A Cane Corso (Italian Mastiff) was bred to guard the property and hunt. Taken into a family home, she is bound to be a challenge as Brooke’s original owners probably found out. She had been in the care of a rescue organisation for fourteen months before coming to her new home. She is now three years old.
It’s not surprising that, due to a mixed past and her genetic inheritance that she is suspicious of strangers and dogs. Suspicious implies fearful and protective.
Brooke’s new owners knew what they were taking on four or so months ago. They have already made terrific progress. They know that there is still a long way to go, particularly where Brooke’s encountering people, dogs, traffic, bikes and so on is concerned. They can’t predict what her response will be.
After one unfortunate incident when someone came to the house, they are also very careful to train their visitors!
I am making Brooke sound like a difficult and touchy dog, but for the most part this isn’t the case. She is highly intelligent, loving and gentle with the people she knows. I found her friendly and biddable.
A dog like this makes a nonsense of ‘dominance’ techniques (confronting a dog, facing or pinning it down to ‘show who is boss’). That would be the fast track to a nasty bite and a dangerous dog. Fortunately Brooke’s owners would not consder doing these things, but in some respects they are not clear what they should be doing.
Effective leadership has nothing to do with dominating, though it does mean making decisions and standing firm; encouraging a dog to be respectful where our own personal space is concerned – especially a dog of such strength and power.
Leadership is about consistency, calmness and confidence. Most dogs are predisposed to wanting to please their humans, so we tap into this. We cut down on confrontational commands and enlist her cooperation with encouragement and reward. Whilst demonstrating to Brooke that her warnings of danger are valued, actually dealing with the danger is not her job – it is that of the leaders. Brooke should be ‘off duty’ and trusting her humans to see to things – especially when out on walks where, on lead, effectively she is trapped. She is trapped, attached to someone who is nervous and worried, who may not react as a leader should in the eyes of a dog when encountering things she perceives as a threat. It is no wonder an already protective breed can go into full guarding mode.
Leaders are not nervous or worried. Leaders are decisive. It’s a sign of strength and not weakness to walk away from possible trouble.