As I mentioned on "the Owners" page, I am a Veterinary Technician in Roanoke, Virginia. For the last 5 years, part of my job has been preparing new puppy and dog owners for the journey they were about to take. I am no specialist nor am I a behaviorist but I do happen to have a lot of experience with raising puppies. While I am not licensed, I do the best I can and the most I can with rescuing dogs. The dogs I typically work with are sick young puppies owners can not care for due to the expense of treating their illness. I am their alternate plan to euthanasia. So I have raised many puppies myself. The purpose of this page is to share my experience with raising a Cane Corso with helpful information from my experiences over the years working with dogs. I hope you will find this information helpful.
I take owning any pet very seriously. When someone or some family brings a dog into their home, they need to realize that that dog will rely on them for everything, like a child, for the rest of his life. Domesticated dogs need us not only to feed them, but to train them, work them, house them and love them. In return they give us their allegiance, their affection, they work for us and they help us to escape from the stresses of every day life. We owe it to them as dog owners to do our best and give them the best that we can.
BluSteel's Little Monster, Ickis (or Ickis as we call him) is a wonderful dog. My husband and I were both raised around dogs so being around dogs has always been second nature for us. Our other dog, Crumb, an American Pit Bull Terrier, prepared us well for handling him. She was so stubborn and pushy as a puppy we figured any other dog would be a walk in the park. Ickis is so different from her and is some ways just the same. He lives to make us happy. He tries to figure out what we want before we know we want it. While training him was leagues easier than Crumb, he presented us with different obstacles. We knew before deciding on this particular breed that any large to giant sized breed would be a lot of work. He was also very dominant and pushy as a young puppy. Thanks to Crumb and her attitude, she helped whip him into shape. Once Crumb forgave us for bringing home a new puppy, she started showing him the ropes. He quickly learned his place in the family. When we were considering purchasing a new dog, we knew we had to consider Crumb's attitude. We knew that we had to get a boy. We also knew we had to get him at a young age so she could show him as a young puppy that she was 'the boss'. The reason we chose to raise him this way was to prevent him from
thinking he could usurp her throne when he was mature. When we introduced them, we did so with him in a crate in our home and her loose. This way, if she wanted to, she could leave and he couldn't follow her. This is how they interacted for the first week. He could not come in contact with her and she could escape his puppy behaviors simply by leaving the room. Once he graduated from the crate introduction, we allowed them to interact, but he was always on a leash while on the floor, or on the couch (until he could jump off of course). We did this for the same reason, so she could leave. The next step was supervised play time. We had to let them interact so she could show him what he was and was not allowed to do. It was amazing the transformation he took when they really started interacting. His training became easier and his bossy attitude became less. We knew at that point that they would be a good match. I think the way new house mates are introduced is crucial. For our particular situation, we wanted to introduce a very dominant breed to an already dominant older female, rushing things could have been detrimental.
Before he was old enough to be enrolled in puppy classes, we had a trainer come into our home to help us learn the best training method for him. I strongly believe there is no one single method that works best for all dogs. We knew socializing was a huge part of owning a Corso and so took him for walks regularly through the neighborhood. While he wasn't fully vaccinated, I carried him and John walked Crumb on her leash. When people approached us to say hello, I encouraged and even asked them to hold him. I wanted him to learn very young that strange people can be fun! We took him to public parks so he could see and hear children screaming. We walked him through the city so he could hear the sounds of traffic and be comfortable in large groups of people. As soon as he was old enough, we started taking him to public dog friendly events. He was always a hit! Because he is so unique looking, people constantly approached him and introduced themselves to him. We encouraged them to say hello. We took him to baseball games, doggy socials, off leash dog parks, charity events and other sporting events. You name it, we went. We took our job as new puppy owners seriously. All that I had taught new puppy owners in the past was now finally being applied to my personal experience.
Owning a Cane Corso is not like owning a 'big scary looking lab'. While Ickis can be quite the clown, he takes his job of protecting me and our home very seriously. When he first started being protective of me I couldn't believe it. He was 6 months old and up to that point had been nothing but a people-loving-goof-ball. I was actually concerned with his lack of self control when he met new people as he was extremely excited. However, he proved to me that he knows the difference between a friend and a threat when he was 6 months old. He would not allow a man (who was drunk and staggering) to approach me. I couldn't believe it, he really was everything I wanted! If you are planning on adding a Cane Corso to your life, you need to consider why you want him. If you are looking for a jogging partner and you jog in the morning before the sun comes up or later in the evening after the sun goes down a
Corso may be just the dog for you. They are very attentive to their surroundings and take their jobs as protectors very seriously. If you are looking for a dog to chain in the back yard to look scary, don't get a Corso. With their deceptively thick coat, rugged nature and formidable stature, they actually do well outside. The problem is they need to be with their people.
As I mentioned, we did take Ickis to the local off leash dog park. While I think it was great for socializing, I don't think I will do it again with another dog. He was frequently bitten and attacked by other dogs because of his exuberant personality. In the future, what I plan to do and recommend others do is find some friends that have dogs and are aware of their dog's disposition and schedule play dates. This allows for a more controlled setting. Whenever introducing a Cane Corso (or any dominant breed dog for that matter) be alert and attentive to the body language seen by both dogs before taking them off leash. Understanding body language is dogs is crucial no matter the breed or the size.
If you sit back and think about it, as a dog owner you are really only truly responsible for 2 aspects of your dog's health: Diet and Exercise. Everything else, you place in the capable hands of your Veterinarian. This being said, if you don't trust your Veterinarian, maybe you should find another. If you and your Veterinarian don't agree on something, then you should either resolve that disagreement, or find one who agrees with you. I have read many horror stories from different breeders of different dogs where the Veterinarian was the main character (or villain I should say). Some breeders insist on a certain type of anesthetic, some on a certain type of food, others on a type of heartworm or flea prevention. Take the information given to you by both sources and do some homework on your own if you aren't sure. I sometimes get the impression that there is an undeclared war between breeders and Veterinarians. Don't get yourself caught in the middle, do your homework, speak with both and draw your own conclusions.
Socializing is not the only important part of owning a Corso. Anyone considering owning one needs to decide before even bringing him home what is and is not acceptable. For example: we decided that our dogs are allowed on the furniture. The way we see it is we spend our down time in out living room and we want our dogs to be able to do so with us. Ickis can be quite cuddly and affectionate and so we invite him on the couch frequently. This does not mean that our dogs 'dominate' us because we allow them on the furniture. We have strict rules with our obedience and when I give an 'off' command, they are expected to get off the couch without me saying it twice. I feel as if I see owning a dog slightly different then the average pet owner because of my experience as a Veterinary Technician. I dedicated 10 minutes a week to nail trimming. Whether Ickis needed it or not, I trimmed his nails every week giving him lots of praise and treats. I did this to prevent the oh-so familiar nail trims often mistaken for wrestling matches I have to deal with on a daily basis. The treats and praise was to teach Ickis that nail trimming was not the end of the world. I have to admit, it was
quite successful. I can now have Ickis lay down on his side and he will offer me his feet for trimming. Now that he is older, I tantalize him with a W-A-L-K afterwards. Then, the good behavior of lying down is rewarded with a walk. Other things we did to help mold him into the dog he is now is brush his teeth, even as a puppy. I know all those teeth fall out, but at that age, you aren't brushing to clean teeth, you are brushing to desensitize your dog for oral exams. Although I don't need to continue to train Ickis to allow me to closely examine his mouth, I do still continue to brush his teeth daily for a healthy happy mouth. We also yanked on his ears, tugged on his tail and pulled him by the skin of his neck. This was never punishment but always done in good, playful spirits so he would attribute those to fun and not become upset if someone, maybe a child, approached him and pulled on his tail or grabbed the loose skin on his neck.
I have a particular interest in canine nutrition. I am not a nutritionist, but I have done quite a bit of research in the field. In my home, I have decided to skip dog food all together. There is something about feeding the same processed food twice a day, every day forever that bothers me. Can you imagine eating processed meats as your only source of protein. Hot dogs. Eating hot dogs every day. I mean, I like hot dogs and all, but that's it. It just doesn't seem right. It is not natural for a dog to get his sole source of nutrition from foods processed beyond recognition. So, the next extreme from feeding dry dog food is feeding raw meat and raw bones. This is another food that I am not comfortable with. I encourage anyone who wants to feed raw to their dogs to do some research first. Some suggestions are:
I have read both Tom Lonsdale's book, "Work Wonders Feed Your Dog Raw Meaty Bones" and Ian Billinghurst's "Give Your Dog a Bone." While the books make an interesting argument, I can't help but notice their claims to feeding raw preventing intestinal parasites and heartworms. Really? If that were true, wolves wouldn't have either, and they have both! That then makes me question the validity of the rest of the information in the books. I need more than anecdotal evidence. Some people believe that natural is optimal. I personally do not believe that. If that were the case, we as people would still be eating raw meat. So, I have decided after much homework to cook for my dogs. Yes, cooking food does eliminate some of the vitamins and nutrients. So, I supplement. I supplement Calcium to balance my meat and carbohydrates to a 1.2:1 ratio of Calcium to Phosphorous. I also use a vitamin supplement called Nupro. It is full of B vitamins and gets its protein from
meat so it is more bioavailable to dogs. I also use cod liver oil to be sure they are getting all their omega fatty acids and vitamins A, D and E. What? I am a Veterinary Technician, shouldn't I be recommending Science Diet or Purina? I think prescription diets do play an important role in some pets, but I do not choose to feed my dogs dry packaged dog food. I don't think dry dog food is evil, including Science Diet. I have seen many pets live a long time to a ripe old age eating nothing but Science Diet. I wouldn't feed it to my pets. There are better quality foods out there such as Orijen and Acana made by Champion Pet Foods. Weruva makes an excellent canned food. I don't think people need to drive themselves to the poor house cooking for their dogs, but they do need to make the best choice they can considering their financial situation. My rule of thumb: If you can buy it in a grocery store, it is a low quality food.
Introducing Our New Cane Corso to Our Current Dog
Socializing Our Cane Corso Puppy
Training Our New Cane Corso Puppy
Simply Choosing Your Veterinarian
Instilling Good Behavior in Our Cane Corso Puppy
The Importance of Nutrition in Our Cane Corso Puppy