How to Train Your Cane Corso Dog to Be a Guard Dog

Hard
12-24 Months
Work

Introduction

Many families with an affinity for dogs as companions, may at some point consider inviting a dog into their lives for the purpose of protection. Guard dogs are popular in rural areas and, to a lesser extent, in urban areas where crime may be prevalent. The concept of the guard dog is not a new one by any means, but as our knowledge of dog behavior increases, it’s important to look at both the pros and cons of a guard dog before obtaining one to live and interact with your family as well as keeping potential threats away from your home.

A popular breed chosen for the task of guarding is the Italian Cane Corso, a close relative to the Neapolitan Mastiff. The Corso is a powerful large breed and certainly not meant for beginners, doubly so if chosen for a future in guarding. These dogs are athletic and imposing, chosen frequently for their intimidating appearance alone, and always require a heavily experienced hand when it comes to training and behavior. While they can be sweethearts with the right family, a guard dog may be perpetually stuck in “work” mode, making it tough to transition into family time. Training a guard dog itself is work, training a Cane Corso as a guard dog is nearly a full-time job.

Defining Tasks

When considering a guard dog, you need to determine whether or not your environment truly requires one. A guard dog is not appropriate for a home that will see many strange guests, as guard dogs are trained to be suspicious, if not aggressive, towards strangers. A guard dog may also not be appropriate for a home with many small children, as an aggressive or reactive dog can be a potential danger. As such, the Cane Corso is recommended for a family with children above the age of ten and only for a family that can put in the required work and time to both socialize and train the new addition.

Guard training starts immediately following puppyhood, if not in the midst of it, and continues throughout the dog’s life. Basic obedience is a must, as is proper socialization with people, animals, and especially other dogs at a young age, as Cane Corsos are able to cause some serious damage if not channeled appropriately. Following that, Corsos must know when to bark and stop on command and assume an imposing stance, while also knowing how to back away from a stranger who you deem okay. Training your Cane Corso to full-on “attack” is not recommended, as this requires a professional in most cases. But there are commands that you can utilize to prevent any stranger from considering your house or property as a potential target for theft.

Getting Started

Before doing anything else, consult a veterinarian or behaviorist to determine whether or not your Cane Corso has the appropriate health and temperament to be considered for guard training. Not every breed is capable of the work involved, and not every member of a specific breed has the ability to distinguish between a threatening individual and a safe one.

After gaining approval, be sure that every member of the family is on board, as training must be consistent to be effective. Determine what sort of reward most motivates your Cane Corso, whether it be food or toys, and utilize that throughout training. Ensure that you have a strong leash on hand and an appropriately fit collar so that you can maintain control of your dog at all times during training. Read up on appropriate breed handling and what you can expect as you move forward in fashioning your Corso into a guard dog.

The Alert Method

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Step
1
Observe any barking
Most dogs will bark at the sight of a stranger or something unfamiliar. This behavior is important to this method, as a dog who does not bark will not be able to appropriately use barking as a deterrent.
Step
2
Mark the barking with a word
This can be ‘speak’ or another similar word. If you’d like to use the command to ward off strangers or someone approaching your home, consider a word in another language or a word that is only understood by you and your family. Reward for responding to the word with a bark. You may also choose to reward the bark without the command, depending on your preference.
Step
3
Teach a 'stop' command
Similar to the barking mark word, determine a word that will be used to mark when the dog is silent. Reward for silence after barking in response to your given word. Do this consistently to train your dog to stop on command.
Step
4
Use a volunteer
Bring in a person who your dog is unfamiliar with and allow him to bark at them for a few moments while you maintain a hold on his leash. Have the stranger back away when the barking continues, to build your Corso’s confidence.
Step
5
Use a family member
To determine a distinction between stranger and family, have a family member approach and allow your dog to bark for a moment. Give him your ‘stop’ command and allow your family member to approach slowly. Reward your Corso if he is polite and quiet.
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The Defense Method

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Step
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Get a tight hold on the leash
This method requires a large amount of strength, as you’ll be having your dog advance on - but NOT attack - any stranger approaching your yard or door. Do not utilize this technique in public as it is solely for defending your home or property. Do not release the leash under any circumstances.
Step
2
Use a volunteer
Have someone your Corso is unfamiliar with start walking towards your door or yard. Allow your dog to bark at the stranger.
Step
3
Loosen the leash
Without releasing it entirely, loosen the grip on the leash so that your dog walks a few steps towards the stranger without being in range of a lunge or bite. Do not stop the dog’s barking while you do this.
Step
4
Have the volunteer back away
In order to reinforce this behavior as an effective guarding task, have the volunteer step back and walk away. Do not have them run as this may encourage your Corso to chase after them.
Step
5
Practice and reward
Never utilize this method off leash unless your dog is in a contained area and the stranger is outside of the contained area. Practice this method on-leash frequently, rewarding for effective guarding. Treat any real life scenario as a training practice and reward your dog when your property is properly defended.
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The Block Method

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Step
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Perfect the ‘heel’
This method is useful when out on a walk or in public, as it does not require aggressive behavior to act as a deterrent. In fact, it is a task often employed by service dogs. To be effective, however, your dog must know a proper ‘heel’ during your normal walk.
Step
2
Use a treat as bait
With a treat in hand, guide your Corso to the front of your legs and have him stand in front of you while you give him the treat. Use the word ‘block’ or ‘cover me’ to mark this behavior.
Step
3
Reinforce with a ‘stay’
Continue to offer your dog treats in this position and mark the continued block with a ‘stay’ so that he does not move.
Step
4
Determine a release command
Your Cane Corso should have a release word that allows him to move away from you and back into a normal ‘heel’ when necessary. A simple word like ‘ok’ can work, or you can simply utilize the ‘heel’ command again. Reward as necessary.
Step
5
Practice in public
Have a friend meet you while you are on a walk with your Corso. As they approach, give your dog the block command and have him stand in front of you as you speak to your friend. Reward your dog for being polite and quiet in his block stance. Practice this as often as necessary.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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