The Breed History
The breed harkens from the Piedmont region of Northern Italy. A rare breed, this is a bird gundog in the AKC Sporting Dog group. It is one of the most ancient of the Italian hunting dog breeds, with very early records of a tough, bristly pointer meeting the description of the Spinone dating to a work in 500 BC. Works from the 13th to 15th century describe very closely such a dog-then termed bristled hound, bacco Spinoso or the rough-coated hound. AKC recognition occurred in 2000.
Breeding for Function
This dog was bred for hunting at an easy pace, built to last all day long. An easy-going temperament makes this an ideal companion dog as well. All terrain dogs, they can handle temperature extremes and water-with topnotch retriever and pointing skills and strong swimming ability. They are versatile in their working abilities. Tracking and obedience are also areas in which they excel. Some of these dogs have proven themselves as therapy dogs. Excellent tolerance of cold water and thorny dense underbrush is characteristic. This dog waves his tail back and forth while working. The Spinone prefers to maintain close communication-they say he hunts for the hunter not himself.
Height at Withers: female 22-25" (56-63.5 cm), male 23-27" (58.5-68.5 cm)
Weight: females 62-70 lb (28-32 kg) males 70-84 lb (32-38 kg)
Coat: Harsh dense wired texture of haircoat and thick skin keep this dog warm and comfortable in the field. Single-coated, with straight to crimped hairs. Length is closely controlled, with 1.5-2.5" being the breed standard, with a 0.5" tolerance outside the standard. Not feathered but face is embellished with moustache, eyebrows and beard to protect the dog from rough going. Colors are limited to Capuchin Friar's Frock, also called "monk's habit" (a chestnut brown), white with brown markings, white, orange roan +/- orange markings, brown roan, +/- brown markings.
Longevity: 12-14 years
Points of Conformation: These large dogs have a very people-like expression. Skull is long, and expression is of gentle intelligence. Eyes are yellow brown, with the depth of color well matched to the coat. Wide-set, the eyes have tight fitting lids and eyes are closest to round in shape and neither protrude or recess. Eyelid margins match the coat, ranging from brown through flesh tone. The nose is large and protrudes forward of the front lip profile. A scissors or level bite is accepted. Occipital protuberance is prominent. The muzzle is square, the stop is subtle. The profile is straight to slightly Roman-nosed. The triangular fine-leathered ears with rounded tip hang particularly low and back on the skull. The neck has a double dewlap and is thick. A broad, deep thorax is evident, and the topline drops down except for an arch over the loin area, with minimal abdominal tuck up. A square conformation and good solid bone characterize this strong hunter. The tail is thicker at the base, and carried below back level. Can be docked to 5.5-8" in length. The feet are large but well knuckled up-nails are dark but not black and the front and rear dewclaws may be removed. The rear feet are more oval than the front feet. The gait is a long easy trot that covers a great deal of ground with each stride.
Grooming: Periodic bathing on an as-needed basis. Periodic coat stripping as needed. Weekly brushing will usually suffice.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Breed attributes ascribed include: Docile, easy-going, very patient, excellent stamina, courageous, loyal, playful until late in life, sociable, though some are cautious with strangers and should be socialized early. Early obedience training will ensure a good transition to maturity. Learns quickly, very intelligent, can be somewhat independent and stubborn. Needs lots of human interaction, especially in late puppyhood. Needs to be handled from 4-10 months of age with good gentle environment to prevent shyness or timidity. Not a barky breed, but will alarm for family-not a protection dog though. Can jump very high, and some will dig, so a proper fence is needed to keep him in the yard. Requires less exercise than most of the other hunting breeds.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenic trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 15.5% affected.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenic trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 5.8% affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Spinone Italianos have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Cerebellar Ataxia (CA, Cerebellar Abiotrophy): Autosomal recessive disease of progressive incoordination. Onset of hypermetria and ataxia about 4-8 months of age. No affected dogs survive past 1 year of age. Identified in Spinone in Italy, Great Britain, Denmark, Holland, and the US. All affected dogs trace back to a common family. A linked-marker based genetic test is available.
Ectropion: A rolling out of the eyelids, can cause frequent conjunctivitis, and ocular discharge. Often with a medial canthus pocket. Reported in 17.5% of Spinones in the 1999 SCA Health Survey Report.
Allergies: Inhalent or food. Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis (hot spots). Reported in 15.6% of Spinones in the 1999 SCA Health Survey Report.
Hypothyroidism: 8.0% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Otitis Externa: Recurrent Ear Infection. Reported in 5.8% of Spinones in the 1999 SCA Health Survey Report.
Cataracts: Anterior cortex intermediate and nuclear punctate cataracts predominate in the breed. Identified in 3.87% of Spinone Italiani CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Spinone Italiano with a cataract.
Inherited Epilepsy: Grand-mal or petit-mal seizures. Control with anticonvulsant medication. Reported in 3.4% of Spinones in the 1999 SCA Health Survey Report.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 3.03% of Spinone Italiani CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Entropion: A rolling in of the eyelids that can cause corneal irritation and ulceration. Identified in 2.53% of Spinone Italiani CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat, GDV): Polygenically inherited, life-threatening twisting of the stomach within the abdomen. Requires immediate veterinary attention. Reported in 1.9% of Spinones in the 1999 SCA Health Survey Report.
Portosystemic Shunt is reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Myxoid Liposarcoma: Case report of a non-resectable thoracic mass in a 5-year-old, intact male Italian Spinone.
Tests of Genotype: A linked-marker test is available for cerebellar ataxia from the Animal Health Trust.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes hip and elbow radiographs, and CERF eye examination (beginning at 2 years of age). Optional recommended testing includes congenital cardiac examination, and thyroid profile including autoantibodies (annually until year 6, then every other year until 10). (See CHIC website; www.caninehealthinfo.org). Recommend patella evaluation.
- Breed name synonyms: Spinone, Spinoni Italiani (pl), Italian Griffon, Italian Spinone.
- Registries: AKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), NKC (National Kennel Club).
- AKC rank (year 2008): 114 (318 dogs registered)
- Internet Resources: Spinone Club of America: www.spinoneclubofamerica.com
Italian Spinone Club of Great Britain: www.italianspinone.co.uk
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