Is A Cane Corso A Good Family Dog? An Owner Tells All

Updated Dec 3, 2023

Cane Corso Family Dog

We have spent the last 14 years with Cane Corsos in our family. Our experience leads us to a definite conclusion. Here it is.

Is a Cane Corso a good family dog? The Cane Corso is devoted to his family. He is loyal and protective, and he makes a great companion and guardian for all your family. He is gentle and affectionate with kids but, because this is a large dog, caution is advised with small children and babies.

The Cane Corso’s natural characteristics and tendencies will make him a good family pet. But, of course, there are some common-sense considerations and guidelines that you should apply. We’ll look at these below.


Is A Cane Corso Dangerous?

Some have said that the Cane Corso, or Italian Mastiff, is dangerous or aggressive. We do not agree with this sweeping statement. Firstly it is not really possible to make a generalized statement about a whole breed of dog. Secondly, there is nothing in the Cane Corso breeding history to support this.

The Cane Corso temperament tends to be calm and stable.

A lot has been made of their lineage as mastiff breed and a roman war dog. But today's Cane Corso dogs were never bred or intended to be fighting dogs. They are a working dog, and they were bred to be protectors, which is an entirely different thing. Even the name reflects this — Wikipedia states that the name Cane Corso is 'from Italian cane (dog) and 'corso' from the Latin 'Cohors' meaning 'protector'.

Ultimately, whether any dog is dangerous or not depends on the individual dog, the circumstances, how he is treated, and how he has been trained. If you pick a suitable puppy, give him a good environment, treat him well, and train him well, there is no reason at all why your Cane Corso mastiff should be dangerous, and every reason why he will be a good family dog.

More info here about the pros and cons of Cane Corsos for families

The Cane Corso’s Imposing Appearance Can Be Misleading

It is probably the size and the imposing appearance of the Cane Corso which causes people to think the breed is dangerous or aggressive. He certainly can look that way, particularly with his ears cropped but appearances can be deceiving.

Although the Internet is full of pictures of big Cane Corsos draped in chains and studs, with cropped ears, this is a misleading image for the dog. With his family, the Cane Corso is a gentle and affectionate companion.



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Can A Cane Corso Be Dangerous Or Aggressive Towards Others?

Not inherently. Any dog can become aggressive under the right circumstances, such as if he is being threatened. And the larger the dog, the more potentially dangerous that aggression becomes. But the Cane Corso dog breed is not inherently more aggressive or more dangerous than other breeds.

A Cane Corso raised in a good family environment is highly unlikely to be aggressive towards anyone. A Cane Corso which is abused or provoked could just as easily become aggressive as any other dog. A Cane Corso who has not been trained is more of an unknown quantity. And his size, muscularity and agility would make that a dangerous situation.

Which is why dog training is so important. It is important to guide their behavior whilst they are still young, so that their natural characteristics are enhanced.

A Cane Corso As Your Family’s Best Friend

The Cane Corso does have a natural tendency to be protective towards those he loves — which will be your family and children. This is why he makes such a good guard dog. But this does not necessarily mean he is a danger to others.

Any dog can be provoked into an aggressive reaction, but under normal circumstances the Cane Corso is your family’s best friend. He will never be a danger to his family and, though he may be alert to the presence of approaching strangers, he is not automatically aggressive towards them.

He will quickly follow your lead when you greet somebody in a friendly manner. He may stay alert initially, but he will take on board that this person is apparently your friend. A Cane Corso is great family protection.

Our Cane Corsos And Our Children

It is not recommended that small children be left alone with any dog. This is particularly true of a big dog, who could easily knock a small child over quite accidentally. Cane Corsos, of course, fall well into this category — they are considered a giant breed. We would only recommend that small children are always supervised when interacting with any animal.

Our three children are fully grown adults, living in three different countries, so their visits are not as frequent as we would like.

Even if it has been a couple of years since their last visit, which unfortunately is sometimes the case, the Cane Corsos recognize the children instantly, give them a fantastic welcome home, and the children are instantly part of the family group again, with the Cane Corsos displaying huge affection and excitement to have them home.

Training Your Cane Corso As A Family Dog

The Cane Corso is a large and muscular dog. As with any large dog, The consequence of any bad behavior is greater than with a smaller dog. Therefore it is important that your Cane Corso has some good training and proper socialization instilled right from the beginning. He will be quite happy to accept that you are the leader, as long as you make it clear.

Click the button below for information about our favorite training method...

Is Training A Cane Corso Difficult?

To be honest, unlike what we have seen said elsewhere, our experience is that a Cane Corso is not difficult to train. He is alert and intelligent, and keen to please his owner and his family. These natural tendencies mean that he quickly assimilates his circumstances and surroundings, and behaves accordingly.

At the heart of the Cane Corso’s very nature, is his wish to love and protect his family group. Therefore, in terms of being a good dog with family and children, the only training that is really required is to establish and maintain the fact that you are the leader.

As a responsible Cane Corso owner, you should make sure you do this. It's easier than you might think. Let's look at how.

Use Everyday Activities To Train Your Cane Corso As Part Of Your Family

The easiest way to do this is to make use of things that occur every day. For example, you will feed your Cane Corso a couple of times each day. This is an ideal opportunity to reinforce a leadership message, while you naturally have the dog’s full attention.

Simply teach him to ‘Sit’ and ‘Stay’ while you are preparing his meal. And teach him to come to his food bowl when you say, and only when you say. He will learn this very quickly and easily, and the beauty is that the event occurs naturally every single day, which means that your leadership is constantly reinforced and maintained.

These everyday interactions are great for establishing and maintaining your Cane Corso's place in the family. Training him as a family dog really requires little more than this.

Crate Training Helps Your Cane Corso

We also chose to get crates for our Cane Corsos. This is another easy way to train your Cane Corso, with tremendous benefits for both of you. All dogs have a need for a safe shelter, where they can get away from it all and feel secure.

Getting a crate for your Cane Corso fulfills this need for him. And, at the same time by teaching him to spend short periods in his crate, you are again reinforcing your leadership. And the crate can be a convenience for you — for example when people who visit your home are nervous around dogs.

Our Cane Corsos very quickly and easily learned to go to their crates with the single word “Crate”. Initially, we simply gave them a treat for going in there. Later, as the command had been learned by these smart dogs, there was no need for the treat. For example, we tell our Cane Corsos to go to their crates when we come home with a car full of groceries, and we are going to be going in and out with doors open, putting food away et cetera.

Cane Corso Crate

Maud, our female Cane Corso has just celebrated her 11th birthday. She has taken herself into her 'safe haven' crate every day for a nap.

Click the button below for information about our favorite dog crate.

Reinforce Your Leadership With Treats

You can turn any regular daily habit into an obedience training session. Here's an example.

We also give our Cane Corsos a kong each afternoon, and they go into their crates to enjoy their treat. We put pretty much any kind of cooked meat into their kongs. We often buy a cooked chicken at the supermarket for this purpose. This puts just a few extra dollars on the family shopping bill, which we feel fine about because the Cane Corsos are part of the family, for sure.

The benefits of this are manyfold. Once again we get to reinforce our leadership, giving the Cane Corsos something they want and which they enjoy. The kongs give them the opportunity to chew and suck on the content, much as they would with a bone, but without the potential long-term harm to their teeth that can arise from chewing bones.

Our Cane Corsos also choose to go into their crates of their own accord every day, usually more than once. Which just goes to highlight what we said earlier, that they appreciate their crates, and consider them to be their own special place.

Choosing A Cane Corso For Your Family

It will be important that you find a good reputable breeder to help you find a good family dog. The Cane Corso breed's imposing appearance has caused them to be a favorite with people who feel their status is enhanced by having a dangerous-looking dog. Some breeders will cater to this group. You will want to find a breeder whose intent is to breed good family dogs.

A good Cane Corso breeder will know the temperament and characteristics of his individual Cane Corso puppies. He will have observed his puppies at feeding times, and other times where the pecking order and tendency to be alpha or otherwise is well displayed. A good breeder can help you select a puppy with a stable, even temperament, which will be an ideal addition to your family.

You should also consider whether you choose a male Cane Corso, or a female. There is some evidence that the female is easier to train. A male is likely to be a better choice if you already have a female. Two females can be more problematic than one of each.

With a well selected Cane Corso puppy, the right environment to raise him in (your home), and a simple training regime as described above, you can be confident that you have a great dog for your family.

Cane Corso Characteristics

The Italian mastiff Cane Corso temperament tends to be calm and stable. But individual dogs are different and some will be less like this than others.

Cane Corsos have historically been bred as herding, hunting, protection and guard dog. But modern reeding has brought the breed some way from its historical origins and today’s Cane Corso temperament is somewhat different from his ancestors.

Today’s Cane Corso traits are much more closely-aligned with the requirements for a family dog, because that’s what the biggest part of the market wants.

Cane Corso Good And Bad

Or Cane Corso pros and cons. The main point against the Cane Corso is the same as one of his good points. I’m talking about size — it goes both ways.

There’s nothing wrong, at all, with having a dog of this size, but the size magnifies the consequences of anything that goes wrong. For example, even just brushing against a small child by accident, the large dog knocks the child over, a small dog probably doesn’t.

If a large dog gets out of control, the consequences are likely to be worst than with a small dog.

A large dog costs more to maintain than a small dog — he eats more, food bills are higher, and vet bills are higher, too.

On the other hand, a Cane Corso who has been trained and socialized is a great asset to your family. And the large size enhances his protection and guarding function.

Other than this, there are no real bad points about the Cane Corso. He makes a great family dog, and a great companion for individuals.

Raising A Cane Corso Puppy

The Cane Corso puppy is such an adorable little fellow that it’s hard to truly take on board what he will become, unless you’ve had a Cane Corso in your family before.

This is why the Cane Corso may not be a good choice for a first-time owner.

The cute puppy is going to grow into a huge adult dog. And, while he will retain his love, affection and loyalty towards his family, it is of the utmost importance that he has learned his place in the family (ie he’s not the leader), learned to obey,and learned now to behave around other dogs and animals.

All of this must take place while he is still a small and manageable puppy, and while his cognitive development is still open and expanding.

This is why early training and early socialization is so crucial for the Cane Corso puppy — he’s just too big and strong as an adult for there to be any doubt about who’s in control and what he is going to do.

Cane Corso's Interaction with Children and Family Dynamics

Understanding the Cane Corso's Temperament Around Children

Cane Corsos are known for their protective and loyal nature, which extends to all family members, including children. Their gentle demeanor with children they know is a hallmark of the breed, making them suitable for families. 

However, due to their large size and strength, supervision is recommended, especially with younger children. The breed's innate protective instincts can be nurtured through positive reinforcement, ensuring they perceive children as part of their 'pack' to guard and care for.

Fostering Positive Interactions in Diverse Family Settings

The adaptability of Cane Corsos to various family dynamics is notable. They can thrive in both active families where regular outdoor activities are common, as well as in more relaxed household settings. 

The key is consistent interaction and involvement in family activities, which helps the dog understand and respect the family hierarchy and its role within it. Families should include their Cane Corso in as many activities as possible, be it playing in the yard, going for walks, or simply relaxing together, to reinforce the bond and understanding.

Nurturing a Safe Environment for Children

Creating a safe environment for children and the Cane Corso involves setting boundaries and teaching both the dog and children how to interact safely. 

Children should be taught to respect the dog's space and to not engage in rough play. Similarly, Cane Corsos should be trained to understand the limits of play with children. 

Early socialization of the Cane Corso with children, under controlled conditions, can significantly aid in developing mutual respect and understanding.

In summary, a Cane Corso can be a wonderful addition to a family with children, provided that there is an understanding of the breed's characteristics, and a commitment to training and socialization. 

With proper guidance and supervision, the Cane Corso's natural protective instincts and affectionate nature can make them a loyal and loving member of the family.

Comparative Analysis: Cane Corso vs. Other Family-Friendly Breeds

Cane Corso and Labrador Retriever: A Contrast in Temperaments

Comparing Cane Corsos with Labrador Retrievers, a breed renowned for its family-friendliness, offers insights into suitability for different households. 

Labradors are known for their consistent, friendly temperament and high energy, making them ideal for active families and first-time dog owners. 

Cane Corsos, on the other hand, are more reserved and protective, requiring experienced handling and consistent training, making them better suited for families familiar with large, assertive breeds.

Cane Corso vs. Golden Retriever: Energy Levels and Training Needs

Golden Retrievers, another popular family dog, share similarities with Labradors in temperament and energy levels. They are known for their gentle nature and trainability. 

In contrast, Cane Corsos, while trainable, require a more structured approach due to their strong-willed nature. 

Their energy levels are comparatively lower, but they require regular exercise to maintain their health and temperament.

Adaptability to Family Environment

In terms of adaptability, breeds like Golden Retrievers and Labradors easily adjust to various family settings, including those with young children.

 Cane Corsos, while adaptable, may be better suited for families with older children due to their size and protective instincts.

Each breed brings its own strengths and considerations for family life. Families should assess their ability to meet the specific needs of these breeds, especially in terms of training and exercise, to ensure a harmonious and safe environment for all.

The Cane Corso's Adaptability to Family Environments

Adjusting to Various Living Spaces

Cane Corsos are versatile in adjusting to different living environments, from spacious country homes to more confined urban settings. 

However, their large size and exercise needs mean they thrive best in homes with ample space. In smaller environments, additional effort should be made to provide regular exercise and mental stimulation to keep them healthy and content.

Impact of Family Lifestyle on Cane Corso Behavior

The breed adapts well to the family's daily routine and lifestyle. Active families who enjoy outdoor activities will find the Cane Corso an eager participant. For more sedentary families, it’s crucial to incorporate structured exercise routines to meet the dog's physical needs.

The key to a successful integration of a Cane Corso into any family environment lies in understanding and accommodating their physical and psychological needs, ensuring they become a well-adjusted and happy member of the family.

Training Tips for Cane Corsos in Family Settings

Establishing Basic Obedience

Training a Cane Corso in a family setting begins with basic obedience. Commands like 'sit', 'stay', 'come', and 'heel' are foundational. 

Consistent, positive reinforcement techniques are effective, as Cane Corsos respond well to rewards and praise. It's crucial to start training early, as their large size can make untrained adult Cane Corsos challenging to manage.

Socialization and Family Integration

Socializing your Cane Corso with all family members, including children and other pets, is essential for a harmonious household. 

Expose them to different people, sounds, and environments early on to ensure they grow up to be well-rounded, confident dogs. Include family members in training sessions to strengthen the bond between the dog and each family member.

Addressing Protective Instincts

Cane Corsos have natural protective instincts that need to be managed through training. Teach them to differentiate between normal and abnormal situations and how to behave in each.

Training them to respond to commands in various scenarios ensures they don't become overly protective or aggressive.

Effective training of a Cane Corso in a family environment revolves around early obedience training, consistent socialization, and managing their protective instincts. With the right approach, they can be a well-behaved and integral part of the family.

Advanced Training and Socialization Activities

Group Classes: Participate in group training classes or dog sports like agility, tracking, or obedience competitions. These activities not only reinforce training but also provide socialization opportunities in a structured environment.

Playdates and Dog Parks: Regular playdates with other dogs or visits to dog parks can be beneficial. However, always monitor these interactions closely, especially considering the Cane Corso’s size and strength.

Handling Unexpected Situations

Desensitization Training: Gradually expose your Cane Corso to potentially frightening stimuli like loud noises or sudden movements in a controlled way. This can help reduce fear and anxiety in unexpected situations.

Positive Reinforcement: Use treats and praises to reinforce calm and non-aggressive behavior in new or potentially stressful situations. This encourages your Cane Corso to associate new experiences with positive outcomes.

The Role of Consistency in Socialization

Maintaining a consistent approach to socialization is key. Regular, varied experiences will help your Cane Corso grow into a well-rounded and sociable family pet, capable of adapting to a variety of situations with confidence and ease.

Health and Longevity of the Cane Corso

Understanding the Breed's Health Profile

Cane Corsos, known for their robust build and athleticism, generally enjoy good health. However, like all breeds, they are predisposed to certain health conditions. Being aware of these can help owners provide the best care for their dogs.


Common Health Issues in Cane Corsos

Hip Dysplasia: This genetic condition, where the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint, is common in larger breeds. Regular vet check-ups and maintaining a healthy weight can help manage this condition.

Elbow Dysplasia: Similar to hip dysplasia, this is a hereditary condition affecting the elbow joint, often leading to arthritis. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for managing pain and mobility issues.

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat): This life-threatening condition occurs when the stomach twists on itself. Preventive measures include feeding smaller, more frequent meals and avoiding vigorous exercise around feeding times.

Cardiac Conditions: Some Cane Corsos may be prone to heart conditions like cardiomyopathy. Regular veterinary screenings can detect issues early on.

Cherry Eye: This condition involves the prolapse of the third eyelid, causing a red swelling in the corner of the eye. It can be corrected surgically if necessary.

Maximizing Health and Longevity

Regular Exercise: Adequate exercise is crucial for maintaining healthy weight and joint health. However, avoid over-exertion, especially in puppies whose bones and joints are still developing.

Balanced Diet: A well-balanced diet tailored to their life stage helps prevent obesity, a significant factor in many health problems.

Routine Veterinary Care: Regular check-ups can catch health issues early. Vaccinations, flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives are also essential components of their health care.

Mental Stimulation: Cane Corsos are intelligent dogs. Keeping their minds active with training, puzzles, and games can prevent boredom and related behavioral issues.

Life Expectancy

Cane Corsos have a life expectancy of approximately 10-12 years. With proper care, regular veterinary check-ups, and a loving home environment, they can live a full and happy life as part of the family.

Related Questions

Are Cane Corsos Good For First-Time Owners?

The Cane Corso is most likely not a great choice for a first-time dog owner. It's not because he is naturally hostile or dangerous — he isn't. It's due to the fact that he is a very large, strong and also muscular canine, and the consequences of his being out of control are thus high.

Consequently, there should be no question about who is in charge. A person who has not owned a dog previously will maybe not be able to understand exactly how vital this is.

Is It Expensive To Own A Cane Corso?

A Cane Corso is not a cheap dog — either to purchase or to maintain and care for. Cane Corso prices can vary from below $1,000 all the way up to $5,000 — and even higher for a purebred Cane Corso puppy with impeccable lineage.

Below $1,000 and there will be a lot of compromise — perhaps lack of papers, poor health record, poor lineage etc.

And that can get expensive — because the other factor that causes Cane Corsos to be expensive is care.

A big dog costs more in vet bills when something goes wrong. And you need more of everything — from medications and dog supplements to everyday food.

The average price for a high-quality Cane Corso puppy with good health scores, good lineage and from a reputable Cane Corso breeder should be between $2,500 and $3,500.

Are Cane Corsos Mean?

I would say the Cane Corso is one of the dogs least likely to be described as mean.

Of course, if any dog is abused or treated badly, the result may be a badly-behaved dog. But, in normal circumstances, the Cane Corso is friendly, affectionate and loyal towards his family.

His protective instinct may make him wary of strangers but, even then he is unlikely to behave in any way that could be described as mean.

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