Spinone Italiano Breed Magazine - Showsight

Spinone Italiano Breed Magazine features information, expert articles, and stunning photos from AKC judges, breeders, and owners.


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


P icture the slopes of the Italian Alps, long ago. Imagine the aristocracy out on their horses with their hunting companions in the flat, grassy fields below. They will go home at the end of the day, tired and laughing, to enjoy a feast with their friends. Further up the mountains, you will find a different type of hunter, one who hunts for dinner, not for sport. The mountainsides are steeper and more treacherous. The under- brush is dense and thorny, and the winters are hard. Game can be scarce and the birds are wild, wild, wild. Here, the people are poor and must scratch a living in this rocky terrain. If they cannot fill

the pot by hunting, their family will go hungry. These are peas- ants, and here you find the Spinone working beside them. Today, there is a grocery store in every town and most of us hunt more for sport than for necessity. We can drive out to the Dakotas to cross those broad acres, bring our blinds to the water to wait for ducks, or head into the woods to seek the wild Grouse and the elusive Woodcock, the queen of the woods, as we please. Still, we work to preserve the Spinone breed, even though we no longer rely on it to feed our families.



WHY IS THE SPINONE’S HEAD SO DISTINCTIVE? Hunting in those mountainous areas requires both air scent and ground scent. The Spinone, with his muzzle point- ing down, can ground scent and air scent easily while look- ing ahead in the rugged terrain. He will find the birds that other breeds run right over. His large bulbous, spongy nose serves an obvious purpose. His long, triangular ears, with a small insertion point, hang from eye level or slightly below and fit very close to his flat cheeks to help him harness that scent. Some say that there may be scenthounds among his ancestors.

The many characteristics that identify the Spinone in the show ring and in the field reflect its great history. These dogs are unique among the Sporting breeds, and we work hard to make sure that they remain a Spinone! In other articles, we have introduced the Spinone Italia- no as a puzzle. Here, we’re going to address the parts of the puzzle from the point of view of their function. As breed- ers, we strive to maintain the health and temperament of our breed, and hope that the results in the Conformation ring help us maintain the breed’s all-important type, which is what makes it so instantly recognizable as a Spinone.



His oval-shaped skull with lateral slop- ing sides and prominent occipital crest is distinctive; with the minimal stop, long muzzle, front-facing rounded eyes and flat cheeks, and of course, the divergent planes, it forms the quintessential Spinone head. The Spinone’s neck is thick and conical, and relatively short, to support this long (4/10 of the height at the withers), well-sculpted headpiece as he trots, runs, and swims. HIS BODY - WHAT DOES GEOGRAPHY HAVE TO DO WITH IT? The Spinone Italiano has to be sure- footed, sturdy, and substantial to move through the terrain in which the breed was developed. The Spinone was often the only dog, so he had to be truly versatile. He could be used for carting as well as to hunt the mountainsides—we see this today in his strong front assembly. His almost-level underline supports the trotting gait that is typical for the Spinone. He hunts within gun range, checking in with his master frequently. While he may occasionally gal- lop between scents, he is fundamentally a trotter. The Spinone’s flexible, two-part topline and a solid loin can twist and turn and navigate thick thorn bushes and dense cover while he locates game for his master. The widely spaced scapulae add to his flex- ibility. His sloping croup helps with the steep climbs and descents he must make. The tail flows smoothly from his back, and is held down or out. There is no need to flag a distant handler with an upright tail; he’s right there. The hocks are long. BIG feet, combined with flexible pasterns and elbows, “THE SPINONE HAS TO BE SURE-FOOTED, STURDY, AND SUBSTANTIAL TO MOVE THROUGH THE TERRAIN IN WHICH THE BREED WAS DEVELOPED. THE SPINONE WAS OFTEN THE ONLY DOG, SO HE HAD TO BE TRULY VERSATILE.”

La mia Cinaofilia foto Lucio Scaramuzza 2015



THE SHOW RING When we put the Spinone in the show ring, in that small, flat space, he looks very different from the other Sporting breeds. Many Sporting dogs were bred to work in flat, grassy fields (think England); some are more versa- tile, but, still, they were not bred for this specific region in Italy where the peasants hunted. Most pointing breeds in the Sporting ring are gallopers, not trotters. Their heads, carried on upright necks, narrow build, short croups, long thighs, and short hocks support this movement. Next to these other breeds, the Spinone stands out—he moves no less beautifully, but not in the same way as other Sport- ing breeds. The Spinone’s loose, elastic, sure-footed move- ment is very different from the animated, head-high trot of other Sporting dogs. The connection of the Spinone to the earth is palpable in its movement, which is breathtaking to the true Spinone aficionado. The movement of a Spi- none strung up on its lead with its head high, and with the lighter bone, tuck-up, and short hock of other breeds, may seem more familiar and look less out of place in the Group ring, but this is not the breed type we are striving to preserve. A softer coat might be more pleasant to touch, but it will never be found on the thick skin that is needed for the Spinone to do its job. We are at risk of losing our way with our dear old friend, the Spinone, but we can find our way back. To protect and preserve the breed, we must remember how and why it got here in the first place. There are many crucial and distinct elements that tie this puzzle of a dog together, each of them necessary to make a whole Spinone. The Spinone is truly a masterpiece, and deserves the time and depth of study required to understand him.

let the Spinone handle steep terrain, large rocks and rubble, and deadfall. In marshes, they help him swim through muddy waters with a minimum of splashing. His well-sprung ribs house deep lungs and give him stamina for his job. The Spinone was built for rough terrain! In extreme temperatures on land and water, his unusually thick skin and single, harsh coat protect him so that he is undeterred in his quest to find game and retrieve it. A longtime Italian breeder once described him as fatto per la palude , made for the swamp. WHY SO GENTLE? After that very long day of fulfilling his purpose and bringing home food for his family, he joins his family and their friends and their children. His kindness and gentleness are necessary for the social environment in which he lives. His soft, gentle, and melting expression reflect the tempera- ment that is so cherished by his family, his breeder, and his native country. There he is—the Spinone.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Suzanne Hudson is originally from Texas, where she grew up hunting Bobwhites with her father and brother. The family had Pointers, Setters, and Brittanies until they fell in love with the German Wirehaired Pointer, and that is what they hunted with for years. In the meantime, Suzanne bought an English Springer Spaniel and started in the show world. She won her first Group One at age 16, and not long after she stepped away from showing. In the 1990s, Suzanne bought her first Parson Russell Terrier (after swearing she would never have one!) and started showing again. When the family’s last German Wirehair left them, Suzanne saw a photo of a beautiful orange roan Spinone Italiano puppy. She was mesmerized by her, so, of course, she bought her and fell head over heels in love with the Spinone. After 16 years of owning, showing, and breeding the Spinone, Suzanne is still just as much in love with them as she was in the very beginning. Her dogs have won the National Specialty, BOB at Westminster, many Groups, and several BISS. Suzanne has bred ten litters of Spinoni and she has produced many champions. In the years

that she has been doing this, Suzanne has been very fortunate to be able to meet with breeders all over the world and to import some very special puppies. These dogs and experiences have certainly enlightened her and have helped her to continue to learn and understand this unique breed. Suzanne’s experiences working with the Judges Education Committee for SCOA have broadened her understanding and perspective as well, giving her a lot of insight into the difficulties of explaining and understanding this out-of-the-box breed. And what a wonderful breed it is! Suzanne’s fondness for them has no measure and she feels so fortunate to have owned and loved so many of them.





T oday’s Spinone Italiano originates from the Piedmont region in Northwest Italy. During the 19th century, it was the most important hunting breed in that area. Piedmont, in both French and Italian and other variants, comes from the medieval Latin Pedemontium or Pedemontis , meaning “at the foot of the moun- tains” (referring to the Alps). The Piedmont region is surrounded by the Alps. It borders with France, Switzerland and the Italian regions of Lombardy, Liguria, Aosta Valley and a tiny part of Emilia Romagna. Piedmont is 43.3 percent mountainous and 30.3 percent is vast areas of hills with just 26.4 percent being plains or wetlands. The Spinone, with its two-segmented topline, solid underline and minimal tuck-up, long hock-to-paw length and moderate bend of stifle was not built for super speed. This hunting dog hunted the foothills and mountainsides of the Alps for upland game birds, fox and rab- bit, and down low in the plains and swampy, thick wetlands for waterfowl. It is said that during WWII, the Spinone was used by the Italian partisans to track enemies and to carry food. Speed was not required. A strong, substantial and unhurried yet steady-going dog was needed—and that was the Spinone. So, all that said, the Spinone is not slow. A descriptor word in our Breed Standard is “methodical.” Methodical does not mean slow. The definition of methodical is orderly and systematic in habits or behavior . Obviously, a Spinone is not as fast as a Pointer or German Wirehaired Pointer or Weimaraner or even the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon and Brittany. But not being as fast as those other pointing breeds does not, thereby, mean the Spinone is slow. Not being as fast as the other pointing breeds does not mean the Spinone should go around the ring like a turtle, with its handler walking. We had that happen once; the judge kept telling us to “slow down, slow down!” to the point where we were all literally walking. It was ridiculous! So while the other pointing breeds are faster and look much more flashy in the field, often going back over the same piece of ground more than once, the Spinone, with its easy, pounding trot that goes the distance, is determined as it covers the ground in an orderly and systematic fashion, not going back and forth over the same ground. I suppose, to some, that may appear slow. As I mentioned earlier, the Spinone has a solid underline and minimal tuck-up. That does not mean no tuck-up or zero tuck-up. There is a tuck-up and it is minimal. To quote the Italian Breed Standard: “The ribs are well sprung and slanting with wide space between them. The back ribs (false ribs) are long, oblique and well opened. Underline and belly: Almost hori- zontal in the sternal region, then ascends slightly towards the belly.” The belly is not the tuck-up. The Spinone has a two-piece topline. It is NOT a sway back. The first segment slopes slightly downward from the withers to the 11th thoracic vertebra. You may not always obvi- ously see “the break,” especially in the very young Spinone, but it is there—you can feel it. The second segment of the topline rises gradually and continues into a solid and slightly convex loin without rising above the withers.


Spinone, standing up and down on a mountainside, displaying the flexible two-segment topline and perpendicular and long hock-to-paw length.



compete for that spot at the front of the Group and zoom around the ring rather than presenting the Spinone at a moder- ate pace to show off the Spinone’s classic loose, pounding trot. I am reminded of the great handler Colton Johnson and the way he purposely handled his Old Eng- lish Sheepdog in the way the breed should be presented and was not swayed by peer pressure or by judges wanting a happy-go- lucky generic American show dog. Many years ago, Colton showed one of my Spi- noni a few times in exactly the same way— unhurried and how it should be done. Similarly, a Spinone should never ever be strung up on its lead. A Spinone is to be shown on a loose lead. Why? Well, if you unnaturally pull up a Spinone’s head to, again, show it in the generic American show dog way, not only does that flatten out the topline in movement but it also does not showcase the Spinone’s unique head with its diverging head planes and nose pointing downward in order to pick

The Spinone’s large paws give it the sure-footedness and stability to hunt in the hilly and mountainous terrain, as does the long hock-to-paw distance. From the AKC Spinone Breed Standard: “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 per- pendicular to the ground.” Stealing another quote from the Italian Breed Standard: “The hocks must be perpendicular to the ground; seen from behind, the hindquarters are parallel.” That means no cowhocks. Living in Montana, I can tell you that I have yet to see a Pack Mule or Big Horn Sheep or Mountain Goat with cowhocks. SO HOW DOES THIS ALL TRANS- LATE TO THE SHOW RING? The Spinone should not race around the breed ring or be at the very front of the Sporting Group. Even if one has a Spinone that can do that, it should not be presented that way. You can always spot the handler who does not know the breed when they

Spinone on a loose lead with head down and out, topline as it should be.

up scent. Just remember the head and tail together—loose lead with the head low and out in conjunction with the tail that is carried parallel to the ground or down, never up. Thank you for taking the time to learn more about our unique breed.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Daina B. Hodges has been an owner, breeder, and exhibitor of Spinone Italiano dogs since 2002. Daina lives in Missoula, Montana. She grew up with dogs, cats, and horses, and has shown dogs, horses, and yes, cats. She got her first “big dog” in 1973, a German Shepherd Dog, and participated in 4H with her. Daina got her first horse in 1974 and participated in 4H and open horse shows, eventually graduating to AQHA shows. Horses eventually won out over dogs and she bred her first Quarter Horse at the age of 12 with the guidance of her 4H leader who was very much involved with Quarter Horses and the American Quarter Horse Association. However, the dogs were always at the barn and wherever they rode their horses. Daina was obsessed with Quarter Horse pedigrees and she read as many books as she could get her hands on for breeding and genetics. Daina was born in Portland, Oregon, and raised in a town near the base of Mt. Hood. She has lived in Alaska and

Wyoming, and eventually settled in Western Montana where she’s been for over 30 years. Daina was a court reporter for the State of Oregon, then a free-lance Court Reporter in Wyoming and then Montana, and in 1997, she became an Official Court Reporter for the United States District Courts in Missoula, Montana, where Daina finished her 30-year court reporting career in 2012. After settling down and building a home in 2000, she got back into dogs with her first Spinone puppy. She spent her first five years in the breed hunting her Spinoni, belonging to local NAVHDA and AKC hunt clubs and earning Hunt Test and Field Trial awards, as well as showing her Spinoni in AKC shows and dabbling a bit in Agility before breeding her first litter. Since Daina’s work involved traveling to three US District Courthouses in Montana, along with work at the “home base” courthouse in Missoula, her dog activities became limited to showing and hiking her dogs, especially after she bred her first litter in 2007. She has been a member in good standing with the Spinone Club of America since 2003. She’s bred eight litters since 2007, as her practice is to have a litter every three years in order to know and understand where her lines are going conformation-wise, temperament- wise, health-wise, and performance-wise. Daina has 23 finished Spinone Italiano Champions, 17 of which she bred and 10 of those 17 were finished through the Bred-By Exhibitor class. She became the first Spinone breeder to receive the AKC Bred-By Exhibitor Silver Medallion in September 2016, and in September 2021, she became the first Spinone breeder to receive the AKC Bred-By Exhibitor Gold Medallion. Daina is currently an approved breed mentor by AKC and the Spinone Club of America. She has been a writer for SCOA for the AKC Gazette and is still asked to write the occasional article. Daina has imported two Spinone from the United Kingdom and one from the Czech Republic. She does health screenings on all of her Spinoni per the Spinone Club of America health guidelines and code of ethics. She hikes with her Spinoni almost every morning (except when at dog shows), at least six days a week, year-round—winter, spring, summer, and fall. The temperature cut- off in the winter is around 10 degrees and lower, of which those temps, fortunately, last for only a few days a couple of times throughout the winter. Daina and her Spinoni hike about six miles in the winter/early spring months and eight miles for the rest of the year. Living in Western Montana, they hike up and down hills and mountainsides—terrain which is pretty much exactly that of NW Italy where the Spinone originates.



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.



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 .


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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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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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!


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!


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

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