This dog has a very dynamic and complex environment he has to work and live in. He lives onsite at a very busy working horse farm. His drives couldn’t be so high it would be a threat or safety issue to animals or people, yet he had to be balanced enough to be at least neutral with the constant flux of people on site. I’ll be honest, a Cane Corso would not have been my first choice for this situation when it was first described to me. On paper it would be a constant battle of obedience trying to keep instincts and genetics in check. After I went and assessed the situation in person, this particular dog was the right dog for this particular job and environment. In order to have SUCCESS for any dog, whether a pet or a working dog, there is no substitute for having the RIGHT DOG FOR THE RIGHT JOB! That means understanding the personality and genetics of that dog and then creating the proper training plans to reach those goals.
The goals were: they could exercise and walk the dog off-leash around horses and other animals; have him neutral to the constant flux of strangers and workers; have him be a defensive family protection dog when needed. These goals were assessed in relation to the dogs genetics and it was decided they all could be accomplished.
The first goal was accomplished through a full obedience training plan. We worked with the owners so they had the skill to give the dog the proper direction in any and all situations where there would be a decision on the dog’s part. This is very important with any genetically strong, guardian breed mastiff. Genetically many of these dogs have been selectively bred to make their own decisions and usually very quickly in an offensive manner. In certain environments this may be a preferable thing, but generally speaking this is not an acceptable trait in most civilized cultures. There are not many instances where a true “Junkyard Dog” has a place anymore. If one lets these kinds of dogs do what they do naturally, they WILL make their own decision at some point. Most of the time in “dog terms”, it was a perfectly acceptable decision and you can not blame the dog. The problem is, it’s not an acceptable decision in our society. These guardian dogs can have a place if they are trained and have control. Any dog, especially a working dog should be your backup, they should never be your “point man”.
As you can see in the video, there is a progression in the dog’s reaction to moving/running horses. These are the final stages after a lot of other training. There can be a very realistic expectation of being able to call the dog off should he react to a horse, but you cannot discount genetics. If the dog is out unsupervised, there is an acknowledgeable percentage that the dog may make the wrong decision and chase horses. We can manage genetics very well through obedience and a structured relationship, but you can not change genetics. I have talked about this many times.
The second goal to have him neutral to strangers and workers is definitely a combination of looking at the dog’s genetics and creating a structured relationship with the owners. A lot of guardian breeds are selectively bred to be weary of strangers. This is what makes them good guard dogs, but what most people do not realize is that this doesn’t make for a very social dog. The degree of this sociability once again is genetic paired with training/development. Many would call this Nature vs Nurture. There is always a huge debate about which is in play with dogs. The two should not be looked at as separate entities that have defined parameters. The two are so intertwined, that one can’t be talked about or assessed without dealing with the other. They live in the same space and one has a direct impact on the other. I have written other articles on this subject which I invite you to look at (Nature vs Nurture). It came down to creating a system and relationship with the dog that he could trust in. The owners had to be in a position where the dog trusted their judgement and learned to look to them before he made a decision, especially when it came to aggression.
The third goal was reached much like the first two. We created a structure that was very clear to the dog. We had to teach the dog when and where it was appropriate to be protective. We did not want the dog to think it was his job to do this 24/7. We taught him very clear cues that came from the owner when this was appropriate. The other thing we did was to clearly define what his property was and wasn’t. In this case the entire grounds of the farm were not his to patrol and protect. This allows the dog to embrace his genetics without having it get out of control. He was taught a perimeter that was “his” which included the actual private residence. When he leaves this area, he defaults to being the back-up for the owner. The roles are very defined. Even when he’s in “his” area, the control and obedience will supercede the genetics should the owners need to do so.
At the end of the day, if the proper dog is matched with the proper job, and then the right training plan is executed, both dog and owners can enjoy a great life.