The Italian Spinone (World of Dogs)

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Italian Spinones are gundogs with white wiry hair, sometimes with brownish patches, which are not very well known in the UK. They are quite big - just a little bit bigger than Golden Retrievers. They generally have nice temperaments so are well worth considering as family pets for active people who like the outdoors. Italian Spinones are not specialist dogs, in that they are able to point and retrieve, and bear some resemblance to hounds, being more independent than most gundogs. They are a very old breed which was revived in modern times.

These dogs learn fast, and enjoy working with their owners, though they are not always obedient. They can switch off if shouted at or treated roughly, since they are sensitive to their owner's moods, and they need to be motivated, far more than a Golden or a Labrador Retriever. They also like being playful, as well as working. Some sort of daily activity is important. Walks are preferable, though retrieve games in the garden come a good second best.

These dogs are good at escaping, since they jump well, and they are more likely to want to go walkabout if they don't get enough exercise. They enjoy swimming, and can tolerate bad weather conditions. They aren't especially fast movers, but have great stamina. They also usually get on well with other dogs, and people they meet, including strangers, and are less likely to indulge in jumping up at strangers than some breeds, so they are good walking companions. Italian Spinones do need to be socialized, since otherwise they can be a little shy with people they don't know. They are generally not at all shy with their human family, often seeking to be lap dogs, which can be uncomfortable.

Young dogs of this breed can be a little bouncy, but generally they are very good companions for children, since Spinones usually grow up to be calm, relaxed and patient dogs. No dog can be taken for granted with children, so supervision is always needed, and children need to learn not to tease dogs. However, this breed is more reliable than most. They are also likely to be well-behaved with visiting children, and get on well with other dogs in multi-dog households.

This breed is likely to track mud into your home and shake its wet coat near your walls. The wiry coat needs a fair amount of grooming. They can be quite barky, though less so if they have enough exercise. They are good watchdogs, in that they give alarm barks. They aren't good guard dogs, since they usually like most people, though some individuals can be a little shy of strangers, especially if not socialized enough.

Italian Spinones are generally healthy, though hip and elbow dysplasia, and bloat can affect some individuals. There is also a condition that has affected some lines in the UK called cerebellar ataxia, which affects young dogs, and leaves them unable to walk properly. Good breeders are aware of the problem, and have sought to eradicate it.

Carolyn Fry's book is an in-depth guide to the breed, which details its history in Italy, and its introduction into the UK during the 1980s. There is help with general care, including health care and training. There's also a lot of advice on choosing a pup. The book is well-written, and brings smiles of recognition from owners of this breed. There are also some wonderful pictures of Spinones.