There must be a need
I remember a time when folks would laugh at the idea of a Cane Corso being a farm dog. That should never have been, after all, this is what the breed was created for. Today, in most farming and homestead circles when a Cane Corso is mentioned, people are talking about it biting someone or killing their livestock. Real folks doing real homesteading do not recommend the Cane Corso as a farm breed. This is because for the first thirty years of the breed's existence in America, it was sold as a dog that everyone could own, a dog who's “work” is biting sport equipment like a German Shepherd and its beauty was exaggerated in the show ring. The breed became nothing more than show dogs bred for looks and sport dogs bred for ego. Both with the ultimate goal of selling puppies and nothing else.
“Working dogs are bred because they work.” -Phillip Onstott
A working farm dog is a working farm dog because it came from working farm dogs and works on a farm without training. Meaning, it has the genes that make it a dog for its environment. Breeders today must only breed from dogs that can work instinctively in order to maintain working farm dogs. This requires creating a need for the dogs and breeding the best workers, if the goal is to work. Often a breeder will find that the best looking dog or the friendliest dog or the biggest dog or the dog that everyone likes is not necessarily the best worker. Having the dedication needed to pass this dog up in favor of the best working dog is what is best for the dog breed, only if the work the dog is applied to mimics that of which the breed was created in the first place.
“There must be a need.” -Guenther
Instead of working farm dogs, today we mostly see dogs on a farm. This is a step in the right direction and a step towards better understanding of drives but it does not mean that they are working farm dogs. A working farm dog will begin to display the correct behavior of a future worker at a young age. Simply being around livestock is advantageous to only being around rented show rings and fields however it is still a tremendously far cry from living a life of necessity.
Necessity does not exist in suburbia, it does not exist in cul-de-sacs, it does not exist in rented apartments. Though at one time we did have a pretty open minded landlord, we eventually found that a need does not exist in a rented house either. For the homestead life is raw and gritty. Things will be broken and destroyed, messes will be made, animals will do what animals do and mostly life will be hard. The Italian farmer did not lead a life of convenience or one that he could turn off when it became too much to bear. The Italian farmer did not live in an urbanized area free from the perils of life that modernization has given us because everything was maintained by self. That is to say, his existence and that of his dog meant constant struggle for money, for food, for water and for safety. When there is no one to call upon, everything takes on new meaning.
Homesteading has become popular again in America as people wish to return to their roots. Often it is thought of as a more simple and minimalist lifestyle to be sought after. Once people begin to try it though, many realize that what looks like simple living from the outside is anything but. When all of our modern conveniences are stripped, and everything that once was simple is hard again, and only then, can we appreciate what modern advances have done. Try turning your water off for a weekend or only going grocery shopping once a month for a brief foray into life without convenience. Everything in your life will have to adjust from those two simple exercises.
The Italian farmer was poor and typically lived without fences or protection from government agencies. He was the fire department, the police, the veterinarian and the ambulance. A simple twisted ankle could put him weeks behind on collecting fuel for heat or food for winter. A broken arm could mean death. A dog that kills livestock could mean starvation.
The drives of the Cane Corso set it apart from any other breed. Those who believe “having dogs on a farm” is all it takes are not well versed on the topic. Almost all breeds served man in a pastoral or farm setting, yet so many different breeds exist because of needs. Special attention should be paid to how the Cane Corso worked on the farm, not simply the fact he existed on a farm. Many phrases are used by the novice to describe the Cane Corso; such as “jack of all trades, herder, guard dog, utility dog.” Though it did do these things, the simplistic descriptions so not allow any differentiation from dozens of other breeds. If one truly understands the nuances that can only be created by the needs of the Italian farmer, they will be able to precisely explain the different drives of the Cane Corso without any hesitation.