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The Spinone Italiano: A Guide for Owners

Larry Slawson received his Master's Degree from UNC Charlotte. He has 15+ years of experience with dogs and various pets.

The Spinone Italiano: A Guide for Owners.

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.

Dog Quote

"My fashion philosophy is, if you're not covered in dog hair, your life is empty."

— Elayne Boosler

Scientific Classification

  • 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
Spinone Italiano posing for the camera.

Spinone Italiano posing for the camera.

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

Origins

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, prompting the American Kennel Club (AKC) to finally recognize the breed on 27 September 2000.

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.

Pictured above is a beautiful Spinone Italiano.

Pictured above is a beautiful Spinone Italiano.

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.

Head

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.

Forequarters

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.

Hindquarters

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.

Tail

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.

This breed also comes in a variety of colors, including: white, orange and white, orange roan, whitish-brown, brown roan, and chestnut. Tri-colors, tan spots, or black markings are generally viewed as defects with this particular breed.

Beautiful Spinone Italiano smiling for the camera.

Beautiful Spinone Italiano smiling for the camera.

Is the Spinone Italiano Right for Your Home?

General Characteristics

  • 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)

Temperament

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.

How Smart is the Spinone Italiano?

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).

The Spinone Italiano.

The Spinone Italiano.

Grooming and Training Needs

Grooming Requirements

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.

Nutritional Needs

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):

Avoid giving these 10 foods to your Spinone Italiano.

Avoid giving these 10 foods to your Spinone Italiano.

How Much Food Should a Spinone Italiano Eat Per Day?

As with all dog breeds, feeding requirements vary significantly with every pet and depend greatly on your dog’s weight, energy level, and age. For this reason, owners should work actively with their veterinarian to establish a feeding cycle that fits their dog’s specific needs. Generally speaking, however, adult Spinone Italianos require approximately 2.5 to 3.5 cups of high-quality dog food (dry) each day (divided into two separate meals). More active breeds will require slightly more food to replenish lost calories, whereas less-active dogs will require slightly less. It is crucial to note, however, that the Spinone is prone to obesity if they don’t receive adequate exercise on a daily basis. This is why it is crucial for individuals to stick with diet plans (and exercise schedules) with this particular breed.

Water Needs

Maintaining proper hydration is also extremely important for the Spinone Italiano. Nearly 70-percent of the dog’s body is comprised of water. Therefore, owners should pay active attention to their dog’s water needs throughout the day as their requirements can change in response to both outside temperatures and their daily activity levels. As with most breeds, standard water requirements are usually determined by your dog’s weight. For every seven pounds of weight, a Spinone Italiano should consume approximately 6 ounces of water per day. For example, a 70-pound dog would require 60 ounces of water in a day’s time. This standard represents only minimal requirements, however, and should be tailored to your dog’s specific needs. More active Spinone Italianos will require additional water (in the vicinity of 80 to 120 ounces a day), whereas less-active dogs will consume only the minimum requirements.

Signs and symptoms of dehydration in dogs.

Signs and symptoms of dehydration in dogs.

What Type of Home is Good for a Spinone Italiano?

Deciding to adopt a Spinone Italiano is a major life decision that should never be taken lightly. Potential owners should note that the Spinone is an incredibly energetic breed that requires daily exercise and room to run around. They are also highly-affectionate and don’t do well when left alone for long periods of time. As such, they are not recommended for busy owners who are incapable of spending regular one-on-one time with their pet (due to work or various issues).

As a hunting dog, this breed was clearly designed for the outdoors. As such, urban-based dwellings (such as condos, townhomes, and apartments) are usually not suitable environments for the Spinone. While potential owners can certainly make accommodations for their pet in the city, such moves require a substantial amount of effort that may be difficult to follow in the long-term. As a result, rural and country-based homes where the dog can run freely (either in a large fenced-in lot, or around the countryside) are best.

Is the Spinone Italiano Good With Other Pets?

Yes and no. Generally speaking, the Spinone Italiano does well with other dogs inside the home. Due to its natural hunting instincts, however, this breed is usually not suitable for families with cats, birds, rabbits, and other small animals. Why is this the case? To the Spinone Italiano, small animals are perceived as potential prey that needs to be caught, killed, and retrieved. Breaking this natural tendency, therefore, is extremely difficult (if not impossible). As such, smaller pets (including some dogs) should be kept away from the Spinone Italiano for safety reasons.

Is the Spinone Italiano a Good Guard Dog?

No. Due to the Spinone Italiano’s sweet disposition, the dog is not recommended for guarding roles. In fact, the average Spinone is more likely to lick (kiss) an approaching stranger, rather than growl or become aggressive. This breed does, however, make for an excellent “watchdog,” due to their natural inclination to bark at strange sounds and occurrences. For owners seeking a pet for guardianship though, they will likely be better-served by a tougher and more aggressive breed such as the Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher, or German Shepherd.

Pair of adorable Spinone Italiano puppies.

Pair of adorable Spinone Italiano puppies.

Spinone Italiano Puppies

How to Properly Select a Spinone Italiano Puppy

As mentioned above, deciding to adopt a Spinone Italiano is a major life-decision that should never be taken lightly. This also applies to the selection of puppies, as great care should be taken when adopting a new dog from a breeder. When examining litters, potential owners should evaluate Spinone puppies with several things in mind. Be sure to evaluate each puppy’s individual energy level, as well as their overall friendliness (affection) towards you and others. Individuals should also look for signs of shyness or timid behavior that can indicate developmental or behavioral issues.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, always ask breeders for health clearances which helps prove that each puppy has been cleared for various health conditions. Not only does this ensure that you are getting a healthy puppy, but it also helps prove that the seller is a responsible breeder who cares for the health and safety of their animals.

Health Concerns

Recommended Medical Tests and Evaluations for the Spinone Italiano:

  • Hip and Elbow Evaluation
  • Eye Exam

Although generally described as an extremely healthy breed, the Spinone Italiano is prone to a variety of health conditions that can develop throughout their lifetime. This includes hip and elbow dysplasia, as well as eye anomalies. Infection is also common for this breed’s ears. As a result, ears should be evaluated on a weekly basis for excessive earwax buildup, dirt, and other debris. Prompt removal of these substances can go a long way in preventing the development of sores, blisters, and various infections within your dog’s ear canal. Other common concerns for the Spinone include: ectropion, otitis externa, cerebellar ataxia, gastric torsion, and severe allergies.

To maintain both a happy and healthy lifestyle for the Spinone, owners should schedule regular visits with a qualified veterinarian to prevent (or uncover) potential health issues. By taking this proactive step, you can help your dog achieve a happy and healthy lifestyle for years to come. With proper diet and attention to your pet’s needs, owners can expect the average Spinone Italiano to live in the vicinity of 12 to 14 years (or longer).

Signs and symptoms of illness in the Spinone Italiano.

Signs and symptoms of illness in the Spinone Italiano.

Pros and Cons of the Spinone Italiano

Pros:

  • Even-tempered breed that gets along with everyone.
  • Great family dog that does well with children of all ages.
  • Does well with other household dogs.
  • Relatively easy to groom and maintain.
  • Healthy breed with few medical issues.

Cons:

  • Requires a great deal of exercise on a daily basis.
  • Stubborn to a fault.
  • Tends to drool excessively.
  • Prone to develop “separation anxiety” when left alone for too long.

Concluding Thoughts

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.

Works Cited

Articles/Books:

  • American Kennel Club. The New Complete Dog Book 22nd Edition. Mount Joy, Pennsylvania: Fox Chapel Publishing, 2017.
  • Coile, Caroline. The Dog Breed Bible: Descriptions and Photos of Every Breed Recognized by the AKC. Hauppauge, New York: Barron’s Educational Series, 2007.
  • Dennis-Bryan, Kim. The Complete Dog Breed Book. New York, New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2014.
  • Larkin, Peter and Mike Stockman. The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Dogs, Dog Breeds, & Dog Care. London, England: Hermes House, 2006.
  • Mehus-Roe, Kristin. Dog Bible: The Definitive Source for All Things Dog. Irvine, California: I-5 Press, 2009.
  • O’Neill, Amanda. What Dog? A Guide to Help New Owners Select the Right Breed for their Lifestyle. Hauppauge, New York: Interpret Publishing Ltd., 2006.
  • Schuler, Elizabeth Meriwether. Simon and Schuster’s Guide to Dogs. New York, New York: Simon & Schuster, Incorporated, 1980.
  • Slawson, Larry. “The Top 10 Smartest Dog Breeds.” (PetHelpful). 2019.
  • Slawson, Larry. “The 10 Best Dogs for Children.” (PetHelpful). 2019.

Images:

Wikimedia Commons

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Larry Slawson

Comments

Larry Slawson (author) from North Carolina on September 19, 2020:

Thank you so much, Sam! So glad you enjoyed! I always enjoy reading your articles as well. Always in-depth and extremely interesting to read.

Sam Shepards from Europe on September 19, 2020:

Excellent article. I also saw you've written a German Shepherd article around July 20th, seems to have missed that one in my feed, haven't been that active and I can't comment there it seems (new design...). Well written and thoroughly examined articles on these breeds!

Larry Slawson (author) from North Carolina on September 17, 2020:

Haha, thank you Ann! I'm so glad you enjoyed. And I know what you mean! Each of these articles makes me want another dog as well!

Ann Carr from SW England on September 17, 2020:

This series of yours is excellent; educational, informative, advisory. It also introduces us to unknown breeds.

This dog looks so appealing, it's easy to believe it's gentle and a good family pet. Trouble is, every dog you mention makes me want one immediately. I'd end up running kennels!

Lovely photos!

Ann

Larry Slawson (author) from North Carolina on September 15, 2020:

Totally agree, Louise! I've always thought that myself.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on September 15, 2020:

Omg, I love them dogs. They are so gorgeous!