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Behavioral Problems

Dominance Aggression \ Play Biting/Aggression \ Dog Aggression \ Shy and/or Fearful Behavior

Chewing and Destructive Behavior \ Excessive Barking \ Separation Anxiet y

There are several behavior problems that have been reported to affect the Cane Corso (as well as other breeds).   Please remember that the easiest way to avoid these problems is through purchasing your pup from a reputable breeder & properly socializing and training your pup.    Don't allow a pup to do anything that you don't want it to do when it is an adult. Remember that it is much harder to break a bad habit than it is to not let one form.

Please take the time to read the socialization and training links on this site for further information on how to properly raise your Cane Corso.  Always consult an experienced trainer or behaviorist if you are having any problems with your dog.

 Dominance Aggression

Dogs are pack animals by nature.  It is important to remember that dominance within a pack is normally established early and before the pups/dogs are old enough too seriously hurt each other.  When you bring your pup or dog home, it is important that you establish, from the beginning, leadership or eventually your dog will take over.  Dominant behavior, including aggression, can show up in an animal as early as four weeks of age.    This type of behavior can occur in any breed.  The pup or dog may have a bully type attitude with it's family, especially at times when one attempts to correct bad behavior, or when the dog wants something (i.e.: attention, toys, food, etc).  Many times, people view this behavior as "cute" or "funny" and may encourage it consciously or unconsciously.  The best way to establish leadership with your pup or dog is through obedience training.  Training teaches the dog (as well as the owner) how to handle certain situations, what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.  There is a common misconception that neutering will lesson all types of aggression.  Neutering, at an early age, will only lesson hormone related aggression (like territorial aggression); it won't lesson dominance aggression since this type of aggression is not hormone related.

Play Biting/Aggression

Play aggression is usually linked to pups/dogs with dominant temperaments.  This type of aggression can be dangerous.  In nature, a pup would be taught not to bite hard by his/her mother and older members of the pack.  This behavior would never be tolerated and the pup would be "put in its place" immediately.  Many people allow their pups to bite hard or play rough with them without realizing that they are reinforcing bad behavior and setting themselves up for problems in the future.  This type of behavior is commonly laughed at, shown off, and even initiated at times by owners.  As your Corso grows, this behavior becomes more and more dangerous.  It is important for people to remember that a Corso puppy can be quite large by the age of 6 months.  Try to understand that while it may be cute and painless to have a 20-pound pup nipping you, it will certainly be very damaging to have a 70-pound puppy nipping, especially around small children.  Some people think this will make their dog more protective.  In reality, it will just make your dog more dangerous.  Hard play biting can result in serious injury.  If you don't teach your pup that play biting is a bad thing, it can very easily harm a child or anyone while just trying to play.  This type of behavior, more often than not, results in the owner's getting rid of the dog or worse - euthanasia.  A dog's most prominent learning time is from 4 to 16 weeks of age and what you don't want them to do as adults, you should not allow or teach them to do as puppies.  If your pup is exhibiting this type of behavior, a firm "no bite" should suffice.  If that doesn't work, grab the pup by the scruff of the neck (during or immediately after the behavior) and give it a quick shake while a simultaneously saying "no bite".  Other options that have been proven to be successful are a loud, sharp "ouch" at the moment the puppy bites.  Usually the pup will startle and stop what it is doing.   As always, the best way to avoid these problems is by seeking an experienced trainer and enrolling your pup in puppy kindergarten and obedience as early as possible.

Dog Aggression

 The Cane Corso requires constant socialization throughout their life.  They are a naturally dominant breed, and as will most dominant breeds, same sex aggression (usually male/male) is very common regardless of level of socialization. There are several reasons why dogs may act aggressively towards each other.  A dog who was not properly socialized to other dogs as a puppy (i.e., allowed to interact with both sexes of dogs both inside and outside of it's familiar environment) may grow up feeling tense and threatened in the company of other dogs.  They never learned how to behave or react around other animals and can feel tense in these situations.  Some dogs exhibit dog aggression due to territorial tendencies.  A dog that is tied up, restrained or contained (like in a crate/kennel) may act more aggressive because he/she feels cornered, trapped and defenseless.  A dog that reacts aggressively towards other dogs because it was attacked by a dog at some point in it's life and now feels threatened when in the presence of other dogs.  Dog aggression can also be learned or even an inherited characteristic from one or both of his/her parents.  It is important that you do not intentionally or unintentionally reinforce any type of aggressive behavior at any time.  Do not pacify your dog when he is reacting aggressively towards another animal.  Do not try and physically restrain or soothe him.  Your dog will sense your uneasiness and this will send a signal to act more aggressively.  Praising your dog for this behavior will not make a better watchdog, it will instead, create a mean dog.  If your dog is exhibiting any form of dog aggression, here are some tips to help the situation:

  • Take it for frequent walks where it will be exposed to other dogs. 

  •  Don't restrain your dog for trying to check out another dog unless you are sure his intentions are of an aggressive nature. 

  •  Act and sound happy when approaching another dog so that your dog senses that you comfortable with the situation. 

  • Always praise your dog for good behavior like not growling, snapping, lunging, and pulling on the leash when another dog is approaching. 

Again, the best way to deal with these behaviors is by early socialization and training.  It is much easier to get control of a situation at a young age, especially with this breed because they grow so quickly.  Work on commands like sit/stay and down/stay with your trainer so that when in a situation, you always have complete control of your dog.  If you did not properly socialize your Corso as a puppy, you may never be able to teach it as an adult to "get along" with other dogs, but you can train him/her to accept their presence and remain calmly at your side in a sit/stay position.  Finally, neutering/spaying your dog at a young age will also reduce the incidence of territorial aggression.

Aggression can be an inherited trait.  To avoid heartache later on, take the time to visit the breeder and interact with the parents of the pup you are interested in purchasing.  This will give you an idea of your pup's temperament and also give you a chance to talk one on one with your breeder about their socialization program for the pups.  If for any reason you cannot interact with one or both of the parents, DO NOT buy a pup from this breeding.  The excuse of "they are kennel dogs" is not a valid one.  If the breeder has not taken the time to work with their dogs, then they are not the types of people you want to buy from.

Shy and/or Fearful Behavior

Shyness is a common complaint among the Corso.  While much of it can be attributed to lack of socialization, it is again important to understand it can be an inherited trait from one or both of the parents.  Some signs of shy and fearful behavior are quick reaction to loud noises, panicking over simple things like going for a walk, a car ride or the approaching of strangers.  A shy dog may hide, whine, run or urinate in the above situations.  Shyness, in itself, is not a problem.  It is when dog reacts in a fearful way that may result in growling, snapping or biting.  A fear aggressive dog is one of most dangerous types of dogs because you may never know what will "set the dog off".  A simple dropping of an item that results in a loud noise can send a fearful dog into defense mode. Not all dogs that are shy are necessarily fear aggressive

Shyness is usually due to lack of socialization.  Socialization should begin at birth and continue throughout the dog's life.  It can result from always being kept in a kennel away from human contact or a dog that has been sheltered by living in a quiet home environment with very little to know outside contact.  A shy dog can be rehabilitated, but it will take a lot of time and patience.

There are several things you can do to help your dog overcome its shyness.  It is very important that you do not give your dog attention for whining, barking or running off and hiding when strangers approach or when people come over to your home.  Ignore these behaviors, don't try and force your dog into a situation it is not comfortable in.  Always praise your dog when it is showing confidence and courage. If your dog is acting fearful or shy in certain situations it is important that you act happily and talk to your dog in an upbeat tone as if all is well.  If your dog feels your are eased in the situation, it will most likely also relax.  Always let your dog approach a stranger rather than let a stranger approach your dog.  Once your dog has approached the person instruct them to pet your dog on the chest not the head.  You can also try carrying along some food treats to give to people so that once your dog approaches them; it is rewarded with a pleasant surprise!  Never physically or verbally reprimand your pup or dog for shy or fearful behavior. You will only make the behavior worse and intensify the problem.

Chewing and Destructive Behavior

There are many different reasons for destructive chewing.  Puppies need to chew when they are going through their teething phase, which is usually between three to six months of age.  You must always monitor your puppy to make sure that it is only chewing on appropriate toys, bones, etc. that are provided for him/her.  If for some reason, you cannot supervise your pup to make sure it is not chewing on furniture, clothing, etc., you should always place the pup in a confined area like a crate or a puppy proofed room with a chew toy so that it does not get into anything that can hurt him or damage any valuables.    It is up to you to teach your pup what is acceptable to chew and what is not.  A great thing to ease the pain of teething for your pup is to take an old dish rags and dunk them in water, squeeze it out and put them in the freezer.  Give your pup one of these frozen chew rags to chew on to help relieve his/her pain.  It is best to keep your pup/dogs toys in one area of your home (whether in a toy box or a corner). .  The "drop it" command is a very useful command and one that can be taught early on.   With lots of praise and patience your pup/ dog should pick this command up quickly.  Simply say "drop it" when you pup has something in its mouth that is inappropriate, at first you may have to open the pup's mouth gently at the same time stating "drop it".  Once the item falls to the ground praise your pup with a "Good drop it".  

Older dogs often chew out of boredom or during stressful situations.  Never isolate or physically punish your pup or dog as punishment for chewing.  This will cause more stress on your pup or dog and result in more destructive behavior.  Invest in some sturdy chew toys such as large Kong toys, nylon bones, nylon ropes, and puzzle toys filled with treats.   If you catch your dog chewing something inappropriate, reinforce the "drop it" command, bring the dog over to the area where you keep its toys and give it one of his/her toys instead.  Soon your dog will learn what items are "allowed" to be chewed.  Never give your dog old socks, shoes, shirts, etc or any item that may confuse it.  Remember a dog can't tell the difference between your old sneakers and tempting new ones sitting on the floor!

Until you feel confident that your dog has learned what is acceptable to chew and what is unacceptable, you should either utilize a large crate or confine it to a doggie proofed room with some chew toys.  With the proper exercise, training and a good supply of durable chew toys, you should be able to successfully deter any destructive chewing.

Excessive Barking

Barking is the way dogs talk.  Some dogs, like people, will talk more than others will.  There is a difference between a normal range of barking and excessive barking.  A Corso that is barking because it hears a noise, is excited, sees people through the window, etc. is not barking excessively but merely alerting you of something by trying to communicate.

Cane Corsos do not do well when isolated or confined from their families for long periods of time.  Some may bark to attract attention because they are lonely and/or bored.  Never physically punish your dog for barking.  You should establish your role of leader through training with your Corso.  You can work on a "no bark" command with your dog.  If your Cane Corso is barking excessive at times when you cannot correct this behavior (i.e., when you are not home), it may be bored or stressed.   Try taking your dog for a long, brisk walk before leaving home so that he is tired and less likely to be bored.  Also leave some chew toys out so that it can entertain himself while you are away.

Separation Anxiety

The Cane Corso is a very dependent breed; they bond very strongly with their owners and tend to want to be crazy glued to their owner's side.    While this behavior is extremely sweet and many of us find it to be a wonderful complement that our Corsos think so much of us that they want to be with us all the time, you must be careful in how you raise your Corso or you may be reinforcing behavior that can lead to Separation Anxiety.  Separation Anxiety is often displayed as frantic barking, howling, destructiveness, chewing and elimination when the dog is left alone.  Dogs in this form of distress will often take the liberty to remodel your home for you by chewing through walls, doors, furniture, etc.  The best way to avoid separation anxiety is by conditioning your pup to being left alone before it is big enough to chew you out of house and home!  

For most of us the charm and excitement of a new puppy keeps us at their beck and call.  We want to be with the puppy all the time to play and cuddle. Your puppy may experience an extreme amount of fear or anxiety when left alone because it has never learned to be "alone".  You will need to help your pup to adjust to times of solitude.  The easiest way to do so is by crating your pup at various times throughout the day (both when you are home and away).  Your pup should have "quiet time" in his/her crate on a regular basis.  This will help your pup learn to be alone and reduce the chances of it developing separation anxiety.

Separate the puppy in a puppy-proofed room or crate where it cannot see you.  Be sure to put some of the pup's favorite toys in the room/crate and maybe even a shirt with your scent on it to soothe it.  If your pup starts barking franticly DO NOT run to it's aid and let him/her out.  This will only teach your pup that if it barks, you will reward this behavior by letting it out.  Wait until your pup stops barking (this may take awhile), and go in and let the puppy out when it is quiet - therefore rewarding it for good behavior.  The first several sessions in the crate should be brief.  Gradually increase the amount of time alone as your pup progresses.

As your pup matures and is able to be left unconfined, you will want to be careful of your reactions when you leave or come home.  Do not get emotional or make a fuss when you leave or when you come home.  By doing so, you will be teaching your pup trigger signals for when you are leaving and may end up reinforcing undesirable behavior.   

Here are some signs to help you determine if your dog has separation anxiety:

  •       Your dog is destructive and chewing on a number of items that mainly smell like you or a person in your house like clothing in the hamper, underwear, socks, the couch you sit on, pillows, etc.  The dog only chews these items when you are not around.  Remember if your dog is chewing these items when you are home, then this is probably a sign of destructiveness to boredom or inappropriate training not separation anxiety.

  •     Your dog eliminates in many different parts of your home, again only when you are not around.

  •     Your dog barks franticly (meaning non-stop) when you are not around.

  •     Your dog always behaves this way when left alone, whether it is for 15 minutes or 4 hours.

  •       Your dog is stressed, anxious, clingy when you arrive home and does not even act apologetic for destroying your items.

  •       Your dog can't be isolated from you, at any time, even in different rooms when you are home.

  •       Your dog exhibits signs of stress as you get ready to leave.

If your adult dog is plagued with separation anxiety, you should seek the help of an experienced trainer or behaviorist.  Keep in mind you should never punish your dog for behaviors resulting from separation anxiety.

Here are two links with some more info and tips on how to deal with Separation Anxiety:

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation Anxiety in Dogs: Help your dog survive being alone

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