The Italian Spinone is a newcomer here in the UK, but these attractive gundogs are already proving to be a success both in the field and in a home environment. They are known to be loyal and affectionate characters by nature and in Italy, they have been highly prized for centuries being among the oldest of their native breeds. They boast a very distinctive look with their moustaches, beards and eyebrows that give them a very endearing almost human-like appearance. The Italian Spinone is known to be very placid and laid-back which in short means they are a great choice as family pets as well as working dogs.
Although the exact origins of the breed remain a bit of a mystery, what is known is that the Italian Spinone is one of the most ancient breeds around. The breed is thought to have been created by crossing Italian hounds with the French Griffon, the Barbet as well as other breeds typically found in the Alpine regions of Europe. There is some belief the breed might be a descendent of the Segugio Italiano, a hound that existed back in the Middle Ages.
Spinones were originally bred to hunt, point and retrieve, a task they proved to excel at especially when working in marshlands retrieving game and waterfowl. Over the centuries, these charming dogs found favour in their native Italy both as working dogs and companions thanks to their personable and fun-loving natures.
More recently, the breed found its way here to the UK and was accorded a champion status in 1994. Since that time, their popularity has slowly increased whether in the field or in a home environment although anyone wishing to share their home with an Italian Spinone would have to go on a breeder's waiting list because they are still so rare.
Height at the withers: Males 60 - 70 cm, Females 58 - 65 cm
Average weight: Males 34 - 39 kg, Females 29 - 34 kg
The Italian Spinone is known for their "human-like" expressions which are traits that make these large dogs so very endearing. Their heads are quite oval in shape with dogs having a well pronounced occiput and nicely defined median furrow. Their muzzles have a good depth to them and can be slightly arched when seen in profile, but square when seen from the front. Upper lips are slightly rounded with a visible fold at each of the corners of a dog's mouth. Their noses are large and spongy looking boasting wide open nostrils.
Their eyes boast an almost human-like look about them being large, almost round and open being set well apart on a dog's face with eyelids that are close fitting. The iris is an ochre colour, but can be various shades to match a dog's coat. Their ears are nicely pendulous and triangular in shape being slightly rounded at the tips, supple and fine to the touch.
Ears are covered in dense hair which is intermingled with longer hair that becomes denser around the edges. Dogs carry their ears low with the forward edge touching their cheeks. The Spinone has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones.
Their necks are well-muscled and powerful being relatively short and showing a distinct crest from the nape before merging neatly into the shoulders. Forequarters are strong, powerful and muscular with dogs having well laid back shoulders with the tips of them being set well apart. Front legs are straight and strong with a good amount of oval bone, nicely defined tendons and dewclaws.
The Spinone boasts a compact, nicely proportioned body with a topline that gently slopes from the withers before rising gently to broad, well-muscled loins. A dog's croup then falls gently away to where their tail is set. Chests are deep and broad with dogs having quite a prominent breastbone. Ribs are well sprung and open being carried well back. Dogs have a very slightly tucked up belly which adds to their athletic appearance.
Hindquarters are strong with dogs having broad, slightly sloping but muscular croups. Thighs are also broad, muscular and long with dogs having powerful back legs that may or may not have dewclaws. Front feet are large being compact and round with thick pads and well arched toes that are covered in thick hair. Their back feet are slightly more oval in shape but otherwise boast having the same characteristics as their front ones. Tails are thick at the base and set level to a dog's croup which they carry either down or horizontally.
When it comes to their coat, the Spinone has close fitting skin that's thick and leathery to the touch. Their coats are coarse, dense and it lies close but there is no undercoat. The hair on their eyebrows, moustache and beard is thicker and longer than on the rest of a dog's body. The hair on the backs of their legs is made up of a rough brush but does not form any sort of fringe. The acceptable breed colours include the following:
Thanks to their breeding, the Italian Spinone boasts being a placid, laid-back character and one that's a joy to have around. In the right hands and with the correct amount of socialisation from a young age and training, these charming dogs are easy to train. They learn new things extremely quickly, but this means they are quick to pick up bad habits too which is something owners have to bear in mind.
They are a very good choice for first time owners because an Italian Spinone loves to please and will do their best to get things right. However, they are high energy dogs and as such they need to be given a ton of physical exercise on a daily basis for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. Being so intelligent, they also have to be given masses of mental stimulation otherwise boredom will quickly set in which could result in dogs developing some unwanted behavioural issues.
It's important to bear in mind that these lovely dogs take a long time to mature and as such their training has to start early, but it cannot be rushed. Another thing about the Italian Spinone is that they are known to slobber and snore which could be a problem for anyone who is very house proud or who has trouble sleeping. With this said, these dogs do very well when living in the countryside and people who boast very large back gardens. If an Spinone is not given enough mental stimulation and daily exercise, they can develop separation anxiety. With this said, they do so much better living in a home environment where one person usually stays in when everyone else is out.
Being so intelligent and eager to please, in the right hands, an Italian Spinone is easy to train. However, their training has to be consistent and always fair because they are known to be quite sensitive by nature. As such any harsh correction or heavy handed training could well ruin a dog's spirit something that needs to be avoided at all costs. The Spinone responds well to gentle, positive reinforcement training remembering that these dogs mature slowly. In short, their training can never be rushed, but needs to be done with a lot of understanding and patience to achieve the best results.
Highly prized in their native Italy for being wonderful family pets, the Spinone is fast becoming a popular choice here in the UK too thanks to their kind and loyal natures. However, due to their large size, they are not the best choice for families with very young children, but a great choice for people with older kids. With this said, any interaction between dogs and children should always be supervised by an adult to make sure playtime never gets too boisterous.
They are also known to get on well with other dogs, especially if they have been well socialised from a young age. Spinones are also pretty good around other pets and animals when they have grown up together in the same household and this includes cats.
The average life expectancy of an Italian Spinone is between 10 and 13 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the Spinone is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active and good looking dogs. With this said, for such large dogs, they do boast a longer life span than other dogs of their size. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, Spinones need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
The Italian Spinone is low maintenance when it comes to keeping their coats tidy and their skin in good condition. They have coarse, wiry hair over their bodies which takes very little to keep tidy. However, because they have moustaches and beards, these need to be washed and dried on a daily basis especially after a dog has eaten to make sure they are kept clean.
They are known to have a bit of a "musky" smell about them, but this is not an unpleasant odour. They do shed throughout the year, but like other breeds, they do tend to shed more during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent brushing might be necessary to keep on top of things. Dogs need to be hand stripped twice a year which should be left up to a professional groomer and this makes keeping a dog's coat looking good that much easier between visits to a grooming parlour.
The hair between a dog's toes and pads need to be checked and trimmed if it grows too long and it's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
The Italian Spinone is a high energy dogs and therefore they need to be given lots of physical exercise on a daily basis. This means a minimum of 2 hour's exercise a day with as much "off the lead" time as possible, but only in a safe and secure environment. They are ideally suited to country living and thrive of being out and about as much as possible. With this said, if given enough exercise and mental stimulation, a Spinone is quite happy to lounge in front of a warm, open fire.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, Spinone puppies should not be given too much exercise because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a dog a few problems later on in their lives. They should not be allowed to jump up or off furniture nor should they be allowed to run up and down the stairs because this puts too much pressure on their still growing joints and limbs.
If you get an Italian Spinone puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
If you are looking to buy an Italian Spinone you may have to go on a waiting list because not many puppies are registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would need to pay anything upwards of £900 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Italian Spinone in northern England would be £15.94 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £24.96 a month (quote as of May 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £50 - £60 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Spinone and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £1000 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for an Italian Spinone would be between £80 to £100 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree puppy.
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