The cane corso is a large, rugged mastiff-type dog bred in Italy. Used by farmers as a catch dog for cattle and sheep, as well as a drover and cart dog, the cane corso was nearly extinct by the 1970's. Careful breeding increased the number of dogs around the world, and it is now officially recognized by both the United Kennel Club and American Kennel Club. Further breeding efforts are necessary to improve the gene pool and re-establish healthy lines around the globe.
Select a pair of dogs that complement each other and display traits that you want to pass on to future generations. The cane corso is a molosser-type dog, and both male and female should be between 23 and 27 inches tall at the shoulder, with a wide head, broad muzzle and deep, pronounced stop. The forelegs should be straight and well-muscled, and the hindquarters strong, with thick muscling over the thigh. Both male and female should be approximately the same size to prevent complications from overly-large puppies during whelping.
Ask your veterinarian to perform complete pre-breeding physicals on both dogs. Cane corso are fairly hearty dogs, but still prone to genetic conditions such as hip dysplasia, so both dogs should have their hips examined prior to breeding. The vet will also test for communicable diseases including brucellosis, and rule out any illnesses prior to breeding.
Monitor the female for signs of estrus. Larger breeds such as the cane corso come into season every 8 to 12 months, and will be receptive to breeding for a period of approximately 10 days. The female's vulva will swell and darken in color, and she will produce a discharge that turns from red to clear in color as her heat progresses.
Allow the dogs time to explore each other, and stand quietly as they investigate. If the female is receptive, she will turn her hindquarters towards the male and allow him to mount her. Mating may be as brief as five minutes or as long as an hour, so don't attempt to move or otherwise disturb the dogs until they part on their own. Pair the dogs every other day until the female is no longer receptive.
Note the first mating on a calendar, and count 63 days from the first mating. Dogs normally carry a litter for 9 weeks, although cane corsos often whelp around day 60 due to large puppies and a lack of room in the uterus.
Prepare the whelping area 10 days before the female is due. Place the box in a quiet room, and line the bottom with towels or old blankets to absorb messes and make the box more comfortable. Introduce the female to the box and let her sleep there so she is familiar with her new surroundings before the puppies arrive.
Observe the female for signs of whelping. Her pelvic area will swell and distend as the puppies move down towards the birth canal, and a small amount of pink-colored fluid will dampen the blankets when labor begins. She will pant and pace as she adjusts herself, and her abdomen will tighten with each contraction. As the first puppy emerges, the placenta will cover its nose. The female normally breaks the sac and licks the puppy clean, but if she is inexperienced, break the sac with your fingers and rub the puppy with a clean towel to stimulate breathing. The female will break the umbilical cord with her teeth, and the next puppy should be born within 15 minutes. Cane corso have wide pelvic bones and should have no trouble whelping, but if puppies take longer than 30 minutes to arrive, call your veterinarian.
Attach the heat lamp to the whelping box once the mother is done giving birth, and gently move the puppies under the lamp. Cane corso puppies are larger than other breeds, but still prone to hypothermia, especially in colder climates. Tie a short length of different-colored ribbon around each puppy's neck to aid in tracking and identification of your new litter.