With its distinctively exotic name the Spinone Italiano is one of the most unique of all the sporting breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club. A griffon type of traditional pointing and hunting dog, the Spinone Italiano was the 146th breed to be recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2000. This very recent addition to the American Kennel Club is still ranked as 112 out of 156 breeds and continues to move up in registration numbers every year.
The Spinone Italiano is a very interesting breed since it is really a very well kept secret throughout Italy. These dogs are a very ancient type, dating back to the early Greek hunting dogs that were brought to the area. In addition white mastiffs and the French Griffon, which was a type of hunting dog before specific breeds were designated, were used in the early breeding programs. It is also believed that the local pointing and wirehaired dogs native to the Piedmonte area of northwestern Italy formed a strong part of the breed's foundation. Due to the harsh conditions and terrain of the area, a strong, big boned, durable yet very soft mouthed dog was required. These dogs had to be highly trainable, very obedient but also intelligent and great trackers, so more emphasis in early breeding went into performance rather than appearance.
The oldest forms of the Spinone Italiano, also known as the Italian Griffon or the Italian Wire-Haired Pointer where steadfast and rugged dogs, not meant to be fast or quick on their feet, rather designed to be able to constantly walk and work all day. As such they are very large boned; almost slightly hound looking in body shape, even through they are outstanding hunting dogs. In Italy the slower moving, highly intelligent and steadfast Spinone Italiano is considered to be the most versatile of the hunting dogs, capable of outworking the faster more nimble and lighter breeds.
The Spinone Italiano has a very distinct appearance within the sporting dog group. They have a heavy, longer head complete with a very heavy and very typical griffon type of beard, eyebrows and moustache. This is natural protection for working through heavy brush and brambles. The ears and long and pendant and hang down well below the lower jaw line. The eyes are round, alert and intelligent with a very soft and friendly expression. The coat is wiry and coarse, requiring almost no care other than once a week grooming and occasionally stripping out the old, dead hairs. They are a relatively low shedding type of dog that routinely will self-groom, licking their legs and body similar to a cat to stay clean. The body is very solid and large, giving the appearance of strength and stamina. The topline or back actually slopes up towards the hips from the withers, but not in a highly pronounced fashion. The legs are rounded and straight and the chest is deep but not overly wide to hinder movement.
The Spinone Italiano may be any number of colors from solid white through to white with orange markings or brown roan colorations. White with brown markings or brown roan with brown markings are also common and make very striking coat patterns. Any black in the coat, tan or tri-color dogs are disqualified from show but may still make outstanding hunting dogs and companion pets.
Since the Spinone Italiano is a very intelligent dog they can easily be taught what is a game animal and what is a companion pet. When raised with cats they are ideal companions and they also thrive in households with other dogs. A very low dominance type of dog they will often bond very closely with other dogs, including smaller or even toy breeds, allowing the other canine to be top dog. The Spinone Italiano carries this high level of socialization into their interactions with humans, very content to be a member of the pack not the alpha leader. They will respond very well to even younger children provided they are socialized and obedience trained with the children being involved in the training.
The Spinone Italiano, for all its steadfastness and sturdiness is actually a very playful dog that is prone to almost clownish behavior around the family. They are so loving that most make only moderately good watchdogs, preferring to welcome strangers with a wagging tail and a happy demeanor rather than by barking or acting territorial. Often strangers to the breed are somewhat alarmed by these dogs running up to them until they realize just how friendly the breed really is.
The Spinone Italiano needs to be with a family that wants to involve the dog in their daily life. Although very calm indoors, the Spinone Italiano needs several hours of time outside to run and play throughout the day to stay content and happy. Very easy to train the Spinone Italiano is a thinking dog and can actually learn by watching, so having secure fences and latched gates is important. If not fenced these dogs will roam and wander and suburban and urban owners need to have at least a 5 foot fence. Some Spinone Italiano are prone to jumping and digging and may be a challenge to keep in a yard if they are bored or left for long periods of time.
In general the Spinone Italiano is incredibly easy to train and will almost housetrain themselves if given the opportunity to get outside. As with any submissive breed it is very important to train using positive methods and not to treat these dogs harshly or with negative training methods. The Spinone Italiano is smart enough to remember people that have mistreated them and will often ignore or avoid this person in the future, which may be seen by some owners as independence or non-compliance. By training using positive methods this issue is completely preventable.
The Spinone Italiano can tolerate almost any weather condition and they love to swim and be outdoors even in very cold weather. They are also an ideal housedog that thrives on being close to their family. Highly devoted, the Spinone Italiano may be difficult to rehomed after they have reached maturity although with patience they certainly can bond with new owners and other companion pets.
The Spinone Italiano is not a problem barker but they do have a tendency to make a howling or growling sound, often in response to their owners talking. They are also prone to a lot of water dribbling off their profuse beard and moustache after drinking, so water dishes need to be strategically placed away from carpeted areas and furniture.
Other articles under "Unusual Sporting Group Breeds"