Italy is the birthplace of two mastiff-type breeds: the Neapolitan Mastiff and the Cane Corso. Both descend from Roman war dogs. The Cane Corso could be considered “light artillery” to the Neo’s “howitzer.” After the fall of the Roman Empire, he worked as a farmhand, flock guardian, property and family guardian, and hunting dog (especially of big and dangerous game such as wild boar).
Industrialization brought the decline of the Cane Corso, and World Wars I and II nearly brought about his death. By the 1970s, only a few of the dogs remained in remote areas of southern Italy. Dr. Paolo Breber took an interest in the breed when it was brought to his attention in 1973 by Giovanni Bonnetti, who remembered the dogs from his childhood. In the following year, Breber acquired some of the dogs and began a breeding program, which garnered interest from others when the dogs were pictured in a magazine article. By 1996, the breed had achieved recognition by the Federation Cynologique Internationale.
At that time, some of the dogs had been brought to the United States. The International Cane Corso Federation was formed in the U.S. in 1993, and more dogs were imported from Italy. The ICCF elected to seek the breed’s recognition by the American Kennel Club in 2003 and changed its name to the Cane Corso Association of America. The breed achieved recognition in 2010 and ranks 51st among the dogs registered by AKC.
The Cane Corso is a mastiff breed from Italy. He is a complex, powerful dog with special needs. For starters, he is a giant breed, weighing up to 120 pounds. He was created to hunt big game and guard property. The Cane Corso has a massive head, heavy rectangular body, and a short coat in black, gray, fawn, or red.
The Cane Corso is not an appropriate choice for an inexperienced dog owner. First-time dog owners and people who have had only “soft” breeds such as retrievers, spaniels, or toy breeds need not apply. This dog is large, powerful, intelligent, active, and headstrong.
A Cane Corso needs a leader who can guide him with firmness and consistency without using force or cruelty. The Cane Corso loves his family, but he’s not demonstrative about it. He will want to be near you, but he’s not demanding in terms of attention or physical touch.
Early, frequent socialization is essential. Purchase a Cane Corso puppy from a breeder who raises the pups in the home and ensures that they are exposed to many household sights and sounds. Continue socializing your Cane Corso throughout his life by taking him to puppy kindergarten class, introducing him to friends and neighbors, and planning outings to local shops and businesses. This is the only way he can learn to be discriminating between what is normal and what is truly a threat.
That said, no amount of socialization will make him friendly toward people other than his family. The Cane Corso is first and foremost a guard dog, and he takes his responsibilities seriously.
Begin training as soon as you bring your Cane Corso puppy home, while he is still at a manageable size. Institute a nothing-in-life-is-free program, requiring puppies to “work” for everything they get by performing a command before receiving meals, toys, treats, or play. It’s always a good idea to take a Cane Corso to puppy kindergarten followed by basic obedience class, especially if you are working with a trainer who understands the Cane Corso mindset.
The Cane Corso has a moderate activity level and needs a job to do, which can be anything from being your on-leash walking companion to daily training activities. Expect to walk or jog him at least a mile daily, in addition to 20 minutes or so of training practice. He will not be satisfied to lie around and do nothing all the time.
He must also be prevented from chasing and killing cats or small dogs belonging to the neighbors. The Cane Corso has a high prey drive and a territorial nature, so he needs a strong, solid fence at least six feet high to keep him on his own property. An underground electronic fence is never appropriate for this breed.
Like any dog, Cane Corso puppies are inveterate chewers and because of their size can do a whole lot of damage. Don’t give them the run of the house until they’ve reached trustworthy maturity. And keep your Cane Corso puppy busy with training, play and socialization experiences. A bored Cane Corso is a destructive Cane Corso.
The Cane Corso should spend plenty of time with his family. Chaining a Cane Corso out in the yard and giving him little or no attention is not only cruel, it can also lead to aggression and destructive behavior.
The Cane Corso has a smooth coat that sheds. Brush him at least once a week to remove dead hair and keep the skin and coat healthy. Clean the ears and trim the nails as needed, and bathe the Cane Corso on the rare occasions that he’s dirty.
The Cane Corso is a naturally strong-willed dog with a dominating personality. Those characteristics are what make him an exceptional protector of his family and home. However, his natural tendency to take charge can be troublesome to an owner who is unable to establish his or her role as pack leader and control this behavior. While the Cane Corso is loving and affectionate with his family, including children, he will try to rule the roost. Anyone considering this breed must be prepared to set boundaries with confidence because this dog will surely test them.
The Cane Corso is highly intelligent and athletic, and he needs plenty of activity to keep him fit physically and mentally. Take him jogging or on strenuous hikes to help him burn off his energy.
The Cane Corso may be best suited to a family with older children (age 9 and up) rather than a family with babies and toddlers due to his large size and the time and effort required to closely supervise interactions between the dog and young children.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Don’t let him get away with behaviors such as growling or snapping when he is touched or moved, or when he doesn’t want to go outside or go in a certain direction on leash. Nor should he be allowed to behave that way when someone gets too close to his toys or food. Mounting family members is also inappropriate. Quick, decisive action is needed to reassert your authority as pack leader in such cases. To prevent these types of behaviors in the first place, work closely with a trainer or behaviorist who understands the mindset of guardian breeds.
Ask yourself why you are interested in this breed. Talk with a reputable, experienced Cane Corso breeder. Describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Choose a puppy whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized by the breeder from birth.