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Young Cane Corso With Multiple Red Flags Regarding Aggression

Cane Corso Red Flags

Hi Sally,

I’ve made some notes and inserted them where appropriate below. I apologize in advance if my comments are too direct. They are not intended as a criticism of you. They are meant to be constructive. I have decided because you obviously care deeply for this dog it would be better for you and your dog as well as others he crosses path with to be very direct.

Sally wrote:

We have worked hard using treats, collar warning, verbal command, distraction, and 150% percent alertness on my part…

John Wade replied:

Working hard perhaps, but not working smart. In most instances, the Cane Corso is a hobby level of commitment as opposed to a pet level. Not all but almost all of what you describe above are based on ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free… .’ the arena of the amateur companion dog trainer and serious trouble for a Cane Corso owner.

Just because a pedophile has a decent chance of getting an innocent child into a car by tempting them with candy, a puppy etc, it doesn’t make them a parent, teacher or a child psychologist. Nor, because a heroin dealer can viciously manipulate the behavior of heroin addict does it make them a ‘behaviorist’.

Any wanna-be dog trainer can convince themselves and anyone that doesn’t have an in-depth understanding of learning and behavior modification that because they can get a dog to sit for a treat they are a dog trainer. (Although, some conditions may apply.)

Just as long all the conditions are right and don’t ever, ever change, and even then most of them mess it up. It is nonsense and sadly what passes for companion dog training throughout North America. (Don’t feel bad, even the majority veterinarian community, a profession that should be dominated by science aficionados with the ability to think critically, has fallen for this pseudo-science.)

Unless your standard for obedience in a dog is so low (and they have dropped considerably because of this `’All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free . . .’ cancer that now passes as legitimate dog training), that any reasonable person would refer to it as a dog doing more a trick, as opposed to a job (obedience), what you are doing will NEVER EVER work in a real-world context.

What little shaky science there is to support ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free …’ clearly indicates it was intended for applications where the environment around the subject is under the handler’s control at all times. The rat’s maze, the Orca and Dolphin’s Aquarium, an obedience competition, the agility ring etc. Hardly real-world.

Training should be almost all positive. Can treats be used to add a positive? Yes. Is it wise? For obedience – very rarely. If you’re aiming at a Cane Corso’s or any dog for that matter stomach to teach and form a relationship, you’re missing the best part of canine companionship.

In any event, totally inadequate for any Cane Corso I have ever met or worked with and one of the primary reasons so many are euthanized. Even the polar opposite and also highly flawed, ‘Might Is Right’ approach does less damage.

For more on this read my eBooklet – What Are The Different (and best) Puppy and Dog Training Methods (ebook)

Sally wrote:

… to see the passing by the dog before him and I can say 95% of the time he obeys my order of ‘Ignore’, and have a good outing. When he doesn’t, I am mostly able to grab him, so no one is hurt.

John Wade replied:

It’s not that one needs to seek perfection in every aspect of our companions behavior, but certain things should be non-negotiable. If you asked me, ‘John, is your girl-friend faithful to you? And my reply was, ‘95% of the time she ignores other men we can enjoy ourselves out in public. When she doesn’t, I am mostly able to grab her, so no one is hurt.”

You might think I had a skewed sense of relationship priorities, particularly with regard to what is reasonable to expect in the behavior of a girl-friend.

If your dog is behaving in the manner described he has no business being in these settings your are repeatedly exposing him to, as he and you are clearly not ready.

The Five Most Common Cane Corso Mistakes

Sally wrote:

He is only walked on a very short leash with a handled collar and a prong. Most of the time, the leash is relaxed.

John Wade replied:

A short, tightly held leash attached to a prong collar is nothing more than the other side of the flawed coin offered to companion dog owners regarding companion dog training. This is nothing more than the ‘Might Is Right’ approach to companion dog training. Your relationship is the real ‘leash’. A physical leash and collar are merely your emergency brake. Not the other way around.

I suspect you’re in environments you have no business being in (yet). I’d be willing to bet that your Cane Corso could not walk on a loose leash around the inside of your home (without triggers) for one minute. Would you teach a child to do geometry at the gateway into DisneyWorld? You’re just setting yourself and your dog up to fail. Get out of the deep end of the pool until you learn how to swim properly in the shallow end. In other words, teach your Cane Corso, that you are the teacher. Then teach him that you’re not asking him to ‘Heel’ in a calm environment. You’re telling him to ‘Heel.’ Then in bits and pieces add real-world contexts and give him a chance to figure it out that you mean ‘ No Matter What’. Read my book – ‘Healing The Heeling Problem – (ebooklet)

To make matters worse, if you pinch me without a clear context every time my aggressive tendencies are triggered in an environment where those tendencies are very likely going to be triggered multiple times each and every outing, are you going to extinguish or fan the flames?

healing the heel

Sally wrote:

He had always been good with people.

John Wade replied:

Most are because that is the way genetics influence behavior when in the stage of ‘youngster.’ It changes when they approach and explore adulthood. They are guard dogs after all.

Sally wrote:

Thanksgiving weekend, a runner insisted on squeezing my me and touched me in passing, and I did not think to prepare because Hans is always good with people. Hans got the runner by her elbow. Scared the $&@ out of everyone!!!

John Wade replied:

Red Flag #1

This is very common and one of the reasons I wrote the book about 5 most common mistakes regarding Cane Corso.

Sally wrote:

He recently developed a fear about certain spots in the house all next to doors. He won’t pass till I go and hug his head and pull while saying it’s okay. It often takes a few steps for him to be then happy and easy going again.

John Wade replied:

Odd, but some dogs in his age range do become inexplicably spooked. As long as they aren’t coddled and nothing too much is made of it, they seem to grow out of it.

Sally wrote:

My 4-year-old could always lay with him. 6 weeks ago one day, she startled Hans by falling into him to hug him during deep sleep, he warned her with growling and teeth all very quickly. He left marks on her face and only where the teeth contacted her teeth broke the skin. We have since trained the child about respecting space and reading body language, and nothing like that happened again.

John Wade replied:

Red Flag #2

If you have found a means of stopping a 4-year-old human child from refraining from being a 4-year-old child without traumatizing the child for life you have a Nobel Prize in your future. Even if your child is 100% reliable in understanding the list of do’s and don’ts, visiting children will be less reliable DOGS LEARN TO BEHAVE AROUND CHILDREN. Children need to be supervised around any dog under 3 years of age and if there are no instances such as what you just described you can relax (somewhat). I’m just guessing, but I suspect that now that your Cane Coro is moving into young adulthood, the foundation that you have laid, or it seems, failed to lay, regarding his position/hierarchy is behind the behavior. Working around this huge red flag by believing that changing the child’s behavior rather than the dogs often leads to further problems in breeds far less serious than a Cane Corso. I highly recommend you seek a better path or remove the dog from the household.

Sally wrote:

We recently left for a family holiday, and more events happened.
The university student who we had to care for him and our home knew him well, and he loved her. She invited her family over for dinner. I had a training session about introducing strangers to the house with her, but of course, I was not there. Her mom came in, they did some treats, and Hans ( my Corso) seemed relaxed, so everyone relaxed till he leaped into the air and grabbed the mother by the arm and bit. He broke the skin on her arm through her coat.

John Wade replied:

Red Flag #3

Remember what I said about the value of treats? If they were so powerful an influence on behavior why did this happen? You’d be surprised what you could get me to do if you have enough $50 bills. But just wait until a $100 bill show up. They do not override genetics when triggered by the impossible to control variations of context in real life.

Sally wrote:

We have always had my parents living with us as they help with the 3 kids. They recently moved away to a lovely apartment since the kids are getting bigger and no longer need so much care. We now have a tenant. She was introduced to Hans when we rented the apartment back in November, and it was all great! She came by to move somethings in when we were out of town, and he was fine at first but nipped her hand without breaking the skin.

We are now back, and this morning the tenant came out of the apartment, and I brought Hans to greet her. He was good at first, and all of a sudden leap up to her face. Did not really bite, but it wasn’t friendly at all and left two small marks on her chin… I yanked him off as I had him on very very short leash and reprimanded him. Then he was okay and more relaxed as we hung around talking more. I gave my tenant his favorite treat to give to him in the beginning.

John Wade replied:

Red Flag #4

An indication you very likely have an increasingly dangerous living situation and very probably have far more dog than you can handle. Somewhere between 18 months and 3 years of age, and I predict sooner rather than later someone is going to be seriously hurt. Larger still, darker still and dripping in blood.

Sally wrote:

The afternoon meeting was with a very short growl and when I said no he was then okay. But I kept our distance this time. I just read your book on the Corso. I am sorry to have written this much. I need some guidance. Would you be able to help me?

John Wade replied:

If the book you are referring to is The Five Most Common Cane Corso Mistakes, How To Avoid Them And End Up With Your Dream Dog (e-book), you should be aware of some of the areas that need addressing, need addressing sooner rather than later. I would recommend a Skype consult.

Sally wrote:

Hans was trained for obedience with a mastiff trainer, and I think it was a somewhat balanced training. I no longer work with him because he disagreed with my neutering Hans at 15 months when all dogs male hated him and he pulled me across the pavement so many times telling them he could eat them for dinner. No dogs were hurt ever, just my knees. Then this trainer pushed the idea of an e collar for recall and all correction. He has gone through two dogs in the past two years both became quite jumpy from the e collar, and he put one down and sent one away. I no longer feel right about what he tries to tell me. I didn’t want to add stress to Hans who seems stressed when he reacts to dogs and some humans.

John Wade replied:

An E-collar is merely a tool. Tools are not problems until there’s a fool at the end of the tool. Sadly, there are a lot of fools at the end of this particular tool, hence their ‘reputation’. Very few people use these collars correctly and cause all sorts of serious issues with them. However, I think if you were to learn how to correctly use one you might find it make all the difference in playing a significant role in turning things around. I don’t know, I would need to learn more.

Sally wrote:

I also have a trainer now who has helped me to redevelop a connection with Hans building the simple command of ‘ watch me’ keeping both of us calm and connected. Because the other guy made me stressed and afraid as well… and that was causing the dog aggression worse. The connecting has been very helpful. She is positive training based. She has been working with dogs for many years. She works with reactive dogs of all breeds.

John Wade replied:

If she is a positive based trainer, she is an amateur, posing as otherwise to a layperson who has no basis for comparison. This ideology forms 80% of the unregulated industry that is dog training. Even though after millions of years of evolution, no higher order social species teaches life skills, let alone rehabilitates using an ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free… .’ ideology. It sells well, but you or I would either be dead or in jail if our parents embraced this nonsense. You do not sacrifice being positive or love, but this concept is ideology, not reality and extremely harmful and will be the end of your Cane Corso. Nor does any higher order social species, do as your former trainer did, and use ‘Might Is Right.’ This is an amateur trainer regurgitating theories designed for training in controlled settings, not real life. I guarantee she has no idea of her level of success with the reactive dogs she works with. (Very close to zero and the remaining having very little to do with her influence and highly reliant on workarounds.)

Sally wrote:

I love Hans. He is an attached dog to me utterly devoted and tenderly submitting. I need to know that I have got this situation under control looking forward since I have many lives depending on me including his…

John Wade replied:

I believe that you love Hans. I also think that Hans loves you. However, if you believe him to be utterly devoted and tenderly submitting we have very different definitions of a teacher/student relationship. I suspect he loves you but sees you in the context of a roommate and not a teacher or a parent.

Final Notes

Once again, I apologize for my bluntness, but the Cane Corso is a very serious breed. Their genetics come from those Molosser breeds bred for killing people in wars and hunting boars, etc. and as much as I love the breed, I love you, your children, their friends, your parents, friends, and other family and anyone else that crosses paths with Hans FAR MORE and you should too, so take this very seriously.

Dog training is similar to painting from a naturalist perspective. For the image on the canvas to compare to the naked eye, you need to paint from a pallet with all the appropriate colors. You are very likely painting with some of the right colors. That’s not enough. In any event, from what I’ve read above, it appears that you’re leaving many colors out and added some that should not (at least yet) be in there.

If you want to take advantage of a Skype consult, I will do the best I can to get you back on track. The Cane Corso is an excellent dog in the right hands, but can very quickly become a gun with a brain in the wrong hands.


John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
Embracing Science and Common Sense

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2 thoughts on “Young Cane Corso With Multiple Red Flags Regarding Aggression”

  1. My dog is 11 weeks old she is a cane corso she is how screen looks the time unless I am at someone else’s house and she did not know where the door is this is not the issue I am concerned with. I also have a 7 month old baby boy so I worried that she might be getting aggressive because sometimes she growls at me when I go to pick her up or move her also there are times she flat-out refuses to listen to what I say even when I know she’s listening and knows what I am saying this is especially happens when other people are around she has not been aggressive towards anybody except for me I sometimes wonder if this is only because she is grown to dislike me for being the person that disciplines her when she acts out???

    1. Hi Jordan,

      Part of the problem may be your approach. Amateur dog trainers may use discipline approaches (‘Might Is Right’, Alpha, Pack Leader, Dominant (Yank and Crank)) or the other and more common nonsense approach ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free/Never Say No/R+…’, treat, treat, treat, but they almost backfire. This is an oversimplification, but higher-order social species only ‘discipline’ as a consequence of not adhering to what has been already taught. What you should be doing is less reacting (discipline) your Cane Corso, and more teaching. Sounds simple enough, and it is, but it’s not simplistic. You have to learn to live with your Cane Corso so you Cane Corso sees you as a loving authority figure. You’re the teacher, she’s the student. ‘Lessons have the goal that she comes away understanding she’s not bad, you’re not bad, but a certain behavior is wrong and another is correct. She wants to learn, you just have to learn how to teach. She’s reacting as one might to a roommate that is telling one what to do without the authority behind. Send me an email through this website if you want to book a remote session and learn how to better guide her.

      – John Wade (

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