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“What’s All This Talk About The Dangers And Difficulties Associated With The Cane Corso Breed?”, Woman With Puppy Asks?

We have a new Cane Corso. She is 11 weeks old and so far has been great and easy to train and correct. She’s been here a few days and has made a seamless transition to our home with 3 boys, 2 other dogs (one small mutt 3, one Dane 10) and is also totally unaffected by our 2 cats who have laid on her and patted her a few times when she startled them. She just sat there looking at them like “well that was rude…”

The Five Most Common Cane Corso Mistakes

A simple ‘No’, has worked. Her mom and dad were very social and the breeder had her (and her 12 siblings 😳) out and about since day one. Kids screaming, parties, park, other dogs, strangers, new houses etc.  

We live on an acre of land for them to play. She’s playing very well with the smaller dog. They are playing tug of war and play fighting and chasing. No yelps or bites of consequence to either dog. Just silly puppy play. She rolls over once the smaller dog gets her and that’s that, and it starts all over again! 

Our Dane has been wonderful in telling her how to behave inside. He puts a hand on her when she is running too much and he’s ready for bed, or if she’s tugging on his blanket and he doesn’t want her to. 

We chose a puppy Cane Corso to ensure the things she experienced were under our control and not unknown to avoid danger.

So far, she has been fairly independent (laying in the sun alone, not becoming frantic when we are out of sight, exploring alone) and affectionate to all the kids and friends and strangers she’s met. I’m not experiencing anything different from her than what I’ve been through with puppies of other breeds. That is my main concern- if I’m not seeing it what am I missing. 

I read your book, and I have trained a few dogs as pets. I understand, as you wrote in your book, she’s a Ferrari, not a minivan breed, but I’m not seeing any of the signs that generate the massive amount of talk about the dangers and difficulties associated with the Cane Corso breed. So, I’m reaching out to ask if there is something I’m missing, before it’s too late.

– Summer

I’m not sure which of my books you are referring, but the book I wrote – The Five Most Common Cane Corso Mistakes, How To Avoid Them And End Up With Your Dream Dog (e-book) talks about what I think you’re asking about in more detail. Here’s a synopsis.

Puppies of any breed of dog behave similarly to what you describe and do so for quite some time. That is; heavy on the cute, light on signs of potential trouble. There are hints here and there regarding their genetic leanings (herding, guarding, retrieving, etc) but for the most part from a relaxed perspective, it’s just goofy puppy stuff. That’s not true though. In reality, there’s tons of fascinating good stuff going on as well with these blank slate, learning whether you’re teaching information sponges we call puppies.

Konrad Lorenz, the ethologist, referred how we are triggered by the facial and body cuteness features found in babies even those not our own and also in many species that are not our own, including the dog as Kindchenschema aka baby schema. He theorized that it was evolution’s means to encourage nurturing of the young. However, probably because we’re not the same species as our dogs the wires often get a crossed little further, and many dog owners stall and never go past the nurturing trigger and on into the much stricter responsibilities of parenting/rearing/laying lifeskill foundations. Most dogs in North America essentially grow up on their own because they’re left to see their owners as friends/roommates. Neither of these relationships has the influence or the success of the parent role.

For some reason, dog training/trainers never got this. This is why we have tens of thousands of misinformed dog trainers promoting ‘Might Is Right’ and  ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free…treat, treat, treat’ ideologies. The former use submission and the latter aim at a dog’s stomach, both missing what should be the primary target, the best part of a dog, that being the drive to work with, please and love a human being.

No other species is as motivated to please us like a dog. No other species is as hard-wired to do so. When you see a dog trained in the ludicrous methods mentioned above you may see a semblance of training but more often than not in the cases of those trained using some version of ‘Might Is Right’ you’re seeing behavior legitimately shaped (pain/intimidation/dominance are real things that influence behavior) but not naturally shaped. It works in spite of the method as much if not more so than because of the technique.

As to these  ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free…’ treat, treat treat fanatical amateurs, they produce nothing more than an illusion in limited applications created through a conditioned response or with unbalanced operant conditioning quadrants based on an in my mind the development of an unholy and unnatural relationship. The relationship is that of the heroin dealer and the heroin addict, not teacher-student. Not respectful of the animal and in my view, more often than not, also unethical.
Another aspect of the cuteness period is that it also ties into the speed, strength, and agility of the youngster vs. the adult. Species that need to teach survival skills need some wiggle room to do so. In spite of the ridiculous claims to the contrary by ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free…’ treat trainers, dog training does require physicality. Indeed it absolutely should include physicality, but the not in the context of the nonsense of ‘Might Is Right’ ideology.

Somehow the knee jerk response of  ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free…’ disciples renders them incapable of making distinctions in this area. Saying ’No’ to some is on par with yanking and cranking. To their limited thinking, force is force and is cruel and need play no role. These charlatans couldn’t change a diaper or put a cranky child in a car seat or snowsuit using the crazy quackery they foist on companion dog owners. Sometimes you just put the leg in the snowsuit and zip it up. If the child was faster and more agile and perhaps stronger, where would we be? In the end, most of us would be dead or in jail.

No one grows up to need therapy because a loving parent occasionally used their physical advantage or speaks sternly when a child decides it’s a clothing optional day or makes a run for the road. By no means the foundation for teaching, but a universal reality amongst all social species that is used from time to time because it works in the contexts it is triggered better than other tools in the toolbox. It also adds to the credibility ‘who is the teacher and who is the student’ account. It also incorporates the ‘I love you to death, but I’m not asking you, I’m telling you, Next time respect the tone and body language I was using to help you know where you were ‘warm’ and where you were ‘cold and we won’t be in this situation.’

The physical advantage is there for a reason so use it or lose it. If a youngster can’t be caught, they can’t be taught. Wait until they are or they think they’re stronger and they’re far less likely to listen any longer. (Yes those intentionally rhyme so the dog trainers, veterinarians, vet techs and dog owners I teach can more easily remember this very important concept.) A parent brings far more to the table than a physical advantage, but without out that bit of evolutionary biology, we couldn’t meaningfully engage our other teaching assets.

For what it’s worth, it’s a period by its’ very design, that amongst many other things, reduces the need for ‘Might Is Right’ strategies so many trainers thinks is a normal part of dog training. This physical advantage period is used to teach responsiveness to teacher/parent’s tone and body language. Physical corrections occur but only as a matter of necessity, not a methodology and are relatively rare as opposed to ‘Might Is Right’ yank and crank, ‘Correct your dog!’

With a human child, we have many years to work before our youngsters can walk away. A mother dog has as much as 18 months to do her job before her puppies might technically be able to best her and then ignore her. A human with a dog has 10 weeks before the dog is faster and more agile and depending on the breed a few more months before the dog’s four-wheel drive combined with body mass and strength switch to advantage dog. I describe several ways in most of my books to compensate allowing for more wiggle room lay the teacher/student foundation and life skills for the real world as opposed to the aquarium.

The window that your Cane Corso is in is the window evolution has provided for you to establish a loving teacher/parent to loved student/child relationship. Don’t forget though that no species uses ‘Might Is Right’ or  ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free…’ treats as a means to do that. So use the fully balanced relationship based approach in my books.

Also, always remember, there’s no getting away from the reality that an essential tool in any good loving teacher or parent’s toolbox is the concept of, “I’m not asking you, I’m telling you.” These ludicrous amateurs ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free…’ ideologists insist this be left out and it has taken a horrendous toll on dog’s lives. The Cane Corso is a breed that has suffered greatly as a result as when they hit full size, and their owners find they can’t control them, some resort to ‘Might Is Right’ and many Cane Corso dogs, particularly the males end up getting euthanized.

What you have wonderfully described and on some level senses, is one of the reasons there is talk about this breed. They behave like they’re Labrador retriever puppies and their owners not seeing what they will see at 18 months revert to mini-van driving standards and dangerous  ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free…’ treat ideologies.

Dog owners of any breed have two choices, become a loving, respectful teacher, develop a loved student, lay a strong foundation where things like, ‘Stay,’ ‘Come’ and “Heel,’ are jobs not tricks. Or, fall for the pitfalls associated with Kindchenschema, where rather than embracing the idea that their dog is in a developmental period waiting to be tapped into, they instead mistakenly interpret that cuteness and relative to genetics triggered later in life, milder mannered puppy behavior as a sign that their dog is “gifted” and will figure it all out with only a roommate to guide them.

So, long story, synopsis. What you are experiencing is good normal. What you have to beware of in moving forward is twofold. Don’t fall prey to the Kindchenschema trap and don’t subject your puppy to the ‘new’ normal as it relates to companion dog training.


John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade

Embracing Science and Common Sense

London’s #1, Most Experienced and Most Referred To Puppy and Dog Trainer

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