Breed Group: Sporting
The Spinone Italiano (spin-O-nay) can be compared to the Labrador or Golden Retriever. They are quite similar in their love of family and acceptance of the abuse that young children can administer. Even adult dogs that have never been around youngsters know how to behave around them; and their grizzled, grandfatherly look makes them especially attractive to kids. Their sweet, gentle nature also extends to visitors; but he lets you know quickly when a stranger is about, making him a very good watch dog. Although his size and barking may intimidate, they enjoy people too much or are too cautious to make a good guardian. They enjoy their family’s pets almost as much as their family, usually getting along with both other dogs and cats too. Outside they like to stay in view of their people, even when hunting. It has been said they hunt for their owner, not for themselves. As you might expect, they need a good long walk and some vigorous exercise every day. But when they get it, their energy level inside is more manageable than many breeds in the Sporting group. Some are diggers or jumpers so if you fence them, make sure the fence is well secured. Many enjoy swimming, especially if introduced to water when young. Some drool.
Standing 22 to 27 inches tall and weighing between 60 and 90 pounds, the Spinone Italiano is a large dog. They have a dense, wiry, medium length coat that comes in the colors of white, white and orange, white and chestnut, chestnut and roan, and orange and roan. They have long eyebrows and a beard giving them a wise appearance. They shed no more than an average dog with some shedding very little. Most need only periodic brushing. But there is a variety outside the breed standard with longer hair that needs a greater grooming effort because their coat collects more debris. They do equally well in all but the coldest or warmest temperatures.
Only average socialization is needed to develop their loving temperament. Not a couch potato breed, they are intelligent, learn quickly, and do best with a task to perform. He will not challenge you for dominance but he may be stubborn at times. Use only positive training methods or risk undermining his gentle spirit. Consider them for advanced training in agility, obedience, search and rescue, or pet therapy. They make a great choice for an active first-time dog owner.
Affecting almost 16% of the breed, Hip Dysplasia is their most serious health problem with another 5% suffering from Elbow Dysplasia. Thyroid imbalances are seen in some lines as is cerebral ataxis, a problem that affects their balance. As with any deep-chested dog, precautions should be taken to avoid Bloat. Although one study showed an average lifespan of about 9 years, most experts believe 12 to 14 years is more accurate.
Still virtually unknown to dog fanciers in the US, the Spinone Italiano is a very rare breed. Ranked 115th in popularity, the American Kennel Club registers only about 300 dogs in a typical year. Be prepared to search for a breeder and wait for a puppy. With their gentle nature, consider a rescue. The National Breed Club will be a valuable contact in starting a search for a dog.
The Spinone Italiano is believed to be one of the earliest breeds developed to point. Although evidence of pointing dogs exists as far back as 500BC, it is not until the 15th century that artwork depicts a dog similar to the Spinone Italiano. Although the precise origin of the breed is unknown, several theories exist. One holds it was developed from stock native to the British Isles. Another advocates the idea the breed was brought to Italy by Greek traders at the time of the Roman Empire. No matter the breed’s origins, it proved adept at pointing and penetrating dense, briar-like cover to find game. During World War II they displayed their tracking ability by following German patrols. But by the end of the war the breed had been decimated and what few dogs remained were being crossed with other breeds. In the 1950’s, breeders began to redevelop the Spinone Italiano. The result, well worth the effort, is today's general hunting dog that can point, set, and retrieve, that has a good nose, and good sense.
The National (US) Breed Club is the Spinone Club of America.