The Spinone Italiano―plural, Spinoni―is a very ancient Italian dog breed that can be traced back to about 500 B.C. It has been portrayed in Renaissance Paintings―most famously in the fresco by Andrea Mantegna on the entrance wall of the Camera degli Sposi in the Castle at Mantua, Italy, showing Lodovico and his grandsons welcoming Cardinal Francesco Gonzaga. It also appears in works by Tiepolo and Tiziano.
The breed was very popular in the Renaissance, being used as a gun dog and a companion dog. It excelled as a pointer and a retriever, with its strongly developed sense of smell and desire to please its owner. It was described as a dog that hunted not for itself, but for its owner.
Its popularity declined somewhat in latter centuries, and the breed might have even become extinct, except for the efforts of dedicated breeders like Dr. Paolo Brianzi and Dr. Ezio Caraffini. In 1949, they formed the Club Italian Spinoni, an association for the protection of the Spinone breed in Italy. Thanks to this association, the Spinone Italiano was revived and its standard maintained. It is now once again gaining in popularity, although it is still a rather rare breed. It has a strong following in England and Scandinavia, and has sparked interest in Japan as well. There are however less than 1,000 registered in the USA. It is not an easy breed to acquire. There are long waiting lists for puppies, and the prices range from $1,000 and up.
The Spinone Italiano has a very distinctive appearance. It is a large-boned dog with a solid, square structure, a deep-chest, and sloping, muscular hind-quarters. It has a long head and an oval skull, with a well-developed occipital protuberance and pronounced parietal crest. It has dropping ears, a grizzly muzzle, and large, soulful eyes. The eyes are usually light-colored, the shade depending on the coat color. The tail is short.
The usual coat colors are white, orange, orange and white, brown, brown and white, roan, brown and roan, brown and white. Tricolors and black are not allowed. The coat is long, shaggy, and wire-haired, and does not require frequent grooming - once a week is enough. The breed usually grooms itself well. The coat is longer on the eyebrow arches and around the muzzle where it forms a mustache and a beard.
This is a relatively hardy and long-lived breed―12 years and more. It thrives in all sorts of climates and terrains and enjoys going into water. It is an excellent swimmer. Its thick coat protects it from cold water and weather. It does not have too many health problems, but can be prone to cerebellar ataxia and hip dysplasia. It is also prone to bloating.
Aspects to Consider
Aside from the difficulty in obtaining and the expensive price tag, there are several other aspects to consider before deciding to include a Spinone Italiano in the family. It is a large breed―males stand between 23 and 28 inches tall, and weigh between 34 to 39 kg, while females stand between 23 and 25 inches tall, and weigh between 32 to 34 kg. It can easily settle down to a small, fenced yard―although some dogs are inclined to jump over high fences or dig under―but it will, of course, be happier in spacious surroundings where it can romp and play to its heart's content. It is a boisterous, rowdy breed―puppies especially so, but even adult dogs are inclined to be clownish―and needs adequate exercise and attention.
It is a happy-go-lucky, enthusiastic animal that loves its family and likes to participate in all activities. It enjoys being with children and makes a good jogging companion. If left to its own devises on the other hand, the Spinone Italiano can easily become bored and get pretty destructive.
It is a highly intelligent dog and responds quickly to training. Training should be of the positive motivational method. This is a very sensitive dog and does not respond favorably to harsh treatment. It can be willful and sometimes will make up its own mind about whether to obey a command or not. With its hunting instincts, it may very well chase and seize other animals if let loose in public. It should be well-socialized early on to prevent shyness and timidity.
For all its intelligence, it takes a long time to housebreak. It is also inclined to slobber and drool. Its thick coat is prone to some heavy-duty shedding and attracts clinging debris, especially after a walk, and this is something that house proud owners should consider.
People looking for an aggressive, guard dog, please note―this is not it―the Spinone Italiano might look grumpy and may be cautious with strangers and other dogs, but it is in fact a very affectionate, gentle breed. It can make a good watch dog though, being vigilant and courageous. It is a quiet breed, not prone to unnecessary barking, although it may be inclined to howl once in a while. As it likes people and has a gentle, docile temperament, it has been successfully used as a therapy dog.