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Discussion Starter #1
We have an 11 month old Cane Corso (Italian mastiff). We have had her since she was 8 weeks old. She has been THE BEST dog I’ve ever had. She is sweet, affectionate, friendly, obedient, playful, and just generally a happy dog with a great temperament. A few weeks ago, I took a toy away from her to throw it and play fetch, and she growled at me. I was shocked! Reminding myself that she’s still a puppy, I told her no in a firm tone, and I put the toy up for a little bit. She acted totally normal. A few days later, I was petting her head, and she growled at me again. I told her no again, and she immediately started licking my hand. Fast forward to today....this has been ongoing. Mostly it’s only aimed at me, but yesterday she also growled at my husband twice. It’s important to note that when she growls, she is showing absolutely NO signs of aggression. In fact, when she growls, she is simultaneously backing away from me, cowering, ears flat, averted eyes, and visibly shaking. It’s more like she is extremely afraid of me, but I can’t think of any reason whatsoever that she would be fearful of me. Today, I only walked into the room - she didn’t growl - but immediately started trembling and hid in the corner. This breaks my heart. But also this morning, she ran to greet me when I came out of the bedroom, her little nub of a tail wagging, and rolled onto her back for a long belly rub (one of her favorite things). It’s like one second she’s fine, and the next she’s not. I can’t fugure it out. And she’s been such a perfect, loving dog. I don’t know how to fix this.
We have an appointment at the vet this afternoon, because my husband thinks she must have something going on causing her pain or discomfort. But I’m not convinced. Her fear/growling seems to only be aimed at me, and if she was in physical pain it wouldn’t come and go. She’s not eating her food, though she will accept treats. She’s not drinking either, but will eat ice cubes. But both of those things only developed in the last couple of days. This behavior started 3 1/2 weeks ago, so can they even be related?
I’m just heartbroken to think my sweet puppy is afraid of me for some reason. I want to be able to pet her again without worrying she’s going to growl at me. I just don’t understand how this can just suddenly start happening for no apparent reason....
 

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In follow up to our vet appointment, the vet claims it’s all hormonal and will stop once she is fixed (she has an appointment Monday), but I’m not convinced. Her first heat cycle has been over for well over a month, and this behavior just started a few weeks ago.
 

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Yes. I have seen this in a couple of dogs with genetically weak temperaments and it shows up about this age. I have also seen it in ONE dog I knew of this breed. That dog was simply unstable although she was titled and had done very well in obedience.

THAT SAID, get to the vet because there certainly could be physical things going on such as a seizure disorder or a thyroid imbalance or an eyesight issue or even a tick born illness.

Of course, never punish a growl. That is a warning and you want to leave warnings in place so the dog doesn't go directly to bite.

DO come back and tell us if your vet finds anything physical. I wish you the very best.
 

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In follow up to our vet appointment, the vet claims it’s all hormonal and will stop once she is fixed (she has an appointment Monday), but I’m not convinced. Her first heat cycle has been over for well over a month, and this behavior just started a few weeks ago.
Go to another vet. It is very likely not hormonal and it is not normal and spaying her will not help at all. In fact, the anesthesia could make things worse, especially if she has a seizure disorder.

Do you live near a veterinary teaching college (Cornell, Tufts, etc.)? If you do, I highly recommend NOT spaying the dog and getting her to an expert vet staff to get an answer.

It may be genetic, but you need to be sure it is not physical. Vets are so quick to spay a dog that is not going to be bred. You need answers before you need surgery.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thank you for the input. I don’t feel it’s hormonal, either.

We know the breeder personally. She owns both the parents, and they are not aggressive in any way. She has young children, and has both parents around them, as well as one that she kept from the first litter. This is the mom’s second litter that we got our dog from. She has been absolutely nothing but sweet natured the entire time we’ve had her, and it’s hard to believe she would just “turn.” Especially since she seems more afraid than anything. When she does growl, it’s soft and low - and very quick. Sometimes it’s hard to even tell she does it at all. And she immediately cowers and shakes, like she’s been hit before, although she never has.

The vet drew blood to rule out genetic disorders. We’ll have those results soon.

It seems odd that if her temperament just suddenly changed (despite having no family history of it), that she would be fine with everyone else and playing like usual. She did start eating again, and is starting to act like her old self again - except with me.
 

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It's entirely possible for a genetic disorder to skip a generation, so the parents being fine isn't a guarantee that there is no issue. The blood test will not reveal genetic disorders, but could rule out other medical causes.

Even if it is genetic, it is FAR from hopeless. A certified canine behavourist would be able to help you to develop a training plan to help you learn how to handle her to minimize the issue, and there are medications for anxious and fearful dogs to help them cope, just like there are for humans. You still have options, but the first step is to identify the cause.
 

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Did the vet check for thyroid issues or tick-bourne illnesses when you took her in? I'd consider that before something hormonal, honestly, but I am not a veterinary professional.

I'd also wonder if a fear period is a possibility, though I'm not sure how long those are supposed to last. If this is the case (and even if it isn't), I'd make sure to try to keep her stress level low and not pressure her into confronting 'scary' things, even if they seem silly from our perspective. At least not until you've determined the source of the issue and have a plan for how to tackle it, preferably made with professional guidance. If she's seeming guardy - growling at you when you take something - work on trading games instead of simply taking the object. Trading teaches her that it's okay if you take something because 99% of the time she gets something better in return, whereas just taking something away teaches her that there's a good reason to guard her stuff.

If it does turn out to be a genetic personality trait, I agree wholeheartedly with Kuma's Mom. A qualified behaviorist (check out the APDT or CCPDT organizations) can do wonders for a fearful or reactive dog, and veterinary medicine has come a long way in using anti-anxiety meds to help many of these cases. Don't give up hope!
 

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You said 1 heat cycle so I'm guessing around 9 months to a yr old? Ops I'm blind today just saw 11 months. lol

Mastiff breeds generally go through several fear stages, till around the age of 2.

Also your vet either does not know mastiff breed very well or is a idiot.

Sounds like a very normal fear stage for the breed.

Most people who own mastiff breeds will tell you during a fear stage is the worst time to spay or neuter your pet.

And yes they will pick the stupidest stuff and time to be afraid of something.

Spay and neuter for mastiff breeds is generally 18 months to 2 years.

A fear stage is something to work through with your dog, and fixing them at this time can actually make it worse rather than better.

I've owned several English Mastiffs in the past and still own one, and yes it can be a real test getting through some fear stages with your dog but in the end I've always found it rewarding.

Fear stages/periods is one of the biggest questions seen from new mastiff breed owners.
 

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This is from a article on the matter on fear stages for dogs in generally.

Second Fear Period: 6 to 14 Months
While the 8 to 12 week puppy fear period is in some cases hardly noticed by puppy owners, the second fear period appears to have a much bigger impact. Rover has grown now and if he is a large breed he may even weigh 100 pounds or more! This fear period is believed to be tied to the dog's sexual maturity and growth spurts. This means that in large breeds it may develop later compared to a smaller dog. Often, this stage is also known as "teenage flakiness" according Ellen Dodge in her article "Critical Periods in Canine Development" published in the Weimaraner Magazine. October. 1989.

In the wild, dogs at this age are allowed to go on hunts with the rest of the pack. At this stage, it is important for them to learn to stick with the pack for safety, but they also need to learn about fear since they need fear for survival purposes.The message to the puppy is to run away if something unfamiliar approaches them, explain Wendy and Jack Volhard in the book Dog Training for Dummies.

Reactivity levels rise during this stage causing the dog to act defensively, become protective and more territorial. Owners often report the fear seems to pop out of nowhere. Dogs appear fearful of novel stimuli or stimuli met before but that did not trigger significant reactions. As in the first fear period, it is best to avoid traumatic experiences during this time such as shipping dogs on a plane and any other overwhelming experience. Because at this stage the owner may be dealing with a dog barking and lunging and pulling on the leash, this fear period has a bigger impact, causing the owner to worry about the dog's behavior.

How to Make Things Better:

Continue socializing as much as possible but without exposing your dog to overwhelming situations
Create positive associations through counter-conditioning
Build confidence through training and confidence building sports and exercises
Avoid traumatic experiences during this delicate phase.
 

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And lastly from the same article:

General Tips for Dealing with Fear Periods

These tips will come handy to help you deal with your pampered pooch's fear periods. However, they also work for dogs who are fearful in general. While they are effective, keep in mind that your dog's tendency for being fearful may be the work of genetics rather than a temporary problem resulting from a fear stage. To learn more about how nature and nurture molds dog behavior please read: Dog Behavior: Nature versus Nurture Debate Following are some tips to help your puppy or dog get through these frightening fear periods:

Remain as Calm as Possible

You can lie to your boss, but when it comes to dogs, they are masters in reading our emotions and body language. If you are overly concerned or just a bit tense about your dog acting fearfully or defensively, rest assure your dog will perceive it. Don't put tension on the leash, get tense or talk to your in worried manner. Stay relaxed and loose.

Pretend it's No Big Deal

Your dog feeds on your emotions. Just as mother dog would take her pups out from the den and guide the puppies through threatening and non-threatening situations, manifest to your dog that the stimuli he fears is not a big deal. Some find that saying in a casual tone "It's just a _______(fill in the blank), silly boy!" helps the dog understand it's not a big deal.

Counter-Condition

If your dog acts fearfully towards a certain stimuli you can try to change your dog's emotional response by using treats or anything the dog finds rewarding. The moment your dog sees the threatening stimulus give treats, the moment the threatening stimulus disappears take the treats away. The same can be done with sounds the dog finds startling, make the sound become a cue that a tasty treat is coming. What if your dog won't take treats? Most likely, the stimulus is too scary and the dog is over threshold.

Don't Overwhelm, Desensitize!

Work, under the threshold from a distance your dog or puppy does not react fearfully and is able to take treats. If you overwhelm and flood your puppy, you risk sensitizing your puppy which means you make him more fearful. Don' t force your puppy to interact with the feared stimulus; rather allow him to investigate whatever he fears on his own and remember to praise/reward any initiative your puppy or dog takes!

Socialize, socialize, socialize

Fear periods are part of a dog's developmental stages. The more your dog is exposed to stimuli and learns there is nothing to be scared about, the more confident he will be in the future when he will encounter anything intimidating. While the window of opportunity for the puppy socialization phase closes at around 14 to 16 weeks, socialization opportunties should virtually never end.

Don't Punish the Fear

Last but not least, avoid punishing the fear. It is appears that the majority of dog aggressive displays are due to fear; therefore, by punishing the behavior you will be only exacerbating the fear. Ignore the fear and let your dog build confidence by letting him investigate things on his own when he is ready and praising for the effort. Use force-free behavior modification such as desensitization and counterconditioning



While behaviorists have studied fear periods for some time, it is important to keep in mind that they may not occur within that exact time frame for each puppy. If your dog is going through a fear period, keep in mind that it is not the end of the world. With guidance, desensitization and counter conditioning, your puppy or dog should recover nicely with time.
 

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Here is my opinion and that is all this is.

If the dog is found to be healthy physically and the fear persists or worsens I would return the dog to the breeder. YES you can "improve" and "manage" a genetically fearful dog but in all honesty with training and various tools but the underlying issue will remain and the dog will never be truly stable.

Both parents being on premise is not necessarily a sign of good dogs. It is convenient to have both and certainly with no stud fee a better shot at making some money from the litter. I am not saying they ARE bad breeders.

Bad temperament traits often skip a generation (the same with good temperament traits). I have seen this first hand in German Shepherds so I will "assume" it is similar for mastiff breeds.

I am not a fan of the Mastiff breeds that I have seen in the US. Most are fearful.. with weak nerve and very defensive. The breed should be good with family and have a calm, confident demeanor. Most I have seen have been fearful and that is too bad.

The Cane Corso is a guarding breed and for that to work they need to have defense drive. Without the genetics to be confident, defense drive can manifest as fear.
 

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She’s not eating her food, though she will accept treats. She’s not drinking either, but will eat ice cubes.
I don't think this is related, since it just started, but could be.

What type of food are you feeding?
Have you tried a new bag or different type of food?
What is her energy level like?
Corso's at her age have generally alot of energy and drink a good deal of water, that would be a lot of ice cubes.
 

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Here is my opinion and that is all this is.

If the dog is found to be healthy physically and the fear persists or worsens I would return the dog to the breeder. YES you can "improve" and "manage" a genetically fearful dog but in all honesty with training and various tools but the underlying issue will remain and the dog will never be truly stable.

Both parents being on premise is not necessarily a sign of good dogs. It is convenient to have both and certainly with no stud fee a better shot at making some money from the litter. I am not saying they ARE bad breeders.

Bad temperament traits often skip a generation (the same with good temperament traits). I have seen this first hand in German Shepherds so I will "assume" it is similar for mastiff breeds.

I am not a fan of the Mastiff breeds that I have seen in the US. Most are fearful.. with weak nerve and very defensive. The breed should be good with family and have a calm, confident demeanor. Most I have seen have been fearful and that is too bad.

The Cane Corso is a guarding breed and for that to work they need to have defense drive. Without the genetics to be confident, defense drive can manifest as fear.
It's a point of looking a lot.
I know quite a few very good breeders, between Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, also several in other states.
There a pretty big push currently in the Neo community to breed back toward the working Neo. Along with working toward working EM's and BM, Also there are several work on a more healthy DDB lines.

The U.K. has a total of 2 lines that are working to better the EM breed, and a couple working on working Neo's. Corso's have a few.
Past that you will find quite a larger number of solid mastiffs and mastiff breeds in the US than the UK.

Problem is the US also has far more bad breeders.
 

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It's a point of looking a lot.
I know quite a few very good breeders, between Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, also several in other states.
There a pretty big push currently in the Neo community to breed back toward the working Neo. Along with working toward working EM's and BM, Also there are several work on a more healthy DDB lines.

The U.K. has a total of 2 lines that are working to better the EM breed, and a couple working on working Neo's. Corso's have a few.
Past that you will find quite a larger number of solid mastiffs and mastiff breeds in the US than the UK.

Problem is the US also has far more bad breeders.
And so, the "possibility" of this particular dog is one of those poorly bred dogs.

In my breed (GSD) most of us who are serious about good dogs do not go to American Showlines (and in the last 20 years, West German Showlines) because the dogs were bred for a "look." The result of breeding for a single trait is that the other traits tend to get all messed up. Temperament is the most difficult trait to breed in or out of any line. Looks are much easier to breed for.

I do not know the breeding of the OP's dog. It could very well have AKC/UKC etc. breed ring champions top and bottom of the pedigree. This means they are pretty.. it does not mean they have good temperament.

It is frustrating in the GSD to see so many poorly bred dogs. It must be the same in the Mastiff community.
 

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We had a couple of bullmastiffs. One was a sweet darling of a dog, but a nerve bag. The other was the opposite. Low pack drive, confident, possesive- a fairly hard dog- would fight to kill another animal or dog when it came down to it. No fear at all. I think the problem with mastiffs is that most of them aren't tested in any way. How do you breed for something if the dogs arent being worked and tested? Bullmastiffs were created to hunt poachers- track, run down, attack and detain an armed man in the woods ( created by old timey game wardens to be a partner dog to them, like a k9 bred for game wardens ) That job died out, they turned into " estate guardians ". Fine, but as a result of this the size of the dogs increased ( no more running through the woods- just lay around and guard the yard ) prey drive, forward aggression, hardness decreased into what we have today. The founders of the breed said an optimum size was about 90lbs for its original job ( now everbody wants the 130lb dogs )Fast, athletic, agile, could negotiate obstacles such as fences, downed trees, run through marsh and swamp- they used to do exhibitions where theyd muzzle the BM and send it after a man given a head start, man would try to escape the dog. They were described as being trained using stick hits, taught to track, fight a human etc. Sounded similar to schutzhund training to an extent.
I'd like to see bullmastiffs capable of doing shutzhund. I've looked, havent been able to locate anyone at all breeding for those type dogs. The bullmastiff today is even described as being a dog that wont bite unless as a last resort- the founders said the dog must bite readily with an iron grip and never let go when they caught the man they were chasing. Expected to hold the poacher in an iron grip until the warden arrested the poacher.
All these things could still be tested and worked and bred for today, there would still be a niche for it in law enforcement and maybe personal protection, the problem is that no one is actively trying to do it......
 

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We had a couple of bullmastiffs. One was a sweet darling of a dog, but a nerve bag. The other was the opposite. Low pack drive, confident, possesive- a fairly hard dog- would fight to kill another animal or dog when it came down to it. No fear at all. I think the problem with mastiffs is that most of them aren't tested in any way. How do you breed for something if the dogs arent being worked and tested? Bullmastiffs were created to hunt poachers- track, run down, attack and detain an armed man in the woods ( created by old timey game wardens to be a partner dog to them, like a k9 bred for game wardens ) That job died out, they turned into " estate guardians ". Fine, but as a result of this the size of the dogs increased ( no more running through the woods- just lay around and guard the yard ) prey drive, forward aggression, hardness decreased into what we have today. The founders of the breed said an optimum size was about 90lbs for its original job ( now everbody wants the 130lb dogs )Fast, athletic, agile, could negotiate obstacles such as fences, downed trees, run through marsh and swamp- they used to do exhibitions where theyd muzzle the BM and send it after a man given a head start, man would try to escape the dog. They were described as being trained using stick hits, taught to track, fight a human etc. Sounded similar to schutzhund training to an extent.
I'd like to see bullmastiffs capable of doing shutzhund. I've looked, havent been able to locate anyone at all breeding for those type dogs. The bullmastiff today is even described as being a dog that wont bite unless as a last resort- the founders said the dog must bite readily with an iron grip and never let go when they caught the man they were chasing. Expected to hold the poacher in an iron grip until the warden arrested the poacher.
All these things could still be tested and worked and bred for today, there would still be a niche for it in law enforcement and maybe personal protection, the problem is that no one is actively trying to do it......
The second issue is the genetics have been so watered down just trying to find the original dog in there is nearly impossible. Same with Show Line German Shepherds and, to an extent, working line German Shepherds who have been bred to have unbalanced drives.
 

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Moderator warning: Hijacking a thread and taking it off topic is against forum rules. The subject of the thread was a request for help in determining the cause of her dog's behaviour, NOT a request to discuss well-bred vs poorly bred Mastiffs. If you wish to debate that, start a new thread, but any further debate will be deleted, and perpetrators potentially temp banned.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
As a follow up, turns out she had a urinary tract infection, and even more importantly, a false pregnancy.

She has been spayed and is on antibiotics for the UTI.

Thanks to all for your input.
 
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