The Cane Corso is a magnificent, confident Italian dog breed that has originally been used to guard and protect livestock and families. Their calm and affectionate demeanor paired with a fearless and stable temperament makes them perfect family protection dogs.
To achieve a well-tempered dog, one must be prepared to spend a lot of time training and socializing to pass the different developmental behavior stages successfully, including fear periods.
Learn more about the Cane Corso behavior stages and how to handle them.
Developmental & Behavior Stages
Small breeds reach maturity way faster than large breeds. While a Maltese is fully grown at the age of 12 months, your Cane Corso might still act like a puppy until he is 2 years old.
Every dog is different and develops at a different pace but you can divide a dog into roughly 5 critical stages – neonatal, transitional, socialization, juvenile, and adolescence as well as two sensitive fear periods.
The concept of critical periods determines that certain developmental stages happen at different times in which your dog must collect the right experiences through training opportunities that will determine his behavior later in life. If those windows are missed, the learning opportunity is lost.
0 – 2 Weeks: The Neonatal Period
The neonatal period covers the first two weeks of your puppy’s life, from birth until their eyes start opening. Behavior is mainly restricted to infantile patterns including crawling, sleeping and nursing.
2 – 4 Weeks: The Transitional Period
The locomotive skills are starting to develop during these two weeks. Puppies will start walking and leave the nest box for the first time. Neurological and physical development happens rapidly and the puppies are beginning to react to environmental stimuli.
They don’t depend on their mother anymore to encourage them to go potty and they are able to digest semisolid food. Early vocalization like howling or even barking may occur.
3 – 5 Weeks: Primary Socialization
Socialization is the most important behavior period in a dog’s life and is divided into primary and human socialization. During the first half of this stage (3-5 weeks) your Cane Corso will become aware of its sensory environment while staying with his mother and littermates who will teach him a lot.
It is incredibly important not to buy puppies from a breeder who is keeping them in solitary isolation or recommending to send them to their forever home before 8 weeks of age (depending on your specific puppy, some may need even more time with their mother). Within their litter, they will be taught important lessons, including bite inhibition, play, and submissive behavior.
Familiarization with other animals and people develops reliable species identification skills which are among the most important lessons that a young dog can learn. Short one-on-one sessions with other people or animals a few times a week should be sufficient.
Around the age of 3 weeks, puppies start to approach familiar people and strangers equally. They can be slowly introduced to different surfaces such as vinyl, wood, grass, or carpet. Playing a radio quietly or letting the puppies hear the washing machine adds mild auditory stimulation to their environment.
Recommended Reading: How to Choose a Responsible Breeder
6 – 12 Weeks: Human Socialization
It’s true that a Cane Corso might need more in-depth socialization than a Labrador Retriever due to their natural suspiciousness of strangers but if done correctly, you will achieve uncomparable stableness and the most reliable companion.
At the age of 8 weeks, they are not only ready to be taken into a new home but this also marks the start of stable learning. During this period of time, so many exciting things will happen. Your puppy will go through housebreaking, socialization, basic obedience, bite inhibition and crate training.
Your puppy should have many positive experiences throughout this period with various people, places, sounds, and animals. This will determine his basic character and temperament. Missing this period will leave you with many setbacks and behavior issues.
Recommended Reading: How to Socialize Your Puppy
8 – 11 Weeks: Fear Imprint Period
The socialization period also involves a lot of fear and uncertainty. The world is completely new to a young dog and he doesn’t understand any of it yet.
Loud noises or overwhelming crowds could seriously scare a puppy, so socialization should be controlled and positive. Trauma (doesn’t have to be severe) could desocialize a dog to the point that he tries to avoid certain situations. This could be something like a painful vaccination or someone stumbling over him.
3 – 6 Months: Juvenile Period
The juvenile period is an ongoing learning process. During this time you will continue on with your training while strengthening your bond. Behaviors can easily be forgotten before becoming a habit.
His conditional learning capacity and speed are at their highest level and only slowing down from this point on. Although the socialization window is closed, it’s still important to expose your dog to various places, sounds, people, animals and situations on a daily basis.
Energy levels will spike and your Cane Corso will reach sexual maturity at the age of 6 months. Males will start to lift their leg and females will go through their first heat cycle. Many owners complain that their puppy seems to have forgotten everything he previously learned and starts challenging them.
If you stay very consistent with your training and clear with your communication, you won’t encounter any serious problems with your dog. Training doesn’t stop once the puppy has been crate or potty trained, it’s a lifelong commitment and training sessions should be continued on a daily basis.
Provide your dog with plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation. Excess energy is the number one cause for unwanted behavior in dogs, so puberty is not always to be blamed.
Recommended Reading: How to Exercise Your Puppy
6 – 14 Months: Second Fear Period
With sexual maturity, your dog will also lose his soft puppy coat which will be replaced by a thicker adult coat. You may notice a slight rise in reactivity or territorial behavior.
The dog might react more fearful towards new situations or people. Approach your dog with patience and understanding and give him space to reconsider his reactions.
Contrary to every owner’s instinct, it is very important to not pet or comfort a frightened dog. This actually reinforces the fear and shows your dog that it’s okay to be afraid. By doing this, you might create a reactive or fearful dog. Building up confidence through training and strengthening the bond, will get you through this difficult time.
1 – 3 Years: Adolescent Period
Around the age of 15-18 months, your Cane Corso will reach emotional maturity. He may display more dominant behavior while testing his position in the pack. But because you have spent a lot of time training and socializing him, you won’t come across any of these problems.
Are you finished socializing your dog now? Definitely not! Training starts the first moment you bring your new puppy home and never ends. Your dog will always experience new things and will be taught new behaviors each day.
How to Prevent Cane Corso Behavior Problems
Just like any dog, your Cane Corso may develop and show a bunch of behavior problems that you will need to work on. From excessive puppy biting to overly developed protection instincts, there is always a solution to the problem – and it’s called prevention.
Of course, you will have to go through certain phases but 99% of dog behavior problems can be prevented. If you don’t want to be confronted with separation anxiety, aggression or reactivity then start yesterday.
1. Early socialization is key to a well-balanced adult dog. Allow your dog to meet as many people, places and other dogs as possible. A locked up and isolated puppy will develop many issues and won’t be able to live a happy life.
2. Bite inhibition training should be the second priority and needs to be reinforced from day one. It is prohibited to nip or bite on any human skin or clothes and there are no exceptions. Ignoring the puppy or even leaving the room will teach your Cane Corso a valuable lesson.
3. Breeds like the Cane Corso or Rottweiler require strong leadership skills that you will acquire with sufficient experience. To display your role as the leader, always be the source of the most important resource which is food.
Feeding your dog at certain times and letting him sit in front of the bowl before releasing him will create this dependence. Free feeding your dog will deprive him of this valuable lesson.
4. Be consistent with your training and don’t get carried away by emotions. You will lose your dog’s respect through shouting or punishing and inconsistent rules. Positive obedience training is the safest way to go.
5. Watch your dog’s every move and react in case he is not responding to stimuli like he is supposed to. Supervision is not only about preventing your puppy from peeing inside but it’s also about observing your dog in every type of situation.
If you are only walking with your dog passively and interacting on rare occasions, you will miss a lot of opportunities and early signs of unwanted behavior including reactivity and aggression.
Cane Corsos are naturally wary of strangers and it’s important to not encourage excessive suspiciousness. Early signs can include starring and stalking of strangers or preventing your guests from walking through doors.
How to Discipline a Cane Corso
Discipline is an important part of dog training and crucial for building strong communication. For clarification, correction doesn’t have anything to do with physical punishment or giving your dog a timeout in the corner.
But why does a dog need discipline? Dogs are very intelligent, quick learners. They can be taught many desirable things but their perfect observation skills will uncover loopholes and weaknesses in your training such as inconsistent house rules or letting your dog get away with ignored commands.
A dog that has no discipline, direction or structure in his daily life will develop a lot of problems in the near future. Every dog owner will be faced with at least one common behavior problem in the first few days of bringing their puppy home.
When it comes to training your dog there should be two fundamental parts: reinforcement of positive behavior and correction or redirection of the undesired behavior.
It’s just like telling your children what is right or wrong. If you don’t communicate with them, they will never fully understand why you aren’t agreeing with their actions.
Corrections must be executed correctly to be fully grasped by your dog – and here is how to do it:
- The right timing is the most important rule when it comes to disciplining your Cane Corso. You have a 3-second window to correct or redirect any unwanted behavior because your dog will simply forget about it after.
- A strong and direct “no” is the best and easiest form of correction. Do not apply any physical force as it’s just inappropriate, unethical and your dog won’t understand it.
- You have now shown your dog that you don’t approve his actions but it will also take a positive redirection to complete this process. This will ensure that your dog has not only understood that his behavior was wrong but you have also shown him what he should do instead.
For example: Guests arrive at your home and your dog is constantly jumping up on them. You can choose to repeatedly say your dog “no” which probably won’t resolve the issue but you could also pair it with a powerful redirection and show him that the appropriate way to greet guests is by sitting calmly in front of them.
Another strong method of correction is simply ignoring your dog when he displays bad behavior. This works especially well with puppies and young dogs as they thrive most in your presence. Excessive puppy biting is best combated by leaving the room when it occurs and only returning once your puppy has calmed down.
Now it’s really important that you stick with your methods of training. Consistency will win your dog’s respect and trust and he will see you as a reliable and fair leader.
If you would like to read my full article on discipline click here: 10 Tips On How to Discipline Your Dog. This will provide you with more detailed tips and tricks and will give a deep insight into corrections.