AKC Standard Cane Corso
Ancient Italian breed medium-large size Molossus Dog. Sturdy, with a strong skeleton. Muscular and athletic, it moves with considerable ease and elegance. It has always been a property watchdog and hunter of difficult game such as the wild boar.
Size, Proportion, Substance
A muscular, balanced, large-boned dog, rectangular in proportion. The length of the dog, measured from the point of the shoulder to the point of buttock is approximately 10% greater than the height of the dog measured from the highest point of the shoulder to the ground.
Height: Dogs: 25 to 27.5 inches; bitches: 23.5 to 26 inches.
Weight: Proportionate to height.
Molossus, large, its total length reaches approximately one third of the height at the withers. Planes of the skull and muzzle are slightly convergent; they are not parallel. The circumference of the head measured at the cheekbones is more than twice the total length of the head; skin is firm and smooth. Skull: Viewed from the front, skull is wide and slightly curved; width is equal to the length. From the side, a prominent arch begins above the eyes and then flattens backward toward the occiput. Viewed from the top, it has a square appearance due to the zygomatic arches and powerful muscles swathing it. Stop: Well-defined due to developed and bulging frontal sinuses and prominent arch above the eyes.
Expression: Very alert and attentive. Some wrinkling on forehead occurs when alert. Eyes: Medium-size, almond-shaped, not round or bulging, tight fitting rims preferred with only a minimal amount of haw being visible.
Eye Color: Dogs with black muzzles (coat colors of black, fawn or red, and these colors brindled) dark brown eyes are preferred. Gray muzzles (coat colors of gray, fawn or red and these colors brindled), lighter shades are approved. Pigmentation of the eye rims is complete, pigmentation of eye rim matches pigment color of dog.
Disqualification: Yellow bird of prey; blue eyes.
Ears: Set well above the cheekbones. May be cropped or uncropped. If cropped, it is in an equilateral triangle. If uncropped, they are medium size, triangular in shape, held tight to the cheeks, and not extending beyond the jaw bone.
Nose: Large with well-opened nostrils, pigment color to match pigment color of the dog. Dogs with black pigment have black noses; gray pigmented dogs have gray noses; pigmentation is complete. The nose is an extension of the topline of the muzzle and does not protrude beyond nor recede behind the front plane of the muzzle.
Muzzle: Very broad and deep, width is almost equal to its length, which reaches approximately one third of the total length of the head; the depth of muzzle is more then 50% of the length of the muzzle.
The top and bottom muzzle plains are parallel, and the nose and chin form a perpendicular line. Viewed from the front, the anterior face should look flat and form a trapezoid, wider at the bottom. Muzzle is not overly narrow or snipey.
Lips: Rather firm. Upper lips moderately hanging, they join under the nostrils to form an inverted “U.” Pigmentation matches color pigment of dog. Dogs with black pigment have black lips; gray pigmented dogs have gray lips.
Bite: Slightly undershot (no more than 1⁄4 inch) and level preferred. Scissor bite is acceptable, if parameters of the head and muzzle are correct. Dentition is complete. Incisors are in a straight line. No more than two missing teeth.
Disqualification: More than two missing teeth; wry mouth. Undershot more than 1/4 inch.
Neck, Topline, Body
Neck: Slightly arched, flowing smoothly into the shoulders with a small amount of dewlap. The length of the neck is approximately one third the height at the withers. Body: Depth of the ribcage is equal to half the total height of the dog, descending slightly below the elbow. Ribs are long and well sprung. Moderate tuck up.
Chest: Broad, well-muscled, strong forefront.
Back: Wide, strong, muscular. Highest part of shoulder blade slightly rising above the strong, level back.
Loin: Well-muscled, and harmoniously joined to the back.
Croup: Long, wide, slightly sloping. Rump should be quite round due to muscling.
Tail: Tail set is an extension of the backline. It is thick at the root with not much tapering at the tip. When not in action, carried low, otherwise horizontal or slightly higher than back, not to be carried in a vertical position. It is docked at the fourth vertebrae. In the case of natural tails, the tip reaches the hock but not below. Carried low, it is neither broken nor kinked but supple. Hanging when the dog is in repose; generally carried level with the back or slightly above the level of the back when the dog is in action, without curving over the back or being curled.
Disqualification: A natural tail that is atrophied or a natural tail that is knotted and laterally deviated or twisted.
Strong and muscular, well-proportioned to the size of the dog. Straight when viewed from the front or side; height of the limb at the elbow is equal to 50% of the height at the withers.
Shoulders: Muscular, laid back.
Upper arms: Strongly muscled, with good bone, powerful.
Elbows: Held parallel to the ribcage, turning neither in nor out.
Forelegs: Straight and with good bone, well muscled.
Pasterns: Almost straight, strong but flexible.
Feet: Round with well-arched toes (catlike). Lean, hard, dark pads and nails, except in the case of white toes. Front dewclaws: Can remain or be removed, if left intact should only be a single dewclaw on each leg.
As a whole, they are powerful and strong, in harmony with the forequarters. Straight when viewed from the rear or front.
Thighs: Long, wide, angulated and well-muscled.
Stifle: Should be moderately angulated, strong.
Legs: Strong bone and muscle structure.
Hocks: Wide set, thick and clean, let down and parallel when viewed from behind. Rear pastern: straight and parallel.
Rear dewclaws: Any rear dewclaws are removed.
Hind feet: Slightly more oval-shaped and less-arched toes.
The coat is short, stiff, shiny, adherent and dense with a light undercoat that becomes thicker in cold weather.
Acceptable colors are black, lighter and darker shades of gray, lighter and darker shades of fawn, and red. Brindling is allowed on all of these colors. Solid fawn and red, including lighter and darker shades, have a black or gray mask. The mask does not go beyond the eyes. There may be a white patch on the chest, throat, chin, backs of the pasterns, and on the toes.
Disqualification: Any color with tan pattern markings as seen in black-and-tan breeds.
The movement is free flowing and powerful, yet effortless, with strong reach and drive. As the dog accelerates, the feet converge toward a center line of gravity in a near-single track. When viewed from the side, the topline remains level, with minimal roll or bounce.
The Cane Corso as a protector of his property and owners is unequaled. Intelligent, he is easily trained. Noble, majestic and powerful, his presence is impressive. He is docile and affectionate to his owner, loving with children and family.
The overall conformation of the dog should be well-balanced and proportionate. The foregoing description is that of the ideal Cane Corso; any deviation from the above described dog is penalized to the extent of the deviation.
Yellow bird of prey; blue eyes.
More than two missing teeth; wry mouth.
Undershot more than 1⁄4 inch.
Any color with tan pattern markings as seen in black-and-tan breeds.
A natural tail that is atrophied or a natural tail that is knotted and laterally deviated or twisted.
About the Breed
The Cane Corso is large, well muscled and more athletic than most other mastiffs. The overall impression should be of power, balanced with athleticism.
Cane Corso are easy to obedience train, have a willingness to please, and form a close attachment with their primary owner. They are also excellent family dogs and especially tolerant of children in the immediate family. As puppies, a Corso must have strong leadership and training, and although they easily learn the basic commands, any owner understands that the difficult part is controlling and molding the Corso’s strong protective instinct. Powerful and imposing, a Cane Corso is highly suspicious of strangers, and for this reason aggression should never be encouraged. Because of their need to keep the status quo, a Corso often dislikes new things, animals, and people, so the owner must be careful when introducing the dog to new places and people. Cane Corso tend to be a quiet breed, though they will bark at anything about which they are unsure. For the most part, they like nothing better than staying next to their owner all the time. Extremely loyal.
A true Corso should be indifferent when approached and should only react when a real threat is present. Of course, socialization is the key to controlling the dog’s natural protective instincts, because a Corso will find anything threatening if not properly socialized as a puppy. If socialized properly as a puppy, a Cane Corso can get along with other dogs and people. Corso are historically working dogs that need exercise and are at their best when they have a job to do.
The average life span of a Cane Corso is 10 to 11 years.
The Cane Corso is not the perfect breed for everyone…
As a breed they have a few features that some people find charming, but that some people find mildly unpleasant and some people find downright intolerable.
There are different breeds for different needs. There are over 200 purebred breeds of dogs in the world. Maybe you’d be better off with some other breed. Maybe you’d be better off with a cat. Maybe you’d be better off with goldfish, a parakeet, a hamster, or some house plants.
DON’T GET A CANE CORSO if you are attracted to the breed chiefly by its appearance. A dog is not an accessory!!!! If you would like a dog because you think he looks tough or makes you look tough, this is not a reason to get a Cane Corso. Once they grow out of their “cute” puppy stage, the Cane Corso is a ~100+ lb. dog that requires heavy socialization and training by an experienced “alpha” owner, as they are not a “happy-go lucky” mastiff – they will not “love” everyone they meet. They are indifferent to other people and dogs and VERY protective of their family and home. CC’s are unique, intensely loyal, protective, sensitive, and serious dogs – traits that require thoughtful consideration before adopting a dog.
DON’T GET A CANE CORSO if you don’t intend to educate (train) your dog. Basic obedience and household rules training is NOT optional for the Cane Corso. As an absolute minimum, you must teach him to reliably respond to commands to come, to lie down, to stay, and to walk at your side, on or off leash and regardless of temptations. You must also teach him to respect your household rules: e.g., is he allowed to get on the furniture? Is he allowed to beg at the table? What you allow or forbid is unimportant; but it is critical that you, not the dog, make these choices and that you enforce your rules consistently. You must commit yourself to attending an 8 to 10 week series of weekly lessons at a local obedience club or professional trainer and to doing one or two short (5 to 20 minutes) homework sessions per day. As commands are learned, they must be integrated into your daily life by being used whenever appropriate and enforced consistently.
Young CC puppies are relatively easy to train: they are eager to please, intelligent, and calm-natured, with a relatively good attention span. Once a CC has learned something, he tends to retain it well. Your cute, sweet little Cane Corso puppy will grow up to be a large, powerful dog with a highly self- assertive personality and the determination to finish whatever he starts. If he has grown up respecting you and your rules, then all his physical and mental strength will work for you. But if he has grown up without rules and guidance from you, surely he will make his own rules, and his physical and mental powers will often act in opposition to your needs and desires. For example: he may tow you down the street as if competing in a weight pull trial; he may grab food off the table; he may forbid your guests entry to his home. This training cannot be delegated to someone else, e.g., by sending the dog away to “boarding school,” because the relationship of respect and obedience is personal between the dog and the individual who does the training. This is true of all dogs to a greater or lesser degree, but definitely to a very great degree in CC’s. While you definitely may want the help of an experienced trainer to teach you how to train your dog, you yourself must actually train your Cane Corso. As each lesson is well learned, then the rest of the household (except young children) must also work with the dog, insisting he obey them as well.
Many of the CC’s that are rescued from pounds and shelters show clearly that they have received little or no basic training, neither in obedience nor in household department; yet these same dogs respond well to such training by the rescuer or the adopter. It seems likely that a failure to train the dog is a significant cause of CC abandonment. If you don’t intend to educate your dog, preferably during puppyhood, you would be better off with a breed that is both small and socially submissive, e.g., a Shetland Sheepdog. Such a dog does require training, but a little bit goes further than with a Cane Corso. CC’s can, with adequate training, excel at such working competitions as field trials and hunt tests, obedience, agility, and tracking.
DON’T GET A CANE CORSO if you lack leadership (self-assertive) personality. Dogs do not believe in social equality. They live in a social hierarchy led by a pack-leader (Alpha). The alpha dog is generally benevolent, affectionate, and non-bullying towards his subordinates; but there is never any doubt in his mind or in theirs that the alpha is the boss and makes the rules. Whatever the breed, if you do not assume the leadership, the dog will do so sooner or later, and with more or less unpleasant consequences for the abdicating owner. Like the untrained dog, the pack leader dog makes his own rules and enforces them against other members of the household by means of a dominant physical posture and a hard-eyed stare, followed by a snarl, then a knockdown blow or a bite. Breeds differ in tendencies towards social dominance; and individuals within a breed differ considerably.
CC’s as a breed tend to be of a socially dominant personality. You really cannot afford to let a Cane Corso become your boss. You do not have to have the personality or mannerisms of a Marine boot camp Sergeant, but you do have to have the calm, quiet self-assurance and self assertion of the successful parent (“Because I’m your mother, that’s why.”) or successful grade-school teacher. If you think you might have difficulty asserting yourself calmly and confidently to exercise leadership, then choose a breed known for its socially subordinate disposition, such as a Golden Retriever or a Shetland Sheepdog, and be sure to ask the breeder to select one of the more submissive pups in the litter for you. If the whole idea of “being the boss” frightens or repels you, don’t get a dog at all. Cats don’t expect leadership. A caged bird or hamster, or fish doesn’t need leadership or household rules. Leadership and training are inextricably intertwined: leadership personality enables you to train your dog, and being trained by you reinforces your dog’s perception of you as the alpha.
DON’T GET A CANE CORSO if you want a totally unaggressive and unprotective dog. Most CC’s have an assertive and confident personality. When confronted with a threat, a proper Cane Corso will be somewhat more ready to fight than to flee. Thus he may respond aggressively in situations where many other breeds back down. Most CC’s have some inclination to act aggressively to repel intruders on their territory (i.e.,your home) and to counteract assaults upon their packmates (you and your family). Without training and leadership from you to guide him, the dog cannot judge correctly whom to repel and whom to tolerate. Without training and leadership, sooner or later he may injure an innocent person who will successfully sue you for more than you own. With good training and leadership from you, he can be profoundly valuable as a defender of your home and family. (See also remarks on stability and socialization below.)
If you feel no need of an assertive dog, if you are embarrassed by a barking dog at your door, or if you have the slightest doubts of your ability and willingness to supply the essential socialization, training and leadership, then please choose one of the many breeds noted for thoroughly unaggressive temperament, such as a Sheltie or a Golden Retriever.
DON’T GET A CANE CORSO if you are unwilling to share your house and your life with your dog. CC’s were bred to share in the work of the family and to spend most of their waking hours working with the family. They thrive on companionship and they want to be wherever you are. They are happiest living with you in your house and going with you when you go out. While they usually tolerate being left at home by themselves, they should not be relegated to the backyard or kennel. A puppy exiled from the house is likely to grow up to be unsociable (fearful and/or unprovokedly aggressive), unruly, and unhappy. He may well develop pastimes, such as digging or barking, that will displease you and/or your neighbors. An adult so exiled will be miserable too. If you don’t strongly prefer to have your dog’s companionship as much as possible, enjoying having him sleep in your bedroom at night and sharing many of your activities by day, you should choose a breed less oriented to human companionship. Likewise, if your job or other obligations prevent you from spending much time with your dog. No dog is really happy without companionship, but the pack hounds are more tolerant of being kenneled or yarded so long as it is in groups of 2 or more. A better choice would be a cat, as they are solitary by nature.
DON’T GET A CANE CORSO if you don’t value laid-back companionship and calm affection. A Cane Corso becomes deeply attached and devoted to his own family, but he doesn’t “wear his heart on his sleeve.” Some are noticeably reserved, others are more outgoing, but few adults are usually exuberantly demonstrative of their affection. They make remarkable eye contact with their favorite people. They like to be near you, usually in the same room, preferably on a comfortable pad or cushion in a corner or under a table, just “keeping you company.” They enjoy conversation, petting and cuddling when you offer it, but they are moderate and not overbearing in coming to you to demand much attention. They are emotionally sensitive to their favorite people: when you are joyful, proud, angry, or grief-stricken, your Cane Corso will immediately perceive it and will believe himself to be the cause. The relationship can be one of great mellowness, depth and subtlety; it is a relation on an adult-to- adult level, although certainly not one devoid of playfulness – CC’s are famous for their vocalization with their people (the “roo-roo-roos” and the snorts). As puppies, of course, they will be more dependent, more playful, and more demonstrative. In summary, CC’s tend to be sober and thoughtful, rather than giddy clowns or synchophants. A number of breeds retain into adulthood a more puppyish and playful disposition, e.g., Australian Shepherds, Malamutes, and others. Quite a few are far more dramatically demonstrative and/or more clingingly dependent, e.g., the Golden Retriever.
DON’T GET A CANE CORSO if you are fastidious about the neatness of your home. Although it is technically true that CC’s do not shed long coats and do not require professional grooming, they do “blow coat” at least twice a year and your house will be full of “dust bunnies” tumbleweeding their way about your house. I don’t mean to imply that you must be a slob or slattern to live happily with a Chessie, but you do have to have the attitude that your dog’s company means more to you than does neatness and you do have to be comfortable with a less than immaculate house. All dogs, like all children, create a greater or lesser degree of household mess. The Basenji is perhaps the cleanest, due to its cat-like habits; but cats are cleaner yet, and goldfish hardly ever mess up the house.
DON’T GET A CANE CORSO if you dislike daily physical exercise. CC’s need exercise to maintain the health of heart and lungs and to maintain muscle tone. An adult Cane Corso should have a morning outing of a mile or more, as you walk briskly, jog, or bicycle beside him, and a similar evening outing. For puppies, shorter and slower walks, several times a day are preferred for exercise and housebreaking. But, more than just walks, you need to “work” your Cane Corso. CC’s were bred to work hard and the modern dogs still thrive on work. Anyone who owns one should be able to devote at least 20 minutes a day either working, training, retrieving or playing with them. CC’s that are not worked – both physically and mentally – are prone to mischief and will not “think.” These active, intelligent dogs need jobs and responsibilities – it is best if you designate what these jobs are – you might not agree with what your Cane Corso decides is important!
All dogs need daily exercise of greater or lesser length and vigor. If providing this exercise and work is beyond you, physically or temperamentally, then choose one of the many small and energetic breeds that can exercise itself within your fenced yard. Most of the Toys and Terriers fit this description, but don’t be surprised if a Terrier is inclined to dig in the earth since digging out critters is the job that they were bred to do. Cats can be exercised indoors with mouse-on-a-string toys. Hamsters will exercise themselves on a wire wheel. House plants don’t need exercise.
DON’T GET A CANE CORSO if you believe that dogs should run “free.” Whether you live in town or country, no dog can safely be left to run “free” outside your fenced property and without your direct supervision and control. The price of such “freedom” is inevitably injury or death: from dogfights, from automobiles, from the Pound or from justifiably irate neighbors. Even though CC’s are home-loving and less inclined to roam than most breeds, an unfenced Cane Corso is destined for disaster. A thoroughly obedience-trained Cane Corso can enjoy the limited and supervised freedom of off-leash walks with you in appropriately chosen environments. If you don’t want the responsibility of confining and supervising your pet, then no breed of dog is suitable for you. A neutered cat will survive such irresponsibly given “freedom” somewhat longer than a dog, but will eventually come to grief. A better answer for those who crave a “free” pet is to set out feeding stations for some of the indigenous wildlife, such as raccoons, which will visit for handouts and which may eventually tolerate your close observation.
DON’T GET A CANE CORSO if you can’t afford to buy, feed, and provide health care for one. CC’s are not a cheap breed to buy, as running a careful breeding program with due regard for temperament, trainability, and physical soundness (hips & heart especially) cannot be done cheaply. The time the breeder should put into each puppy’s “pre-school” and socialization is also costly. The “bargain” puppy from a “back-yard breeder” who unselectively mates any two CC’s who happen to be of opposite sex may well prove to be extremely costly in terms of bad temperament, bad health, and lack of essential socialization. In contrast, the occasional adult or older pup is available at modest price from a disenchanted owner or from a breeder, shelter, or rescuer to whom the dog was abandoned; most of these “used” CC’s are capable of becoming a marvelous dog for you if you can provide training, leadership, and understanding. Whatever the initial cost of your Cane Corso, the upkeep will not be cheap.
Being large dogs, CC’s eat relatively large meals. (Need I add that what goes in one end must eventually come out the other?) Large dogs tend to have larger veterinary bills, as the amount of anesthesia and of most medications is proportional to body weight. Spaying or neutering, which costs more for larger dogs, is an essential expense for virtually all pet CC’s, as it “takes the worry out of being close”, prevents serious health problems in later life, and makes the dog a more pleasant companion. CC’s are subject to hip dysplasia which can be costly to treat. (Your best insurance against dysplasia is to buy only from a litter bred from OFA-certified parents and (if possible), grandparents. Yes, this generally means paying more. Finally, the modest fee for participation in a series of basic obedience training classes is an essential investment in harmonious living with your dog; such fees are the same for all breeds, although conceivably you will need to travel a bit further from home to find a training class teacher who is competent with the more formidable breeds, such as the Cane Corso. The modest annual outlays for immunizations and for local licensing are generally the same for all breeds, although some counties have a lower license fee for spayed/neutered dogs. All dogs, of whatever breed and however cheaply acquired, require significant upkeep costs, and all are subject to highly expensive veterinary emergencies. Likewise all cats.
DON’T GET A CANE CORSO if you are not willing to commit yourself for the dog’s entire lifetime. No dog deserves to be cast out because his owners want to move to a no-pet apartment or because he is no longer a cute puppy or didn’t grow up to be a beauty contest winner or because his owners through lack of leadership and training have allowed him to become an unruly juvenile delinquent with a repertoire of undesirable behaviors. The prospects of a responsible and affectionate second home for a “used” dog are never very bright, but they are especially dim for a large, poorly mannered dog. A Cane Corso dumped into a Pound or Shelter has almost no chance of survival unless he has the great good fortune to be spotted by someone dedicated to Cane Corso Rescue. The prospects for adoption for a youngish, well-trained CC whose owner seeks the assistance of the nearest Cane Corso Club or Rescue group are fairly good; but an older CC has diminishing prospects. Be sure to contact your breeder, breed organizationor Rescue group if you are diagnosed as terminally ill or have other equally valid reason for seeking an adoptive home. Be sure to contact your breeder or rescuer if you are beginning to have difficulties in training your Cane Corso, so these can be resolved. Be sure to make arrangements in your will or with your family to ensure continued care or adoptive home for your Cane Corso if you should pre-decease him.
The life span of a Cane Corsois from 10 to 12 years. If that seems too long a time for you to give an unequivocal loyalty to your Cane Corso, then please do not get one! Indeed, as most dogs have a life expectancy that is as long or longer, please do not get any dog!
If all the preceding “bad news” about CC’s hasn’t turned you away from the breed, then by all means DO GET A CANE CORSO! They are every bit as wonderful as you have heard!
If buying a puppy, be sure to shop carefully for a responsible and knowledgeable breeder who places high priority on breeding for sound temperament and trainability and good health in all matings. Such a breeder will interrogate and educate potential buyers carefully. Such a breeder will continue to be available for advice and consultation for the rest of the puppy’s life and will insist on receiving the dog back if ever you are unable to keep it.
reprinted Edited by Alexia Rodriguez Potrero Cane Corso; Original concept from “Do not get a Bouvier”