The Spinone Italiano: A Guide for Owners
Throughout the world, there exists only a handful of dog breeds that can be consistently described as affectionate, playful, and fun-loving. One of these dogs is the Spinone Italiano. Originally bred in the 1200s for the purpose of pointing and retrieving, this breed is now favored for its companionship qualities and suitability as a family dog. This work examines the Spinone Italiano and provides an in-depth analysis of the animal’s behavioral patterns, temperament, and general traits. This includes a discussion of the dog’s health concerns, grooming and exercise requirements, as well as water and nutritional needs. It is the author’s hope that a better understanding (and appreciation) of this remarkable breed will accompany readers following their completion of this work.
“My fashion philosophy is, if you’re not covered in dog hair, your life is empty.”
— Elayne Boosler
- Common Name: Spinone Italiano
- Binomial Name: Canis Lupus Familiaris
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Canidae
- Genus: Canis
- Species: Canis Lupus
- Subspecies: Canis Lupus Familiaris
- Other Name(s): Italian Spinone; Italian Griffon
History of the Spinone Italiano
- Life Span: 12 to 14 years
- Group: Sporting
- Area of Origin: Italy
- Date of Origin: 1200s
- Original Function: Pointing; Retrieving
- Family: Pointer; Gundog
The Spinone Italiano is an older breed that originated in the Piedmont region of Italy during the 1200s. The Spinone is believed to have descended from a long line of ancient hunting dogs that can trace their roots as far back as 500 BC. In their quest to develop an “all-around” hunting dog capable of scaling Italy’s mountainous regions, swamps, and marshes, early breeders began a rigorous selection process with endurance, speed, and ruggedness in mind. The end result of their efforts was the Spinone Italiano that we know and love today; a high-energy, flexible, and strongly-built dog with an affinity for tracking, pointing, and retrieving a wide array of game.
In spite of its early origins, the Spinone wasn’t accepted as an “official” breed until the late 1800s, when standards for the dog were first established in 1897. In the decades that followed its acceptance on the world stage, however, the breed was almost brought to extinction by the First World War. Fortunately, a small group of dedicated breeders were able to save the Spinone from this dismal fate through a process of selective breeding, followed by importation of the dog to the United States in 1931 (akc.org). Once in the United States, the Spinone’s reputation as a hunting breed (and companion) began to soar.
To date, the Spinone Italiano continues to be a favorite of hunters and trappers alike, due to its remarkable tracking abilities, as well as the dog’s natural affinity for retrieving. In more recent years, however, the Spinone’s role has changed dramatically. The breed is now a favorite for many family-based homes due to the dog’s natural friendliness, love for life, and affectionate demeanor.
Appearance and Characteristics
- Weight: 71 to 82 pounds (male); 62 to 71 pounds (female)
- Height: 23 to 27 inches (male); 22 to 25 inches (female)
The Spinone possesses a muscular body built for speed and endurance. Overall height and weight are highly proportionate, with their body length measuring approximately the same height as the withers (akc.org). Although females tend to be slightly smaller, their body generally follows the same proportions in their overall build.
The Spinone possesses a long head with their muzzle reaching a length equal to the back of the skull (akc.org). Overall shape of the head is generally described as oval in appearance, with sloping sides, lean cheeks, and a pronounced furrow. Topping the head is a large series of rounded eyes that vary between light or dark brown. Completing the dog’s head profile is a pair of triangular ears with rounded tips that sit level with the Spinone’s eyes. Possessing little erectile power, these ears typically swing loosely on the dog’s head and are covered with a short (but thick) layer of fur to provide protection from underbrush and the elements.
The Spinone is renowned for its well-muscled and broad shoulders that come together with the upper arms at an approximately 105-degree angle (akc.org). Upper arms are proportionate in length to the shoulder blades, with the forelegs appearing straight (when viewed from the front). Completing the slightly curved pasterns is a pair of large, rounded feet with a series of arched toes that sit close to one another. As with most outdoor breeds, the feet also possess a hard series of pads to protect them from rough terrain, along with pigmented claws that curve downward.
The hindquarters of this breed follow many of the same characteristics of the forequarters. Spinone’s possess thighs described as well-muscled and developed. The rear pastern typically runs perpendicular to the ground, whereas the distance from hock to ground is usually one-third the height of the dog’s withers. Although very similar to the front paws, the rear feet are generally more oval than the front, but possess the same pad and claw features.
Overall, the Spinone’s tail follows the line of the croup, and is described as both short and thick. Tails are typically carried horizontally or downward. Deviations to this rule are considered major faults and should be evaluated by a qualified veterinarian.
Coat and Coloration
Spinone’s possess a single coat that is approximately 1.5 to 2.5 inches in length, with shorter hair along the head, ears, muzzle, and legs. Hair along the back is usually quite rough, and is typically described as both coarse and dense..
Is the Spinone Italiano Right for Your Home?
- Energy Level: 4/5
- Exercise Needs: 4/5
- Playfulness: 3/5
- Affection Towards Owners: 4/5
- Friendliness Towards Other Animals: 4/5
- Training Difficulty: 3/5
- Grooming Level: 2/5
Note: Scale of 1 to 5 (1=Lowest, 5=Highest)
The Spinone Italiano is a moderately energetic breed renowned for its loyalty and gentle nature. Often described as affectionate and easy-going by experts, the Spinone Italiano is also quite gentle, making it an ideal pet for homes with children. They are also very obedient and respond well to a variety of commands when provided sufficient training. Although generally described as friendly towards strangers and other pets, owners should take great care when introducing others to their Spinone to avoid potential issues.
Is the Spinone Italiano Good With Children?
Yes! The Spinone Italiano does exceptionally well with children of all age groups due to their friendly personalities and gentle demeanor. They are also quite affectionate and comical, making them great companions for kids. Although originally developed as a hunting breed, the Spinone Italiano has recently become a favorite for family-based households due to their non-aggressive personality and sweet-natured disposition. As with all dog breeds, however, parents should always supervise their children when in the presence of the Spinone. More specifically, parents should spend considerable time teaching their kids how to properly approach and handle dogs.
Although considered an incredibly even-tempered and well-rounded breed, the Spinone Italiano is not known for its intelligence and capacity for learning. And while they are receptive to basic training programs, it is estimated that a Spinone Italiano requires approximately 40 to 80 repetitions of a task before they are capable of learning a new command/trick. As a result, this breed is generally not recommended for individuals seeking a dog capable of understanding a wide array of tricks and commands. For these roles, owners are better-served by a breed such as the Border Collie, German Shepherd, or Poodle (PetHelpful.com).
Grooming and Training Needs
Despite its long and coarse hair, the Spinone requires minimal grooming. Experts usually recommend a weekly brushing for this breed, as well as regular ear cleaning. Due to its relatively thick coat, owners should pay particular attention to dead hair that tends to “clump” on the Spinone over time. This should be removed quickly to prevent matting, and can be done with a suitable brush.
Nails should also be trimmed on a weekly basis as they tend to grow fast on this particular breed. This can be performed at home, or at a local veterinarian’s office (for individuals that are uncomfortable with trimming their dog’s nails). Failure to maintain a proper nail length can result in serious injury to your dog (or others), as longer nails have a tendency to become snagged on various objects over time.
Finally, and crucially, owners should pay close attention to their Spinone Italiano’s dental hygiene. Dental care is an aspect of grooming that is often neglected by owners, despite the fact that it is extremely important to your dog’s overall health and well-being. Regular teeth brushing helps to eliminate food-based substances and debris which, in turn, help to keep bad breath, gum disease, gingivitis, and tooth decay at a minimum.
Training and Exercise
In regard to training, the Spinone Italiano can be relatively difficult to teach. This is due, in part, to their stubborn and independent nature, as well as their natural affinity towards wanting to “play” rather than learn. As such, training generally requires a great deal of time and patience on behalf of the owner. Consistency is crucial for training this breed, and can be supplemented by reward-based incentives for your Spinone (such as doggy treats and snacks). It should also be noted that the Spinone is highly-sensitive to correction, and will not respond well to yelling or physical punishment during training regimens. In fact, these actions often have extremely negative consequences, leading to timid behaviors and shyness that is difficult to correct.
In regard to exercise requirements, the Spinone Italiano is an incredibly energetic breed that requires daily exercise to live a happy and satisfying life. Generally speaking, experts suggest that owners provide their Spinone with at least an hour of exercise on a daily basis. This should include a combination of activities (such as running, walking, or swimming), as well as extensive training and playtime. Failure to provide this basic need will result in destructive behaviors (such as excessive chewing, digging, or barking) as the dog attempts to “entertain” themself. It is crucial to note, however, that the Spinone possesses a strong impulse to roam or wander. Potential owners should keep this in mind while exercising, and always keep their Spinone on a leash when walking or running.
As with most breeds, high-quality dog food should always be the number one priority for your pet. These meals can be prepared by a manufacturer, or at home following the guidance and supervision of your dog’s veterinarian. Although it is tempting to provide your Spinone Italiano with human-based foods (such as table scraps and leftovers), these foods generally contain harmful substances and toxins that are detrimental to your dog’s overall health. Foods with bones, preservatives, and hormones can result in serious damage to your dog’s digestive tract and esophagus, thus, dramatically reducing their life expectancy. Other food items can result in major problems as well. The following list details 10 foods you should avoid giving your Spinone Italiano (or dogs in general):
In closing, the Spinone Italiano is a remarkable dog breed that is renowned for its devotion, affectionate demeanor, and companionship towards owners. Although this breed can be stubborn (to a fault), and requires a great deal of attention from their owner on a daily basis, individuals will be hard-pressed to find another dog that is as loving and caring as the Spinone. For these reasons, the Spinone Italiano will likely remain a favorite of dog lovers for the foreseeable future.