How to Train and Love a Cane Corso
How to Love a Cane Corso Without Going Crazy
If you have ever owned a Cane Corso, you know that training this breed can be a serious job, especially if you've got a stubborn one (like mine). One thing that is not hard to do, though, is falling in love with this amazing dog. To give this dog all of your love and remain sane is another story.
Here are my tips for loving your dog without going crazy. I hope you enjoy my practical guide to living with one, training it, and keeping your sanity in the process.
Cane Corsos Are Active and Need to Play
Can we play now? Can we play again? And then can we play some more?
Cane Corsos love to play. If you are not an active person who enjoys physical activity, this is probably not the right breed for you. They are also a working breed, so don't expect to tire them out easily. They could play all day if you could keep up, but trust me you can't. So, how do you maximize the time you do have?
Use a Squeaky Toy
Their prey instinct is strong and they love to run. One of the best ways to exercise your dog without tiring yourself out is playing fetch with the loudest, highest-pitch, most annoying squeak toy you can find.
When the toy squeaks, your dog's energy will go through the roof, as she is now in hunting mode. Throw the toy as far as you can and watch her tear through your yard after it. This is a great way to exercise them without letting them beat you up. Keep in mind, however, this is only their second favorite game.
A Cane Corso's favorite game is to tug at things—a large rope, a bone, a disk, a shirt, a shoe, or anything else. They like to flex muscles and to pretend they are dominant over you. Playing tug with your dog is a great way to bond with it. It can strengthen their jaw, teeth, back and leg muscles, and it is also a great confidence builder.
However, beware—you must not play tug until they are trained. They need to be at the point where they are obedient—never biting or nipping—and never showing aggression towards her owner. Playing tug too soon in their development will send mixed signals, telling them that it is okay to challenge your authority. It's okay to pull back, it's okay to fight the power, it's okay to take things from you.
Although this is clearly not what you're intending to do, this is how a young, rambunctious Cane Corso will interpret it. These are not signals that should be sent too early, or training will be even more of a nightmare than it may already be. Stick with fetch in the meantime.
Show Them Who Has Control
Oh did you think that was yours? Yeah, that's mine too.
You may have had personal belongings at one point in your life, but ever since you got a dog, you've had to ask permission to get in your own bed. Cane Corsos can be possessive creatures, but keep in mind, the moment this dog moved into your home it immediately took the role of head of security.
As lead security advisor, it's understandable when they get a little bit possessive, which is understandable but still unacceptable. The best way to curb this behavior is to set boundaries from jump street. They need to understand that you control the resources—you control the water, the food, you're in charge of grooming, and most importantly you control the toys. Once these boundaries are understood, it will be easier to curb her possessive behavior.
- It All Starts With Food. Never leave your dog's food bowl out for her to access at her leisure. You have to intentionally "let" her eat. Keep the bowl out of her reach until it is mealtime, and never feed her without getting something in return. I have my Bella sit and wait at her food bowl until I give the command "Okay." She will sit in front of her food bowl for ten minutes if that is how long it takes me to say "okay," because she knows if she starts eating before she's allowed that I will take the bowl back. Without realizing it, I once put her food bowl down and left the room without saying the command. Then, to my surprise, I came back in the room ten minutes later to find that my hungry girl had fallen asleep in front of her bowl, and hadn't taken a bite. I said, "Okay" and she immediately awoke and started feeding.
- Give Them Their Toys. Never let her play with a toy unless you have handed it to her yourself. If you catch her playing with a toy that she wasn't given, take it from her, make her do a trick (sit, lay, beg) and only then can she play with it. If you are able to teach her that everything in the house is yours, your much less likely to have a food aggressive dog or a dog that won't let you lie on your own bed without asking her first.
- Train During Feeding Time. Feeding time is the best tool you will have when training your Cane Corso. This is a hungry, hungry dog, and although it may be too proud to always do tricks for your amusement, it wants to eat, and so it will learn.
Avert Their Attention, Don't Scare Them
Yelling never works with a Cane Corso. There will inevitably come a time when you and your dog disagree. Whether it be over who gets the big couch, who that shoe belongs to, or whether or not tackling guests is the appropriate way to greet them, you are bound to butt heads. Please take my word for it, yelling will never work.
- First, keep in mind that this is a true working dog, which means that is has been bread to be task-specific. Once they set their minds on a task, distracting from it will be very difficult. If this weren't the case, they would be very poor working dogs indeed. So screaming for her attention is like yelling at a snowstorm.
- Secondly, bear in mind that this dog was used to fight lions in the coliseum and to kill and capture bears in the wild. You don't scare it. Nothing you could do would scare it. They are fearless beasts, capable of ending the life of a half-ton boar with one bite. A Cane Corso has more bite strength per square inch than Pit Bulls and German Shepherds combined. Lions obviously have a much larger mouth and teeth, but per square inch, the Cane Corso can excerpt many hundreds of pounds more pressure. Trust me when I say, you can't scare this dog into compliance, so don't waste your energy.
What does work?
- Find a way to avert her attention. Get her to focus on you. Get in between her and whatever it is she is doing, and physically block her actions. Now you are in control. Make her sit, and reward her for her compliance. Positive feedback is the only way a Cane Corso can learn.
Please Be Patient
You're all that I've got.
When dealing with a stubbornness, it can sometimes be easy to lose your patience. Many times in the first year of Bella's life, I threatened to take her to the glue factory. Always empty threats, of course. The truth is, she will be the best friend you're ever going to have. She will protect you from any danger, at the drop of a hat. She will be there for you at your lowest of lows, and not expect anything of you but your company. At times, she will drive you bonkers, but she will never abandon you, and hopefully, you will never abandon her.
Remember, she's your best friend in the world, but you're more than that to her. To her, you are her world. So give her all the love you have. You won't regret it.
Please, let me know what you think. If you have experience with this awesome breed, we want to hear about it.