Bracco Italiano is standing in the water
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When you think of Italy, you might automatically think of picturesque scenes like the Colosseum in Rome, the canals of Venice or glasses overflowing with Tuscan wine and plates full of handmade pasta. But the romantic country is also known for a bevy of dynamic, diverse, and fascinating dog breeds.
Courtney Campbell, DVM, DACVS-SA, specialist veterinarian and veterinary advisor for DOGTV, says that one of the most beautiful and fascinating aspects of the dog species is its incredible variety of size, energy and temperament – and the diversity of Italian dog breeds highlights that diversity. “Some Italian dog breeds are die-hard hunters and laborers, others are dedicated and loyal guardians, and some are so closely connected with their humans that they are reluctant to leave their laps,” he notes. “Enjoying the myriad of Italian dog breeds means appreciating their different coats, looks, personalities and their various distinctive features.”
That said, while you will always do your best to choose a pet that is compatible with your lifestyle, regardless of the country their breed comes from, you can find that one of these 11 Italian dog breeds is a perfect fit for you.
Lagotto Romagnolo on rocks
Beba73 / Getty These cute curls need to be brushed weekly. And if your Lagotto likes to go swimming, it might be a good idea to trim the coat short to avoid matting.
If you’re a fan of water sports or just want to spend time on your nearest dog-friendly beach, the truffle hunting and water-loving Lagotto Romagnolo – which translates as “Romagna seals” – might be for you. They love to play and frolic in the surf, says Campbell. “Lagottos tend to be loving, eager, and trainable,” he adds. “They also love to ‘talk’. They can be pretty noisy, and when they’re bored they’ll dig. “
They take a lot of grooming time as they have curly fur that can become matted – especially after you’ve spent all that time splashing around in the waves.
The story goes on
Bergamasco sheepdog standing in the grass
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Bergamasco Shepherd Dog
Not only does this muscular herding dog have showy fur that protects it from inclement weather and predators, but it is also great for children and other animals and very easy to care for, explains Jerry Klein, DVM, chief veterinary officer of the American Kennel Club (AKC).
Campbell adds that Bergamascos love to work. “They tend to be very eager,” he notes. “Highly intelligent and patient, they are real family dogs and can be protective.”
Bolognese dog on picnic table
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This small companion breed is considered the cousin of the Maltese, Bichon Frize, Havanese, Coton de Tulear and Lowchen. They are calm, loving, and really love being around people. In fact, “Bolos” have such an affinity for people that they can be prone to separation anxiety, Campbell notes.
Still, they don’t require constant, relentless mental stimulation. “Leash walks and gentle playtime in the garden are generally sufficient,” he says, adding that it is important to moderate high bursts of energy around this breed as they can find excessive energy overwhelming. You should also introduce a Bolognese puppy to grooming early on, as regular grooming of its non-flaking, fluffy fur is a must.
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Bracco Italiano is standing in the water
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Known as the Italian pointing dog, this large puppy is known for being tough, energetic, smart, and well-behaved, according to Laura Robinson, DVM and Pawp veterinary advisor. “They can be calm, loving, and loyal when someone is committed to giving them the movement and stimulation they need,” she notes.
Bracco Italianos are also methodical and meticulous hunters and family dogs, says Campbell. “Braccos form strong bonds with their human family members,” he says. “When properly trained and mentally stimulated, they can be great in children.”
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Adult dark brown Cane Corso dog lies on the rocky beach
Sbolotova / Shutterstock A Cane Corso is a large Italian breed that carries itself with dignity. You will recognize him by his apparent strength, broad chest, and wrinkled forehead.
You can learn a lot about a Cane Corso from the name alone. It translates (roughly) into Latin “bodyguard dog,” explains Klein. “With ancestry that dates back to Roman times, this smart and trainable breed is a fearless protector,” he adds. “They are muscular and athletic and can hunt wild boars too. Since they are natural watchdogs, they are very protective of their owners.”
However, when properly socialized and trained, they can be gentle, although this breed is usually not recommended unless you are a really experienced dog owner. “They have a strong prey drive, so be careful if a Cane Corso is around a dog they’re unfamiliar with,” he says.
Italian greyhound with a blue collar
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This attentive, playful, strong, and athletic pup can take off like a rocket, Campbell says. “They run very quickly but are extremely graceful,” he notes. In addition to their impressive speed and inspiring grace, Italian greyhounds are also known for being extremely good at connecting with people, and actually curling up on your warm lap, according to Campbell.
Klein says these sleek pups are the perfect companion dog – especially for city dwellers.
Spinone Italiano white and brown dog looking up at the camera
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This hound of ancient Italian descent can be patient, docile, and stubborn at the same time, explains Klein. “Their strengths include their intelligence and their ability to fetch on land and in the water,” he says. “The Spinone is built for endurance and can withstand any terrain. They have thick skin so they can work under brushes and in cold water.”
Campbell adds that as well as being an avid swimmer, the Spinone Italiano is a real crowd-pleaser.
Maremma sheepdog profile
filippo / Adobe Stock
The muscular, majestic Maremma Sheepdog is another breed born for their job, which is to guard sheep and livestock. He comes from a line of ancient shepherd dogs that were used in the Maremma and Abruzzo regions of Italy. The breed was recognized by the United Kennel Club back in 2006.
Maremmas are loyal, calm, brave, intelligent, independent, and muscular, says Robinson. They tend to be very friendly, devoted, and demonstrative towards their owners.
Cirneco dell’etna in the autumn forest
Justyna / Adobe Stock
The Cirneco dell’Etna is a slender, elegant and strong old coursing dog from Sicily, says Klein. They are sporty hunters known for their quick bursts of speed, but they can also make valued low-maintenance companions at home, he notes.
If you have an active lifestyle, Campbell’s Cirneco could be a great addition as they have an innate athleticism, gift of natural agility and enjoyment of coursing.
He also explains the importance of keeping this breed of dog active on a regular basis. Boredom leads these pups to seek out their own fun. “They can also be a little mischievous and have a tendency to dig under fences or jump over fences,” says Campbell. Hence, building a sturdy 6 foot fence around your yard to give this pup space to play is a must.
Neapolitan mastiff lying on stone
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This ancient breed is heavy-boned and massive, and is characterized by loose skin all over its body. Campbell adds that adult Neapolitan mastiffs are known to be calm and sleep a lot. “But Neapolitan puppies are very active, curious, cute, and cuddly,” he says. “And regardless of your puppy’s age, it’s important to watch their caloric intake as many of these dogs enjoy lounge activities rather than physical exertion.”
Volpino in a city
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Volpini has been playful and intelligent since ancient times. With a fluffy white double coat, these little pups are energetic and can be noisy (albeit friendly!). With a history as indoor companion dogs, these dogs form strong bonds with their humans. Robinson says it’s worth noting that the talkative Volpini barks a lot. So, if you and your neighbors are unwilling to hear their singing voices on a regular basis, their talkative behavior may not be appropriate for apartment living or for making many Zoom calls from home.
While training a Volpino might not be the easiest thing you’ve ever done, with proper socialization and positive reinforcement training, they can be an especially fun, loving canine companion.
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