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The black dog, the Italian Mastiff, he is the Cane Corso and he is a serious dog for a serious owner.  He is powerful, athletic, intelligent, and fearless.  This breed has a long standing reputation for being an excellent guard dog that is bold and confident with a demeanor and competence of being a professional bodyguard.  He will be fiercely loyal to his family, just don’t expect him to show that same love for others or other animals.

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Did You Know?

  • The Cane Corso is first and foremost a guard dog for his family.  He will be loyal and do in his power to protect his family.  That being said, he will not be warm to strangers or anyone that isn’t family.  He takes his responsibilities seriously, that is his job and what he was bed to do.
  • The Cane Corso is not a breed for novice dog owners, owners that have only have experience with “softer” breeds such as spaniels and golden retrievers, or owners whose experience is with toy breeds.  
  • The Corso is a working dog that needs a lot of mental and physical stimulation.  He is happiest when he has a job to do.
  • If you do not train him with a firm hand showing him that you are in control, he will gladly take the roll of the dominant one in the house.  The combination of his highly intelligent mind with his bossy attitude and he would rule the house if he isn’t taught otherwise. 
  • The best way to train him firmly is with your tone of voice and rewarding him with praise and treats.  He is highly sensitive and will respond to changes in your tone.  Do not reward him with food, treats, or toys without expecting him to listen and follow a command first. 
  • He loves helping on a farm with livestock or agility training.  Other options are nose work, dock diving, obedience, or tracking; these activities will give him a job that will not only challenge him physically but also mentally. 

Cane Corso Breed Characteristics

Adaptability: 2.5/5

  • Adapts well to apartment living: 1/5
  • Good for first-time owners: 1/5
  • Sensitivity level: 3/5
  • Tolerates being alone: 1/5
  • Tolerates cold weather: 3/5
  • Tolerates hot weather: 4/5

All Around Friendliness: 2.5/5

  • Affectionate toward family: 4/5
  • Kid-friendly: 2/5
  • Dog-friendly: 3/5
  • Friendly toward strangers: 2/5

Health & Grooming: 3/5

  • Amount of shedding: 3/5
  • Drooling potential: 4/5
  • Easy to groom: 5/5
  • General health: 3/5
  • Potential for weight gain: 4/5
  • Size: 4/5

Trainability: 2.5/5

  • Easy to train: 4/5
  • Intelligence: 5/5
  • Potential for mouthiness: 4/5
  • Tendency to bark or howl: 2/5
  • Wanderlust potential: 2/5

Exercise Needs: 3/5

  • Energy level: 4/5
  • Intensity: 3/5
  • Exercise needs: 4/5
  • Potential for playfulness: 2/5

History

The name “Cane” is Latin for dog.  Where “Corso” comes from could be either from “cohors” meaning bodyguard, or “corsus” which is an old Italian word meaning sturdy or robust, either one accurately describes the Corso.

The Cane Corso hails from Italy, originally bred to be an all around farm dog.  He is one of two Mastiff breeds from Italy, the other is the Neapolitan Mastiff which is a larger build.  Both descended from the Roman war dogs, after the fall of the Roman Empire the Corso was put to work as a farm hand to help herd livestock, guard properties and families, and as a hunting dog.  The Cane Corso was used by watchmen to guard over large estates he was also a great hunting partner especially when they were hunting larger game such as wild boar. 

Like many other breeds in Europe, the Cane Corso nearly came to extinction during the Indsutrialization when farm work became mechanized, WWI and WWII.  A few still survived in the southern countryside of Italy.  A man by the name of Dr. Paolo Breber took an interest in the breed in 1973 and was able to acquire a few Cane Corsi.  The following year he started a breeding program that gained attention and interest when the dogs were featured in a magazine article.

By 1993 Cane Corsi began to be imported and bred within the United States, also gaining recognition by the formation of The International Cane Corso Federation.  The breed gained full recognition from the American Kennel Club in 2010. 

Size

The Corso is a larger dog with males standing between 25 to 28 inches at the shoulder and females standing between 23 to 26 inches at the shoulder. They can weigh between 80 to 120 pounds, their weight will be proportionate to their height. 

Appearance

Corsi have large broad head with a large wide jaw, just that alone makes them intimidating to any would be intruder. Pair that with a large muscular body and it comes as no surprise why they were first employed as guard dogs.  Their coat is short, stiff and shiny with a softer undercoat that becomes thicker during colder weather or in colder climates.  Corsi coats can be black, red, fawn, grey and can have a brindle pattern present or be a solid color.  Their legs are proportionate to their bodies and are strong and muscular.

Behavior

Personality

What is valued in the Corsos ability to guard and protect is also the same trait that can be difficult to work with and train to be set in the desired direction.  He is a very strong willed and stubborn dog that is also highly intelligent.  Those traits create the best family guard dog or an aggressive menace, it all depends on how he is raised and trained.  The Corso will rule the roost if given the opportunity, don’t give him that chance.  He needs to know who gives the commands and he needs to know it is expected of him to follow.  A consistent and firm training and raising of a Corso helps him reach his potential as a gentle, affectionate, yet protective guard dog.  He is athletic and intelligent, that means he needs a proper outlet to exercise both traits.  A Corso that is not properly trained or is allowed to wander can become an aggressive dog and even dangerous.  This is a serious breed for serious owners that know how to help them reach their full potential. 

Children and Pets

A well reared and trained Corso will be very affectionate with children in the family and all family members.  However, do not expect him to behave the same way towards other people.  It is strongly advised that families with children under the age of 9 do not adopt or purchase a Corso.  Children need to be taught how to properly interact with him and not scream or make high pitched noises in his presence, as he might see them as prey.  Remember he was also bred as a hunting dog, to avoid those instincts from kicking into high gear children needs to not make sounds that resemble prey.  It is also advised to not allow him of leash or in a fenced yard with children’s friends especially if they are running around and being noisy, it won’t end well.  Remember to always supervise interactions between children and your Corso, always.

If he is raised as a very young puppy with another pet the Corso will respond better with another pet.  The other option is getting another Corso, if you do that be sure to get one of the opposite sex.  All other pets will likely be seen as prey.  Be especially careful with your Corso around neighbors pets, they will be prey to your Corso.  Never walk him off-leash, ever.

Health

Corsos are generally a fairly healthy breed but, as with all breeds, there are some health conditions they are more prone to.  It is important to note that not all Corsos will have any or all of these conditions, but it is good to be aware of possible health conditions they may have. If you have access to your dog’s parental health records that would be a great place to do some research and see what he may be prone to having.  You can obtain health clearances for both of the parents of your dog to make sure they’ve been tested and cleared from the following conditions. Health clearances can be confirmed by checking the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) website.

Hip Dysplasia: This is a genetic condition passed down from parents in which the femur does not fit snugly into the pelvic socket of the hip joint.  This condition can exist without clinical signs so it is important to have X-ray screenings done.  Dogs with this condition can be in pain and exhibit lameness in one or both rear legs. Ask the breeder for proof that the parents were tested and cleared for hip dysplasia. 

Entropion:  This is an eye condition where the eyelid rolls under allowing the hair and eyelashes to com in contact with the eyeball.  Frequent rubbing against the eye will cause irritation and damage to the eye.  Contact your vet is you notice this and see what the best treatment option is for you dog.

Ectropion:  An eye condition where the lower eyelid droop down to where the conjunctival tissue can be seen.  This makes the dogs eyes very susceptible to infections and other eye damage.  If you notice this condition occurring with your dogs eyes, take him to the vet and see what the best treatment would be for your dog, sometimes surgery in necessary to correct this.

Cherry Eye:  This eye condition is unpleasant to look at but not painful.  This condition occurs when the third eyelid containing a tear gland has prolapsed causing a red bulge in the corner of the eye. It generally is only unsightly and not life-threatening. Surgery can correct it, but it is mostly done for cosmetic reasons.

Demodectic Mange:  This condition is a severe dandruff and then hair loss due to a mite.  The mite eats the hair Follicles and oils from the dogs coat.  If gone untreated the dog will lose his coat in large patches.  If you suspect this take your dog to the vet informing them, as the mite spreads extremely quickly and easily making this condition highly contagious, the vet can prescribe medicated shampoos and lotions to take care of this condition.

Bloat:  This condition occurs in larger deep-chested breeds such as Corsos and can be life-threatening. This can occur when a dog quickly eats one large meal during the day, drinks a lot of water then exercises vigorously. If the stomach becomes distended with gas or air and then twists, bloat happens. If the dog is unable to burp or vomit to release the air, blood flow to the heart can be impeded. The dog’s blood pressure will then drop causing the dog to go into shock. If medical attention is not sought quickly enough, the dog could die from this.

Maintenance

Care

As has been mentioned numerous times this is a serious breed that is athletic, intelligent and needs a job to do, every single day.  The Corso will need daily exercise, this can be in the form or a rigorous run, hiking, agility courses, and playing with you in a securely fenced back yard. He can even go as a hunting partner or be a secondhand on a farm if that is available as part of your lifestyle.  Corsi need daily exercise to keep them healthy, fit and out of trouble and help prevent aggression.  Now for his mind, he is highly intelligent and needs to exercise that in an appropriate way as well.  This can be accomplished through training sessions, toys, obedience, playing games with him, teaching him and giving him a job every day. At least 20 minutes a day of mental activities are necessary for Corsi.

This breed must be socialized immediately as a young puppy.  It is important for him to meet a variety of people, animals, and situations so he can better determine a threatening situation where his protective instincts are to be used versus a new situation where there is no threat.  Corsos are dogs that must be trained with a consistent, firm yet loving hand, in some cases owners might seek professional trainers to assist them with this. 

Never allow him to run loose.  If he is in a yard for a couple hours make sure it is a securely fenced yard, it needs to be tall enough so he cannot jump over the fence and far enough into the ground he cannot dig under it.  Electric underground fences will not work for this breed, they won’t keep him in and if a neighbors pet wanders in it will not protect that pet.

Feeding

How much you feed your dog will depend largely on his size, age, and activity level.  It is strongly advised that you measure the amount he needs, usually between 4 to 5 cups, and divide it into two meals per day. The higher quality food you feed your Corso, the more nutrients he will get for less amount of food.  It is worth buying high quality, veterinarian recommended food for your dog. Many veterinarians can show you exactly what brand and blend would be best for your dog by his size, age, and activity level.  

Grooming

A weekly brushing is all his coat will need to help keep shedding down.  He will shed heavily twice a year, you can vacuum him or brush him more often during that time.  The Corso can be bathed as regularly as he needs it, the trick will be to bathe him often as a puppy and teach him how to behave during bath.  Make bath time “fun” by rewarding him with treats for good behavior. 

He will need his teeth brushed 2 to 3 times a week at a minimum to prevent tartar build up; if you can do it daily that will keep his gums healthier and his breath smelling much better. 

If you can hear his nails on the floor or sidewalk when he walks, they need to be trimmed.  They can wear them down naturally by walking on the sidewalk, if they don’t wear them down they will need them trimmed once to twice a month. Keeping his nails trimmed helps keep his paws healthy.  You can either take him to the groomer to do this or do it yourself.  Be aware that their nails have blood vessels in them and if they get trimmed too short they will bleed and he will be less likely to want them trimmed again.

Check his ears weekly while you brush him to look for any redness, sores, or foul odors.  Signs like these could indicate a possible ear infection.  To clean them out just wipe them with a cotton ball and clean the outer ear, do not insert anything into the ear canal.  

Grooming time is a great time to set aside to look over your Corso and check for any cuts or sores.  Make this a bonding time where you can show affection for him and take care of him so he is better behaved during this time, otherwise it can become quite difficult.  

Vital Stats

Dog Breed Group: Working
Height: 23 to 28 inches
Weight: 80 to 120 lbs.
Lifespan: 9-12 years

Common Questions

Are Cane Corso aggressive? The better question might be can they be aggressive?  Yes they can be, they are a very powerful dog and are bred to protect and guard.  That being said are all Cane Corso aggressive? No, they can be affectionate and gentle.  Their training and upbringing will have a large influence whether they are aggressive.  A properly reared and trained Croso is not an inappropriately aggressive dog.

How much does it cost to purchase a Cane Corso? If you are looking to purchase a Cane Corso from a breeder you can pay anywhere between $1,500 to $4,000 for your puppy.  The price will vary on breeder, parents pedigrees, temperament etc. 

Is a Cane Corso a Mastiff?  Yes, he is closely related to the Neapolitan Mastiff of Italy.

What breeds were used to develop the Cane Corso?  The Cane Corso is a large Italian Molosser, which is closely related to the Neapolitan Mastiff. In name and form the Cane Corso predates its cousin the Neapolitan Mastiff.

Are Cane Corsos Pit Bulls?  Technically, no, but according to the American Kennel Club a few dogs fall under the Pit Bull umbrella and the Cane Corso is one of them.  Dogs with the blocky shaped head that are powerful dogs tend to be thrown under the umbrella of Pit Bull, not meaning it is the same breed just a similar look and powerful body.

Resources

Unfortunately not everyone that purchases a Cane Coro fully understands everything that goes into raising and training a well behaved, healthy Corso.  There are many Corsi in need of a loving home whether that be through adoption or fostering.  Below is a list of Rescue agencies that have Cane Corsi as well as breeders.

Rescue