Designed for endurance and efficiency, the Spinone’s desire to please makes it a delightful upland hunting partner.
This series of Project Upland hunting dog breed profiles focuses on the hunting characteristics that set one breed apart from another, understanding that within a breed individual dogs may vary in temperament, conformation, instincts and abilities. This profile focuses on the Spinone Italiano.
Original purpose of the Spinone Italiano
Although its ancestors trace back to the 1500s, the modern Spinone (“Spinoni” is the plural) was developed in the 1800s in the mountainous regions of northern Italy. To navigate difficult and usually sloping terrain, they were bred to have well-arched, thickly padded front feet and a balanced front to rear angulation with a “broken” topline, noticeable in profile as dip in the back. Those traits made them sure-footed and economical in movement which in turn gives them stability and endurance in the field.
The name “Spinone” comes from Bracco Spinoso which means prickly pointer, referring to the harshness of the coat as well as its ability to withstand thorns and bristly brush. Coat, conformation, and a strong nose make the Spinone suitable to a variety of upland hunting pursuits.
Hunting style and temperament of the Spinone Italiano
Spinoni appear to be big, loveable, shaggy dogs. And they are. But behind those expressive eyes, bristly eyebrows, and soft low ears lies a tenacious, independent hunter capable of ranging wide to find scent. Once that scent is found, however, most Spinoni work carefully in gun range with a modulated trot, rarely over-running their nose. Moreover, their desire to please reigns in their independence making them cooperative hunting partners.
On point, Spinoni may slant forward or stand high headed, cropped tail held horizontal at 3:00 on the clock face, not up at 12:00. They are equally adept at air scenting and ground tracking, and can be reliable water dogs although their lack of an undercoat makes frigid late season waterfowling inadvisable.
Traits important to hunters
Spinoni are strong boned, solid dogs ranging from 60 pounds (female) to 85 pounds (male). Females run 22-25 inches in height; males run 23-27 inches.
Spinoni come in a variety of colors: pure white, white with orange, white with brown, orange roan or brown roan. Their coats should be flat but wired, without an undercoat. They are Velcro for burdocks, briars and ground debris, so post-hunt grooming is usually on the schedule.
Not noted for being particularly early or late bloomers, Spinone Italiano do require patience and positive reinforcement during training. They are considered “soft” dogs that respond best to handling that addresses their sociable side.
As with many large hunting breeds, hip dysplasia and bloat are generally listed as Spinone health risks. Ectropion – lower eyelid droop – is another concern although it is often well tolerated without developing irritation or infection.
Finding a Good Breeder for a Spinone Italiano
Nancy Anisfield is an outdoor writer and hunting dog photographer, creative director for the Ugly Dog Hunting Company, member of the Pheasants Forever / Quail Forever Board of Directors, and co-owner of the Track2Wing Project which grants Action trackchairs to individuals with mobility challenges who want to train and hunt with bird dogs. She and her husband live in Hinesburg, Vermont, where their lives are governed by her two German shorthaired pointers and his two German wirehaired pointers.