General conformation is that of a medium sized dog of square build. A rugged dog, solid and vigorous, of strong bone structure and well developed muscles with a distinctive gait. Docile, patient and sociable, its appearance is intelligent and bold. Most resistant to fatigue, it can enter with ease into brambles and into deep, cold water, protected by thick skin covered with coarse, dense hair. It is by instinct an excellent retriever and a competent swimmer. The expressive eyes, almost human like with marked sweetness, are framed above but not hidden by the bushy eyebrows. The ears are large, dropped and hanging close to the cheeks. The coat is weather proof; rough and hard, wiry but never woolly or curly.
The Spinone (pronounced Spee NO nay or Spee NO nee) is of medium size with males ranging from 23.5 to 27.5 inches at the withers, weight averaging 65 to 85 lbs. Females are comparably smaller at 22.5 to 25.5 inches at the withers, weight ranging from 55 to 75 lbs.
Accepted colors are white; white with orange markings; white with orange hairs intermingled throughout the coat with or without orange markings (orange roan); white with brown markings; brown roan with or without brown markings. The coat itself is hard, more coarse than wiry, and thick and should lie rather close to the body. It may be lightly crimped (waved), which most are, but should never be actually curly. The length of the coat should be from 1.5 to 2.5 inches on the body, shorter on the ears and top of head. Longer hair forms the eyebrows, whiskers and beard. The coat should never be excessively short, long, or woolly.
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The Spinone is a not a big running, hard headed bird dog. Instead they hunt close, checking back with the hunter at regular intervals. They are more likely to slow down and stalk birds rather than slamming into a point. This relaxed attitude coupled with strong natural instincts and tractability make the Spinone an ideal hunting companion for someone hunting at a leisurely pace in restricted cover.
The same characteristics that make the Spinone an ideal hunting companion also make it an ideal family pet. Easily trained in acceptable behavior, these dogs are a joy to live with. This is a people oriented breed. The Spinone is a natural clown, and fun loving. A natural retriever, or “carrier” as we refer to them, they nearly always have something in their mouths. Not to chew, just to carry. They have a very “soft” mouth, able and willing to carry birds, eggs, or anything else without damage.
The Spinone makes an excellent obedience dog, learning quickly. Training is accomplished with a minimum of effort and correction. This is not a breed that takes well to harsh training methods whether you are training for the field, obedience, agility, or just a good companion. Firmness and fairness are the key to successful training of a Spinone. Those methods will ensure a happy worker that will do anything within their power to please you.
The Spinone is a relatively long lived dog (10+ years), so a commitment to involve one in your life should be considered long term. Of course, a number of factors may enter into the life span such as health problems, accidents, etc. Though there are some, the Spinone is relatively free of hereditary problems. It can be, as are most breeds, affected with hip dysplasia. You will want to investigate the status of the parentage before purchasing a dog.
These dogs are highly adaptable and are quite willing to share their lives with nearly all creatures. They get along well with humans both large and small, cats, other dogs, and livestock. They will, however, tend to point and chase (and sometimes catch) birds. All in all, they are among the most agreeable creatures on earth.
So, if you want a dog that is highly trainable in a variety of areas and are willing to spend the time to train patiently, you may want a Spinone. If you decide on a Spinone, you must be willing to live with a dog that is very submissive and needs to be a constant companion and will, more than likely, not protect you. Contrary to what some people will tell you, the Spinone is not the perfect dog for everyone. Good luck in your search for that perfect dog for you. Remember, don’t be afraid to ask questions and be prepared to answer quite a few yourself.
Does the Spinone have an odor?
Contrary to what you may have read or been told, the Spinone does not typically have an oily skin accompanied by an offensive body odor. Though they are quite happy to go play in the mud, they self clean very nicely. Given the opportunity to remain so, other than the beard which does need attention, the Spinone is a very clean dog.
Do all Spinone drool?
Most dogs will drool to some degree when nervous or they have been playing hard. However, as a general rule, the Spinone are not all wet bearded, slimy faced dogs that continuously sling slime.
Do Spinone shed?
Certainly they do shed some though not nearly as much as many other breeds. A thorough brushing weekly will keep the loose hair deposited in your home to a minimum.
Does a Spinone have to hunt to be fulfilled?
Absolutely not! Though serious breeders are working hard to keep the hunting instincts intact, not every Spinone even wants to hunt. However, because of their strong pointing instincts, your Spinone will very likely point birds and small game in your back yard or on your walks through the woods.
Are Spinone really supposed to be shy and retiring?
No! The Spinone is a docile, non-confrontational breed. This is not a breed that typically goes charging up to strangers. Instead, it will back off for a few minutes to make sure that the person does not pose a physical threat then approach the stranger. Almost never over exuberant around strangers, the Spinone could be termed sensibly cautious.
What about socializing a Spinone?
This is a must for this breed. Without proper socialization, a Spinone, like many other breeds, can become shy and fearful of the unknown.
Will shipping a puppy cause shyness?
Handled correctly, a properly socialized Spinone puppy should not be adversely affected by shipment. Many breeders like me require the new owners to pick up their puppies at the breeders home.
I have allergies to dogs. Would a Spinone work for me?
Probably not…we do not recommend the Spinone for folks with allergies to pets.
Is a Spinone stubborn?
A Spinone is one of the easiest of breeds to train. In terms of stubbornness, they are very low on the scale since they are so willing to do whatever their owner wishes. However, being extremely intelligent, the Spinone can be very creative and will make their desires quite clear, which leads some people to think they are stubborn. Unlike some other breeds, a Spinone will not do endless repetitions. After a couple of times, they get it and are ready to move on to something new.
Would the Spinone make a good protection dog?
If you mean sounding the alarm, the Spinone is outstanding. However, if you require more protection than that, you would be better served to look at a different breed.
Is it true that a Spinone has never bitten a person?
Unfortunately, it is not. A Spinone is a very non-aggressive breed of dog and will avoid confrontations whenever possible. However, there have been a few reports where Spinone have bitten, usually when an owner got in the way of an altercation between dogs or when protecting its young.
Regarding health issues, I have been told that all Spinone that come from England have hip dysplasia. Is that true?
Absolutely not. Hip dysplasia continues to be the primary health issue in this breed as it is in many others. However, a dog with English background is no more likely to be affected with hip dysplasia that one with an Italian background. Responsible breeders are certifying their breeding stock clear of hip dysplasia by either OFA or PennHip.
What about Cerebellar Ataxia in the Spinone?
A central nervous system disease that is lethal to those affected by the age of one year, it has been traced to one dog who was imported from Italy to England. There have been only 23 documented cases of CA in the world, none in the US except for a test litter that was bred for research. Despite rumors and scare tactics, the likelihood of obtaining a puppy born in the US that could succumb to CA is so slim as to be nearly non-existent.
In 2008, a test was developed to determine if a dog is a carrier of CA. No longer do we have to worry about whether a dog is a carrier because we have the test and can know for certain. Our lines have been cleared of CA.
Are there other health issues we should be concerned about?
Responsible breeders of Spinone are being pro-active in regard to health issues so you will find many are testing for potential problems so we can head them off. Among the other tests that are being done are elbows, CERF (eyes) and cardiac certifications.
Special thanks and appreciation to Patricia Fendley for much of the above back ground data.