Italian Spinones

We’re not talking an Italian dessert here. The Italian Spinone is a pointing breed with versatile hunting skills and a calm, easygoing temperament. He works slowly and methodically and is noted for his wiry, bramble-repelling “spino” coat, from which he takes his name. This is a large dog, weighing 60 to 85 pounds. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering bringing a Spinone into your home.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

The Spinone is a great family dog or companion for people who have the time and motivation to give him daily exercise and channel his energy and intelligence into dog sports such as agility, flyball, rally and obedience. He's also a great hiking, camping or jogging buddy. Italian Spinones are great companions for families with kids who are at least 6 years old, and they get along well with other dogs and cats if they are raised with them. They are alert enough to be watchdogs, but they are by no means guard dogs.

This is an active, enthusiastic dog that needs an owner capable of matching his intelligence and activity level. He learns quickly but has a mind of his own. Keep training interesting, though, and he will be fascinated with whatever you are teaching. Use positive reinforcement techniques for best results, and give him plenty of praise and encouragement.

Like most dogs, Spinones become bored when left to their own devices. They can become noisy or destructive if they don't have other dogs to keep them company and don't receive much attention from their people. But when they live with a family committed to giving them plenty of training, exercise and attention, they thrive.

Grooming the Spinone isn't difficult. Brush his coat once or twice a week to remove dirt, and pluck out dead hairs occasionally, called "stripping" the coat, to keep the face and feet looking neat. Other grooming needs are regular nail trims, ear cleaning and tooth brushing.

The Spinone doesn't need country living to be happy. He will be satisfied with access to a small fenced yard as long as he spends most of his time in the house with his beloved family. It's an unhappy Italian Spinone who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.

Health Issues Common to Italian Spinones

All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don't walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems her dogs have experienced and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

Italian Spinones are healthy in general, but some conditions can be a concern, especially if you aren't cautious about whom you buy from. They include hip dysplasia and eye problems such as ectropion. The breed may also be prone to gastric torsion, also known as bloat.

Ask the breeder to show evidence that both of a puppy's parents have up-to-date health certifications for hips from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the PennHIP program, as required by the SCA's Code of Ethics, and eye certifications from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Hip Dysplasia Low $1,500-$6,000
Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (Bloat) Medium $1,500-$7,500

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Italian Spinone Puppy

Visit the website of the Spinone Club of America, and choose a breeder who abides by the SCA's Code of Conduct, which prohibits sales of puppies to pet stores or wholesalers and spells out the breeder's responsibilities to the breed and to buyers. The Spinone is an uncommon breed, so you may have a wait of six months or more before a puppy is available.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in Spinone aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. In addition, Spinone can live 12 to 14 years, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.

Puppy or adult, take your Spinone to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You're more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Italian Spinones

Pet insurance for Italian Spinones costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Italian Spinones are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Italian Spinones are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Italian Spinone is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.