Let’s Talk Breed Education!
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Official Standard of the Spinone Italiano General Appearance : The Spinone has a distinctive profile and soft, almost-human expression. The breed is constructed for endurance. Muscular, vigorous and with powerful bone, the Spinone has a robust build that makes him resistant to fatigue and able to work on almost any terrain; big feet and a two-piece topline give the dog stability on rough ground. The Spinone covers ground efficiently, combining a purposeful, easy trot with an intermittent gallop. A harsh, single coat and thick skin enable the Spinone to negotiate underbrush and endure cold water that would punish any dog not so naturally armored. This versatile pointer is a proficient swimmer and an excellent retriever by nature. The Spinone is patient, methodical and cooperative in the field, and has a gentle demeanor. Size, Proportion, Substance : The height at the withers is 23½ to 27½ inches for males and 22½ to 25½ inches for females. Weight: In direct proportion to size and structure of a dog in working condition. Proportion : His build tends to fit into a square. The length of the body, measured from the point of the shoulder to the point of the buttocks, is equal to or slightly greater than the height at the withers. Substance : The Spinone is a solidly built dog with powerful bone. Head : Long, with muzzle length equal to that of the backskull. The length of the head is equal to 4/10 of the height at the withers; its width measured at the zygomatic arch is less than half of its total length. The profile of the Spinone is unusual. The occipital protuberance is well developed, and the upper longitudinal profiles of the skull and muzzle are divergent, downfaced, i.e., if extended, the top line of the muzzle emerges in front of or tangential to the occipital protuberance. A dish-faced muzzle is to be faulted so severely as to eliminate from further competition. The skull is oval, with sides gently sloping from the sagittal suture in a curve to the zygomatic arch. Cheeks are lean. The medial-frontal furrow is very pronounced. Muzzle - Stop is barely perceptible. Bridge of the muzzle is straight or slightly Roman. Square when viewed from the front. The width of the nasal bridge measured at its midpoint is a third of its length. The upper lips are rather soft and are rounded in front. The lower profile of the muzzle is created by the lower line of the upper lip. Eyes - A soft sweet expression is of paramount importance to the breed. It shall denote intelligence and gentleness. Ochre (a soft golden brown) in color, darker eyes with darker colored dogs, lighter eyes with lighter colored dogs. The eyes are large, almost round, well opened, and set well apart on the frontal plane. The lid fits the eye closely. The eye is neither protruding nor deep set. Eye rim is clearly visible and will vary in color from flesh colored to brown depending on the color of the dog. Loose eyelids must be faulted. Disqualification - Walleye (an eye with a whitish iris; a blue eye, fisheye, pearl eye). Nose - Large, bulbous and spongy in appearance with a rounded upper edge. Nostrils are large and well opened. In profile, the nose protrudes past the forward line of the lips. Pigment is a rosy flesh color in white-and-orange dogs, brown in brown-and-white or brown-roan dogs; in solid-white dogs, it can range from flesh colored to brown. Disqualification - Any pigment other than described or total depigmentation of the nose. Teeth - Jaw is powerful; at mid-length, the sides of the mandible are very lightly curved. Teeth are positioned in a scissors or level bite . Disqualification - Overshot or undershot bite. Ears - Almost triangular in shape with a slightly rounded tip, they are set on a level with the eye; long, but not more than 2 inches below the line of the throat; pendulous, carried close to the head and with little erectile power. The leather is fine, covered with short, thick hair mixed with longer sparser hair, which becomes thicker along the edges. The forward edge is adherent to the cheek, not curled, but turned back on itself.
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Neck, Topline, Body : Neck - Strong, thick, and muscular, clearly defined from the nape, blending into the shoulders in a harmonious line. The length of the neck shall not be less than two-thirds of the length of the head. The throat is moderate in skin with a double dewlap. Chest - Broad, deep, well-muscled and well rounded; extending at least to the elbow. The ribs are well sprung. The distance from ground to the elbow is equal to ½ the height at the withers. Back - The topline consists of two segments. The first slopes slightly downward in a nearly straight line from the withers to the eleventh thoracic vertebra. The second rises gradually and continues into a solid and slightly convex loin without rising above the withers. The underline is solid. It is almost horizontal in the sternal region, then ascends only slightly towards the belly; there is minimal tuck-up. Croup - Wide, well-muscled, long. The hipbones fall away from the spinal column at an angle of about 30 to 35 degrees, producing a lightly rounded, well filled-out croup. Tail - Follows the line of the croup, thick, with no fringes. The tail is carried horizontally or down, flicking from side to side while trotting. The tail is customarily docked to a length of 6 to 10 inches. The structure and carriage of an undocked tail are consistent with those of a docked tail. Forequarters : Shoulders - The shoulders are strong, well-muscled, long and well laid back; they are capable of moving freely and form an angle with the upper arm of approximately 105 degrees. The tops of the shoulder blades are not close together. The upper arm is of equal length to the shoulder blade. Angulation of shoulder is in balance with angulation in the rear. Forelegs: The forelegs are straight when viewed from the front, with strong, oval bone, well-developed muscles and well-defined tendons; elbows are set under the withers and close to the body. Pasterns are long, lean and flexible, following the vertical line of the forearm. In profile, they are slightly slanted. Feet - Front feet are large, compact, rounded, with well-arched toes which are close together, covered with short, dense hair, including between the toes. Pads are lean and hard with strong nails curving toward the ground, well pigmented, but never black. Dewclaws may be present. Hindquarters : Thighs are strong and well-muscled, stifles show good functional angulation, lower thigh to be well developed and muscled with good breadth. The distance from the point of the hock to the ground is about one-third of the height at the withers, and the rear pastern is strong, lean and perpendicular to the ground. Feet - The rear foot is slightly more oval than the forefoot, with the same characteristics. Dewclaws may be present on the inner side of the rear pastern. Skin : The skin must be very thick, closely fitting the body. The skin is thinner on the head, throat, groin, under the legs and in the folds of the elbows, where it is soft to the touch. Pigmentation is dependent upon the color or markings of the coat. Disqualification: Any black pigmentation. Coat : A Spinone must have a correct, harsh, single coat to be of correct type. There is no undercoat. The ideal coat length is 1½ to 2½ inches on the body. The hair is shorter on the head, ears, and along the top of the muzzle and front sides of legs and feet. The hair on the backsides of the legs forms a rough brush, but there are never any fringes. The eyes and lips are framed by long, stiff hair forming eyebrows, mustache and beard. The coat is coarse, dense and rather flat. The Spinone is exhibited in a natural state, in accordance with his function as a field dog.
Color : The accepted colors are: Solid white, white and orange; orange roan with or without orange markings; white with brown markings, and brown roan with or without brown markings.
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The most desired color of brown is a chestnut, "mo nk’s habit" brown, however, other shades of brown are acceptable. Disqualification - Any black in the coat, tri-color in any combination, tan points or any color other than accepted colors. Gait : He has a free, relaxed trot, geared for endurance. This trot, with intermittent gallop, allows the Spinone to cover maximum ground with the least amount of effort. Profile of the topline is kept as the dog trots. Temperament : Sociable, docile, affectionate and patient. Faults : Any departure from the foregoing points constitutes a fault which when judging must be penalized according to its seriousness and extent. Any characteristic that interferes with the accomplishment of the function of the Spinone shall be considered a serious fault. Disqualifications Walleye (an eye with a whitish iris; a blue eye, fisheye, pearl eye.) Any pigment other than described or total depigmentation of the nose. Overshot or undershot bite. Any black pigmentation. Any black in the coat; tri-color markings in any combination, tan points or any color other than accepted colors.
Approved August 14, 2018 Effective January 1, 2019
THE SPINONE ITALIANO A WELL-MADE PUZZLE BY SUZANNE HUDSON
E veryone has a unique and strategic world view, and this affects how each of us evaluates a dog. Some will evaluate dogs according to their show wins or losses. Others will evaluate dogs according to their own eye and how they think the dogs demonstrate (or not) the AKC standard, and might dismiss any show record as completely irrelevant. Some have seen a breed in many different countries, while others have only seen a breed in the United States, so there are always variations in “eye” and education. Some will pay special attention to judges who have made a particular study of their breed, while giving less weight to the opinions of judges who take a more generic approach. Some fault judge or judge the dogs on a particular characteristic, while others judge the whole dog, looking at type more than faults. Each individual has a level of (or lack of) self-awareness and objectivity as they assimilate the information they have been given, by their own research or by way of a mentor, a breeder, or a particular authority on a dog breed. We may struggle with our emotions playing too much of a role in our evaluation of our dogs and others’ dogs, but we do our best to look at the dog itself and to look at the whole dog. However we do it, we rely on these evaluations to help us make the right choices in our breeding programs for the preservation and improvement of our breed. The independent evaluation of phenotype that the show ring supports can be an important tool, which we use in addition to our knowledge of the genetic material that is expressed in our dogs’ ancestors and offspring. We prefer to look at the Spinone Italiano as a puzzle. All of the pieces are important, and they all fit together to make the whole dog. Looking at one piece of a dog, and elimi- nating the dog from consideration or elevating it for only a single characteristic (barring DQs defined in the standard), is not the best way to approach this breed.
284 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, SEPTEMBER 2021
THE SPINONE ITALIANO: A WELL-MADE PUZZLE
The first element of the puzzle is the general con- struction of the dog, and for this, we need to consider the environment that contributed to the origin of the breed. The Spinone was originally bred to hunt birds and small game in the mountains and the marshes of Italy’s Piemonte region. This steep, rough terrain requires a solid, sturdy, methodical hunter that doesn’t balk at heavy cover and has the stamina to work until there’s something for supper. The Spinone’s conforma- tion lets it move through difficult terrain without wast- ing energy, at a powerful, purposeful trot, not a gallop. Trotters and gallopers are not built the same. A sighthound is built to run great distances at high speed. You will see some of the sighthound’s characteristics in those pointing breeds bred to work in grass fields (many originated from England). Compare them with the Spi- none, a dog built and bred to work in rough, uneven terrain and heavy brush or brambles. Its big feet serve a purpose! AKC often encourages us to give judges three important points to remember, so they can judge the breed more easily. For a number of reasons, we do not believe this is a good approach for the Spinone. Divergent head plans, a two-piece topline, and a slop- ing croup are three hallmarks of this breed, and are essential. However, if that is all we know, we have cov- ered only about a quarter of the dog. Coat type is also essential. The Spinone has a harsh coat and a thick skin that protects it from cold water and thorns—there is no undercoat. The coat is one-and-a-half to two-and-a- half inches long, and it is never groomed in a pattern or scissored, only hand stripping is used. The Spinone is a wide dog. It should be almost square, with substantial bone, big feet, well-sprung ribs, and most of all, the very distinctive and telling soft expression that only a Spinone can have. The hind assembly is unique. The hock is 1/3 the height of the withers, and the angles at both front and rear are not as extreme as in many other Sporting dogs. The underline should have minimal tuck-up. Remember, the Spinone is a trotter, not a galloper. Our AKC standard has a huge section on the head. There is, however, only one sentence about divergent head planes, which are essential to the breed. The rest of the section is devoted to all the other features of the
head, including the skull shape (oval), the eye shape and set, the expression, the stop, the length and depth of the muzzle, the ear set and structure, the occiput, and more. All of these details, together, make the Spinone head. It’s easy to iden- tify divergent planes on the fly; this characteristic is absolutely identifiable. It is essential to the Spinone and it’s important. But so is everything else the standard says about the head. The proportions of the Spinone are vital, as they are for every breed. There are a number of essential proportions for the head. Among them, the skull is longer than it is wide, and the head’s length is 4/10 (that’s almost half) the height at the withers. “The skull is oval with sides gently sloping from the sagittal suture in a curve to the zygomatic arch. Cheeks are lean.” It is crucial to consider all the elements of the skull shape when evaluating the Spinone. This doesn’t mean that a dog lacking a perfectly oval skull should not be a champion or a breeding dog, it just means that you know it is there and that you’ve considered it in your evaluation of this slightly complicated dog. Sometimes it is hard to understand what we mean by oval, but it becomes clear when you see it on a live dog. Never forget to judge the whole midsection. The Spinone must have a two- piece topline as described in the standard, but the underline is equally important. Minimal tuck-up means exactly that. “The chest should be broad, deep, well-mus- cled and well rounded, extending at least to the elbow.” (The emphasis is mine.) Judges (and breeders and owners) should avoid picking just a single characteristic that they know about the breed, and instead take a whole-dog approach. This should include an understanding of the Spinone’s silhouette. What about size? Our dogs do not have a size DQ. The size range for both males and females is considerable. Males can be 23.5 to 27.5 inches at the with- ers, and females can be 22.5 to 25.5. That is a 4-inch size range for males, and the variation can be striking in the ring. While breeders may have a preference for Spinoni at one end or the other of the standard’s range, both are acceptable. Over or under the specified height is considered a fault like every other fault, and a part of our evaluation. We do not have enough space here to write more. However, we will leave you with these photos and labels, and we will let you decide why we picked these specific photos to show you! Thank you for your interest in the wonderful, rustic, charming, and hard-working Spinone Italiano. Please don’t hesitate to contact the Spinone Club of America’s Judges Education Committee if you have any questions: SCOAJudgesEd@gmail.com .
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THE SPINONE ITALIANO Toplines, Croups & TailseTs—is There more? A s the Spinone Club of America’s Judges Educa- tion committee is trying its best to step up with important points to your attention, to help broaden your understanding. created by incorrect eye color, shape or set (deemed typical in the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon and German Wire- haired Pointer) must be severely penal- ized in the Spinone Italiano. by Carolyn Fry & The spinone Club oF ameriCa
The almost-human expression, which is considered to be an essential trait of the Spinone, is created from widely-placed, almost round, large and expressive eyes set on the frontal plane of the head, which is unusual and special to this breed. The definition of the stop, together with both the sub and supra orbital structure (brow and cheek chiseling) are minimally defined. The above, together with the unusual warm ochre color (in white/orange dogs) contribute to the human expres- sion. Equally, in brown roan dogs the shade of brown for the eyes is warm and soft. A sharp or intense expression
an education program and a new “era”, with the committee members making themselves more available to judges and breeders, we often ask Spinone judges some basic questions. The answers we get regularly revolve around toplines, croups and tailsets of the Spinone and these are the areas that the judge is bas- ing his/her decisions upon. In addition, most judges are checking for divergent head planes. It is good to hear that the judges have these basics within their grasp, but we would like to draw the following very
The head is long, lean and divergent. The Spinone head length is propor- tionally long compared with any other Sporting breed, approximately four- tenths of the dog’s height. The skull is roof shaped, with a marked occiput, well-defined interpa- rietal crest (backskull/nape of neck) and gently sloping lateral walls. Par- ticularly, in profile, this area helps to define breed type for the Spinone. From the front, the refinement of skull adds to the long, lean and divergent
“THE HEAD IS LONG, LEAN AND DIVERGENT. The spinone head lengTh is proporTionally long Compared wiTh any oTher sporTing breed, approximaTely Four-TenThs oF The dog’s heighT.”
This is the correct profile movement for the spinone. please note that the head could be a little longer in proportion on this outline. The head length is 40% of the height at the withers.
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“THE SPINONE IS A ROBUSTLY-BONED HUNT/POINT/ RETRIEVER (I.E. VERSATILE BREED) AND ITS BODY SHAPE FITS ALMOST INTO A SQUARE.”
Nonetheless, the word “robust” indi- cates more substance than most of the other Sporting breeds. In profile its out- line is also unique among the Sporting breeds, with a gently broken topline and nearly level underline. An under- line with more than a minimal rise into the loin, i.e., tuckup like that of a GSP or setter, is a fault. Spinone movement is unusual in that it is relaxed and energy-conserving, as is normal with the trotting breeds that are built for stamina. There is flex in the wrist joint and with the widely-placed scapulae; the large, round front feet will rise and fall without exaggeration. The unique profile outline should be held in shape when gaiting. The backline will remain gently broken in Spinoni that are correctly constructed, i.e. have sym- metrical angles. An imbalance of angles will create level, sloping, or, the highly undesirable downhill movement. Any exaggeration or imbalance between the front and hind assembly will clear- ly affect the profile when gaiting. A Spinone that is lacking in length of upper arm, depth and breadth of chest and/or excessive length to the tibia (generally coupled with an overly-short
“TIP: please Take The Time To liFT
The head oF eaCh exhibiT
shape. Never Griffon-like (e.g. blocky, square, wide, well-defined stop and intense expression). The divergent planes can also be clearly viewed from the front, where the wide-open nostrils of this breed will obscure a clear viewing of the dog’s eyes in those dogs that have the incor- rect parallel or convergent (Pointer- like) planes. TIP: Please take the time to lift the head of each exhibit and check for a soft, human expression and the divergence of planes. A clear view up the nostrils = incorrect planes! Convergence of planes of the skull and muzzle or a dish-faced muzzle is to be faulted so severely as to eliminate from further competition.
Ears are long, framing the face in an unobtrusive manner, with mini- mal erectile power, and are set on low, i.e. level with the eye line. TIP: A tight lead will obscure your view of correct ear placement, the roof-shaped skull, the divided dewlap and the marked backskull, all desirable traits that contribute to the correct silhouette for the Spinone. The Spinone is a robustly-boned hunt/point/retriever (i.e. versatile breed) and its body shape fits almost into a square. Its bone is described in the Standard as ”oval”, which indi- cates a more refined impression when viewed from the frontal position, in keeping with the long, lean head type.
and CheCk For a soFT, human expression and The divergenCe oF planes. a Clear view up
The nosTrils = inCorreCT planes!”
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“TIP: loose-lead gaiTing aT a naTural plaCe will illusTraTe so muCh more Than FooT plaCemenT in This breed. CheCk For a deep underline in addiTion To The lighTly broken Topline and The CorreCT proporTions (i.e. long head, almosT-square body-shape, equal leg/ ChesT depTh and symmeTry oF Fore/hind angles).”
metatarsus) will produce an atypical, and therefore undesirable, gait that may be highly regarded or acceptable in the more elegant Sporting breeds. The shoulder should mirror the equally-proportioned rear assembly in this breed, with clear definition of a prosternum and a deep and broad chest. The correctly-constructed Spinone will carry its head just above the backline, with the nose pointing slightly down- wards, and is therefore unable to move in the extreme style of a German Wire- haired Pointer. The GWPs are consid- ered to be “gallopers” and will carry the stamp of a breed built for hunting at a faster pace in wide, open countryside. The desired gait for a Spinone in the field is an extended trot, with intermit- tent galloping strides. Therefore, the anatomy of this breed is designed to function at its optimum at the trot. TIP: Loose-lead gaiting at a natural place will
illustrate so much more than foot place- ment in this breed. Check for a deep underline in addition to the lightly bro- ken topline and the correct proportions (i.e. long head, almost-square body- shape, equal leg/chest depth and sym- metry of fore/hind angles). High head- carriage is undesirable and may be an indication of poor shoulder placement and an upright front assembly. Last, but not least, is the essential wiry, close-fitting coat of the Spinone. Judges are recommended to exam- ine the texture and lay of the coat, in addition to the length, at the mid-line in the center of the ribcage, rather than at the wither, or along the backline. The correct, close-fitting jacket may appear from a distance to be too short, which is our reason for asking judges to take the time to evaluate the coat/skin very carefully. Coat that is soft, with an undercoat, may well stand away from
the body. This type of coat is incorrect for the Spinone! Please take the time to grasp the skin as you examine the coat. It must be thick and leathery. Thin skin will often be attached to an incorrect coat in the Spinone. The recommended length of coat on the body is between 1 ½ " and 2 ½ ". Texture, lay and length are ALL important when evaluating coat type. The skin is of equal importance. Judges should note that shorter hair on the head is desirable—i.e. it may be hand-stripped in order to present some of the most important qualities of the Spinone. Stripping dead hair or tidying of the body coat to present the unique outline of the breed should not be con- sidered as sculpting or molding, but the use of scissors is contrary to the breed standard. Dogs with the correct wiry texture and lay of coat will require only a small amount of hand-stripping. Poor quality coats may not strip at all and
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SUMMARY OF ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF THE SPINONE head: Long, lean, divergent planes, minimal stop, roof-shaped skull, marked backskull, almost-human expression subsTanCe and ouTline: Nearly square, robust, balanced, gently broken topline, minimal tuckup, tail carried horizontal or down CoaT and skin: Close-fitting, wiry, 1½ to 2½ inches in length on body, no undercoat, thick, leathery skin gaiT: Relaxed trot, without exaggeration, profile holds while moving, head carried just above backline
excessive, soft leg hair, or the evidence of scissor marks in the case where shap- ing may have taken place, will all be helpful hints at the pre-groomed tex- ture and quality. Please take the time to carefully evaluate this very important characteristic of the breed. And back to the three areas that are unique but nonetheless only a portion of the whole Spinone: The topline is broken but not extreme (or saddle) and rises into the loin, but remains on a horizontal plane with the wither (i.e. the rump is not raised). The underline of the Spi- none carries equal importance, with minimal tuck-up. The croup falls only at an angle of between 30-35 degrees from the hori- zontal plane, i.e. a gentle roundness over the rump, taking the line of the tail just below the horizontal plane. A short croup may raise the tail above the back (this is incorrect), while an excessive length of croup will incline beyond the desirable 35 degrees. The latter will seriously restrict the hind movement and must be considered to be a serious fault. The tailset is a continuation of the croup line, with minimal break in the flow of the backline and with the tail
carried horizontally or lower. A poor tailset will essentially affect the unique Spinone silhouette, whereas a tail that is set on correctly, but still carried a lit- tle high (which is incorrect in a mature dog or bitch) may be just a temporary stage of development. Consideration must be given to separate tailset from tail carriage.
We are hoping the above informa- tion will assist judges to get closer to the whole picture and expand and refine their understanding of this unique Sporting dog. We appreciate the time you have taken to read this information. Please feel free to con- tact us with any queries or comments at SCOAJudgesEd@gmail.com.
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Spinoni BY SUE MCGREGOR
T he Spinone Italiano is often categorized as a “Versatile Field Dog.” What exactly is the defi- nition of “versatile?” Webster’s defines it as: • Able to do many different things; • Having many different uses. A more detailed definition is: “Embracing a variety of subjects, fields, or skills.” This describes the Spinone per- fectly, in the field as well as in the many other activities this breed participates in. Interest in the Spinone is growing, and more and more people are considering whether this is the breed for them. As a breeder, my first wish is to place puppies in a loving and responsible home. It is icing on the cake when a new owner wants to go a step further and compete or train with their dog. But how do people know if the breed—traditionally a hunting dog—can compete in other venues that might be more appealing to the typical “pet owner?” Or what about people looking for “just a pet?” Does the Spinone fit the bill? Two of the most common questions I am asked by people researching the breed are: “Do they get along with other dogs?” and “Do they like kids?” Yes on both counts! Owners often warn that Spinoni are like potato chips—you can’t have just one! Naturally sociable, the breed is known for gentleness with dogs of its own breed and others, and an almost magnetic attraction to children. (But remember, small children should not be left alone with a Spinone or any other breed.) Many Spinoni live happily with cats, birds, guinea pigs, and other pets. That said, it should be remem- bered that these are hunting dogs with a strong prey drive, so they should be introduced to such other “members” of the family at a young age, and carefully. Owners describe their dogs as smart, sweet, loving, gen- tle, entertaining, athletic, comical, and adorable. They also report that they can be mischievous, are prone to counter surfing, and as natural retrievers, will pick up (and chew on) things that you might not wish them to! Crate training is advised when a pup can’t be watched. However, Spinoni are not a breed that can be relegated to a kennel. They become attached to their people and, while not exactly clingy, they do like to be in close proximity to the family; like next to them on the couch or in the bed!
Compared to most Sporting breeds, Spinoni are relatively calm. But as with any large breed dog, they do require a fair amount of exercise, especially as puppies. A daily hour or two of exercise will result in a much easier dog to live with. Mental stimulation is impor- tant as well. A Spinone left to its own devices for long periods in the yard will find something to do, and that will likely involve digging. So, best to satisfy the need for exercise both physically and mentally, and then settle down on the couch to watch a little TV together. As if having a fantastic companion isn’t enough, Spinone owners today are enjoying such activities as Conformation, Obedience, Ral- ly, Agility, Tracking, and Therapy work with their dogs, along with the more traditional venues of Hunt Tests and Trials. And many enjoy getting out in the field for a day of bird hunting. I spoke with a number of owners who are competing in several different venues, to get a feel for how well Spinoni are faring and to see if there are any special challenges or tricks involved in training our breed for particular activities. Hunting dogs need to be obedient, but how do Spinoni fare in competition Obedience or Rally? It is often reported that, in order to train for Obedience with a Spinone, one must have a sense of humor. While there are a number of people doing Obedience and Rally with their Spinoni, and a few who have achieved more advanced titles, the average Spinone is not going to compete at the same level as a Golden Retriever or a Border Collie. However, they are willing participants as long as the training is positive and the treats are plentiful! Harsh training methods will result in a dog that will shut down and will probably remember the experience far into the future. If treated fairly and encouraged, a Spinone can do well in Obedience. More and more people enjoy training and competing with their dogs in Agility, and this includes Spinoni. It’s uncertain how many people are training or competing in this sport with Spinoni, but the number is, no doubt, growing. The first and only (to date) Spi- none to achieve his MACH (Master Agility Champion) is “Booker,” MACH Mals-About Guilty As Charged MXG MXP MJS MJP CGC. His owners told me that “turning on a dime” like some of the more traditional Agility dogs was not in the cards, but that Booker is steady and forgiving of handler errors. Booker also brings smiles to the residents of an assisted living facility, and has entered his first Rally trial—now that’s versatile!
LIVING WITH SPINONI
their Spinoni. Many Spinoni, sporting a conformation title, also have a hunting title on the other end of their name. And for many, there is no greater joy than see- ing their owner get out the shotgun! Prob- ably more Spinone owners hunt or train for hunting with their dogs than any other activity, and with good reason. The Spino- ne today is as good a hunting companion as it was in the past, unlike some Sport- ing breeds. Many breeders emphasize that their dogs have both brains and beauty, and want to keep it this way. While Spi- none make great companion dogs, they really excel in the field. Originally reg- istered with NAVHDA (North Ameri- can Versatile Hunting Dog Association) before acceptance by AKC, many are still NAVHDA registered, and many owners today participate in both NAVHDA and AKC events. Joe Masar, who has been active in NAVHDA for over 16 years and who has owned, trained and/or handled close to thirty Spinoni reports: “Spinoni can be a family member as well as a very valuable hunting team mem- ber. They bond in a unique way with their handlers and hunt as a team and not just for themselves. They are versatile in point- ing, retrieving, and swimming. So wheth- er it be upland, waterfowl or fur, they can do it and do it well. They can be slow to mature compared to some, but the wait is worth it. They have stubborn streaks, like questioning why they have to do it more than once; since you threw it, you go get it! They are very sensitive, and therefore, methods used on other breeds will ruin a Spinone when incorrectly applied. If you want a dog that hunts in this county and not two counties away, you will find them to be a perfect companion.” Joe pretty much sums up the Spinone temperament; gentle, sweet, comical, bid- dable, but with a little bit of a mind of their own. This is a dog that will appeal to many, as long as the beard (which gath- ers water, food, and any number of other substances) is not considered an issue. Spinone households typically have several “beard towels” stashed in various places. I always tell people that if you are a “neat freak” this is not the breed for you. (And I know, because I used to be one!) But for me, and for many other owners, a little spittle on the walls and muddy footprints on the floor are worth it in order to share your home with this wonderful, unique, and versatile breed!
“SPINONI CAN BE A FAMILY MEMBER AS WELL AS A VERY VALUABLE HUNTING TEAM MEMBER. THEY BOND IN A UNIQUE WAY WITH THEIR HANDLERS AND HUNT AS A TEAM AND NOT JUST FOR THEMSELVES. THEY ARE VERSATILE IN POINTING, RETRIEVING, AND SWIMMING. SO WHETHER IT BE UPLAND, WATERFOWL OR FUR, THEY CAN DO IT AND DO IT WELL.”
Care Unit. At the VA hospital, depressed patients sometimes won’t talk with staff about personal matters, but will open up to a therapy dog, giving the therapist some idea of what’s going on in their lives. In one case, the patient missed his puppy at home. Who knew, until Denali walked in the door? It was a simple matter to arrange for a family member to bring the puppy to the hospital. Two other standouts in the Therapy world are Chris and Lauren Sweetwood’s dogs, “Siena,” Castellana DiMorghengo MH CDX RAE THDD JHR CGCA (TDIG TWT) and “Drago,” (CH Drago Castellano of Trollbo MH CD RE THDD JHR CGCA (TDIGOLD, TWT,) TT, 2013 AKC Award of Canine Excellence— Therapy. Both dogs are handled by Lauren Sweetwood, and both have assisted in pro- grams at assisted living facilities, nursing homes, schools, and disaster relief situa- tions. Siena received the TDI Gold Award for over 500 therapy visits, and currently participates in the Tail Waggin’ Tutors Program at local schools where Chris and Lauren live. Drago spent many hours comforting victims and families after the Sandy Hook school shootings. He was the second Spinone to achieve the highest TDI title (TDIG). He also regularly visits assisted living facilities and nursing homes, and has over 1000 therapy dog visits to his credit! Clearly, Spinoni are well cut out for Therapy Dog work. With their many titles and achievements, Chris and Lauren’s Spi- noni are the definition of “versatile!” Hunting and hunt training is what the breed was used for traditionally, and many owners still pursue these activities with
“Sofia,” PACH4 Hopecreek Maggio- ranza Fisica Sofia UD BN GN GO RE MXP11 MXPC MJP11 MJPC PAX5 OFP has also excelled in Agility. Her handler suggests keeping training sessions short and fun. Having trained other Agil- ity dogs, she says that when she got Sofia, the beauty was in not knowing what to expect from her as a breed. Since Sofia also excels in Agility, Obedience, and Rally, it’s obvious that a lot could easily be expected of her! A number of Spinoni are being used in Therapy work, from working with kids in reading programs and visiting hospitals and assisted living facilities, to offering comfort after disasters such as the school shootings in Sandy Hook. Although there are many that could be mentioned, three that stand out are profiled here: “Denali,” is a 10-year-old Spinone owned by Bob and Jane Landis. As Bob states, “Therapy dogs must be curious, willing to engage a patient sitting in a wheelchair or in a hospital bed; they must roll with the unexpected, learning to accept a pat out of nowhere from a gush- ing stranger in a hospital hallway as well. Therapy dogs must stay the course, set- tling in while you and the patient “chat dog” because there’s no one who doesn’t remember every dog they’ve ever owned. The Italian Spinone loves to be the center of attention. Denali loves to “hold court” and, if someone kneels down to his level, he’ll sit and extend one paw in what can only be described as a ‘Papal’ blessing.” Denali works at both the New York Meth- odist Hospital’s Physical Rehabilitation Unit and the Brooklyn VA’s Palliative
A FORUM ON THE SPINONE ITALIANO with MICHELE IVALDI, DOUG JOHNSON & ANNETTE WINJNSOUW
MICHELE IVALDI I spend my time between Sardinia, Pavia (Italy) and Ireland. I’m a freelance writer. We always had working Setters in our family country houses and my father had a Spinone, too. I started showing in 1990 and judging in 2003. 1. Describe the breed in three words. Rustic, friendly and square. 2. What are your “must have” traits in this breed? Hair rough and single, divergent cranial axes, correct top lines, strong bones, square body, deep and broad chest and easy, loose steps with a good rhythm of trot. 3. Are there any traits in this breed you fear are becoming exaggerated? I have seen exaggerated grooming on dogs with wrong and soft coats. 4. Do you think the dogs you see in this breed are better now than they were when you first started judging? Why or why not? In the US, the breed has improved a lot in the last 15 years. In Italy, the UK and Europe, the average qual- ity level was higher 15 years ago and there were some monumental dogs. In the US, there are some spectacular Spinoni that would win anywhere in the world and some wrong Spinoni that are champions and do some win- nings, beating the right ones! 5. What do you think new judges misunderstand about the breed? Well, I’ve seen many well educated new judges doing much better than old judges. A new judge can improve more than an old one! The main misunderstanding is about the toplines that are a peculiar and distinctive mechanical attribute of this trotting breed. They are mis- taken with sway back. Then the coat, any good groomer can make harsh a soft coat, but the Spinone coat must be single and naturally harsh on very thick skin. Also heads and head planes: a head with correct length and little divergence of the cranial axes is preferable to a short head with more evident divergence. Some judges believe that the more divergent the cranial axis are, the better the head, forgetting about proportions. 6. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate. 1) The two segments of the topline are very important. The withers should be a little higher than the croup. The first segment slopes from the withers to the 11th vertebra and the second joins with the loin. This helps to improve the shoulder action providing more reach, extension and
recycling of energy on a long distance trot. Dogs with high croup and low withers can only fall on the shoulders, they can’t have a correct head carriage and can’t perform an enduring trot. 2) The Spinone is named like this because of his harsh coat. The word Spinone means “big thorn”, a soft coated Spinone is not a Spinone. 3) Broad chest and wide rump suggests that the Spinone must have a good third dimension and narrow bodies are not acceptable. 4) Hindquarters must be strong, wide croup, strongly muscled upper thigh and short, thick hocks that when seen from behind are parallel. The rump is wide, so the Spinone can’t move narrow in the rear. 7. And, for a bit of humor: what’s the funniest thing you’ve ever experienced at a dog show? On a Best in Show of an all breeds, the BIS judge decides his placements and he tells to the speaker, “Third place to the German Wirehaired Pointer!” Nobody moves. There was a brown roan Italian Spinone on the Best in Show and the judge was convinced it was a GWP and gave him a 3rd on the BIS! DOUG JOHNSON care business. We employ 500 people and provide care to about 700 senior clients. I started in dogs in 1984 and started judging in 2000. 1. Describe the breed in three words. Unique, solidly built and divergent 2. What are your “must have” traits in this breed? This is a breed I truly enjoy judging. For me, this breed must have large bone and body, a harsh coat, divergent head plane and the proper topline and tail set. All of these are breed defining. This breed is unique from all others in our AKC family and shares no common traits. I love the expression and large nose, ample neck and sol- idly built body. They have unique lines which make them fun to judge and exciting when you find them. 3. Are there any traits in this breed you fear are becoming exaggerated? The only thing that I am fearful of is trying to make them into a generic show dog which tends to happen in dog breeds in America. This breed is different and should be. I hate to see them with level head planes, a level back and a high tail set. Also slight in substance. You get a great deal of them that are not broad and substantial. I live in Bloomington, Indiana. Outside of dogs I run and co-own a skilled care medical agency and a non-medical home
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Breeders should safeguard the bone and substance which the breed is known for throughout the world. 4. Do you think the dogs you see in this breed are better now than they were when you first started judging? Why or why not? When they were first approved there were plenty of dogs coming into our AKC system that were bred overseas. These dogs had the depth, bone and mass which I iden- tify as correct for the breed. The breed has gone away from some of this as new breeders have started to pro- duce puppies. Retaining these characteristics is not easy to do in a breeding program for even the most seasoned breeder. There was also a color issue in the breed for some time. The liver dogs were not as well received as the orange originally. Today there seems to be less color prejudice in the breed. 5. What do you think new judges misunderstand about the breed? I sound like a broken record, but size and substance are not understood my most judges. This is a breed like many others in the Sporting group that you need to see in for- eign countries to really understand. To see a large entry of Spinone will help train your eye to the size, bulk and bone of this breed. Determining the proper type of this breed is paramount. 6. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate. There is a challenge in this bred in construction of their rears. They are not the soundest breed to judge but again reward type overall. ANNETTE WINJNSOUW
coming in line with the back, by bringing the neck between the shoulders to give him the possibility to trot. He can see forward and also what is happening by his muzzle. He has also a very typical outline, with the light raising loins that made the trot with a level topline possible. To describe the breed in three words is not easy, but I think sturdy, strong and stubborn. The Spinone is stubborn in his own way. He is intelligent, but will use it for his own favor. When they have to do something, you can see them think, ‘Have I ever heard this word?’ If he has heard it, he will think if he will do it. If he decides to do it, he will do it slowly with the expression of, ‘Okay, I will do it, but I think it is useless.’ If you don’t see the humor, you should never take a Spinone home. Every Spinoni should be able to work, look for and point out game. If they lose this trait, they will lose all their traits. Being able to, doesn’t mean he has to hunt. But breeders should test in the litter for the best hunters. Hunters should understand that the Spinone is a pointing breed and you can teach them to retrieve, but pointing is their passion. There- fore, they like man trailing too, they like to use their noses without pressure. The more pressure on the Spinone, the less they will show their will to please. The most important thing is to find the way to learn and have fun. When working with the Spinoni you need a lot of endurance, inventiveness and humor. They are very easily bored and need new games. I hope we will not lose his hunting traits. The Spinone was the hunting dog for the farmers that hunted by foot. So the typi- cal movement is the trot. I taught my Spinone to go typical as a good mover with the head high. Many are too fast, which is what a lot of judges like. I prefer the typical mover in every breed, that is functional to me. The breed can be stubborn and sometimes very naughty. You can always see when they will be naughty, because they start to think about it—whether it will bring them something or won’t. Working with them is fun; when they do something for you, they will do it for their whole life. Showing a Spinone is also hard work, because to let them think is a way of doing and it takes time. At every show they have to be convinced that it is necessary. The roan/brown Spinone has more personality and is sometimes easier to convince that it is necessary to do some- thing. The roan/brown bitches are boyish and the white/ orange bitches often have the diva behavior. Any black col- oration is a disqualifier for the Spinoni. Every Italian judge will look at the nails of the roan/brown Spinone, because they should have brown nails. In Italy, they will disqualify the dog. Outside of Italy, they don’t do it, but that Spinone will never win. For me, it is hard to see that in some countries the quality of the Spinoni is going down by not breeding them carefully, but just increasing their numbers. They are losing everything you want to see, they are not sturdy, rustic or strong anymore and has less bone and an atypical outline. I think it is most important for every judge to understand the breed. Understanding is very different than knowing the breed. Understanding means you can read the conformation and movement in the function of the breed.
First I would like to thank the maga- zine for the invitation to give my vision and tell something about this wonderful breed. I live with my husband and our 13 Spinoni in the Netherlands. The caring of our dogs takes a big part of the day, but I find time to give show training and help breeders who are starting to breed.
My first breed and breed to judge was the long-haired St. Ber- nard in 1985. Now I judge 18 breeds in FCI Group 2 and in FCI group 7, I judge Spinone and the Bracco Italiano. I have judged the specialty for the Dogue de Bordeaux in France and a specialty for the Spinone Club of America. The head of the Spinone is important; the head must have divergent planes just before the eyes. The lines are from the top of the head and cross the line of the muzzle. If not, the skull or muzzle is not good—the skull is too flat or the muzzle is too short. Then the eyes, laterally placed, almond-shaped and in a nice color, gives them the almost human-like expres- sion. You can read in their eyes, what they want and think. The Spinone has no stop and the eyes are placed light laterally. They diverge because when they hunt, the head is
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spinone italiano: A BREED Q & A
SUZANNE HUDSON 1. In order, name the five most important traits you look for in the ring. I approach the dogs with only the silhouette in mind. I specifically remind myself that I am NOT (at the first moment) looking for faults, I am looking for the Spinone silhouette which includes the Proportions (head is 4 ⁄ 10 the height at the withers, the leg/body proportions are 50/50, the hock is a third of the height of the withers, the lower thigh is just SLIGHTLY longer than the upper thigh which is VERY different than most other sporting breeds, the more open angles of the Spinone in both front and rear, but not straight front or rear, etc.) and I am looking of course for divergent planes, a two piece top line and a slightly sloping croup. I take a close look at the head from the profile and try to decide then what I might see when I get my hands on that head! 2. Have you seen or used Spinones in the field? How has this influenced what you look for? Yes, I have hunted almost all of my Spinone. This makes me keenly aware of the proper coat (not long or soft) and normal, balanced proportions. A Spinone that stands and/ or moves croup high is incorrect and will cause great dif- ficulty for a dog that works for a living! 3. What shortcomings are you most willing to forgive? What faults do you find hard to overlook? I am willing to forgive a dog that is a tad shy in the show ring; I am willing to forgive slight cow hocks because this is so common in our breed. I believe the emphasize and focus on the perfect rear has created an extreme problem with type in our breed over the years. Of course all dogs need to be sound, the hind assembly of a Spinone is very different than most Sporting breeds and the best rear is not always the best Spinone. I am willing to forgive a lot of faults (except soundness) if the dog has fantastic type. We have become used to a long, soft-coat- ed dog that moves and looks more like the other sporting dogs. This is not a proper Spinone. The correct Spinone is a wide dog. There is a good depth of chest and deep underline with very slight tuck up. Dogs lacking in depth of chest and depth of underline over all should not be top winning dogs. As far as faults, I find it hard to overlook
“slim”, slight bodied dogs. I find it hard to over look short muzzles and broad skulls with high set ears. I find it hard to over look a very light eye and an expression like a WPG or a GWP. I find long, soft coats hard to overlook. I find it very hard to overlook excessive tuck up. Dogs lack- ing in overall type should not be rewarded. 4. Has the breed improved from when you started judging? Which traits are going in the wrong direction or becoming exaggerated? Since I have become involved our club (the Spinone Club of America) has worked very hard to raise awareness of proper breed type for both judges and breeders. The Spinone Club of America has worked very hard to focus on training judges and breeders so that our breed can continue to be the old, rustic type of dog that has been so highly valued for hundred of years. Moving the breed toward a more generic and general Sporting dog is the wrong direction. Rewarding (award- ing!) dogs that lack breed type is the wrong direction. Divergent planes, broken top line and sloping croups are essential, but this is only the beginning of understanding the breed. Those specific traits must be there, but understanding that is only the beginning of understand- ing the breed. I do not think we have any exaggerated traits yet, but the fear of that holds many breeders back and keeps them from producing good type. Focusing just on the rears has produced dogs with great rears and no type. We need to focus on the dog as a whole. 5. Are there aspects of the breed not in the standard
that you nonetheless take into consideration because breeders consider them important?
Our standard does a very good job of explaining; how- ever, it is very difficult for judges and breeders to under- stand the breed. Most judges consider it one of the more complicated dogs they must learn about. 6. Describe the Spinone topline and its difference from other Sporting dogs. The Spinone top line is a two-piece top line. The break at the 11th vertebrae is slight. There is a gentle rise in the loin. The croup should never be above the withers. The dog is not to be built “down hill” or “up hill”. The withers is slightly above the croup—slightly. It is not the same top line as a Chesapeake or an IRW. It is a very unique top line.
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