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Eva Maria Kramer, Animal Photography
Lee Feldstein, Animal Photography
Robin Burkett, Animal Photography
This Italian mastiff was bred to hunt wild boar and today acts as a guard dog. Fiercely devoted to his family, he doesn't care for strangers or small animals. More athletic and agile than other mastiffs, he’ll sit at your feet with impressive weight.
The Cane Corso is also known as Dogo di Puglia, which means "dog of Puglia."
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.
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 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.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit disease. Run from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed has no known problems, or isolates puppies from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the regularity with which they occur in her lines. Some of the health conditions that have been seen in the Cane Corso are hip dysplasia, eye problems such as entropion or ectropion, demodectic mange, and a tendency toward gastric torsion.
Ask the breeder to show evidence that a puppy’s parents have hip evaluations of excellent, good, or fair from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or hip scores from the University of Pennsylvania (PennHIP) as well as eye clearances from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Cane Corso at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
Grooming the Cane Corso is quite easy due to his short coat, though his large size means it’s a big job. Brush his sleek coat with a natural bristle brush or mitt once a week. Use coat conditioner/polish to brighten the sheen. Bathe him every three months (or when he’s dirty) using a mild shampoo.
The rest is basic care. Check his ears every week and clean if needed. Trim his toenails regularly, usually once a month, and brush his teeth regularly using a soft toothbrush and doggie toothpaste to keep his teeth and gums healthy. It is essential to introduce grooming to the Cane Corso when he is very young so he learns to accept the handling and fuss peacefully.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the best dog for you and will, without question, have done all of the certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. She should be more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks. Be wary of breeders who tell you only good things about the breed or who promote the dogs as being “good with kids” without any context as to what that means or how it comes about.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with, and will come back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Look for more information about the Cane Corso and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Cane Corso Association of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the CCAA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to obtain recommended health clearances on dogs before breeding them.
Avoid breeders who seem interested only in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Cane Corso puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment and come from parents with health clearances, conformation (show), and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Cane Corso might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Cane Corso in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Cane Corsos available on Petfinder across the country). Animal Shelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also, some local newspapers have a “pets looking for homes” section you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Cane Corso. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Most people who love Cane Corsos love all Cane Corsos. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Cane Corso Association of America’s rescue network can help you find a dog that will be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Cane Corso rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very up front about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Cane Corso home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he house-trained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Cane Corso, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Whether he's a puppy or adult, take your Cane Corso to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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