Posted by deborah
Oct 10, 2007
I could really use some help. I have acquired a cane corso about 1 1/2 years old male. He came into work and was cut with razor wire down both front forearms from shoulder to paw, the vet did not think he would make it. I took care of him and he has made a full recovery. If anybody raised their voice or lifted their hands, he rolled on his back and urinated. I'm sure he was abused.
He has gotten much better, however now he will charged at people. He comes to work with me and I have a see thru gate, but with certain people he will go to bite them. He does this specifically with 2 people. They have never hit him or done anything to him, they even give him treats. At times he will lay on his bed and just growl as people walk by the gate. I am a afraid he will really hurt somebody. He is fine with me and my kids and with half of the people at work. He listens when I tell him to go lay down in his bed, and sits so I walk out the door first. I'm trying to be the alpha dog. I want him to be good at work and not charge anybody anywhere. Please can anybody help. He is a good,sweet dog . I just want everybody to see that side of him.
Posted by MartyEd
Dec 18, 2007
Hi there,

Thank you for your post regarding your dog who has been showing signs of aggression and particularly charging behaviors! It sounds as though these behaviors have come about as a result of the history your dog has gone through. In order to overcome these problems you need to show you dog that you are boss, and it sounds like you realise this. From the detail you have given in your email, it sounds as though your dog definitely has a fear aggression problem, with perhaps a touch of dominance aggression also. As a general rule, forceful correction techniques have a very negative effect with fear based aggression or with a dog with a nervous temperament. I think you definitely need to consider using a muzzle if you are concerned that your dog may become overly aggressive towards other people or dogs, as it will also take away any risk of the situation getting out of hand. Allow your dog to get used to the feel of the muzzle before you embark on any encounters with unfamiliar dogs or people. I often find that they initially hate the feel of the muzzle, but if you give them a distraction, such as going for a run or allowing them to play with a familiar friend, they will get used to it quickly. In order to calm her down and get her used to having a muzzle, you should consider consulting your Veterinarian for behavioral medication that may help settle your dog and calm her down for training and muzzling. There are plenty of products available that calm your dog down somewhat, without having any other effects. Ask about products such as DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) and Clomicalm. These are both great for behavioral problems such as your dog’s. Another alternative is to use Rescue Remedy, which you should be able to find in a pet store. It is a very safe, very gentle and natural sedative, which can have a good anti-anxiety effect. You simply apply a few sprays in the mouth or on the nose. I use it sometimes with stressed out puppies in the weaning process, and I use it sometimes to help calm my horse down at shows!

As for training, I recommend you take your dog to plenty of public places and socialize her with other dogs as much as possible. Remember it is not unusual for dogs to be territorial and show aggression towards other dogs. Don't be afraid to growl at your dog, eventually it will learn no real harm will occur. Arrange for people to come around to help with human socialization. Remember dogs are never too old to train, it just takes longer with an older dog. When you do take your dog to a dog park, walk it around on the leash first and have your dog meet everyone there with the safety of the muzzle. If you are confident that there will be no trouble, then let your dog off the leash. This way you are avoiding anything that could go wrong before it happens, rather then just leaving your dog to do its thing and then regretting it.

With fear aggression you have to be careful that you do not over-assert yourself and your family as the "alpha dog ", as it may only exaggerate your dogs lack of confidence. Your dog should know that it is bottom of the pack, but if you can make your dog feel a little more like a member of the family than what you already do, it will help build confidence.
It is important that you communicate to your dog that it is at the bottom of the pack, but at the same time your dog requires a confidence booster. I suggest you not have your dog on the furniture, on your lap, or on your bed. Your dog needs to know that it is not in charge. However, if your dog does seem to be acting submissively, I suggest you just ignore it. For example if you growl at your dog and it acts afraid or submissive (e.g. rolling on its back, licking you, looking away, or growling) then just ignore it until it has calmed down. Do not look your dog in the eye, but between its feet (this is part of predator-prey psychology), get down closer to your dogs level and talk gently until it seems confident.

Please otherwise undertake the following techniques to reinforce your status as Alpha Dog.

If you come across your dog while he is sleeping or lying on the floor then you can reinforce your position as alpha dog by making him move so that you can pass by.

Generally I do not recommend people give their dogs bones as this encourages the aggression, because in the wild the alpha dog would be the only one to have the privilege of chewing the bones. The reason your dog growls at you when you approach it with a bone is because it believes that it has the right to the bone and is trying to discipline you for challenging your dog for its dominant role.

Make sure that you always go through doorways first. A good method to reinforce your position as alpha dog is to walk your dog around the house on the leash, making your dog wait while you walk through doorways first. At mealtimes make sure that your dog or dogs eat after all of the humans have.

Do not feed your dog tidbits or let it pester you at the table. Save the morsels and tidbits for training sessions instead.

Do not greet your dog straightaway when you arrive home. Make it wait until you are ready and then call it to you.

When your dog wants to go outside for a walk, make it sit and wait until you are ready to go.

When you give a command make sure that you are in a position to enforce the action that you require from your dog, especially in the initial stages of Alpha Dog training. Also, use the Alarm-No-Command technique as described in the Alpha Dog bonus book to reprimand your dog if it does not obey your command.

It is vitally important that your dog has good all-round obedience skills. Regular training sessions are key to improving your dog's obedience responses and keeping it used to answering your commands. Concentrate on the sit and stay, down and stay, heel and wait commands.

Do not inadvertently reinforce poor behavior from your dog. You must be consistent in your attitude to your dog. For example, if your dog is allowed to jump on you when you are playing with it but is not allowed to jump up at any other time then how is it meant to know the difference?

By carefully and tactfully undertaking the above techniques and ensuring that you ignore your dog if he becomes submissive, you should eventually be able to notice a significant difference in her general behavior within 2 – 3 months. It would be a good idea to get help via a calming Veterinary medication as mentioned previously, however this is totally up to you and your Vet.

If your dog acts up while you are on a walk try turning around and going home again, deprive your dog of what it wants. It would be best to practice this if you can with a friend and their dog, not too far from home. This is another way of communicating who is in the control of the situation. I would also recommend that you keep your dog well away from any other dogs while you are walking it, so as to avoid as many potentially bad situations as possible. If this type of aggression is deeply imbedded then it may simply be your dog’s nature and no amount of exposure will help, because he is well socialized already. Last but not least, do not be afraid to tactfully reprimand your dog. Try squirting your dog with a water pistol full of chilled water when it misbehaves. The colder the better! You will be safer to practice this when your dog has the muzzle on.

Best of luck with your dog. Invest plenty of time and effort in his training and be sure to undertake this training carefully and tactfully. Use a muzzle as it sounds as though it is much better to safe than sorry with these sorts of dogs. Consult your local Veterinarian again to inquire about behavioral medication that will help calm your dog – eg Clomicalm that may help with the behavioral process.

Kind Regards, and please let us know how you get on.

Mark Edwards
SitStayFetch Team