Is A Spinone Italiano A Good Hiking Companion?

Written by Mark Dalley

We have been proud Spinone owners for the past eight years. From puppies to adults, we've learned a lot about this wonderful breed. They just might be the best-kept secret in the dog world. Whether you already own a Spinone or are thinking of getting one, we're happy to share what we've learned about this amazing dog and hope you find it useful.

The time we have spent hiking with our Spinoni has been some of the most fun we’ve ever had on the trail. Seeing the look of pure joy on their big dog faces reminds us how lucky we are to have these wonderful dogs.

A Spinone Italiano makes an excellent hiking companion. They love to be outdoors with their owner and have the endurance and stamina to spend all day on the trail.

When it comes to hiking with a dog, physical characteristics and personality are important considerations. Since the Spinone is bred for hunting, it’s probably not a big surprise that they would have the stamina and endurance to be excellent hikers. But, their personality and temperament add to their ability to be such a pleasure on the trail. Read on to see why the Spinone is a perfect hiking partner.

The Spinone was bred to cover large distances in various terrains and as a result, has tremendous stamina. They have the endurance for a full day in the field, or to keep up with active owners on the trail. A full-grown Spinoni in good health may be able to run for five miles or more. A full day on the hiking trail is no problem for them. On the trail, they are steady, methodical, and sure-footed. The breed’s characteristic, plodding trot is a reflection of this need to work at a human’s pace. The maximum ground is covered with the least amount of effort. You will run out of gas long before they do.

It is thought the Spinone’s name originates from the favorite hiding places of the quail, partridge, and grouse that it pursued: the spinos bush, a particularly thorny shrub that only a dog possessing a wiry, rough coat and thick skin could venture into. With a nearly indestructible all-weather coat and thick skin, the Spinone is capable of dealing with scrubby undergrowth when hunting and hiking.

Out on the trail, your dog is likely to encounter all kinds of new sights and smells. It is best if your canine hiking buddy is able to take these things in stride. You don’t want a dog that cowers from new stimuli, nor do you want one that sees every mysterious thing as a threat. This is an area where the Spinone excels. They are easy-going, docile dogs, tolerant, and accepting of whatever comes their way. They approach a hike like they do most things with a ready to go, confident, fun-loving attitude. A Spinone will be a loyal, calm, and friendly addition to your hiking party.

This sweet-natured dog has never met a person or canine they didn’t like. This is especially good as you meet other hikers who may have dogs or children with them on the trail. You never have to worry about a Spinone being aggressive towards others you meet. They’ll give a happy greeting to passing hikers, their kids, and their canine companions and then move along down the trail to find the next adventure.

It’s no fun to take a dog anywhere with you if they are always getting into trouble. On the trail, it can even be dangerous. There are hazards that must be navigated and the potential to come across unfriendly wildlife. Easily trained, intelligent breeds, such as most retrievers, are often among the best choices for hiking companions. With consistent training using positive reinforcement techniques, Spinoni learn quickly and they’re generally an eager-to-please, easy-to-train breed. As long as you do your part with training, they will be consistent, well-behaved companions on the trail.

Appropriate Age For Hiking

Even though Spinone are great hikers, neither very young nor very old dogs are well-suited for hiking. Most dogs should probably be at least one year old and have all of their shots before heading out into the wilderness. Too much strain on a young dog’s growing bones can lead to pain and future issues with regular development. Most of the “growth plates” in puppy bones close by about one year of age, but every dog and every bone can be different. Talk to your vet before starting any serious hiking or running program with your dog.

Older dogs can suffer from arthritis or painful joints that would make longer hikes more damaging than beneficial. Spinoni are no exception. However, allowing and encouraging your dog to move is a critical component of keeping him healthy in his old age. A Spinone would be heartbroken if you left him at home while you went hiking. Instead, plan the hike around him even if that means going a little slower and easier than you’re used to. He’ll just be happy you’re taking him along.

Climate Considerations

By looking at the rugged, shaggy Spinone, it’s not a surprise that they are tolerant of cold weather. However, they are known for their ability to handle a wide range of climates. They were bred to hunt from the hot Mediterranean climates to the colder mountain regions of Italy. They have a dense single coat and very thick skin. This thick skin provides insulation for both warm and cold weather.

In the United States, Spinone are regularly used to hunt and participate in NAVHDA events in a variety of climates. They are equally at home in chilly waters during winter waterfowl season or a NAVHDA event in the middle of summer.

Participating in hunting activities and NAVHDA events is generally far more strenuous for a Spinone than a day on the hiking trail. We have regularly hiked with our dogs in warm weather during the summer in the Sierra Nevada mountains. We take care to make sure that they are well hydrated and don’t get overheated. They handle the climate well and we have never had a problem.

Make sure to keep your dog hydrated on your hike. If you’re thirsty, it’s likely he is, too. Whenever you stop for a drink, offer your four-legged hiking buddy some water.

Off Lease Considerations

Spinone trained for hunting are experienced at working off-leash. However, leashes are mandatory almost everywhere. Most U.S. national parks do not allow even a leashed dog to share the trail. Always check on the regulations for the areas where you’ll be hiking or backpacking before letting your dog roam unleashed. And, if they’re not experienced and trained for off-leash activities, don’t try it out for the first time on the trail. Make sure they are well-trained off-leash before attempting it in the field.

If you do find yourself in a wilderness area that allows dogs to be off-leash, and your Spinone is trained for it, enjoy the experience. If properly trained, Spinone can have excellent off-leash behavior. When hiking off-leash, experienced Spinoni will keep their owners in view and often double back to check in to make sure everyone is safe and continuing on the trail. Once they check-in, they trot off ahead to explore the next stretch of trail.

If your Spinone has a high prey drive, wild animals and birds may be an unwanted temptation for them. You will want to keep them on a leash to prevent an unplanned squirrel chase.

Work Up To It

There’s no question that Spinoni are natural-born hikers. But, that doesn’t mean you should start off with a ten-mile hike to try it out. Ease into the routine of hiking so the two of you can learn what to expect from each other on the trail. Start with hikes of an hour or so, to see how it goes. If all goes well, increase the time for the next training hike. Your goal is to work up to the amount of trail time you plan to do on future day hikes or backpacking trips. This gradual approach will also help toughen up the paws of dogs used to being on grass or pavement.

Hit the Trail With Your Spinone

Hiking is a fantastic exercise and a perfect way to enjoy nature for Spinoni and humans alike. Spinoni make great companions on the trail and watching them take in the sights, sounds, and smell of the great outdoors is wonderful to see. Take your Spinone on your next hike and you won’t be disappointed. It’s part of Spinone Life.