The Spinone Italiano, also known as the Spinone, Italian Spinone, or Italian Griffon is a large, rugged dog of distinctive appearance. He has a long head, with hanging ears, and eyes described as "human like." In body he is a substantial, strong boned dog of square build. This deep-chested breed has a topline that slopes slightly up from below the withers to the muscular hindquarters. Everything about this breed indicates great strength as well as stamina. Suited for hunting in all climates and on all terrain. Its coat protects it from the water and freezing temperatures of the swamp. It goes nonchalantly into cold, deep water - being an excellent swimmer and a model retriever.
Extremely intelligent, happy, upbeat and enthusiastic, the Spinone Italiano is a pleasant, easy-going breed. He is easily satisfied when treated as a member of the family. Although serious when at work in the field, he definitely has a clownish side that is often quite entertaining. Never bossy or whiny (unless constantly ignored), this gentle soul loves children - those he knows and those he does not. Children must be taught to treat this wonderful dog with the love and respect he deserves. His great patience should never be taken for granted, for abuse is abuse, whether intentional or not. This breed gets along well with other animals, particularly enjoying the company of another dog. He wants to be with his people, whether that means at home or traveling, preferably in someone's lap! He is a quiet breed in general, but may occasionally howl along with a siren. Spinone is not a protection breed. He is either unlikely to attack under any circumstance or would only do so if he or his family is directly threatened. He learns fast, but is sometimes a bit stubborn about performing. The Spinone has a mind of his own; feeling there should be a good reason for doing the task asked of him. For example, one breeder mentioned that his dog is perfectly willing to pick up downed birds, but he is reluctant to retrieve a training dummy. Nor does the breed perform in flashy style, instead being a slow, steady worker on the hunt or in the ring. Sadly, many judges penalize this, expecting all dogs to work like a pointer (field) or a Border Collie (ring). Motivational training is the only way to go with this sensitive breed. The Spinone can be timid if not properly socialized.
Little data has been accumulated for the Spinone breed in general. Hip dysplasia does exist, as in other comparably sized dogs. Sometimes bloating does occur, though not a huge problem. Some are prone to an inherited disease, which manifests itself as a Cerebellar Ataxia, or abnormal gait originating from a problem in a part of the brain. For more information, go to the Spinone Club of America.
Content within a fenced yard, this large dog is nevertheless capable of jumping very high. The occasional one is a tunneler. Talk to breeders about secure fencing. Their activity level is low to medium indoors and medium to high outdoors. A good breed to jog with, the Spinone Italiano is not a "racy" type dog, moving more slowly and methodically than many other gun dog breeds. As such, he can do well with a small yard combined with frequent walks and play.
This breed requires just a small amount of stripping - pulling dead hair as opposed to cutting, to neaten the coat. Other than that, just a weekly brushing will suffice. Bathe as necessary. Some say this breed grooms himself like a cat.
Although not common in the U.S., this breed has a long history of service to man. His rather uncertain heritage centers around Europe and its gun dogs of long ago. Whether he was the basis for bringing forth other gun breeds, or whether they simply sprang from common stock is not known. Like all Italian breeds it is ancient. In Renaissance Italy a pointer with wiry hair was already present and reached us with much difficulty, due to extraneous crossbreedings performed heedlessly. After 1950 the breed was reconstructed by a few great breeders. Its innate merits are its sense of smell, setting, retrieving, recovering, and the close ties it has with the hunter. The breed has excelled as a pointer and retriever for centuries. Today he is still a popular hunting dog in other countries, as well as a pet. The United States seem to be at last discovering this versatile dog.