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An Overview of Corso Temperament
by Shauna DeMoss, for Modern Molosser magizine

Teal'c/Javelin puppy at 8 weeksParadox, this is the first word that comes to mind when people ask me about the Corso’s temperament. On one hand my beloved breed is a dominant, guardian who is suspicious of strangers, best suited for an experienced, confident, consistent owner. But then a vision of the sweet, sensitive marsh mellow, who can’t stand to be parted from his mama by even the bathroom door, jumps to mind!  The Corso can be an enigma. One moment he is pushy and demanding and the next he is so sensitive that even a raised voice hurts his feelings sending him into a pout. 

It would seem that these two sets of characteristics would not blend well, but that’s not the truth of it.   The Corso is delightfully intelligent.  With a solid foundation on who’s the boss, He is so devoted to his master and lives to please to such an extent, that he quickly learns and strives to accomplish what is asked.  It’s not unusual for the Corso to look into the eyes of his master as if trying to read the master’s thoughts in order to obey.  OR it could be that there is a piece of meat on the counter he wants and he is trying to get YOU to undertand!   Either way, all those who have experienced the bond with a Corso realize they are not like any other breed.  They steal your heart and one becomes totally addicted.

The Corso is hardwired to be a home body, staunchly devoted to one small group of people.  But in today’s world, not only is this no longer practical, it’s not desirable.  Most dog lovers want their four legged family members to experience life with them.  So for those that choose the Corso, puppy rearing is more extensive, but certainly well worth it.  In the right hands, the Corso can be a good ambassador and thrive in the modern world.

The Corso is not for the first time dog owner nor is he well suited for a family whose members are anxious or unsure.  The Corso needs a family unit that is confident and “take charge”.  This does not mean heavy handed, in fact ,a puppy that is raised well, rarely needs correction as an adult.  Over all and after the foundation is laid, the Corso is an easy keeper, extremely interactive with his people and profoundly faithful and bright; adapting to whatever environment the family chooses.

But In the hands of a person that is erratic and fickle; shy or anxious; or even one that is constantly absent, the dog will become one of two things: overly protective and bossy of the person he perceives as weak or incapable OR shy and fearful himself.   90% of ALL “temperament/behavioral” issues in the Corso are created and fostered by the owner. 

Separation anxiety can be avoided by ingraining in the young Corso that he is fine without his “mom and dad”.  Handing the leash off to trusted friend, family or trainer regularly will only help reinforce the dog’s confidence.  Over bonding is an issue in the breed and the dog has to be literally taught that new environments and new people are a positive thing.

Any dominance or aggression should be nipped in the bud.  The Corso owner must always be on alert to any trigger that may arise. Most of the time, a simple correct and then redirection is adequate to defuse the situation.  

A good Corso owner will always be in control, keeping a shape eye and remaining vigilant in order to avoid any situation that may be wrong for the Corso.  Because of their size and the formable appearance, the burden is on the owner to ensure that the dog, and those around him, stays out of harm’s way.

The old adage “you reap what you sow” is profoundly true with the Corso.  Those that are willing and capable to invest the time and energy are richly rewarded with the most wonderful of dogs;  A family companion that becomes so dear to your heart and part of your life that you just could never image not having one lying at your feet….or scratching at the bathroom door!

A note to judges:
Powerful and imposing?  Truly unmistakable characteristics of a Cane Corso stacked and waiting for examination.  But as you approach, realize that this dog is a mixed bag and the way to the show ring is a long one.

Traditional Corso temperament dictates that the dog be devoted to his family and intolerant of outsiders.  His job requires him to guard his people and property with his life; accepting food or attention from no one but his own.  His exterior persona is formidable and intense. But inside the home, when alone with his family, the Corso is something quite different; Tender and loving, loyal and sweet; intelligent and sensitive.  This combination makes him a wonderful family companion but a poor social butterfly. 

The Modern lifestyle of social outings and the show ring is a challenge to a breed that is relatively “fresh off the farm”.  A Corso that is going to perform in these settings must literally be desensitized to his natural tendencies; heavy socialization and extensive training are required.  The Corso’s drive to please his master is very powerful and in combined with his intelligence the result can be a stable, obedient dog in a social setting.

A judge should not ever expect a mature Corso to be a “wag and greet” kind of dog.  An obedient, stoic participant is more than acceptable from this Guardian breed.  However, stoic should not be confused with “asleep at the wheel”.  A Corso should be alert and watchful at all times.  His expression should be distinctly intelligent. 

The Corso bonds very strongly with his people. He actually suffers when he is parted from those he loves.  Over bonding often occurs in the breed and the dog can become totally dependent on one person or family group.  He will routinely take cues from this person and any anxiety that person may have is readily transferred down the leash.  A judge wishing to put dog or handler at ease should greet the handler first.  It is also beneficial to ask the handler to show the bite when the time comes. 

A judge should avoid imposing stares into the dog’s eyes and extensive, heavy handed exams.  The idea is to see the dog at his full potential and the least amount of intrusion by a stranger accomplishes this best.  Because the Corso is very sensitive to his surroundings, anyone who is apprehensive about the breed should not judge them.

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