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Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Cane Corso
Average Cost to keep/care for a Cane Corso
Breed Specific Buying Advice
The Cane Corso is an impressive looking mastiff-type dog that's native to Italy where they were originally bred to guard, herd and hunt, although they were also highly prized as companion dogs too. They are still a very popular choice in their native Italy thanks to their impressive looks and kind, loyal natures, but less popular here in the UK simply because the breed is less known in this part of the world. The breed is not recognised by The Kennel Club (October 2017), but these impressive dogs are recognised by the American Kennel Club. Anyone wanting to share a home with a Cane Corso would have to agree to go on a waiting list because very few puppies are available every year.
The Cane Corso is a descendant of ancient breeds native to Italy both of which were mastiff-type breeds that in turn were descendants of the canis Pugnaces which was a dog that was around in ancient Roman times. In fact, the Neapolitan Mastiff as well as the Cane Corso are descendants of the canis Pugnaces, a war dog that boasted a renowned reputation for being strong, courageous and loyal. The Cane Corso is a lighter type of mastiff and a very adept hunter and working dog whereas the Neapolitan was that much heavier and stockier.
There are records of the Cane Corso that go back to as early as 1137 AD and their name describes a lighter type of Molossian dog and one that was robust and sturdy. With this said, the breed has been known by other names which includes Dogo di Puglia and they were so highly prized that they were often used to describe men who were "proud with strong attitudes". In ancient Roman times. the Cane Corso accompanied legions in battle and on their forays into foreign lands which included Britain.
It was in Britain that the Romans found native dogs known as pugnaces Britanniae which they took back to Italy with them and which they crossed with their own native dogs which are thought to be responsible for the undershot jaw of the Cane Corso.
The Cane Corso faced extinction by the 1970's with dogs only being found in the remotest areas of the land which included the most southern regions of Italy where locals still used and trained their dogs to hunt and work as farm dogs. The breed was saved by Sig Bonnetti who was an enthusiast of Molosser type dogs and who was keen to save an ancient "Pugliese" breed. Together with a student by the name of Stefano Gandolfi, he set up a centre in Mantova to save the breed from vanishing altogether. They used a black dog called Dauno which was crossed with a female called Tipsi and they produced the first important litter for the recovery of the breed in modern times. By 1983, a breed club was established called the Society Amatori Cane Corso and the breed was officially recognised by the ENCI. Two years later, in 1996, the Cane Corso was given FCI recognition.
Breed numbers started to rise although some people believe the dogs we see today are not like the dogs of yesterday being that much heavier and larger today than they were in the past.The Cane Corso was finally recognised as a breed in its own right by the UKC in 2008, but as of June 2016, they have not been recognised by The Kennel Club here in the UK. These large and impressive dogs are a very popular choice in America and have gained a big fan base in the UK thanks to their handsome looks and loyal, intelligent natures.
Height at the withers: Males 62 - 70 cm, Females 58 - 66 cm
Average Weight: Males 40 - 45 kg, Females 40 - 45 kg
The Cane Corso is a large dog and one that boasts a great deal of muscle tone which adds to their very powerful and athletic appearance. They are quite imposing, but at the same time they are well proportioned even though they have large heads typical of Mastiff-type breeds. Their skulls are broad but get flatter just behind a dog's forehead and towards the back of their heads making them brachycephalic. There is quite a deep furrow at the front of a dog's head and their stop is well defined.
When seen from the front, a dog's skull is slightly curved and wide whereas when seen from the side it appears to be an irregular curve. Muzzles are short and deep, yet very powerful looking being just as wide as they are long with dog's having a level bridge to their noses. Their upper lips hang down so they cover the lower jaw. The Cane Corso has a strong, slightly undershot, powerful jaw. Their noses are black and large with dogs having open nostrils.
Eyes are oval, medium in size and set so dogs look directly forward. These dogs always have a keen, alert and intelligent look about their eyes. Their ears are medium in size, triangular-shaped and droop down being set wide apart on a dog's head. Necks are very muscular and strong being the same length as a dog's head. Shoulders are well-muscled and long being set obliquely with dogs boasting powerful, straight front legs.
A Cane Corso's body is longer than these dogs are tall, but they are compact and sturdy with dogs having well developed chests that reach to their elbows. Withers are nicely pronounced and are higher than the croup. Their backs are firm and very well-muscled with dogs having short, powerful loins and their croups is wide, long and sloping. Their back legs are powerful with dogs having strong and well developed lower thighs. They have cat-like feet with their back feet being less compact than their front ones. Tails are set quite high and are thicker at the root which dogs carry high.
When it comes to their coat, the Cane Corso has a short, very dense and glossy coat with a slight undercoat. They come in a variety of colours which includes the following:
Dogs with fawn and tubby coats have grey or black masks which should never go further up than a dog's eye line. Dogs can have a small patch of white on their chests, throats, chin and on the tips of their feet as well as on the rise of their noses.
Dogs often have a little white spot on their chests and white on their toes as well as on the bridge of their noses.
When a Cane Corso moves, they do so with an easy, flowing gait that gives the appearance of a steady amble. They take long steps which stretch out when a dog is trotting and at the gallop.
Any exaggerations in a dog's skull or muzzle would be deemed faults and the severity of the fault would be judged on how much it affects a dog's overall health and wellbeing as well as their ability to perform. This includes Cane Corsos with exaggerated overshot mouths and pronounced undershot jaws. Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums.
The Cane Corso is known to be reliable, trustworthy and loyal and they form strong bonds with their families becoming totally devoted to them. They boast having a strong protective instinct, although they are gentle and affectionate by nature too. They tend to be a little aloof and wary when they are around people they do not know, but would rarely show any sort of aggression towards a stranger, preferring to keep their distance and just let their owners know they are around. Once they get to know someone, they are generally fine around them. It is worth noting that a Cane Corso matures slowly and never really reach full maturity until they are around 4 years old.
They are not known to have a high prey drive, preferring to stay within the boundaries of their own homes and around their owners. One thing that is worth bearing in mind, is that the Cane Corso has quite a high pain threshold which means that even when they are injured or in any sort of pain, it can be quite hard for owners to spot there is a problem.
They are not the best choice for first time owners, because they are the sort of dog that needs to be trained and handled by someone who is familiar with the needs of the breed or similar type of intelligent, large dog. Without the right sort of socialisation and training, the Cane Corso can become an unruly dog that's hard to manage and live with. These dogs are never happier than when they know who is the boss in a household and will happily accept their place in the "pack" as long as they have been well handled from the word go.
The Cane Corso tends to form a strong bond with one person in a household although they are always devoted to everyone in the home. They are a good choice for people who lead active, outdoor lives and who live in a country environment and who boast large, secure back gardens. They are a good choice for people where one person is usually around when everyone else is out of the house because these large dogs thrive on human company and do not do well if left on their own for longer periods of time.
If they are left to their own devices for any length of time, they quickly get bored and this can lead to dogs developing all sorts of unwanted behavioural issues which includes being destructive around the home. They are not a good choice for people who lead more sedentary lives and who live in apartments.
Although lovely dogs to have in a home environment, it's worth noting that because they are brachycephalic, the Cane Corso does have a tendency to snore quite loudly and they do drool quite a bit. They are also known to pass wind a lot, which when paired to the fact they shed considerably during the Spring and then again in the Autumn, means they are not the best choice for people who are very house proud.
Another thing to bear in mind is that a Cane Corso must be taught that being left on their own is not a problem and the best way of doing this is to start leaving them to their own devices for short periods of time. If a dog stresses out and becomes destructive around the home, they are not ready to be left which means starting all over again and leaving them for a few minutes before returning all the while remaining very calm and to gradually build up the time over a few days. It must be said that some Cane Corsos never accept being on their own which is why they are better suited to people who work from home or in households where one person stays at home when everyone else is out.
The Cane Corso is not a good choice for first time dog owners because they need to be handled and trained by people familiar with the specific needs of such a large and intelligent dog. Because they can show a more dominant side to their natures if not well trained and socialised, a Corso might get the better of anyone who is not used to this type of mastiff breed.
The Cane Corso was trained to hunt and to guard, but they are not known to have high prey drives and providing they have been well socialised from a young enough age, they usually tolerate being around other animals. With this said, care should always be taken when walking a dog off the lead through the countryside and other areas where they might meet wildlife and livestock just to be on the safe side.
The Cane Corso is a serious dog although when they are puppies, like all puppies they are boisterous and playful. They thrive in a home environment and love nothing more than to be involved in everything that goes on around them which includes playing interactive games with their families and the kids.
The Cane Corso needs enough space to express themselves and being such large dogs, they benefit from being able to run free in a secure back garden as often as possible. As such, they are not adaptable and would not be happy living in an apartment setting.
As previously mentioned, a Cane Corso forms strong ties with an owner and dogs are never very happy when they find themselves left on their own for even shorter periods of time which is why they are better suited to households where one person stays at home when everyone else is out. A Cane Corso would show signs of suffering from separation anxiety which can lead to them being destructive around the home which is a dog's way of relieving any stress they are feeling and a way to keep themselves entertained and being such large and powerful dogs, the damage they can do is often quite dramatic, not to mention the risk there is of them injuring themselves in the process too.
The Cane Corso is not known to be a "barker" although any dog that's unhappy or left on their own for any length of time might start barking incessantly as a way of getting attention. With this said, a dog would quickly let an owner know when something they don’t like is going on in their environment, but would not generally bark for no reason.
Some Cane Corsos like swimming and will take to the water whenever they can more especially when the weather is hot. However, if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said, care should always be taken when walking a Cane Corso off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing, bearing in mind that they are a brachycephalic breed and dogs with shorter muzzles often have trouble breathing.
The Cane Corso is a natural watchdog which is a trait that is deeply embedded in a dog's psyche. This together with their need to "protect" makes them formidable and impressive watchdogs that would put any wrongdoer from coming onto a property they live on.
The Cane Corso is very intelligent and they like nothing better than to please their owners, as such, in the right hands and with the correct amount of socialisation they are easy to train and easy to handle. However, these large, smart dogs need to know their place in the "pack" and who to look to for direction and guidance to be truly well-rounded, obedient dogs without this, a dog would quickly take on a more dominant role making them a lot harder to live with.
It cannot be stressed enough the importance of early socialisation with these dogs and their training has to start early and be consistent throughout their lives to prevent them from showing a more dominant side to their natures. This could lead to a Cane Corso becoming unruly and therefore unmanageable to the point of being quite dangerous. However, in the right hands and with the correct amount of training and exercise, the Cane Corso grows up to be an obedient mature dog that's a pleasure to have around.
Puppies must be taught the limits, boundaries and ground rules right from the word go so they understand what an owner expects of them. A Corso puppy may be cute, but they are also intelligent, quick-witted and strong which means without the right sort of handling and direction, they could quickly become unruly and wilful. The first commands a puppy must be taught are as follows:
When Corsos are well socialised from a young age and puppies grow up with children in a household, they are known to get on well together and this includes where there are other animals in the home too. However, because of their sheer size any interaction between very young children and dogs is best supervised to make sure playtime never gets too boisterous which could lead to a child being frightened or in a worst-case scenario injured in any way. Corsos are known to be a little over protective at times as such extra care should be taken when children have any friends over to play.
When it comes to other dogs, well socialised Corsos are generally good around them, but care should be taken when they meet any new dogs to be on the safe side because they are known to be confrontational and will not back down if they feel threatened by another dog in any way. Cane Corsos are not high prey drive dogs and as such they generally tolerate other animals. However, if a cat or other animal decides to run away from them, a Cane Corso would think nothing of chasing them and if they do catch them, the results could be disastrous for the fleeing animal.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Cane Corso is between 10 and 11 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the Cane Corso is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these large and impressive dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
Because the Cane Corso has such a short nose being a brachycephalic breed, they are sensitive to heat so care must be taken during hotter weather. They are also known to have a sensitivity to any sort of anaesthetic and sedatives.
Demodectic mange is a skin problem that is seen in the breed and it is caused by demodex mites that lives on a dog's hair follicles. All dogs have these mites, but the problem flares up when their numbers are too high which causes skin irritation. The condition is an inflammatory disorder which if left untreated can result in skin lesions as well as immune system issues and loss of hair. A vet would carry out a urine test to establish the cause and whether it is a metabolic system issue.
Cane Corsos that are to be used for breeding purposes should have their hip scored and be elbow tested which can be carried out by several companies in the UK which includes the British Veterinary Association amongst others.
Cane Corso puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old before they undergo the surgery involved.
Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said, many breeds are different and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered because there could be medical reasons for doing so early or later in a dog’s life.
Some Cane Corsos gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older Corsos too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart which then has to work that much harder to pump blood around a dog's system.
The Cane Corso is prone to suffering from allergies and it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up, bearing in mind the breed is known to suffer from demotectic mange Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:
All responsible Cane Corso breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following schemes:
The Cane Corso is not a recognised Kennel Club breed as such, there are no breed specific breeding restrictions in place for them. With this said, all responsible breeders would ensure that bitches do not produce a litter when too young and that they should not produce too many litters during their lifetimes by following the breeding recommendations set out by the Kennel Club.
There are no Kennel Club Assured Breeder requirements in place because the Cane Corso is not a recognised Kennel Club breed (September 2017).
It is illegal to dock or crop a Cane Corso's tail and ears in the UK which is a law that came into effect in England on the 6th April 2007, in Wales on 28th March 2007 although certain breeds are exempted for working dogs and others may have their tails docked for medical reasons. In Scotland, there is a total ban which came into effect on 30th April 2007.
As with any other breed, the Cane Corso needs to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition, bearing in mind the breed is known to suffer from certain skin issues. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Cane Corso puppies are boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to pick a puppy up when people in the home are going to be around for the first week or so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in without being put under too much stress. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a Corso puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including Corso puppies. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out.
As previously mentioned, Cane Corso puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be
Older Corsos need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically, a Corso's muzzle might start to go grey, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Older dogs change mentally too which means their response time tends to be slower as such they develop the following:
Living with a Cane Corso in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include rethinking their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older Corsos need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older Cane Corsos is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:
Older Corsos don't need to be given the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
The Cane Corso boasts having a short, dense and glossy coat which makes them low maintenance on the grooming front. However, they do need to be regularly brushed to keep on top of things and to remove any dead and shed hair from their coats. Like other breeds, they tend to shed the most hair during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent brushing is usually necessary. With this said, at other times of the year a weekly brush and a twice weekly wipe over with a chamois leather will keep their coats glossy and tidy. Because the breed is known to suffer from skin issues, it's essential to keep an eye out for any flares and have them treated sooner rather than later and before it turns into a real problem that's hard to clear up.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax builds up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
The Cane Corso is an athletic dog and they like to be given a regular amount of daily exercise combined with enough mental stimulation to satisfy their active minds. They enjoy many activities and this includes going out with their owners on walks, accompanying them on cycle rides and they enjoy being with people when they are out on bikes and even on horse rides. A good 60 to 80 minutes a day would be enough to keep a Cane Corso happy, fit and healthy.
With this said, a shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these large, athletic dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, Cane Corso puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a dog a few problems later on in their lives. They should not be allowed to jump up or off furniture nor should they be allowed to run up and down the stairs for this reason until they are around 18 months old.
If you get a Cane Corso puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Because Cane Corsos are prone to suffer from bloat, it is really important that they be fed twice a day instead of giving them just one larger meal a day. It's also a good idea to invest in a stand to place their feed bowl which makes it easier for these large dogs to eat comfortably without having to stretch their necks down low to reach their food. Dogs should never be exercised just before or just after they have eaten either because this puts them more a risk of suffering from bloat.
Puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious, good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide, a Cane Corso puppy can be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
Once a puppy is 18 months old they can be fed adult dog food.
Once fully mature, an adult Cane Corso must be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult Corso can be fed the following amounts every day:
If you are looking to buy a Cane Corso, you may have to agree to go on a waiting list because not many puppies are available every year. You would typically have to pay anything from £600 to over £1200 for a well-bred puppy. Many companies that offer pet insurance are reluctant to offer any sort of cover on a Cane Corso which means it can be quite a challenge to have any sort of insurance in place for the breed.
However, some companies will offer cover for these large mastiff-type dogs and the cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Cane Corse in northern England would be £50.31 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £96.43 a month (quote as of October 2017). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether they have been neutered or spayed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £40 - £50 a month. On top of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Cane Corso and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £1000 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Cane Corso would be between £90 to £150 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a well-bred, healthy and well socialised puppy.