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.
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.
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.