Larry Slawson received his Master's Degree from UNC Charlotte. He has 15+ years of experience with dogs and various pets.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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):
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
© 2020 Larry Slawson
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!
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!
Group: Sporting Group
– Males: 23 to 27 inches
– Females: 22 to 25 inches
Weight: Approx. 60 to 85 lbs.
The weight is in direct proportion to size and structure of dog.
Also Known As: Italian Pointer Italian Griffon
Ch. QuietWood Tiramisu
Photo credit: QuietWood Mastiffs & Spinoni Italiani
CLICK HERE to View Breeder Listings
The Spinone Italiano is an all-purpose hunting dog developed in the Piedmonte district of Northwest Italy. Although not common in North America, the Spinone is an ancient Italian breed who has excelled as a pointer and retriever for centuries. Today, he is still a popular hunting dog in many countries and his gentle manners make him an excellent family companion as well.
The Spinone is a muscular and powerful dog with great stamina. He is very sociable, brave and loyal with a great capacity for learning and a strong desire to please. Although serious when at work in the field, the Spinone enjoys having a good time and can be quite clownish and entertaining. He has a great love for children and gets along well with other animals.
Being a very versatile sporting breed, the Spinone enjoys participating in various sports and activities, including: competitive obedience, tracking, agility, hunting, retrieving, carting, flyball, and backpacking. In addition, his gentle disposition make him an ideal candidate to work as a Therapy or Assistance Dog and he is also seen working in search and rescue.
His coat is weather resistant, wiry, stiff and dense. This coat, along with his thick skin, protect him on all types of terrain and in all types of weather. His colouring is either solid white white and orange orange roan with or without orange markings white with brown markings or brown roan with or without brown markings. He has a very distinctive head with hanging ears and his eyes and lips are framed by eyebrows, a mustache and tufted beard.
The Spinone Italiano is known to be a very healthy breed with an average life expectancy of about 12 years or more. Like all breeds of dogs, however, the Spinone is not completely free from certain health disorders. The following are some of the health issues which have been found in the breed:
If you are considering the adoption of a Spinone Italiano puppy, or any breed, it is very important to be selective in choosing a responsible and reputable breeder. Ensure that the prospective puppy’s parents have all health clearances. This should include hip x-rays to exclude Hip Dysplasia and eyes should also be tested. (For more information on selecting a breeder, see the articles on the main General Information page.)
Additional Health Resources:
The Spinone is a medium to high -energy sporting dog breed that thrives on environmental stimuli, and exercise like agility, and swimming. This is a sporting dog breed that needs to have a job. The Simone Italiano were bred to run and swim, so every opportunity to exercise is important.
If you’ve recently adopted a senior Spinone, your elderly dog will not require as much exercise, but will still need to go out for walks several times a day. This improves circulation and will give your dog plenty of much needed mental stimulation.
If your elderly Spinone is having difficulty walking or climbing upstairs, consult with your veterinarian to discuss osteoarthritis and joint disease, as well as the possible benefits of CBD and adequate for pain relief, and as an anti-inflammatory.
The time we have spent hiking with our Spinoni has been some of the most fun we've ever had on the trail. Seeing the look of pure joy on their big dog faces reminds us how lucky we are to have these wonderful dogs. A Spinone Italiano makes an.
All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. In addition, there are characteristics of the breed that can make them more prone to certain health.
Italian Spinone grooming is not a very time-consuming task, since these dogs' medium-length, wiry coats are single-layered and don't shed much (though they do tend to tangle or mat some). Dogs of this breed will require weekly brushing and baths every 2-3 months (or if the dog gets especially dirty or stinky). And while they don't need proper haircuts, Spinone Italiano grooming should include occasional hand-stripping of the coat.
Brushing a Spinone is a weekly undertaking, and is best done with a slicker brush. (Having a good 2-in-1 comb for tangles and mats might come in handy as well.) Brush in the typical line-brushing fashion, and work through any stubborn mats with the comb particularly bad tangles should be first separated with your fingers, then smoothed with the comb. If you're following the brushing with a bath, use either a bathtub or an outdoor kiddie pool and a garden hose. With all-purpose canine shampoo (as opposed to human shampoo, which can irritate a dog's skin), lather well starting on the back and working downward, making sure to include the legs. Rinse well, towel-dry, then give the coat another quick brush-through to make it look clean and neat.
Hand-stripping these dogs' coats can take an hour or more, but fortunately only needs to be done every 3-4 months. The process is easy but time-consuming: go over the entire coat section by section, grasping a small bundle of hair with your thumb and forefinger. When you tug gently on the bundle, any dead hair should come out. It may take a while, but once you're finished the coat will look great.