cane corsoThe following question comes in from a reader of our site:

We just got a Cane Corso who has been very abused. She is 7 months old and great with females and children. She still barks when we come in the door but for the most part she is very welcoming. However with men she is frantic and barks growls runs away, pees. After what seems to take a couple hours she will allow them to touch her but barely. She stays at my side as much as she can and whines when I leave her. My dad is trying to show her he isn’t bad but she just growls and barks and pees when he tries to give her treats pet her or talk to her. What would you recommend?

We are desperate to help this girl and want her to be a great dog for us and I know she can work. I just don’t know the proper way to train her and what to do. She will sit, lay, roll over, is house trained and is fine with women and my son. Just as soon as a man comes over she is so scared and I need help. I have no clue how to fix this and reaching out to any trainer who can help me or give me ideas. 

My response:

Thanks for the question.  Unfortunately, this is an issue I see all too often.  In fact, in many cases, this didn’t even result from an abuse story.  The dog is simply afraid of men and that’s that.  Dogs who are fearful of men aren’t always that way because of abuse.

Here are a couple key points I would consider:

  • Tethering.  Tethering is the act of putting a leash on the dog and keeping it there.  You want to keep the leash on the dog in the house, outside of the house, etc.  Where that comes to play with men is that I would have the dog on a leash and have your dad, or another man, simply be the one who controls the leash.  No, don’t pay her any attention.  Simply hold the leash and go.  She’ll resist, she’ll fight.  But have the man on the end of the leash simply ignore her and go about his day.  What you are describing with his inability to give her treats is all-too-common.  A dog in your dog’s state of mind isn’t going to give up intense fear simply because someone has a cookie.  I’ve done the tethering method dozens of times over the years and I’ll tell you that for the first day it can be a bit ugly.  The dog doesn’t want anything to do with me.  But after a day or two the dog, needing to adapt, suddenly realizes that the guy isn’t half bad.  Don’t try to coddle her out of her fear with treats and soft cooing.  Simply have her be a constant companion of your dad and let her learn to work through that.
  • Work on obedience.  Obedience is a calming and clarifying exercise.  You mention that she’ll sit and lay down.  Does she do them reliably?  Does she stay doing them?  Does she do those behaviors under distraction?  If not, you’ve got some work cut out for you.  Anxiety and fear aren’t solved through basic and introductory experience with obedience.  You’ll need more advanced levels of obedience for that.

Best of luck and happy training.