As a Perro de Presa Canario owner, you have selected your dog so that you and your loved ones can have a protector, a working dog, a companion and a four-legged family member. You invest time, money and effort to care for and train the family’s new charge. Of course, this chosen canine behaves perfectly! Well, perfectly like a dog.
THINK LIKE A DOG
Dogs do not think like humans, nor do humans think like dogs, though we try. However, never try to “humanize” a dog. Unfortunately, a dog is incapable of comprehending how humans think, so the responsibility falls on the owner to adopt a proper canine mindset. Dogs cannot rationalize, and dogs exist in the present moment. Many a dog owner makes the mistake in training of thinking that he can reprimand his dog for something the dog did a while ago. Basically, you cannot even reprimand a dog for something he did 20 seconds ago! Either catch him in the act or forget it! It is a waste of your and your dog’s time-in his mind, you are reprimanding him for whatever he is doing at that moment.
The following behavioral problems represent some which owners most commonly encounter.
Every dog is unique and every situation is unique. No author could purport for you to solve your Presa’s problems simply by reading a script. Here we outline some basic “dog speak” so that owners chances of solving behavioral problems are increased. Discuss bad habits with your vet and he can recommend a behavioral specialist to consult in appropriate cases. Since behavioral abnormalities are the main reason for owners’ abandoning their pets, we hope that you will make a valiant effort to solve your Perro de Presa Canario problems. Patience and understanding are virtues that must dwell in every pet-loving household.
This is a problem that concerns all responsible dog owners, and Presa Canario owners are particularly concerned. Aggression can be a very big problem in dogs, and, when not controlled, always becomes dangerous. Unless untrained or improperly trained, a Presa Canario is not a a dangerous dog.” A dog with a fighting-dog background can be naturally aggressive toward other dogs, though should never be aggressive toward humans. Presa Canario’s were trained to protect, not to attack, humans. Aggressive behavior, such as lunging at a human, is not to be tolerated in any animal.
While not all aggressive behavior is dangerous, growling, baring teeth, etc., can be frightening. It is important to ascertain why the dog is acting in this manner. Aggression is a display of dominance, and the dog should not have the dominant role in its pack, which is, in this case, your family. It is important not to challenge an aggressive dog, as this could provoke an attack. Observe your Presa’s body language. Does he make direct eye contact and stare? Does he try to make himself as large as possible: ears pricked, chest out, tail erect? Height and size signify authority in a dog pack-being taller or “above” another dog literally means that he is “above” in social status. These body signals tell you that your Presa Canario thinks he is in charge, a problem that needs to be addressed. An aggressive dog is unpredictable; you never know when he is going to strike and what he is going to do.
You cannot understand why a dog that is playful one minute is growling the next. Fear is a common cause of aggression in dogs. Perhaps your Presa had a negative experience as a puppy, which causes him to be fearful when a similar situation presents itself later in life. The dog may act aggressively in order to protect himself from whatever is making him afraid. It is not always easy to determine what is making your dog fearful, but if you can isolate what brings out the fear reaction, you can help the dog get over it.
Supervise your Presa’s interactions with people and other dogs, and praise the dog when it goes well.
He starts to act aggressively in a situation, correct him and remove him from the situation. Do not let people approach the dog and start petting him without your express permission. That way, you can have the dog sit to accept petting, and praise him when he behaves properly. You are focusing on praise and on modifying his behavior by rewarding him when he acts appropriately. By being gentle and by supervising his interactions, you are showing him that there is no need to be afraid or defensive. The best solution is to consult a behavioral specialist, one who has experience with the PresaCanario (or similar breeds) if possible. Together, perhaps you can pinpoint the cause of your dog’s aggression and do something about it. An aggressive dog cannot be trusted, and a dog that cannot be trusted is not safe to have as a family pet. If, very unusually, you find that your pet has become untrustworthy and you feel it necessary to seek a new home with a more suitable family and environment, explain fully to the new owners all your reasons for re-homing the dog to be fair to all concerned. In the very worst case, you will have to consider euthanasia.
AGGRESSION TOWARD OTHER DOGS
Whether a Presa Canario or a Pomeranian, a dog’s aggressive behavior toward another dog stems from not enough exposure to other dogs at an early age. Socialization is key when dealing with a potentially dog-aggressive breed like the Presa. The Presa, as a breed with a fighting-dog background, does not readily accept strange dogs, and naturally will be quarrelsome with dogs of his/ her same sex. If other dogs make your Presa Canario nervous and agitated, he will lash out to show his fearlessness or even his insecurity. A dog that has not received sufficient exposure to other canines tends to think that he is the only dog on the island. The animal becomes so dominant that he does not even show signs that he is fearful or threatened. Without growling or any other physical signal as a warning, he will lunge at and bite the other dog.
A way to correct is to let your Presa approach another dog when walking on lead. Watch very closely and, at the first sign of aggression, correct your Presa and pull him away. Scold him for any sign of discomfort, and then praise him when he ignores the other dog. Keep this up until either he stops the aggressive behavior, learns to ignore other dogs or even accepts other dogs. Praise him lavishly for this correct behavior.
The dog wants to dominate those under him and please those above him. Dogs know that there must be a leader. If you are not the obvious choice for emperor, the dog will assume the throne! These conflicting innate desires are what a dog owner is up against when he sets about training a dog. I n training a dog to obey commands, the owner is reinforcing that he is the top dog in the pack and that the dog should, and should want to, serve his superior. Thus, the owner is suppressing the dog’s urge to dominate by modifying his behavior and making him obedient. An important part of training is taking every opportunity to reinforce that you are the leader.
The simple action of making your Presa Canario dog sit to wait for his food instead of allowing him to run up to get it when he wants it says that you control when he eats; he is dependent on you for food. Although it may be difficult, do not give in to your dog’s wishes every time he whines at you or looks at you with pleading eyes. It is a constant effort to show the dog that his place in the pack is at the bottom. This is not meant to sound cruel or inhumane. You love your Presa and you should treat him with care and affection. You (hopefully) did not get a dog just so you could control another creature. Dog training is not about being cruel or feeling important, it is about molding the dog’s behavior into what is acceptable and teaching him to live by your rules. In theory, it is quite simple: catch your Presa Canario dog in appropriate behavior and reward him for it.
Add a dog into the equation and it becomes a bit more trying, but, as a rule of thumb, positive reinforcement is what works best. With a dominant dog, punishment and negative reinforcement can have the opposite effect of what you are after. It can make a dog fearful and/or act out aggressively if he feels he is being challenged. Remember, a dominant dog perceives himself at the top of the social heap, and will fight to defend his perceived status. The best way to prevent that is to never give your dog reason to think that he is in control in the first place.