Spinone Italiano (Italian Pointer): Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Spinone Italiano sitting on white background

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The Spinone Italiano, also known as the Italian Pointer, has a calmer, more docile manner than some of the other busy pointing breeds. They also have a unique, charming and scruffy-looking appearance with their profuse beards and large eyebrows.

Breed Overview

Group: Sporting

Height: 23.5 to 27.5 inches (male); 22.5 to 25.5 inches (female)

Weight: 65 to 90 pounds

Coat: Harsh, coarse, dense, flat single coat with a distinct set of bushy eyebrows and beard

Coat Color: Solid white, white and orange and white with brown markings; markings can be roan or solid colors

Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

Characteristics of the Spinone Italiano

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly  Medium
Pet-Friendly  Medium
Exercise Needs  High
Playfulness  Medium
Energy Level  High
Trainability Medium
Intelligence  High
Tendency to Bark  Low
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Spinone Italiano

The Spinone Italiano is thought to have originated in the Piedmont region of Northwest Italy.

It's assumed that their name was created referencing the thorny 'Spino' undergrowth that is abundant in the region.

Their sturdy and muscular frame, stamina, water-repellant and coarse protective coat, and thick skin were developed to help them negotiate the harsh mountainous alpine terrain they would work in.

The breed is one of the oldest gundogs, although their exact ancestry is something that is still much debated.

Selicourt, a French canine expert, made direct reference to the Spinone-type in his writing in 1683. He said 'the finest griffons (pointers) came from Italy and the Piedmont’, in the hills near Turin.

During the 19th century, regionalized variations of the breed began to develop, and this, alongside the loss of life caused by the World Wars, meant that by the end of World War II, the purebred Italian Spinone almost became extinct.

In efforts to preserve the breed, a National Club was formed in Italy in the 1950s, and their numbers slowly began to increase again.

The first Spinoni were imported to North America in the 1930s, but they didn't receive AKC recognition until 2000.

Spinone Italiano Care

Spinone Italiani are bigger and sturdier than some of their other pointer relatives, but they're also known for being less busy, and more docile and mild-mannered.

That being said, they still have a strong working drive and lots of stamina, and they're best suited to a home that can satisfy their exercise needs. A couple of quick strolls around the block won't be enough to prevent a Spinone from getting bored. They need plenty of stimulation and decent time outdoors to prevent problem behaviors from surfacing.

The Spinone is a people-orientated dog, and they enjoy being at the centre of family life. They're not suited to living in a household where they will be left on their own too often and can be prone to separation anxiety.

They tend to be patient, playful and gentle with children, but, as with any dog, you should still teach your children to be respectful of their space.

Known for being rather vocal, be prepared to learn all the various noises your Spinone will make when trying to communicate with you. They aren't guard dogs, but they can be prolific alert barkers. You may need to work on training them to be quiet when the mailman approaches, or the doorbell rings.

Given their hunting background, Spinoni can have a high prey drive. They can live with cats if careful introductions are made. You will, however, have to work on ensuring you have a rock-solid recall and may need to avoid off-leash time in areas where the temptation may be too high.

The Spinone is known to have an independent streak and can sometimes even be a little stubborn. Encouraging them through reward-based training provides good results. They tend to be very food motivated, and they're highly intelligent.

Spinoni don't have a high maintenance grooming regime. They aren't excessive shedders. They will just need a brush through around once a week to lift out any dead hair and keep the coat and skin in a healthy condition.

They may need a hand strip occasionally, as their hair becomes more scruffy looking the longer it gets. Particular attention will need to be paid to the beard and eyebrows which can get rather unruly.

You should also be prepared for a bit of slobber after they have eaten or drank as this can gather in their thick beard.

A Spinone Italiano diving into water
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A Spinone Italiano doing an agility jumo
nemoris / Getty Images
Puppy Spinone Italiano climbing decking
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Common Health Problems

All breeds have the potential to develop genetic health conditions. Careful breeding can help minimize these issues, but it's helpful to be aware of some of the inheritable problems that Spinoni can be prone to.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia: This involves the abnormal formation of one or both of the hip or elbow joints, and it can lead to pain and mobility issues. In severe cases, an operation will be needed to improve your dog's quality of life. It's fairly common in many breeds, but a good breeder will have hip and elbow score testing done on prospective parents.

Entropion: This is when the eyelid rolls in towards the eyeball. It can cause pain and vision issues, and surgery can be required to correct this issue.

Hypothyroidism: This is caused by an underactive thyroid. It can lead to weight gain, lethargy, hair loss, and skin and coat problems. Once it has been diagnosed, it can be successfully managed by medication, but lifelong treatment is usually required.

Cerebellar Ataxia (CA): While this deadly neurological condition is still very rare, there are higher incidences in Spinonis. Because this is a recessive gene, it can only be passed on if both parents carry it, and there's now a test to check for it too. It's rapidly progressive and impacts on motor movement. Most dogs with this disease have to be euthanized before they reach a year old.

Diet and Nutrition

As with any dog, you should feed your Spinone Italiano a high-quality and properly portion-controlled diet. Because they're a large breed with a deep chest, they can have a higher chance of suffering from Gastric Torsion, commonly known as Bloat. This can be a life-threatening condition, and there's still a lot that isn't known about the condition and its causes.

It's accepted that feeding smaller, more frequent meals can help to reduce the chance of this developing. So, feeding your Spinone twice or three times a day is recommended. If you have a greedy dog that tends to gulp their food down in no time, using a slow feed bowl can also be helpful.

Pros
  • Gentle and mild-mannered

  • Enjoys the company of respectful children

  • Less busy than some of the other gundog-types

Cons
  • Can be strong-willed and stubborn

  • Can be vocal

  • Can be prone to separation anxiety

Where to Adopt or Buy a Spinone Italiano

Spinone Italiani aren't as common as some of their other pointer relatives. This means you may have to travel further to secure a puppy or even go on a waiting list. Don't let your enthusiasm push you into a rash decision without doing the appropriate research. Finding a reputable breeder will mean you're more like to have a healthy and well-socialized puppy.

A good place to start your research is through the Spinone Club of America.

If you're considering the rewarding and worthwhile option of adoption, they also have a rescue arm to their organization.

It would be unusual to find a Spinone in your local rescue shelter, but, if you're drawn to the Pointer-types, it would be worth reaching out to them or getting in touch with a breed-specific rescue like American Pointer Rescue.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you're interested in dogs similar to the Spinone Italiano you could also consider the following breeds:

There are lots of wonderful dog breeds out there. By doing your research, you'll
find one that will be best suited to having a forever home with you.