The Spinone Italiano was formerly an all-purpose hunting dog, excelling in pointing, setting and retrieving. A canine with an excellent nose and scent ability, his harsh coat enabled him to perform well in the field. Though the hunting instinct is still present, this breed makes a wonderful companion for an active family. Intelligent, athletic, and affectionate, the Spinone Italiano thrives on family connection and being a part of the household. Maintenance for this breed involves extra ear and teeth cleaning, along with moderate coat care. Exercise needs must be met; a combination of practical and patient care and training will bring out the best in this breed.
The Spinone Italiano is an ancient dog with a long history of names and accounts. Today, the name is derived from the Italian word for spine or thorn and refers to both the coarseness of the hair as well as this breed’s ability to penetrate thorny brush in search of its quarry. Also well known as the Italian Griffon, records of the Spinone date back to 500 BC in the Italian region known today as Piedmont. By the Renaissance in Italy, this breed was well known in Italy as an excellent hunter and is featured in many Renaissance artworks dating to the 14th and 15th centuries. The origins of the Spinone Italiano are unclear due to this dog’s long-standing breed history. Some believe the progenitors of the breed were crosses between White Mastiffs, French Griffons, and Italian Setters bred with dogs left by Grecian traders. Whatever the ancestral breed and like all Italian breeds, the Spinone comes from ancient stock. The Spinone enjoyed hundreds of years of popularity in Italy, but following World War II, the breed started to lose popularity as other hounds and gundogs were imported to Italy. On the brink of extinction, a few breeders began work to restore the Spinone breed and re-establish its position as a greater hunting companion. Despite the ancient history of this breed, the Spinone Italiano was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2000. Not as popular in the United States, this great hunting companion is a popular choice in Italy, France, and Scandinavian countries today.
The Spinone Italiano is a large, robust breed, well-muscled with strong bones. Males are about 2 inches taller than females and body weight is in proportion to the size of the dog. The head on a Spinone is long with a gentle, intelligent face. The muzzle is square when viewed from the front with tight lips and a scissor or level bite. The nose is large and spongy in appearance with large, open nostrils. A Spinone's eyes are gentle and range in color from a brownish-yellow to dark brown and harmonize with the coat color. The ears are carried low, below the eye level, are triangular-shaped and have little power to stand erect. The Spinone's forelegs are straight when viewed from the front and are muscular. The front legs are long and end in large, round, compact feet with well-arched toes. The hind legs have strong thighs with stifles that are not too angular and show excellent function for the all-terrain movements of this breed. The hind legs are strong, lean, and perpendicular to the ground ending in slightly oval-shaped feet with well-arched toes. The Spinone's tail is level with the back and held horizontal or down.
The Spinone Italiano should be left natural and with a medium length, coarse-haired coat, this means minimal brushing. Occasional brushing and hand stripping to help unknot the coat are all that is required for this breed. However, this breed does have a long beard, and it can get wet and smelly. By giving the beard a little more attention, you can keep the coat looking natural and cut down on the smell. The Spinone also has fast growing nails that should be clipped twice a month to prevent cracking and splitting. Early and often grooming practices in puppy and juvenile stages of life will help acquaint the Spinone with this practice and make it easier for both owner and dog. Teeth cleaning is also suggested in the Spinone to cut down on bacterial overgrowth. Additionally, since the Spinone's ears are particularly hairy and fall forward, this breed is more prone to ear infections. Regular ear checks to remove dirt and debris, as well as ear cleaning with a veterinarian approved solution, will significantly help prevent ear infections. The Spinone is a large breed and not meant to be cooped up inside all day. However, this breed has relatively low energy rates given its ability to rove for hours on the trail. Twice daily walks are enough exercise to satisfy a full-grown Spinone. If the Spinone gets enough exercise, this breed is capable of living in an apartment or urban dwelling since it is relatively low energy. Additionally, the Spinone does remarkably well in all climates, hot or cold.