Many people want a dog who can pull double duty as a protective watchdog and kid-friendly pet. The Cane Corso certainly has a reputation as an outstanding protective dog, but their suitability as a family dog is less certain.
Cane Corsos are good with older kids if they are properly socialized and trained, but they must be placed in homes that are confident, effective, and consistent when handling their dogs. Cane Corsos should not be placed in homes with small kids as the risk of injury is significant.
To paraphrase Robert Benchley, every child deserves a mother who allows them to have a dog. There are hundreds of heart-melting YouTube videos that depict the special relationship shared by dogs and kids.
However, not all dogs are candidates for “nanny duty,” and the resulting injuries can be devastating.
So is the Cane Corso a trustworthy kid-friendly dog, or an adults-only type of dog?
Are Cane Corsos Good With Kids?
A Cane Corso can be good with kids in the right circumstances; the American Kennel Club rates the Cane Corsos’s kid-friendliness as 3 out of 5. This score reflects the fact that not all Cane Corsos are ideal dogs for children, and not all children will be able to deal effectively with a large, dominant dog like a Cane Corso.
Like most mastiff breeds, the Cane Corso are a giant breed of dog, standing between 23.5” to 27.5” (60cm to 70cm). These large muscular dogs have a high-pain tolerance and are unlikely to become defensive or snappy if a child bumps into them or accidentally trips over the dog while they’re sleeping.
Which Is Better With Kids, Male Or Female Cane Corsos?
The Cane Corso are a dominant, giant breed dog; both their size and dominance levels can make them challenging dogs to train. Female Cane Corsos tend to be smaller than males, making them a little less intimidating and easier to handle.
Female Cane Corso: 23.5” to 26” (60cm to 66cm)
Male Cane Corso: 25” to 27.5” (63.5cm to 70cm)
Female dogs, in general, are less dominant and aggressive than males; they’re more amenable to following commands without challenging the person’s right to give those commands.
Some females become aggressive during their seasons or if they have puppies. However, sterilized females have lower estrogen levels, which can also increase aggression. Speak to your vet about the decision on whether to spay your female Cane Corso and the effects it will have on her temperament and reliability with children.
Male dogs should always be neutered unless they are outstanding specimens used in an ethical breeding program. Neutering male Cane Corsos lowers their testosterone levels, making them safer to be around children.
Cane Corso Temperament
It is essential to determine what job the breed was created to perform when evaluating a dog breed. Form follows function, and dogs bred to serve a specific purpose will have temperament characteristics and physical traits that allow them to execute their jobs efficiently.
The Cane Corso was created by mating the Roman army’s large big-boned guardian mastiffs with local Italian dogs. These dogs gained fame as war dogs when they fearless charged the enemy’s frontline bearing containers of flaming oil.
Over time the Cane Corso evolved to function as a wild boar hunter, livestock drover, and territorial protector of farmsteads and henhouses.
The temperament of the Cane Corso has evolved to produce a dog who is:
- Fearless and determined
- Keenly intelligent
- Aggressive; a high-quality Cane Corso will only show aggression when necessary.
- Assertive and willful
- Eager-to-please IF the owner has proven a “worthy” leader
Potential Issues With Cane Corso And Kids
Issues may arise with a Cane Corso living with children due to 3 factors:
- Their size
- Dominance levels
The Cane Corso’s Size
While Cane Corsos are not the biggest mastiffs, they are still large, powerful dogs.
Kids, especially toddlers and small children, can be accidentally knocked over by a bouncing Cane Corso. Additionally, the Cane Corso’s large size and physicality make them challenging dogs for children to handle; even adults can struggle to hold a determined Cane Corso.
The Cane Corso’s Dominance
The Cane Corso is a dominant, intelligent, and wilful dog breed. Unskilled or anxious owners may find themselves “owned” by their dog and the home’s hierarchy upended as the dog takes charge.
Children are physically small and weak, but more to the point, small children struggle to regulate their emotions; they’re frequently impulsive and emotional. The lack of consistency could result in the Cane Corso treating the children like submissive pack members, i.e., refusing to listen to commands given by the child, growling at the kids, or threatening to bite.
The Cane Corso’s Aggression
All dogs can and will show aggression if pushed far enough; however, dogs bred to function as territorial or livestock guardians are often more aggressive than gundogs, i.e., retrievers, setters, and spaniels.
A Cane Corso may misinterpret a situation and react aggressively or physically defend themselves if threatened.
One trainer specializing in Mastiffs, including the Cane Corsos, states that you cannot claim a Cane Corso is reliably child friendly until they are older than 3yrs old.
He supports his argument with the theory that initially, Cane Corsos puppies are at a similar level of development as the child. However, dogs reach adulthood much quicker than children, and what they tolerate in puppyhood may not be so funny to an adult Cane Corso.
He adds that the Cane Corso will go through many changes during the adolescent phase, not just physically but also mentally and emotionally. As the dog matures, they will gain confidence and start testing how far they can push their owners.
A dominant Cane Corso may discover that they can get away with bullying small or anxious children leading to an unhealthy and potentially dangerous household dynamic.
Once a Cane Corso has matured beyond 3yrs, its temperaments and reactions are unlikely to change. Thus, a 3yr or older Cane Corso, who is good with kids, is unlikely to show unprecedented aggression at a later stage.
The Link Between Ethical Breeding And Cane Corso Aggression
Badly bred Cane Corsos may show elevated levels of inappropriate aggression or anxiety-linked aggression, making them unsuitable for families with children. The unpredictability of poorly bred Cane Corsos is why prospective dog owners should only buy their puppies from a reputable breeder.
A responsible breeder will raise their dogs in a home environment, and temperament tests all the puppies before placing them in homes. Breeders who have temperament-tested their dogs will be able to advise you on which puppy will best suit your home.
Ethical breeders will only breed from dogs who:
- Epitomize the American Kennel Club Standard for Cane Corsos
- Are proven performance dogs, i.e., capable of doing the job they are bred to perform
- Have passed all their health and temperament tests
- Consistently breed high-quality dogs; it is better to get a puppy from a proven mating than a first-time pairing.
A responsible breeder should have a take-back clause that allows dogs who do not work out to be returned to them. Breeders have a lifetime responsibility to their Cane Corsos and should be prepared to care for any dog they have bred and who the current owner cannot or will not keep.
When adopting a Cane Corso, look at dogs who are 3yrs or older, come from a stable background, and have lived with children in a similar age bracket to your children. Avoid adopting a Cane Corso, who was surrendered due to temperament issues, or a young Cane Corso from an unknown or irresponsible breeder.
Are Cane Corsos Better With Older Or Younger Kids?
Cane Corsos are rarely suitable for young children due to the aforementioned reasons. This is not to say that every Cane Corso is untrustworthy around little kids; there are exceptions to every rule, and individual Cane Corso may find their calling in life as a “nanny dog” and fierce protector of their young charges.
Good-natured Cane Corsos get along well with older children who are competent dog handlers. These children often demonstrate a surprising level of maturity and emotional consistency; they’re confident, respectful, and effective when handling their dogs.
Training Cane Corsos
Training and socialization should start early. Owners must teach their Cane Corso to accept strangers from a young age; as the dog matures, it will become more aloof and suspicious of people it does not know.
A well-socialized Cane Corso should have a confident but discriminating approach to strangers. Cane Corso enthusiasts claim that a well-mannered, socialized Cane Corso exudes the calm, unflappable competence of a high-level bodyguard.
Cane Corso should be handled consistently, and household rules established to promote polite, mannerly behavior. A Cane Corso is the most challenging to train between 18 months and 3 years; during this period, they transition from adolescent dogs to mature dogs.
As the Cane Corso matures, they are more likely to challenge the owner; however, owners who successfully navigate this difficult time will be rewarded with the Cane Corso’s unswerving loyalty and enthusiastic participation in future training.
Cane Corso owners should always train their dogs themselves; outsourcing their training is counterproductive as their loyalty and respect are transferred to the person working with them.
Training And Its Impact On Cane Corso-Kid Compatibility
Cane Corsos are energetic, athletic dogs who may forget their size when around children; their playful antics and wild leaps often knock kids flying.
Teaching a Cane Corso, especially an exuberant juvenile Cane Corso, to control themselves when playing around kids ensures that no kids are casualties of the Cane Corso’s Joie De Vie!
Training is most effective when the Cane Corso is given adequate exercise and mental stimulation. A bored or frustrated Cane Corso is much more likely to engage in delinquent behavior than one whose physical and mental needs are met.
Both the Cane Corso and the kid should be taught how to interact politely and respectfully with each other. All dogs, including the Cane Corso, should be supervised around children.
What Families Should Avoid Cane Corso?
The Cane Corso is not suitable for all families. Cane Corsos are fantastic dogs to own and work with, BUT only if placed in the right home. Unsuitable homes for Cane Corsos include families who:
- Want a protective dog but are unwilling to spend the time training them
- Busy families who want a “garden dog”; a Cane Corso NEEDS to be around its people
- Families with anxious or nervous family members
- Families with small children or other pets
- Have physically weak or impaired family members
- Having a volatile family culture or family member, Cane Corsos thrive in consistent environments with firm, fair rules. Overly emotional families or people prone to losing their temper should stay away from all Cane Corsos.
- Are houseproud; the Cane Corso are large dogs who don’t care how much a piece of furnishing costs; if they’re bored, they will entertain themselves with a chew on priceless furniture.
- Are first-time dog owners or unskilled dog handlers
- Do not enjoy “talkative,” noisy dogs; Cane Corsos snuffle, snort, roo-roo, bark, growl, howl, and snore!
- Want a dog to boost their ego or create a “tough” image
The Bottom Line
The Cane Corso is a loyal companion and fierce defender; however, they are not easy to live with or train. A well-bred, mannerly Cane Corso can be a good dog for the right child and family. Female Cane Corsos are often more manageable and reliable family dogs for homes with children than unneutered male Cane Corsos.
Families with children should carefully consider why they want a Cane Corso versus another dog breed. Families attracted to the protective “tough dog” image of the Cane Corso but who do not have the skill, time, or temperament to handle a Cane Corso should look at another breed.
Reputable Cane Corso breeders, veterinarians, and trainers familiar with the breed will be able to advise prospective owners on the Cane Corso’s compatibility with the family and, specifically, the kids in the family.