AKC Sporting Group
Also known as the Spinone, Italian Spinone, or Italian Griffon, the Spinone Italiano’s heritage is a bit uncertain. Some fanciers trace the current breed’s roots to at least 500 BC, when Senofonte mentioned a pointing dog with strong, wiry hair and great powers of endurance in his “Gynegiticon.” Over the next 1,000 years, several other writers discussed hunting dogs with long, bristly hair. Around 1450, the painter Andrea Mantegna included what looks like a Spinone in his “The Return of Cardinal Gonzago,” a mural he painted in a castle in Mantua, Italy. Numerous mentions of a “rough-coated” or “bristled” hound also appear in literature from the Middle Ages, always with accolades for the dog’s love of hunting, attention to his master, and powers of endurance. Though still used as a versatile hunting dog, the Spinone’s gentleness, affectionate disposition, and desire to please also make him an outstanding family companion. The AKC admitted the breed to the Sporting Group in 2000.
The Spinone Italiano is a large, squarely built, muscular dog with floppy ears, a docked tail, and distinctive wavy, wiry hair. The head is long, with a barely perceptible stop, a square, slightly Roman-nosed muzzle, and floppy pendant ears. The dog’s dense coat and thick skin allow him to withstand cold air and water, and to scramble through dense brush without getting hurt—very convenient for a hunting dog. The ideal coat is between 1.5 and 2.5 in. on the body, and shorter on the head, ears, muzzle, and fronts of the legs and feet. The hair on the backs of the legs is like a rough brush, but never forms fringes. The bushy eyebrows, mustache, and beard protect the face from branches and briars and lend the Spinone a rather gruff look. This is lightened by the animal’s soft, kindly eyes and generally sweet expression. The eyes are ochre colored (yellow-brown); dogs with darker coat colors have darker eyes. Typical coat colors include white, white or brown with orange or brown patches, and orange or brown roan; the most desirable color is a deep chocolate brown called “Capuchin Friar’s Frock.” Black is not permitted at all. The tail is typically docked about 5 to 8 in. from the base.
- Height: 23 to 27 in. (male); 22 to 25 in. (female)
- Size: Large
- Weight: 70 to 81 lbs. (male); 62 to 70 lbs. (female)
- Availability: Very difficult to find
- Talents: Hunting, tracking, retrieving, pointing, watchdog, obedience, agility, and performing tricks
The Spinone should be shown in a natural coat, as opposed to being clipped, shaved, or even heavily brushed. The dogs are not prolific shedders, but they do shed periodically and need some brushing. Some people strip their Spinones from time to time to get rid of dead hair. The breed is vulnerable to a number of diseases and conditions, including hip dysplasia and cerebellar ataxia, a lethal hereditary disease that affects the brain. Ask for OFA certification of the sire and dam from your breeder and check its pedigree carefully. (You can find more information on cerebellar ataxia at www.spinone.com). Some Spinones do not bark at all, but some are average barkers.
The Spinone is the consummate hunting dog. An excellent tracker, swimmer, retriever, and pointer, he thrives on a close, working relationship with his master. The shadow side of this is that the Spinone tends to be quite dependent and is easily stressed when left alone or ignored for long stretches at a time. The Spinone is also intensely intelligent, which can make him a joy to train, but his sensitivity to slights and handler mistakes, as well as his tendency toward stubbornness, makes him unsuitable for novice dog owners. (Spinones can do obedience but generally don’t excel in the obedience ring because they don’t have the “flash” of, say, a Golden Retriever or Shetland Collie). Reserved by nature, Spinones need intense socialization as puppies (puppy classes and exposures to many different kinds of people and situations) to help them develop both confidence and friendliness. Socialize very well with children so they will be comfortable with them later in life. That’s not to say the Spinone is a bundle of nerves or tends to be morose-most breeders agree that this is a calm, sweet, playful, smart dog, but the breed is just complicated enough to need an experienced handler.
- Children: Good with children
- Friendliness: Reserved with strangers
- Trainability: Not easy to train
- Independence: Very dependent
- Dominance: Low
- Other Pets: Generally good with other pets
- Combativeness: Not generally dog-aggressive
- Noise: Average barking
- Indoors: Moderately active indoors
- Owner: Not recommended for novice owners
- Grooming: A little grooming needed
- Trimming and Stripping: Some trimming or stripping of coat required
- Coat: Wiry coat
- Shedding: Average shedder
- Exercise: Moderate exercise needed
- Jogging: A good jogging companion
- Apartments: Will be OK in an apartment if sufficiently exercised
- Outdoor Space: A small yard is sufficient
- Climate: Does well in most climates
- Longevity: Fairly long life span (12 to 15 years)