The Spinone Italiano is one of the oldest breed of hunting dogs. The correct term that actually applies to this breed is "gun dogs" or "bird dogs." There are many theories as to how the Spinone Italiano came into existence, and many of them are contradictory to one another. However, the one unifying theme among them is that the Spinone Italiano is a sporting animal, bred for hunting and retrieval.
During the earliest times of game hunting, the Spinone Italiano was used exclusively for the sport. The dogs were easy to train, quick on its feet and follow its master's instructions without hesitation. Unfortunately, during the Second World War, the Spinone Italiano came close to extinction. Not only were the dogs not bred to conformation standards, they were also being mixed with other wire-haired Italian dog breeds like the Boulet, the German Wire-haired Pointer and the Wire-haired Pointing Griffon. Fortunately, the Spinone Italiano breed was more than a match for the other gun dogs or bird dogs; and thus, the line was preserved until today.
Gun dogs are also called bird dogs because the main focal point of this particular game hunting is fowl or birds like: bobwhite quail, pheasants, grouse, wild ducks, etc. Pheasants are a particular specialty for Spinone Italiano dogs (plural Spinoni Italiani) because these birds need a lot of "persuasion" before it takes to flight. These dogs are particularly trained to flush out prey from thicket covers which may be impenetrable to other larger, less densely coated animals.
The Spinone Italiano is particularly useful to hunters because of their docile temperament while working. They are excellent pointer dogs. They do not become exuberantly happy when they do find prey as some setters and pointers are prone to do. This breed of dog is also excellent in retrieving fallen prey from the water. In the game hunting sport, Spinone Italiano is classified in all work areas of a gun dog tradition: it works as "a pointer, a flusher and a retriever."
So how does Spinone Italiano perform in the field? Well, first of all, its handler instructs it to do a simple reconnaissance in the field. More experience dogs will search in a wide circular pattern but will focus more on the outskirts of the field where game is usually abundant. More often than not, Spinone Italiano dogs work in pairs. One of them works closer to its handler (serving as the flusher) and the other "pans" out in increasing bigger circles (serving as the pointer.) Both dogs are in tune with each other and with the handler. When the pointer dog finds a suitable quarry, its body becomes rigid, and it poses with its nose "pointing" to the intended victim. The flusher dog will only approach if instructed by the handler. Flusher dogs usually maintain a very close contact with the handler so that when they "flush" the birds into open space or into flight, the prey will be within shotgun distance.