The Italian Spinone is a large gundog immensely popular in its native origins of Italy as an all-around gundog. It is an ancient dog that was first seen in the United Kingdom in the early 1980s at the Game Fair and later gained the admiration of breed enthusiasts where it is now very popular. The Italian Spinone is described as friendly, tame, loving and tolerant. It is a fearless and determined hunter, pointer and retriever. It is so flexible that it can work on any terrain including retrieving game downed on water. It is energetic and tough, equally tall as it is long, made of strong bones and well-developed muscles. The Italian Spinone has a kind and almost human-like expression and pendulous ears covered with dense hair mixed with longer hairs that are thick at the edges. The skin of the Italian Spinone is close fitting and leathery. It is covered by a coarse, dense and flat coat, usually 4-6 cm in length but lacking an undercoat. It is adorned by longer hairs above the eyes which form eyebrows, as well as on the face, forming moustache and beard. Dogs are typically 60-70 cm in height while bitches are between 58-65 cm in height. The ideal weight is between 34-39 kg and 29-34 kg for males and females respectively.
The Italian Spinone is an ancient breed and is believed to be one of the oldest gundogs in existence. It was believed to have been developed in the Piedmont region of Italy but some speculate that the breed might have originated in other countries of Europe or that it might have its origins from Russia or Celtic Ireland. Some believe that the Spinone is a descendant of the Coarsehaired Segugio which is well known all over the Piedmont region. Historians and breed experts claim that the Italian Spinone is a progeny of the now extinct Spanish Pointer or even the Russian Setter. A more popular theory states that traders from Greece brought coarse-haired setters to Italy where the dogs were eventually crossed with other breeds to form what is today the Italian Spinone. It is also widely believed that the Spinone descended from crosses of several French pointers and is the ancestor of the Korthals Griffon among other pointers. Like other breeds in Europe, the Italian Spinone suffered greatly during the Second World War and came close to extinction. It was brought to the UK in 1981 when four Spinone were imported by Mrs. Mary Moore (Odivane) and are considered to be the foundation stock of the breed in the country. Today, it is still one of the popular hunting dogs in Italy even though it is already overtaken in popularity by the Bracco Italiano.
This breed is often described by owners as a docile dog, highly sociable, affectionate and patient. In the field, the breed has a characteristic fast trotting gait that enables the dog to systematically hunt a large area. It is a fearless hunter, a flexible working dog with a thick skin and coarse coat, it can hunt in any types of terrain, land or water, woods or marshland. The Italian Spinone has a gentle nature and is a great companion, both on the field and inside the home. It is has a very distinguished and remarkably sweet and almost human expression and an almost human-like demeanour. It thrives on human companionship and may suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for long periods of time. It has a strong craving for food and has been known to help himself sometimes.
Training should start as early as possible, preferably during the first few weeks as a puppy. Basic training such as wearing a collar, walking on the lead, coming when called, simple sit or down are necessary and can easily be taught to the Irish Spinone. Training should be done with a soft yet firm voice to gain the dog’s attention and respect particularly during the first few months up to a year and a half of age. Harsh training like shouting and screaming will yield no good results.
The harsh shaggy coat of the Italian Spinone requires weekly brushing to remove loose or dead hair. Stripping by hand a few times per year is necessary to maintain the coat’s good texture. Hand-stripping can be done by a professional dog groomer or at home if the owner can allot enough time to do so. The beard, moustache, and eyebrows should be wiped clean with a moist cloth or baby wipe to keep the face neat and remove food bits. Bathing is on an as-needed basis. Ears should be checked and cleaned regularly to prevent infection, irritation or wax build-up.
The average life expectancy of the Italian Spinone is 8.7 years, according to a 2004 health survey by the Kennel Club (UK). Large breeds such as the Italian Spinone should not be given high protein diet to prevent growth too quickly which can damage bone joints. It has the tendency to gain weight as it matures, so regular exercise is a must. Among the known medical issues that affect the breed are hip dysplasia, cerebellar ataxia which is a deadly hereditary disease known to affect the Spinone, hypothyroidism, and liver shunt among others.
The Italian Spinone is a working dog that is very much at home in the countryside where it enjoys running all day. Having a great stamina to work all day, this breed must be given an hour or two of daily exercises if it is going to live in the city or in an urban area. It will be happy working all day, as it will be snoozing inside the house by the couch. However, an Italian Spinone puppy should not be exercised like an adult to prevent bone injuries. The best physical activity for a puppy is free running in the garden for several months, gradually increasing the pace or intensity as it grows older.
The Italian Spinone is a sweet, loyal, friendly and gentle breed that holds a special affinity with children. In general, it also gets along well with other animals, especially other canines but there are some Italian Spinone with higher prey drives than the others and may not get along well with cats.