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This dog, as the name says, originates from Italy and was bred as a working gundog to hunt, point and retrieve (HPR) game. It has a long varied history and now, being the versatile dog it is, is commonly used as an assistance dog due to its pliable and trainable nature.
With roots stretching back to 600AD, this dog breed is as 'old as the hills'. It is believed to be one of the oldest gundogs in existence today with genes being contributed from the now extinct Spanish Pointer, the Russian Setter, classical Greek dogs and German Wirehaired Pointers, amongst others. Many countries claim to have a stake in this dog breed, but Italy is classed as its native home. The dog was popular up due to its versatile nature and was used extensively in the country up until World War I when, as with many native breeds, its numbers dwindled to near oblivion. World War II further eroded numbers and at one point, the Spinone looked like it was lost forever. Breeders of this dog had to resort to crossing the remaining dogs with Pointers and Setters to boost numbers, which of course changed the breed profile a little, but in essentials the dog remained the same.
Average height to withers: Males between 2337 inches, with females smaller at between 22-25 inches.
Average weight: Males up to 39kg, with females up to 35kg.
Most lucky owners of this breed will tell you that there is almost something human like about its face and in its eyes. Indeed, there is something soulful and kind in their expression, showing a deep wisdom from within. The large, almond shaped eyes are deep set and well spaced, and can vary in colour depending on the colour of the coat. The eyes are framed by the long, pendulous and rounded ears which are set on a level with them. The head is clean and well defined, and flows well into a muscular neck which is unusually short for a large dog. The shoulders are strong and give shape to the long, straight forelegs. The dogs' top line slants slightly downwards from with withers to the rump and into a thick straight tail.
Overall the body, the coat is a thick and dense cover of coarse hairs, with no undercoat, and a set of prominent eyebrows and a moustache, helping the human like appearance take shape. The colours of this breed include white, white and orange, orange roan, brown roan and brown and white.
Laid back and docile, with not a care in the world at rest, but a contrasting mixture of alert intrepidness and adventure when in HPR mode, this dog has a perfect balance of traits that make it as comfortable in the home as it is in the field. Extremely loyal and patient, the Spinone makes a great family pet being calm and unflappable around children. It can also live comfortably with other dogs and pets especially when introduced to them from an early age. Aggression is an almost unheard of trait in this breed of dog and, being friendly with everyone it meets, it does not make a good guard dog.
Build for stamina rather than speed, the Spinone can comfortably spend a whole day in the field, tackling dense bush and hedges, water and rough terrain with a slow but effective jogging pace, meaning that its human handlers can keep up with it easily.
It does need a certain amount of exercise, but in truth, this dog is just as happy with attention, playing in the garden and a warm bed. It also has a tendency to slobber and snore which can be off putting to some people and endearing to others!
There is little research on the health of this breed, but in good health the Spinone lives between 8-12 years of age. There are certain conditions which are more prevalent in Spinone populations including a nervous system condition called Cerebellar Ataxia in which coordination of movements is not regulated. This condition is usually present from birth and pups displaying symptoms of this condition do not usually live past 12 months of age.
It is important that the owner of this dog inspects the ears on a regular basis as being long and pendulous; they can be more prone to injury and bacterial infection. It is a good idea to clean them once a week, removing detritus and gently removing any build up of material before making sure they are dry. The coat of this dog will benefit from some grooming, but too much will remove the coarse texture leaving it to silky to be effective as a barrier in the field. Minimal bathing is required unless the dog is excessively dirty.