- Height: 22.5 to 27.5 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 61 to 85 pounds
We’re not talking an Italian dessert here. The Italian Spinone is a pointing breed with versatile hunting skills and a calm, easygoing temperament. He works slowly and methodically and is noted for his wiry, bramble-repelling “spino” coat, from which he takes his name. This is a large dog, weighing 60 to 85 pounds.
The breed is sometimes called Italian Spinone in English, but the AKC calls him Spinone Italiano (Spinoni Italiani is plural). An easygoing type, this Italian wirehaired pointer can be an endearing clown at home but takes his hunting very seriously. He is smart enough to know the difference between a real hunt and a field trial, and doesn't show much enthusiasm for training dummies.
The Spinone is a great family dog or companion for people who have the time and motivation to give him daily exercise and channel his energy and intelligence into dog sports such as agility, flyball, rally and obedience. Overall health permitting, he can also be a great hiking or camping buddy. Italian Spinoni can be great companions for families with kids who are at least 6 years old, and they tend to get along well with other dogs and cats if they are raised with them.
The Spinone doesn't need to live on a farm or an acreage, as he's less active than most sporting dogs, but he does need daily exercise. This breed likes to jump and dig, so he needs a securely fenced yard with an area he can call his own.
The Spinone wants to be with his people and would be miserable without them. However, if you don't act like a leader, he may become stubborn, and he may resist certain training if he thinks there isn't a point to it, like working with field dummies. The Spinone isn't the fastest dog to housetrain, either. He's a bit cautious sometimes; a good word for him is sensible. The Spinone is an adequate watchdog, but not a guard dog. He barks only once in a while.
This is an active, enthusiastic dog that needs an owner capable of matching his intelligence and activity level. He learns quickly but has a mind of his own. Keep training interesting, though, and he will be fascinated with whatever you are teaching. Use positive reinforcement techniques for best results with this sensitive dog, and give him plenty of praise and encouragement.
Grooming the Spinone isn’t difficult. Brush his coat once or twice a week to remove dirt, and pluck out dead hairs occasionally, called “stripping” the coat, to keep the face and feet looking neat. Other grooming needs are regular nail trims, ear cleaning, and frequent tooth brushing.
Like most dogs, Spinoni become bored when left to their own devices. They can become noisy or destructive if they don’t have other dogs to keep them company and don’t receive much attention from their people. But when they live with a family committed to giving them plenty of training, exercise and attention, they thrive.
Other Quick Facts
- The Spinone is a muscular dog with a squarish body, solid and powerful. He has a unique profile with a long head; yellowish-brown or darker eyes depending on his coat color; a bulbous and spongy looking nose with large, open nostrils; triangular ears that hang down; and a gentle, intelligent expression. His docked tail is carried horizontally or down, flicking from side to side while he works.
- The Spinone’s skin is protected by a dense, wiry, weather-resistant coat. The same coat protects his face, with stiff hair forming eyebrows, a mustache and beard to help prevent lacerations from briars and bushes. The coat comes in solid white, white and orange, orange roan, with or without orange markings, white with brown markings, and brown roan, with or without brown markings. The brown color should be a chestnut shade, described as “monk’s habit.”
- This breed likes to jump and dig, so he needs a securely fenced yard with an area he can call his own.
- After he eats or drinks, the Spinone’s beard is a mess. Be prepared to spend time wiping his face to keep it clean.
The History of the Spinone Italiano
Pointing breeds were developed in Europe some 300 years ago, and most countries or regions having pointing breeds that are developed for their specific terrain or game. In Italy, that breed is the Spinone Italiano, also known as the Italian Pointer. Developed primarily in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy, probably from coarsehaired Italian setter breeds, white Mastiffs and French Griffons, he is a do-it-all dog, perfect for the hunter on foot because he moves at a slow pace.
The American Kennel Club recognized the Spinone in 2000. It ranks 118th among the breeds registered by the AKC.
Spinone Italiano Temperament and Personality
The Spinone Italiano is a social, sturdy retriever, known for his distinctive appearance and joyful zest for life. As a hunting dog, he has the stamina and endurance to work all day, though he is a slower-moving dog than some of the newer pointing breeds. The Spinone is happiest when he is doing something with his family, be it hiking, kayaking or training for dog sports, with his favorite activity of course being hunting!
The Spinone is a social dog, and enjoys group activities, especially a good romp around the yard. He is a natural retriever, and will bring you toys or other small objects such as shoes, especially when he wants to initiate play. While robust and persevering, he also tends to be docile and patient when interacting with his family. This patience combined with his physical sturdiness can make him a good companion for children, as long as they treat him with respect.
The Spinone enjoys learning, and can be a good partner for dog sports such as field trials, hunting tests, obedience, agility, or tracking. He is eager to please and responds well to fair and consistent training. Begin the training process as soon as you bring your puppy home, as he can begin learning at 8 weeks old. An early start will help to foster his love of learning and build a solid foundation of good manners and behavior that should hold through his adult life.
If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
When introducing your puppy to new dogs, first check that the other dog is good with puppies. You want your Spinone to be comfortable with strange dogs, not afraid of them. The socialization process should continue throughout your Spinone’s life.
The Spinone can be good with cats and other small animals if he is raised with them, but remember that he is a good-sized hunting dog. Even if he is just playing and jumping around, his paws could do damage to small household pets.
When looking for a Spinone puppy, talk with your breeder and try to meet both parents of the litter. Breeders are very knowledgeable about both the traits of their breed in general and their own lines in particular, and do their best to match each puppy with the best home. Discuss what you are looking for in a puppy and what your goals for it are, and she will help you to find the right one for you. When meeting the parents and any other relatives, pay attention to their temperaments and personalities, as your puppy will probably be very similar. All of the dogs at the breeder’s house should be well cared for and show signs of proper socialization.
What You Need To Know About Spinone Italiano Health
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
While Spinoni are reasonably healthy, problems that have been seen in the breed include hip and elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and entropion.
The Spinone Club of America participates in the Canine Health Information Center, a health database. Before individual Spinoni can be issued a CHIC number, breeders must submit hip evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and eye test results from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). PennHIP certification of hips is also accepted.
Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. A dog need not receive good or even passing scores on the evaluations to obtain a CHIC number, so CHIC registration alone is not proof of soundness or absence of disease, but all test results are posted on the CHIC website and can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents.
Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Spinone at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Basics of Spinone Italiano Grooming
The Spinone has a dense, wiry coat that resists weather and protects him from brush and debris. As he has no undercoat, he needs only occasional brushing and hand stripping to remove dead hair. For stripping your Spinone’s coat, you can use either a stripping knife (don’t worry – it won’t cut your dog) or your bare hands. Your breeder can show you proper technique, and how to tell how much hair needs to be stripped. Because of his harsh coat, he will only need a bath if he gets into something really gross.
You may want to keep a hand towel close by when your Spinone gets a drink, because afterward his beard will drip water all over the place.
Keep your Spinone’s ears clean and dry, and trim his nails and brush his teeth regularly with a vet-approved pet toothpaste. Good dental hygiene promotes general health and will also give your Spinone good breath. Start grooming him at an early age so he becomes used to the process and accepts it willingly.
Finding a Spinone Italiano
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Choosing a Spinone Italiano Breeder
Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks. Be wary of breeders who only tell you the good things about the breed or who promote the dogs as being “good with kids” without any context as to what that means or how it comes about.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Look for more information about the Spinone Italiano and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Spinone Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the SCA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to obtain recommended health clearances on dogs before breeding them.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Spinone Italiano puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Spinone Italiano might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
Adopting a Dog from Spinone Italiano Rescue or a Shelter
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Spinone Italiano in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Spinone Italianos available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Spinone Italiano. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Spinoni love all Spinoni. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Spinone Italiano Club of America’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Spinone Italiano rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Spinone Italiano home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Spinone Italiano, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Spinone Italiano to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.