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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Most Recommended
3 Votes
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.
Recommend training method?

The Defense Method

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Effective
1 Vote
Step
1
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.
Recommend training method?

The Block Method

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Least Recommended
1 Vote
Step
1
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.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Blake
Cane Corso
11 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Blake
Cane Corso
11 Months

My cane corso doesn't bark even at visitors, he doesn't like being caged and fumble alot with our shoes

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello Mabel, With the shoes I recommend keeping them cleaned up when you are not training leave it with shoes, teaching Leave It, then once pup knows Leave It, practice with shoes specifically too, and confine pup when you leave so they don't have access to be chewing the shoes without interruption - pup chewing without interruption will undermine other training efforts. Leave It method from this article: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite To teach pup to bark and be more alert, first, teach pup the Speak command. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-speak Once pup knows the speak command, recruit friends pup doesn't know to step onto the property while pup watches from a window or fence. Command speak and reward with a treat when they do. Practice with telling pup to speak each time the person is on the property, until pup barks on their own when the person enters without saying speak. At that point, have the person step onto the property, wait seven seconds to see if pup will bark on their own, reward if they do, and command speak if they don't - then reward but give a smaller reward when you tell pup opposed to when pup does it on their own. Practice until pup will bark each time someone enters the property. Practice with different people you can recruit, that pup doesn't know so that pup will learn to do this with anyone who enters the property and not just that one person. Draw pup's attention to people outside or people on your property, and reward pup when you see them watching someone in general - so that pup will begin watching people and staying more alert as a habit. Pup doesn't have to bark to reward this one - just reward when pup is watching someone and you notice that. I also recommend teaching the Quiet command, so that you can tell pup when to stop barking after they alert. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark For crate training, if he is not already used to a crate, expect crying at first. When he cries and you know he doesn't need to go potty yet, ignore the crying. Most dogs will adjust if you are consistent for 2-4 weeks. You can give him a dog food stuffed hollow chew toy to help him adjust and sprinkle treats into the crate during times of quietness to further encourage quietness. Check out the Surprise method from the article I have linked below. Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate If he continues protesting for long periods of time past 3-5 days, you can use a Pet Convincer. Work on teaching "Quiet" but using the Quiet method from the article linked above also. Tell him "Quiet" when he barks and cries. If he gets quiet and stays quiet, you can sprinkle a few pieces of dog food into the crate through the wires calmly, then leave again. If he disobeys your command and keep crying or stops but starts again, spray a small puff of air from the Pet convincer at his side through the crate while saying "Ah Ah" calmly, then leave again. If he stays quiet after you leave you can periodically sprinkle treats into the crate to reward quietness. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Rika
Cane Corso Italiano (Italian Mastiff)
5 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Rika
Cane Corso Italiano (Italian Mastiff)
5 Months

barks a lot, follow orders sometimes, uses bathroom in home after coming inside. need to train her on protection

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Quiet and Desensitize methods for barking - I would especially teach pup the Quiet method, since you will want pup to bark to alert at times and will want to reward appropriate barking to teach that, but you want pup to stop when you say and not bark at inappropriate things for future protection training. Quiet and Desensitize methods: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Crate Training method for potty training. When pup doesn't go potty when you take them outside, you will calmly bring them inside, put them into the crate for 30-60 minutes, then take them back out at the end of the hour. You will repeat this each time you take pup outside until pup goes potty outside and you can reward, at which point you can give pup 1-2 hours of freedom out of the crate before starting the process over again. This method ensures pup isn't free when their bladder isn't empty, helps them make the connection between pottying outside and rewards, and keeps your home clean - which is not only nice for you, but an essential part of a dog making progress with potty training and learning to prefer your home staying clean all the time, so they will eventually be motivated to keep it clean themselves too. Crate Training method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside Work on commands that build impulse control and respect for you at this age - that will lay a great foundation for more formal protection training later. Continue to pursue socialization with pup even though that can seem counter-intuitive, because a good protection and guard dog needs to know what's normal in the world, especially around people, so that they can tell when something is wrong correctly and not just react to everything and be unreliable. Good socialization also boosts confidence. Getting pup around a lot of people and places is great, but also work on pup's manners and obedience in those settings so pup is learning to focus on you around those exposures - like practicing heeling past people at a park, a Down-Stay at an outdoor shopping area, sitting for being petted, ect... To help pup learn better self-control and focus, practice the following commands over the next few months. Work up to pup gradually being able to do these things around distractions and for longer periods of time. For example, work up to an hour long Place command, heeling past people at the park, holding a Down-Stay while you walk away at the park while pup is on a long training leash and harness. Those types of commands can also help with respect and trust for you - which is important for guarding work later. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method - good for the mouthing too: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Off- section on The Off command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ Come - Reel in method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Check out the article linked below for good respect building tips: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Many dogs will naturally guard if it's in their genetics and you have laid a good foundation of respect and obedience, once they mature mentally between 1-2 years of age. If pup doesn't, you can also teach pup to bark automatically when someone enters the property and be more watchful in general using reward based training. For anything that would involve bite work, you would need to pursue training with a professional protection trainer who knows how to utilize pup's defense drive, build confidence, utilize rewards like a bite bag and tug, and have the right staff and equipment to practice things like arms holds - this training should only be done with a professionals help and should not encourage fear or true aggression when done correctly - it's more like teaching pup a task, teaching alertness, obedience, building confidence, and encouraging a natural defense drive - opposed to poorly done training that encourages suspicion and fear to get a bite from the dog. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Starr
Cane Corso Italiano (Italian Mastiff)
16 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Starr
Cane Corso Italiano (Italian Mastiff)
16 Months

Her recall is shaky as well as she’s overly friendly with people and I need her too guard cause I live on a lot of acreage and I have crops and things.

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended

Starr's brindle coloring is very nice! Thanks for the question. First, I would have Starr evaluated by a trainer who can assess whether she would make the type of dog who could help guard your property. Second, and most important, is that while you can do a little basic training towards guardian duties, in reality, to keep everyone safe (you, your family, neighbors, other dogs, and Starr) the actual formal training must be done by a qualified organization that knows the proper methods. You want Starr to guard and be a presence on the property but not to harm anyone in the process. If she has passed her level one obedience, take her to level two where she can be taught an even better recall (so essential to any dog). There are some practice recall drills here: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-puppy-to-come. All the best!

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