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Your Cane Corso is descended from Roman war dogs. Cane Corsos were used in Italy to guard livestock and property and to hunt dangerous game like boar. Corsos are natural protectors, so training yours to protect you, your family, and your property is more about channeling her natural instinct and teaching her when to guard and when not to.
It is essential that your Corso be part of your family. Corsos left alone to guard livestock or property are unhappy and likely to do their job poorly. Corsos were bred to be guardians as well as companions and hunters, and need interaction and training with their family to be happy. Your Corso's puppyhood should be devoted to socialization with other dogs, people, livestock, and anything else they will encounter in adulthood. Even when your Corso is grown, it is important that you continuously expose her to new experiences and people so that she keeps relying on you to tell her when she should protect and when she shouldn't.
Since training your Corso to protect is about channeling her instincts, you can start training in puppyhood, before instincts have become strong. Teach your puppy how to latch onto a sleeve while she's young and that it's a game, so that when she's older she will still see protection as a fun activity to do with you. Hopefully, she will never need to use her training to protect you, but you want the activity of protection to be so natural to her she won't think twice if the need does arise.
If you want your Corso to learn to protect your property or livestock, acquaint her with what she will be protecting while she is young. Manage her interactions with livestock so that she learns these are friends to be protected and not prey items. Encourage her to react to predators and teach her their scents early so she learns that those are the appropriate targets for attack.
Whatever age your Corso is, it is essential that you have a strong bond of trust before starting any protection training. You should be able to handle your Corso's mouth, paws, and she should happily roll over for you for belly rubs. If there is any lack of trust between you, that must be worked on before attempting protection training. If you feel closely bonded with your Corso and she is being well socialized, you can work on protection training with her. Always handle your Corso gently, with a chest clip harness or head halter. Your Corso should always work for fun and for rewards and your affection, never out of fear.
The Catch the Sleeve Method
Teach 'drop it'
If your Corso doesn't already have a good 'drop it', teach it by asking her to drop it, then offering a better treat or toy than the one she has. Work on this until you have a solid 'drop it'.
Get your Corso riled up
Play with your corso using a ball or tug toy, whatever she enjoys. Play until she is good and riled up.
Get the bite sleeve
Wear a sleeve and encourage your Corso to play tug with it. When she grabs it, say a command word for "attack" that you won't say accidentally. Reward your Corso by letting her have the sleeve, then ask her to drop it and reward with a treat or favorite toy.
Have someone else wear the sleeve
Ask a friend or family member that your Corso knows well to wear the sleeve and practice training. Make sure you use the command word for attack and also enforce 'drop it'.
Introduce and increase waits
Begin asking your Corso to wait for short periods before releasing her to attack. Increase the time until she can go a long time and have the person come and go interacting normally with your dog, before releasing her to get the sleeve. Work up to hiding the sleeve under clothing.
The Tug Training Method
Teach to tug and 'drop it'
Play with your Corso with a tug toy, encouraging her to latch on and hold on, and practicing 'drop it' frequently, trading for a treat or another toy.
Ask your Corso to wait short periods before giving a command word for "attack" that you won't ever accidentally say, and allowing her to play tug.
Introduce your Corso to a bite sleeve and show her that she should play tug with it in the same way.
Have someone else wear the sleeve
Have a friend or family member that your Corso knows wear the sleeve. Practice having your Corso wait and then give the command to attack.
Increase waits and hide sleeve
Increase the time your Corso waits to be released to attack until long periods are going by with the target coming and going before you give the command. Hide the sleeve under clothing when your Corso is comfortable with the commands.
The Role Model Method
Not getting it
If your Corso just doesn't seem to care about getting the bite sleeve no matter how hard you try, you can let her see what the point is by letting her watch another dog work.
Observe protection training
Find a handler and dog well trained in protection, or see if you and your dog can observe police or other protection training.
Let your Corso watch the activity. Hopefully, she will become excited and strain against her harness as she watches and listens and gets hyped up on the energy of the other dogs.
Channel the energy
Channel your Corso's energy by practicing with her with the sleeve, making it enticing and encouraging her to mimic the other dogs.
Practice at home
Practice at home, working towards translating your Corso's learned enthusiasm to the sleeve in all environments before working up to hidden sleeve training.
Written by Coral Drake
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 02/15/2018, edited: 01/08/2021