups are more easy going and which are “rammy.”
  4. When getting a dog, getting it at the right age is important. Technically, if the breeder is doing absolutely everything correctly, then longer they stay with their mother the better. However, it’s not a perfect world and even the really good breeders have only so much of themselves left over at the end of the day, so on average it’s best to bring the pup home around the 7 ½ week mark. Any breeder trying to send them home earlier isn’t a good breeder and once you understand what critical socialization is, you’ll understand why bringing home later isn’t advisable.
  5. Really understanding what socialization is and isn’t. Buy my e-book. Socialize Your Puppy for Everything It’s cheap and it will help a lot in finding a better breeder as you will quickly learn that once you start looking very few actually make a proper effort to prepare their puppies. (Avoid all puppy socialization classes. – Not critical socialization at all.)
  6. When considering getting a dog, learning about training is now more important then ever before. Some untrained dog breeds will prove to be no more then a nuisance, but an untrained guarding breed is a liability. The most common way of training (80% of trainers in my estimate) believe in ”All Positive/Force-Free’, all the time’. This ruins most dogs and most certainly will ruin the average Cane Corso, particularly if you go with a male. It can, and often backfires, on many levels, and contrary to claims, there is no science to support it. Ask any trainer that claims there is science, to produce it.  I’ve had no takers so far. It’s a marketing technique that has been rather successful with companion dog owners and has messed up countless dogs and caused a lot of heart ache amongst dog owners. No species on the planet uses ‘All Positive/Force-Free’ all the time. Training should certainly be – almost always – ‘All Positive/Force-Free’. However, every social species at one time or another has to once in a while “say”, I am not asking you, I am telling you. 20% of dog trainers have gone the other way, where they will incorporate the use of force in their training a dog to do something should they become otherwise inclined. I am not a fan of this either. Too many take it too far and many of those surprisingly enough are amongst the newer dog trainers and are what I call “might is right” trainers. Others are more balanced. I’m personally not a fan of physical corrections in dog training. I’m by no means suggesting that it isn’t a way to learn. In fact, pain or rather the motivation to avoid that which causes pain is considered universally as the most primary motivator. However, putting your hand on the stove is a pretty powerful motivator to exert restraint around stoves, but it’s a normally unnecessarily hard way to learn. For me, dog owners can learn to develop relationships that are based on mutual respect, but not in the “we’re all roommates” sense or even worse where the companion dog owner is a walking treat dispenser, but in the sense of the person is the teacher and the dog is the student. The reality is very few dog trainers in either camp understand relationship based dog training. Which is unfortunate because when this is in place, the idea of being almost always ‘All Positive/Force-Free’ becomes feasible. My other book will help you in this regard in either learning how to tailor your training or in finding the right trainer – The Beautiful Balance – Dog Training with Nature’s Template.  If everyone in the household has a real teacher/student relationship with the dog, a leash and collar will 9 times out of 10 suffice to get the dog’s wandering attention, and the dog owner’s use of tone and body language will send as equally a powerful message as the “yank and crank” type of training. The use of tone and body language has the advantage of both being able to discourage and encourage which means the communication is more of a “you’re warm, you’re cold” exchange rather then only sending the dog one or the other.
  7. Understanding how unsupervised time (in a yard or looking out windows) negatively influence guarding breeds.
  8. Providing real daily exercise and mental stimulation. A walk will never be exercise for a Cane Corso. It often backfires by encouraging a patrolling mentality. (More so, if you haven’t addressed all of that listed above.) As to mental stimulation, it’s best not to lay off a working breed like a Cane Corso as this can also can backfire. There are ways to stimulate their minds in a positive way. I use a scent game that you can incorporate into main feeding times. It turns eating out of a bowl for under a minute to a 20 minute 3D household puzzle. If you want a copy, it’s free, just email me.

As far as getting a dog breed like a Cane Corso and wondering how that will impact visits by your parents, we have to keep in mind the nature of the breed. In my experience, if all the above has been incorporated, they’re quite good with the people they know and only kick into guarding mode with people or situations that strike them as unfamiliar. With all of the above incorporated, when they do kick into guard dog mode you will have a dog that is capable of responding to your direction. They are not a breed particularly in an urban setting you can leave encounters to chance. They need supervision more so then non-guard oriented breeds.

Good luck in getting a dog!

John Wade

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