Aggression can be a problem in dogs, and, when not controlled, always becomes dangerous. An aggressive dog, no matter the size, may lunge at, bite or even attack a person or another dog. An aggressive dog is unpredictable; you never know when he is going to strike and what he is going to do. You cannot understand why a dog that is playful one minute is growling the next. Aggressive behavior is not to be tolerated and can lead to serious injury. While not all aggressive behavior is dangerous, things like growling, baring teeth, etc. can be frightening.
It is painful for a family to watch any dog, not just a Cane Corso dog breed, become unpredictable in his behavior to the point where they are afraid of him. If your Cane Corso starts to act aggressive, it is important to ascertain why he is acting in this manner. Aggression is a display of dominance, and your dog should not have the dominant role in his pack, which is, in this case, your family.
Do not to challenge an aggressive dog, as this could provoke an attack. Observe your Cane Corso’s body language. Does your dog make direct eye contact and stare? Does your dog try to make himself as large as possible: ears pricked, chest out, tail erect? Height and size signify authority in a dog pack—being taller or “above” another dog literally means that he is “above” in social status. These body signals tell you that your Cane Corso thinks he is in charge, a problem that needs to be addressed right away.
Fear is a common cause of aggression in dogs. Perhaps your Cane Corso had a negative experience as a puppy, which causes him to be fearful when a similar situation presents itself later in life. Your Cane Corso may act aggressively in order to protect himself from whatever is making him afraid. It is not always easy to determine what is making your dog fearful, but if you can isolate what brings out the fear reaction, you can help your Cane Corso overcome it.
Supervise your Cane Corso’s interactions with people in different situations, and praise your dog when it goes well. If he starts to act aggressively in a situation, correct him and remove him from the situation. Do not let people approach your Cane Corso and start petting him without your express permission. That way, you can have your dog sit to accept petting, and praise him when he behaves properly. You are focusing on praise and on modifying his behavior by rewarding your dog when he acts appropriately. By being gentle and by supervising his interactions, you are showing your Cane Corso that there is no need to be afraid or defensive.
The best solution is to consult a behavioral specialist, one who has experience with the Cane Corso or similar breeds if possible. Together, perhaps you can pinpoint the cause of your Cane Corso’s aggression and do something about it. An aggressive dog cannot be trusted, and a dog that cannot be trusted is not safe to have as a family pet. If, very unusually, you find that your pet has become untrustworthy and you feel it necessary to seek a new home with a more suitable family and environment, you must explain fully to the new owners all of your reasons for re-homing your Cane Corso to be fair to all concerned and for their safety.
Excerpt from Cane Corso, part of the Comprehensive Owner’s Guide series, with permission from its publisher, Kennel Club Books, a division of BowTie Inc. Purchase Cane Corso here.