So, what is it like allowing an Italian Spinone into the family?
Well, of course, it is tremendous fun, and very rewarding. But then we would say that, wouldn’t we? But a Spinone is certainly not for everyone. Here are some points to keep in mind if you are considering being owned by one.
1. An Italian Spinone is big. (#1)
A Spinone is a large and powerful dog. Ozzie weighs more than 40 kilos, stands almost two feet tall, and occupies a lot of space. There is a lot of muscle and bone, and a stubborn and determined mind driving it. Very little is out of reach – If we were to allow it, Ozzie could rest his head on the dining table or kitchen worksurfaces. Standing on his hind legs, Ozzie is eye-to-eye with adults. He has cleared 5-foot high breakwaters from a standing start, can race up steps and tiptoe head-first down steep riverbanks. He handles eight miles cross-country with ease. He can also develop considerable torque when on the lead.
All of this means that it is vital you have control. A wilful Spinone could, if it put its mind to it, wreak absolute havoc. Obviously, this applies to any dog, and in particular to any large dog, and the answer is of course good training. Whilst we haven’t spent time teaching Ozzie party tricks, we have worked hard to teach him our rules, and rewarded him for living by them. We went to puppy training and then to ‘senior’ dog training, which was fun for everyone. Ozzie is not perfect nor perfectly obedient, and we will always be having ad hoc ‘refresher’ sessions with him. We try to make sure that he knows his place within our ‘pack’, and deal with him firmly when he attempts to change the pecking order in his favour. Any prospective owner should be prepared to do the necessary work, or face the consequences!
2. An Italian Spinone is big. (#2)
We have had to change our car to accommodate Ozzie comfortably on longer trips, we had to rearrange the downstairs area of our house, too. A Spinone that is not going to work as a gundog will not have a docked tail, and that tail is long, expressive – and clumsy. Anything valuable/breakable needs to be out of range, which is not as easy to achieve as you might think.
We live in a relatively small cottage-style house with lots of narrow places. These turn out to be ideal sleeping spots for Ozzie, and there is an obscure law of Spinone physics which means he will always be asleep across the doorway/directly in front of wherever you need to be.
3. An Italian Spinone is hairy.
Dog hairs. Everywhere. We cleaned the back of the car recently and could probably have made a persian rug out of the results. However, whilst that is true, it is probably because we don’t clean the car often enough. Although Ozzie does shed, it is nothing in comparison to the Rough Collie we grew up with, and most of the hair is quite short. It is also partly our fault because we do not keep his coat short, but prefer him shaggy. This means we have more hair, more washing and more grooming than would be the case if we kept it shorter.
All dogs smell. We were warned that some Spinone can have a particularly strong ‘doggy’ smell, and that is probably true of Ozzie. Most likely we have got used to it now, but it must certainly be noticeable to other people, and no doubt we must smell ‘doggy’ to others! And then there are the ‘standard’ dog smells – wet, hairy dog is never good, and neither are the more choice smells that result from the blending of Spinone and the output of cows, foxes, badgers etc. If you are a dog owner in the country, you know what we mean. As we are all polite company, I will only allude to the interesting gastric effects that result from a Spinone eating the variety of unsuitable rubbish which they contrive to find.
5. That beard.
In common with most bearded breeds, an Italian Spinone can collect a fantastic range of dirt and debris in its beard, and then deposit it in your lap, or on furniture, or best of all on the Sunday Best of your maiden aunt when she visits. It also tries, but fails, to hold a considerable quantity of water after a drink, resulting in messy puddles, or more wet laps in the unwary. After vigorous exercise or a good game, there is also the question of saliva (or OzzieSpit, as we affectionately know it). Guessing when he is about to shake and redistribute it onto us, innocent passers-by, or surrounding walls etc. is an important ownership skill to develop early.
There are a certain number of basics to consider, too. A Spinone is a large gundog from an uncommon breed. Rescue dogs are hard to come by (thank heavens) and quality puppies are sought-after. If you really want a Spinone, you may have to wait and/or be prepared to travel. Good quality puppies are not cheap, either. As a big dog, they have a healthy appetite, and deserve good quality food, as well as a supplement of fresh veg. And finally, don’t forget the £10 or so to have your dog microchipped.
7. Medicines and vets.
Most importantly, you would be barmy to own a Spinone without good quality pet insurance. Vets bills can be breathtaking!
As we live in the countryside and by a river, where Ozzie comes into frequent contact with different livestock and all kinds of rubbish on the river banks, we follow a (mostly) regular regime of skin and stomach treatments. You can read about this, and Ozzie’s minor allergy issues, in this post.