The Nature of the Corsican Dog, by Danilo Giorgio

The topic "NATURE" is very actual and it is often dealt, also on specialized or non-specialized magazines, by authors who do not always have acquaintance with dog psychology. In so doing, they often and maybe intentionally create confusion and disorientation among the enthusiasts, and they foment unnecessary and sterile quarrels.

Recently, ENCI, in the occasion of the last Judges’ Meeting in Massa Carrara, underlined two aspects that, according to me, deserve to be emphasized:
  1. ENCI has and will have more and more need of specialized societies to increase the value of every and single race from a zoo technical point of view.
  2. The zoo technical value and evaluation of a race is not only given by results obtained during the show or for the sole evaluation of the "model", but the esthetical and harmonic beauties keep up with the psychic beauty and I add the "functional" beauty.
Clearly, we should also consider non-visible congenital diseases. In brief, there are always the danger and risk of having brought out only those subjects that approach the parameters described by the race standard for their esthetic and morphologic nature. To this purpose, I would like to make a little remark: the standard of the Corsican dog is very scrupulous and detailed on morphologic side and measurements, and it is, according to me, one of the most complete standards in the absolute meaning. This is fruit of years of work and priceless efforts performed by meritorious researchers.

However, it is a little less deep concerning its character side; I would say, it is "essential" and dedicates little space with respect to the numerous great capacities of its race.

The nature of the Corsican dog is certainly its most fascinating peculiarity and therefore, it is right to dedicate to it an adequate treatment.

The word "character" from Greek means "print", i.e., the whole of personality features of an individual, either man or dog. Character is the sum of all those components consisting of the genetic and hereditary patrimony and the acquired factors defined by environment, breed, imprinting, socialization, education, and training that influence behavior.

The analysis of character endowments of a dog is certainly not a topic of a few words, and it should deserve a real treatise on dog psychology, but we will confine ourselves here to list them.

We will define them and try to uniform communication and language.

The character endowments of a dog are:
  • TEMPERAMENT, which is the capability of reacting more or less quickly to pleasurable or unpleasant stimuli. The more the reaction is quick, the better or higher is the temperament.
  • FIBRE: it is the capability of tolerating unpleasant, external situations and stimuli and forgetting them in short time. It can be "weak" or "hard." "Weak" subjects are useless, the "hard" ones need a capable trainer.
  • COMBATIVENESS: it is its natural endowment which includes capability of answering to unpleasant, external stimuli with two simultaneous actions: fighting and biting.
  • AGGRESSIVENESS: it is a natural and innate quality tightly bound to preservation of the species. It is the reaction that springs when the dog believes that itself and its environment are in danger (e.g., the reasons can be: restricted space, defense of brood, nutrition, etc.)
  • DOCILITY: it is the dog’s capability of accepting man as its natural superior with no need to use repression and submission from man’s side.
  • SOCIABILITY: dog’s capability of socializing with human beings.
  • WATCHFULNESS: it is the capability of perceiving or signaling the presence of strangers or closeness to external dangers both for dog and man in a timely manner. Watchfulness is strictly bound to its "territory," i.e., that "ideal" space considered its own by the dog.
  • CURIOSITY: dog’s interest for everything which surrounds it with particular use of its olfaction; it derives from its predatory instinct.
The best qualities or character components typifying the race of the Corsican dog are: combativeness, docility, sociability, and general nervous balance. These endowments make the Corsican a staid, quiet, reflective dog. The Corsican dog’s nervous balance and its own firmness of nerves represent the race’s true force and mental power born from an interior balance and therefore from a very good genetic substrate. This substrate needs to be increased more and more, checked by a proper breeding and balanced by the proper relationship Corsican dog-owner.

From here, it emerges the necessity and need, in part intelligently treated by the Society of Corsican dog lovers by creating CAL 1, to control or verify more and more race’s aptitudes, mainly nerves’ firmness and therefore nervous balance of the dog. Recently, I had the opportunity of judging around 40 Corsican dogs within CAL 1. I have to say that all of them brilliantly passed the test. Once the test was over, I have to say that 90% of the Corsican dogs properly stimulated entered immediately in combativeness by firmly grasping the sleeve and entering a fight with the shaking of the figurant.

This stimulation was only for training purposes to deeper verify combativeness, which is not possible to check with CAL1, since there is no contact with the figurant. The most surprising and extraordinary thing is that once the aggressive and fighting impulses were over, all the dogs, I repeat, all the dogs rapidly resumed control of themselves by going back to that indifference and natural behavior which were allowing me to manipulate them and check all dentitions at a big surprise of the figurant and the judge who was assisting me.

The Corsican dog, as well as the Boxer and other Molossoids, is not a neurotic or instinctive dog. It is not a "lightning," it is a reflective, well-balanced, light, swift Molossian, but with its own reaction times. Its reaction times are not suggested by a low excitability level but by the awareness of being able to evaluate situations and understand the difference among the nature of various stimuli. Sometimes, it may even seem indolent, lazy, absent-minded, superficial, while some other times it is very swift, hard, determined, and implacable but always with self-control.

I had the opportunity of checking, mainly during the show, that there are some biting, aggressive, and shy subjects; they are kept on a very short leash by their owners who are afraid of uncontrolled reactions of their dogs. Well, all this surely goes back to a wrong education system, a wrong man/dog relationship, an absent socialization, being too tolerant or weak, or having consciously pushed the dog into developing aggressiveness and fighting spirit (fighting/biting) towards its fellow dogs or man. In so doing, their owners convey them frustrations and inhibitions or repressed willingness typical of a man and not of a dog. The Corsican dog, because of its rural origins, is capable of living in any environment, of adapting to carry out multiple functions and utilizations. It being understood that the Corsican dog, by virtue of its character map, is a watch- and defense dog to all intents and purposes. It is better to point out that a watchdog is often confused with the defense dog. Instead, the watchdog has got completely different tasks and therefore more or less developed and differentiated character components in comparison to the defense dog.

A watchdog can be the simple and classic warning dog, or it can actively oppose eventual ill-intentioned people determined to violate its space and cross the territory entrusted to it. Therefore, it must have a lively temperament, a great vigilance, a scarce tractability and sociability, an average aggressiveness with a scanty or no combativeness and temper, especially if it is only an "alarm-bell" dog. The defense dog is a technically prepared dog which has got complete self-confidence and self-control of its own means. During learning and training, the defense dog has matured positive experiences which allow the dog to select the different reaction phases it must have under command, control, and order of its owner. Therefore, the dog needs to have an absolute obedience towards its owner, full aggressiveness, a strong temper, and a great combativeness and mordacity. These qualities must be developed through a specific development and training with experts in this field.

Another quality cited by the standard, which is worth underlining, is the obedience and love for the dog’s owner but mainly love towards children and family. There is nothing more beautiful and educational than observing the relationship the dog establishes with a child through what we adults often forget to do with the children: playing. Play, both for the puppies and children, means learning, cheerfulness, understanding, confidence, safety. This is a topic, together with socialization, first education, and training which should be treated specifically and specially, but for time reasons we cannot deal with it here.

On the utilization of the Corsican dog, the standard still expresses: watchdog, defense dog, police dog, tracking dog. Another quality of the Corsican dog is to have a good nose. In the past, it was used to start and hunt big game and as war auxiliary. Today, for its very good olfactory capabilities, it can be used in every different specialization as tracking dog, searching dog, starting dog, and in all work trials, particularly if it is endowed with good nature and good physical and psychic constitution. It can be successfully used for humanitarian purposes within the civil defense as searching dog on surface and as starting dog for disasters or wreckage.

The standard synthetically concludes with two words about behavior and character of the Corsican dog: easily trainable. I will only give some suggestions of general nature on this topic, since I am not a professional trainer, but in the past I trained many Boxers, a race which is very near also in character to the Corsican dog. My experiences with the Corsican dog are limited to my quality as a judge of competitions and shows and as a careful observer and a passionate of this race. I can attest that the Corsican dog does not have character deficiencies and it has got a 360° in potentiality for use at work and therefore in training. Its trainability is high, but its will to work is not very prolonged in time; e.g., in agility, where a continuous and constant action in different tests is required, it tends to weaken its propulsive action. However, the Corsican dog is able to concentrate its efficiency in short times by giving the best of itself. Its learning with respect to other races is less quick also for its strong character, but memory is very good, and this can have a lot of influence on the adult dog. Play is the most suitable method to start its training. This means that the dog must feel pleased in learning and establishing the dog/owner relationship. In any case, the Corsican dog can be trained as the majority of dogs. We only need to take care to socialization during its first education as a puppy, and during the training we need not to restrain its outbursts and nature, so that its joy is always enhanced, and to avoid any repression and coercion on the dog.

Now, I would like to summarize the character outline of the Corsican dog with a summary card and its typical behavior ("WORK STANDARD") during the work phases of nose, obedience, and defense.

Character outline of a Corsican dog is following:

a quite vivacious nature, character with a tendency to hard, fairly good obedience but in close relation with the capabilities of its guide, marked sociability, aggressiveness towards its fellow dogs but relatively scarce towards man, very high fighting spirit, good watch, high curiosity as well as possessive character. Learning time is very short with puppies, and it becomes quite slow with adult dogs. Its memory is very good. In nose work, its olfactory capability is very good in the various specialization with a good perseverance and quite long attention times; its gait is rather swift with some paces at a gallop, mainly on an easy ground by cool temperature and very strong trail.

The position of its signaling is taken on in very short times. Gathering is performed in an exuberant manner, and we are often afraid that the dog lets the object fall in case of delay of its guide.

Obedience work: the Corsican dog seems particularly slow in learning if training is started at an advanced age (over twelve months), while it shows itself much more swift if training is started at a young age (4/5 months). Curiosity, possessiveness, and a very good memory play in favor of a precocious training. The performing pace is quick, and the Corsican dog shows itself to be attentive to the movements of its guide and ready to receive the commands. However, it is worth noting that in most cases it does not love inclement weather conditions such as very high temperatures or heavy rainfall. Major difficulties are in exercises where the Corsican dog has to detach from its guide because of its natural relationship of tractability. The return pace in the taking-back exercise is clearly slower than going to the object because of the possessiveness that causes the dog difficulty to leave the object to its guide.

During the test of indifference towards strangers, its great curiosity often leads the dog to linger by the occasional passers-by on which it has to perform all the typical dog rituals: the dog often touches strangers with his snout, but this is an absolutely regular action.

Defense work: the pace of patrolling field and hiding places must be quick with frequent paces at a gallop. In the affront and barking, voice must be deep and full. A moment of delay in barking is regular because typical of this race is barking little and rarely. In behaviors, the Corsican dog is always watchful and ready to jump; in chasing the figurant, it is swift and determined at a gallop. Very good is watching with continuous attention to the figurant even when its guide is approaching. Engaged by the figurant, it demonstrates a very short aggressive impulse followed by a fighting impulse on a high intensity level prolonged in time. Therefore, this dog loves the sleeve kept high and a long and quick transportation during which the dog keeps the figurant busy with all its limbs in the fight and a catch with a full mouth in a clench of very high intensity. Once the fighting impulse has ceased in presence of a figurant really capable of relaxing, the Corsican dog performs a good let go, while many difficulties show up with less capable figurants. After the let go, the Corsican dog rapidly returns to a regular attitude. The catch on the sleeve is strong with full mouth and well centered in the middle part of the figurant’s forearm.

Now, I would like to conclude with an invitation to the breeders, all members of SACC, and all the Corsican race lovers. Approach the world of work tests, which have been established in order to check, in potential reproducers, the existence of typical work qualities and therefore the potential capability of transmitting them.

Last but not least, the capability of receiving the training, which is guarantee of balance and "psychic health" that are reached in breeding through a scrupulous selection on a behavioral basis.

Walter Gorrieri was teaching that it is not permissible to express judgements on a non-trained dog, as it is not permissible to judge a book by its content about which nothing has been written: both have no value because they have no possible use.

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