An Italian hunting dog : the Spinone Italiano

Of all dog breeds the best Italian hunting dog has to be the Spinone Italiano.  We look at what makes him special, and how easy the Spinone is in terms of training.

Italian hunting dog

The Spinone as Italian hunting dog : history.

Training hunting dogs has been part of Italian culture for centuries, and some would say the Italian Spinone is the oldest purebred hunting dog in the world  He is certainly one of the original Italian dog breeds.

First heard of in around 500 B.C., by the second century A.D. the Spinone appeared in Seneca's writings as a native of the Piemonte region of northern Italy. The breed was without doubt one of the more popular of ancient Roman animals.

During the second world war the Spinone's skills as a tracker dog were put to good effect in tracking German soldiers - for some reason the Spin could smell their shoe polish a mile away!

First brought to the U.K. is the 1950s the breed was introduced to America in 1987. With the Braccio Italiano, the Spinone Italiano is one of only two Italian hunting dogs in the U.K. and U.S.

Italian dog breeds : Spinone standard.

Italian hunting dog

Breeders of the Spinone Italiano dog value the breed's hunting capacities far above 'beauty' and the preservation of the breed's natural hunting abilities is their prime concern.

The Spinone dog standard describes the ideal hunting dog. It's large, square and stocky, its bulky shape and rough coat making it good for all weathers and all terrains.

For that reason, the Spinone has very few of the health problems often associated with pedigree dog breeds. One exception is cerebellar degeneration, a very distressing condition affecting pups before the age of twelve months. But that's unusual.

The Spinone's personality is one characteristic that makes him stand out from other hunting dogs. A very intelligent, optimistic dog combined with a breed tendency to be intrepid and untiring makes him the most perfect Italian hunting dog.

The Spinone Italiano : dog at work.

Italian hunting dog

On top of those other characteristics, the Spinone Italiano dog is laid back, easily satisfied and naturally happy. He loves to be obedient and absolutely loves to please. All those things make him highly susceptible to gun dog training.

They also make him very easy to train as a working dog - he makes an excellent agility dog and is also perfect as a therapy dog.

This is a dog for all weathers, all seasons and all terrain. Serious in his work, he doesn't mind water, cold or ploughing through woods, brambles or other rough undergrowth.

He has an amazing sense of smell, making him an excellent tracking dog, but will also happily work hard as a retriever on land or in the water.

One of the gentlest of all Italian dog breeds, the Spinone has such a soft mouth that he can carry an egg without breaking it. He's not a particularly fast or 'showy' dog but his amazing stamina will make sure that he carries on going for as long as you want him to.

So this is an ideal working dog for those who want to hunt at a leisurely, relaxed pace - and need a dog who will take his work very seriously.

Showing the Italian hunting dog.

The Spinone is classed as one of the Gundog Group's most tireless field dogs. In the United States, where the breed was given American Kennel Club status as late as the year 2000, he is classed as a rare breed and shown as a 'versatile hunting dog' because he is able to both track and retrieve.

Showing and training this Italian hunting dog is a specialised area; for more information visit the Spinone Italiano Club of Great Britain or the Spinone Italiano Club of America for more details.

What it means for a pet Spinone.

Although the Spinone Italiano dog is a hunter and retriever at heart, he is also a wonderful family pet  - and will be ideal if his family works to his hunting dog strengths.

You don't have to enter into gun dog training to keep your Spinone interested. He isn't as highly active as many other hunting and pointing breeds. When inside with the family he'll be happy to lounge around watching television - and he'll love a cuddle!

Italian hunting dog
We keep Ellie active with
long walks in scrubland.

But although Italian Spinone puppies can be real comedians their intelligence, energy and willingness to please do need to be harnessed.

Most obviously, make sure your Spinone has space to run. If he doesn't he'll become bored and frustrated. A couple of long walks a day where he is able to explore the land around him is ideal.

Quick to learn and eager to please, your Spinone will grasp quite complicated tasks quickly and will enjoy the challenge of play-tasks which use their natural abilities and energy. Devise play using retrieve tasks - he will chase balls over long distances, but try hiding food or a favourite toy in your home and garden and asking him to find.

Although he's a retriever, the Spinone isn't a water dog by nature but may like water, and most enjoy a good swim. If you don't have a beach nearby buy a small paddling pool, or use a bowl.

Have a look at this clip of an Italian Spinone at play and you will begin to understand that this is a dog who can change from serious to playful to gentle to an hilarious clown in an instant.

Although he's an active Italian hunting dog the Spinone won't be happy living outside. When not working or walking in the countryside he needs company.

Keep him in the house, let him live as a family member and couch potato extraordinaire, and he - or she - will be a happy dog.

Italian hunting dog

Our Spinone Ellie - a real couch potato.