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The Spinone Italiano is a large purebred from Italy also called the Italian Spinone in Great Britain and in Italy itself the Bracco Spinone which translates to ‘prickly pointer’. It was bred and developed to hunt, point and retrieve game in the region of Italy called Piedmont. There are a couple of thoughts about where its name comes from, some say it refers to the harsh prickly texture of the coat, and some to the thorny bushes the Spinone would go into in the region when on the hunt. It is believed to be an ancient breed but is also kept today successfully as a companion dog, therapy dog and assistance dog.
|The Spinone Italiano at A Glance|
|Other names||Italian Spinone, Italian Griffon, Italian Wire-haired Pointer, Italian Coarsehaired Pointer, Bracco Spinone|
|Average weight||62 to 82 pounds|
|Average height||23 to 28 inches|
|Life span||12 to 14 years|
|Coat type||Wiry, dense, thick|
|Color||Brown, red, white|
|Popularity||Somewhat popular – ranked 105th by the AKC|
|Intelligence||Excellent– understands new commands very quickly|
|Tolerance to heat||Excellent – can deal with even extreme heat|
|Tolerance to cold||Excellent – able to live with even extreme cold temperatures|
|Shedding||Low – will not leave a lot of hair around the home or on clothing|
|Drooling||Above average – does slobber and also drools when drinking|
|Obesity||Moderate – not prone to it, just measure its food and give plenty of exercise and it should be fine|
|Grooming/brushing||Low to moderate maintenance – regular brushing and facial hair clean ups needed|
|Barking||Occasional – does bark but not all the time, vocal in terms of talking to its owners|
|Exercise needs||Fairly active – will need active owners to see it gets enough exercise|
|Trainability||Moderately easy – should not be too challenging|
|Friendliness||Excellent with socialization|
|Good first dog||Moderate – best with experienced owners|
|Good family pet||Excellent with socialization|
|Good with children||Excellent with socialization|
|Good with other dogs||Excellent with socialization|
|Good with other pets||Good – need socialization though as have high prey drive|
|Good with strangers||Good to very good with socialization – can be reserved|
|Good apartment dog||Moderate – best in a home with a yard|
|Handles alone time well||Low – does not like to be left alone and can suffer from separation anxiety|
|Health issues||Fairly healthy but a few issues including hip dysplasia, eye problems, hypothyroidism|
|Medical expenses||$485 a year for basic health care and medical insurance|
|Food expenses||$270 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats|
|Miscellaneous expenses||$565 a year for toys, miscellaneous items, license, grooming and basic training|
|Average annual expenses||$1320 as a starting figure|
|Cost to purchase||$1,750|
|Rescue organizations||Several including Italian Spinone Rehome & Rescue and Italian Spinone Breed Rescue|
|Biting Statistics||None reported|
The Spinone Italiano’s Beginnings
The Spinone Italiano is one of the oldest types of griffon breeds still around today. While its exact origins and ancestry is not known it is believed it can be traced back to around 500b.c. There are further references in works of art, frescos and written evidence from the Middle Ages going on through the centuries. It was developed to be a great all round hunting dog. Some suggest in the cross are the Italian Setter, the White Mastiff and the French Griffon then bred with dogs Greek traders had left behind. Some have other ideas though.
It was actually not until the early 1800s that the dog was called the Spinone. Before that time it was called by some the Spinoso. It was developed to be able to get through the spino which is where small game liked to hide in that region, as they were spiny prickly bushes larger predators could not push into. The Spinone was developed to have a skin and a coat though that could get in. In the 1800s there were no standards so there were several version of the breed. Over this century several standards were written for the breed until finally in the late 1800s one was written based on them all and agreed upon.
But then in the 1900s the breed began to suffer. Poor breeding was part of the problem but also it was dropping in popularity. Hunters were using other dogs to hunt with instead of this one like spaniels, setters, and pointers. Some breeders began to cross the Spinone with other dogs like the German Wirehaired Pointer, the Boulet and the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. Then during the second world war dog breeding took a huge hit and the breed dropped in numbers significantly becoming very close to extinction.
New Lease on Life
Thankfully a small number of breeders stayed true to the breed and kept up the hard work of trying to save it from extinction and in the 1950s the Italian national breed club was formed called La Famiglis dello Spinone. In 1994 in the UK it received full recognition by the Kennel Club.
The first breeding pair to come to the US was in 1931 brought there by Dr Nicola Gigante. The Spinone Club of America was eventually formed in 1987 and it received full recognition by the AKC in 2000. It is a popular hunting dog in several countries as well as great working dog and companion and is ranked 105th in popularity by the AKC. In Italy it is a common hunting dog once more though the Bracco Italiano beats it at being the most popular.
The Dog You See Today
The Spinone is a large dog weighing 62 to 82 pounds and standing 23 to 28 inches tall. It has a square build (having a body that is about the same length as its height), is muscular and solid and has a rugged appearance. Its tail in countries where it is still allowed is usually docked down to 5 to 8 inches in length from the base, but some places have banned tail docking and some only allow it for working dogs. It has a deep and broad chest and its topline slants down very slightly running down to its rump. In some cases the dew claws may be removed. Their paws are webbed which makes them good swimmers. Its coat is single, dense, wiry and lies close to the body. It is a shaggy looking dog an typical colors are white with either orange or brown patches. It is water-resistant and around the body is 11/2 to 21/2 inches long but is shorter around the legs, head, feet and ears. While the hair on the back of the legs is a bit longer it is not feathered.
It has a long head and the muzzle appears squared from the side being the same length as the back of the skull. It has a large nose with wide nostrils that can be flesh colored, brown or darker. Its ears hang down and are triangular shaped. It has longer hair on the face giving it long eyebrows, a bear and a mustache which were developed to protect it when it went into the brush when hunting. The hair of the beard and mustache is softer, but the eyebrows are more wiry and hard.
The Inner Spinone Italiano
The Spinone Italiano is a vocal dog, while its barking is occasional owners like to say the Spinone will vocalize or talk to them in a range of sounds. When young it is full of energy can be rambunctious and funny, then as it matures into an adult it becomes more quiet indoors but still loves to be outside and will need a lot of exercise and active owners. It is certainly reserved with strangers but with its owners is also affectionate, loving, loyal, gentle and makes a great family companion. It does however have a strong independent mind which means it can be stubborn so is best for people with experience not new owners. It is a brave and alert dog so can be a good watchdog and will bark to let you know if there is an intruder. It may act to protect you if there is a direct threat but is not a guard dog.
It bonds very closely with it owners and becomes very attached to them especially the ones who it exercises with. It does not like to be left alone for long periods and can suffer from separation anxiety as a result. Therefore it is best in a home with owners who are often home, stay at home parents, active retirees, owners who work from home or who have flexible working hours for example. It also travels well with training and would rather go with you than be left behind. Spinones are smart, happy and easy going dogs. It might look gruff with its facial hair but it is a cheerful up beat dog and while it can be serious it can also be clownish. It is kind and patient but you will have to live with some drool and slobber.
Living with a Spinone Italiano
What will training look like?
The Spinone is moderately easy to train, it is very intelligent and it enjoys spending time with you but it can be stubborn. Results will be gradual and will be far better if a positive but firm approach is used. Do not punish or scold it, being a sensitive dog it will not respond well to that. You need to be strong and the clear leader, be consistent and stick to the rules you set. Use treats and motivational training and do not let it manipulate you with its huff and sighs when it is trying to get out of something. Keep the sessions engaging, avoid being boring and too long as then they become distracted.
When it comes to house breaking this may be a little sower than some breed and it can take several months. Using crate training is recommended and create a regular schedule that you stick to. Early socialization is very important with the Spinone. Some can be timid this does not happen and their natural wariness around strangers can make them fearful. Make sure it is exposed to different people, places, sounds, situations, animals and so on. It will be cautious still around strangers but polite and it will grow into a more confident and trustworthy dog.
How active is the Spinone Italiano
The Spinone Italiano is a fairly active breed so will need regular exercise, two long brisk walks a day along with play opportunities, trips to a dog park or somewhere safe to run off leash, hunting, jogging or hiking with you, swimming for example. When it gets enough mental stimulation and physical activity it will be healthy and happy. When it does it can be destructive, difficult and very hard to control and live with. Interestingly because it is intelligent it knows the difference between going out for exercise and going hunting and it will want a good mix of both if possible, though is it is not being kept to hunt with, as long as it gets a variety of activities and stimulation it will be happy.
It has a lot of endurance and stamina so can go for hours if you want to. It needs active owners not people who prefer to relax on the couch in their off time. It is too large for apartment living and needs a yard to play in when it is not out walking or jogging. That yard needs to be well fenced in. You can expect puppies to be a lot more energetic indoors than adults. This can last until it is between 2 to 3 years old in fact. It is not a racer, it likes to keep to a jogging pace but it can keep that pace going for a long time.
Caring for the Spinone Italiano
As mentioned this is a shaggy dog so with that comes some mess! Leaves, dirt and such can be tracked through and clings to its coat along with fecal matter sometimes. This can then be left around your home. Also when it drinks the beard makes this a messy and drippy process, and when it eats it usually then needs a facial hair cleaning. If you are a neat freak this is not the right dog for you. It sheds a low amount though so not a lot of hair will be around the home or on you, but that wiry coat will need hand stripping at least twice a year by a professional groomer. If you clip it there will be more shedding and the texture of the coat will change. It will also not be a show dog. Brush it once or twice a week, and bathe just when it really needs it.
Its ears need to be kept an eye on for infection signs like redness, irritation or a build up of wax and they need cleaning once a week. Never insert anything into the ear, this could cause permanent damage and really hurt it. Just use a damp cloth or dog ear cleanser and cotton balls to give them both a wipe. If it does not wear down its nails naturally with its level of activity you can clip them when they get too long. Use proper dog nail clippers and do not cut too close to the quick of the nail where there are blood vessels and nerves. This will cause pain and bleeding. Also its teeth should be looked after with a good brushing at least two to three times a week, use a dog toothbrush and toothpaste.
Your Spinone will need to eat about 3 to 4 cups a day split into at least two meals. How much exactly can vary depending on its level of activity, metabolism, age, health and size. Make sure that as well as feeding it a good quality dry dog food you give it access to water at all times that is often freshened.
How is the Spinone Italiano with children and other animals?
With early socialization and when raised with them especially the Spinone is affectionate and playful with children and patient too. It is gentle and kind around them even with children it is not familiar with but supervision is still a good idea with young children so that they do not take advantage of that patience! Make sure too that children are taught how to approach and touch dogs in a kind and safe way. It also gets along well with other dogs in the house it has been raised with and with socialization gets on well with other dogs it might come across elsewhere, for example a dog park. It is a hunter so it does see small animals as prey to chase however with socialization it can live with other pets and get along fine with them. It may still chase after cats and birds and the like out in the yard or when out walking though. Make sure it is on a leash when walking or in a secure area if off it.
What Might Go Wrong?
With a life span of about 12 to 14 years the Spinone Italiano is considered to be a healthy breed I general. There are some issues that can come up, they include hip dysplasia, cerebellar ataxia, bloat and ear infections.
When looking at reports of dogs attacking people and causing bodily harm in Canada and the US over the last 35 years, there is no mention of the Spinone as being an aggressor. It is not a dog breed known to have aggression towards people and is highly unlikely to start anything like that. However all dogs have the potential to be drawn in, or to be mistreated and to react aggressively or even just to have an off day and make a bad choice. Things that can help minimize those off days are good socialization and training, being raised be an owner who has the right commitment and level of experience, getting enough attention, stimulation and exercise.
Your Pup’s Price Tag
The Spinone Italiano is not a common breed in the US and has quite a high price for a puppy from a decent breeder of around $1750. You will pay more if you want to use a breeder of top show dogs. You will also have to be patient as it is likely there will be a waiting list you will be placed on. Always take the time to do some homework and checks on the breeders you are considering, experience and knowledge is important as is how they treat their dogs. Avoid ignorant backyard breeders, some pet stores and puppy mills where health of the breed can be damaged and the dogs are usually neglected and even mistreated. Another option is to look at local shelters and rescues for your new dog. While you may not find a Spinone purebred, mixed dogs still have a lot to offer and purebreds are only necessary if you are showing it or perhaps hunting with it. Adoption ranges from $50 to $400.
There are items your dog will need when you bring it home and there are health needs to cover with a vet visit you should book for it as soon as possible. Items includes things like a crate, bowls, collar and leash and come to about $180. Health needs includes things like a physical exam, deworming, micro chipping, blood tests, spaying or neutering and shots for about $290.
There also ongoing costs to factor in when you are a pet owner. Basic health care for things like shots, flean and tick prevention, check ups and pet insurance will come to about $485 a year. A good quality dry dog food and dog treats will cost about $270 a year. Then other costs like grooming, miscellaneous items, basic training, toys and license will cost another $565 a year. This means you can expect a yearly starting figure cost of $1320.
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The Spinone Italiano is a large and active dog and needs owners committed to giving it the exercise it needs, prepared for the mess it brings and experienced to deal with its stubbornness when it comes to training. It is a very steady, a patient and sweet dog when it gets past around 3 years old, before that you can prepare for a rambunctious and excitable dog. But don’t worry, that more dignified adult still has its clownish moments and is a very cheerful and happy dog to be around. It is also a very loyal and devoted dog and will want to be a central (and always included) part of any family activity.
Featured Image Credit: Spinone Italiano – Caroline Granycome, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.
- The Spinone Italiano’s Beginnings
- New Lease on Life
- The Dog You See Today
- The Inner Spinone Italiano
- Living with a Spinone Italiano
- Caring for the Spinone Italiano
- How is the Spinone Italiano with children and other animals?
- What Might Go Wrong?
- Your Pup’s Price Tag