First of all, it is Spinone (singular) or Spinoni (plural) and never, never, never Spumoni. No, it does not sound like a ice cream or a dessert. And no, it is not funny.
The Spinone Italiano is an all-purpose gundog. The Spinone is primarily a pointer, but it also flushes and retrieves. The Spinone hunts upland game birds and water fowl and in some parts of Europe it is still used for rabbit and fox. The Spinone is considered a “feather & fur” hunting dog.
The Spinone is a robust dog as in raw bone and brawn, robust as in depth of chest and spring of rib, robust as in heavily built and husky but never robust due to being overweight.
The build of a Spinone is square, or almost square. To be specific, a Spinone is as long as they are tall, from point of sternum to point of buttocks and from the ground to the withers, with an inch of forgiveness in length.
The Spinone has a unique head with its diverging head and muzzle planes that allow the nose to naturally point downward to catch scent while still looking forward to see where it is going. A Spinone should be allowed to naturally carry its head as it moves out.
The head is long and lean with an oval skull that tapers at the sides and has a prominent occipital protuberance. The muzzle should be square when looking straight on versus the triangular shape of many of the hound breeds. A classic Roman nose is desirable. Think about Michaelangelo’s sculpture David – classic!
A Spinone has an almost human-like eye. The eyes are yellowish-brown with the darker eye on darker-colored Spinone and the lighter eye on lighter-colored Spinone.
“That nose and those paws!” Often-heard exclamations from people first meeting a Spinone. The nose is large, bulbous and spongy, and the paws are large yet compact.
No, a Spinone is not “swaybacked,” as we Spinone folk have heard so many times. The Spinone topline has a break at the 11th thoracic vertebrae, about six inches behind the withers. If you can’t see the break, then feel for it – it’s there!
After the break, the second section of topline rises into a solid loin. The hipbones then fall away from the spinal column at an angle of about 30 degrees with the tail following the line of the croup, a croup like a horse. A Spinone tail is carried horizontally or down, never up. Do not think a Spinone is not a happy dog because its tail is not up, far from it!
A Spinone is different from so many other breeds in that it has shoulders that form approximately a 105-degree angle, pasterns that are slightly slanted, moderate bend of stifle and long hocks that are one-third of the length of the rear leg. Speaking of hocks, a Spinone’s hocks are also straight, perpendicular to the ground as cowhocks are a fault.
The skin is thick and the coat is harsh and wiry, and they are a main part of what the breed is all about. The name Spinone comes from the Italian word spino which translates to thorn. The Spinone coat allows it to get through heavy, thick brush, particularly brush that has sharp, slicing knife-like needles or the ever-so-sticky little seeds as its coat either glides right through or the coat pulls out, staying with the brush rather than the brush coming with the Spinone. That is also why there is no undercoat on a Spinone; nothing soft and downy to catch and hold them in the brush.
The Spinone coat should not be soft and fluffy and long nor should it be tight, to the skin. The ideal coat is 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches in length with a tolerance of a half inch under or half inch over the designated length. Measure out two inches, say, with your thumb. Two inches is right in the middle of the 1 ½ to 2 ½ inch coat length per the breed standard. Two inches it is not as short nor as long as most seem to think based on what is being exhibited in the show ring. The legs should form a rough brushy column and never any long floppy fringes, i.e., no fluffy puffy legs.
The Spinone is the ultimate wash-n-wear dog and should remain in a natural state with just occasional brushing and hand-stripping. Yes, it does have to be groomed in order to keep that natural look and stripping helps keep a correct coat harsh and wiry. A Spinone should never be scissored. To scissor a Spinone coat results in a soft thick coat which defeats the entire purpose of its hunting abilities in harsh and brushy terrain.
As a hard-working gun dog, the Spinone has an easy pounding trot that goes the distance. Never fast, but easy and determined. With its solid underline and minimal tuck-up, a Spinone was not built for speed. Picture in your mind where the Spinone originates – northwest Italy. This hunting dog hunted on the foothills and mountainsides of the Italian Alps (think Mountain Goat) and down low in the swampy thick marshes at the base of the mountains. Speed was not required. A strong, substantial and unhurried yet steady-going dog was needed and that was the Spinone.
Overall, the Spinone is hunting dog that is not high octane, who will put food on your table and when not in the field loves to be on the sofa right next to you.