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12 Handsome Italian Dog Breeds

Large or small, these Italian dog breeds make their country proud with their good looks, keen sense of style and sharp intelligence

Italian Greyhound Dog Standing In A Meadow With A Bow Tie On In The Spring Weather
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In praise of Italian dog breeds

When you think of Italy, you may think of art, ancient ruins, delicious cuisine and that Italian sense of effortless style. But did you know several dog breeds originated in the country? These Italian dog breeds remain some of the most popular pet choices among locals.

The breeds run the gamut from working dogs protecting a farm’s sheep to companion dogs lounging on the divano (that’s Italian for “couch”). These small and big dog breeds are smart, lovable and—since this is Italy—handsome and dignified. So say Buongiorno to the top Italian dog breeds!

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Reviewed for accuracy by: Caroline Coile, PhD, an award-winning journalist specializing in canine breeds, health and science. She’s the author of 34 books, including Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds.

Young Male Italian Greyhound Outdoors
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Italian greyhound

Its name in Italian is piccolo levriero Italiano, but it’s much easier to just call this cutie an Italian greyhound. As svelte and stylish as a runway model in Milan, this petite, short-haired breed may have originated in the Middle East, but it’s been in Italy since at least the medieval era, reports the American Kennel Club. First bred for hunting small prey, swift-footed Italian greyhounds are today known as sweet, loving house dogs that are great with children. They are super-easy to care for, but they do need a lot of attention and don’t do well when left alone for long periods of time. Because they still have the instinct to chase prey, don’t ever walk them off-leash or let them run in an unfenced area.

Breed Overview
Height: 13 to 15 inches
Weight: 7 to 14 pounds
Life expectancy: 14 to 15 years

Bolognese dog rest on the bench
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Bolognese

Similar in looks to the bichon frisé, Havanese and other fluffy dog breeds, this toy-size Italian dog breed—sometimes called a bichon Bolognese—developed in the northern Italian city of Bologna. They’ve always been companion dogs and show up in paintings dating back to the 1400s; despite their impressive history, they remain a relatively rare dog breed. Even though they have fluffy white coats, Bolognese dogs do not shed and are compatible with most people dealing with pet allergies. They are known for being clever and manipulative, so don’t let those sensitive puppy dog eyes talk you into extra treats. These energetic little guys need daily play and exercise and don’t take well to being left alone all day.

Breed Overview
Height: 10 to 12 inches
Weight: 5.5 to 5.9 pounds
Life expectancy: 12 to 14 years

Beautiful Bracco Italiano Pointer Hunting Dog Standing In Grass Fowling
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Bracco Italiano

Prized as hunting dogs as far back as the ancient Roman era, bracchi Italiani (aka Italian pointers) are gentle, smart, medium-size dogs that retain a strong hunting instinct—just see one “on point” and you’ll know what we mean. Still used to hunt wild boar, hare and birds in Italy, these mild-mannered pups are also content to lounge on a cool tile floor—but they do need daily physical activity to burn off energy and boredom. Brisk daily walks or, even better, the chance to run off-leash in a secure area will keep these guys happy. Their long ears and floppy jowls need frequent cleaning, but otherwise, a bracco is a low-maintenance dog.

Breed Overview
Height: 21 to 27 inches
Weight: 55 to 90 pounds
Life expectancy: 10 to 14 years

Typical Spinone Italiano dog on a green grass lawn
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Spinone Italiano

Their wiry coats may have been developed for retrieving game in the dense underbrush of the Italian macchia (bush), but spinoni are just as happy retrieving a ball thrown in a fenced backyard and then coming inside to cool off. Though they’re still prized as hunters in Italy, these pups have a gentle disposition and make excellent family dogs—and they’ll melt your heart with their sweet, softly expressive faces. Their coats need to be hand-stripped occasionally and brushed about once a week to discourage matting. Despite this, they are low shedders, though they might need their beards cleaned on a daily basis.

Breed Overview
Height: 22 to 27 inches
Weight: 64 to 86 pounds
Life expectancy: 10 to 12 years

Maremma Sheepdog Sitting on Green Grass
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Maremma sheepdog

The Maremma sheepdog, called pastore Maremmano in Italian, is still very much a working dog in Italy. This Italian dog breed serves as a protector of its herds of sheep, fearlessly facing down wolves and the occasional passing car. The breed is named for the Maremma area of Tuscany, but it is prized by shepherds all over central Italy. As a family dog, a Maremma will be extremely loyal and protective to the point that playful wrestling or tumbling among children or other family members may trigger its protective instincts. This thick-coated breed does a fair amount of shedding and “blows” its coat twice a year. It needs regular brushing and de-matting.

Breed Overview
Height: 26 to 27 inches
Weight: 66 to 100 pounds
Life expectancy: 11 to 13 years

Lagotto Romagnola Puppy Seating On A Wooden Floor
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Lagotto Romagnolo

These curly-haired pups, originally from the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, have a special skill. Thanks to their super-sensitive noses, they’re considered the top breed for truffle hunting. They’ll search doggedly (sorry, we had to go there!), noses fixed to the ground until they sniff out and dig for one of these prized fungi. Lagotti Romagnoli are eager to please and make good house pets as long as they’re kept busy. If there are no truffles where you live, you can keep the breed happy with frequent walks in the woods or ball-retrieving sessions. With soft, curly coats that shed only minimally, these are a good choice for people with allergies.

Breed Overview
Height: 16 to 19 inches
Weight: 24 to 35 pounds
Life expectancy: 15 to 17 years

Cane Corso, a Dog Breed from Italy, Male standing on Grass
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Cane corso

Bred by the ancient Romans as guard dogs and war dogs, cane corsos still have a foreboding demeanor. These big dogs are all muscle and can reach over 100 pounds. They’re recommended only for experienced dog owners who can train and handle a powerful, headstrong dog without being intimidated. Corsos are loyal to their families but may be overprotective when new people enter the home. They need daily activity and do best when they have a large, securely fenced area to run in. Their short coats shed a surprising amount, so you’ll want to brush them with a grooming glove about once a week.

Breed Overview
Height: 23.5 to 27.5 inches
Weight: 99 to 110 pounds
Life expectancy: 9 to 12 years

cirneco puppy
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Cirneco dell’Etna

Easily one of the most unusual-looking short-haired dog breeds, the Cirneco dell’Etna is distinctive for its wrinkled brow, erect and oversized ears, and sleek, smallish build. It’s thought that the Phoenicians first brought the breed from North Africa to Sicily, but it’s named for Mount Etna, the island’s iconic, active volcano. Originally used for hunting small game, these intelligent, fleet-footed pups make great companions today. Because they retain a strong prey drive, their owners must remain vigilant: These dogs shouldn’t run off-leash in unfenced areas lest they chase a squirrel over the horizon. They are low- to no-shedding dogs suitable for people with allergies.

Breed Overview
Height: 16.5 to 19.5 inches
Weight: 17 to 26 pounds
Life expectancy: 12 to 14 years

Breed Dog Neapolitan Mastiff Sitting On Green Grass
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Neapolitan Mastiff

They drool, they snort, they snore and they fart … a lot. So what’s not to love about the Neapolitan Mastiff? This ancient dog breed, known as the Mastino Napoletano in its homeland, was used in combat and as a guard dog by the ancient Romans. Today, it’s a loyal, loving family pet—if you can put up with its less-than-desirable personal habits and imposing size of up to 150 pounds or more. Because of their size and strong personalities, Neos, as they’re often called, are best for experienced dog owners. Still, they’re generally not aggressive unless they sense a loved one is in danger. These short-coated big boys don’t shed very much, but they do need space—a lot of space!

Breed Overview
Height: 24 to 31 inches
Weight: 110 to 150 pounds
Life expectancy: 7 to 9 years

Portrait Of White Volpino Italiano Dog On Field
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Volpino Italiano

Volpino means “little fox” in Italian, and these clever little dogs are indeed pretty foxy. Loved for their fluffy white coats, volpini are relatives of the German spitz and share many of the same attributes, including a playful streak that can get destructive if they’re not kept occupied. Regular walks or fetch sessions are a must for these feisty little guys. Their puffy coats will “blow” twice a year, and these shedders need to be brushed a few times a week. An all-around easy pet, the volpino is great with small children and tends to get along with other dogs too.

Breed Overview
Height: 10.5 to 12 inches
Weight: 8 to 16 pounds
Life expectancy: 10 to 16 years

two Bergamasco Sheepdog or Bergamese Shepherd standing on green grass
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Bergamasco sheepdog

At a dog show or at the dog park, the Bergamasco likes to make an entrance. The medium-large breed is known for its incredible coat, which consists of long, flat dreadlock mats that don’t need to be brushed, clipped or even washed that often. Named for the city of Bergamo near the Italian Alps, this trusty sheepdog is now happy to be your best friend and a playful, loyal companion to your kids. In fact, they’re so friendly with kids and adults that they’re often used as therapy dogs. Bergamaschi need some daily exercise and stimulation and should be kept cool during the summer months.

Breed Overview
Height: 22 to 23.5 inches
Weight: 57 to 84 pounds
Life expectancy: 13 to 15 years

Segugio Italiano Dog The Italian Hound Dog With A Long Head And Ears
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Segugio Italiano

In a crowded field of handsome Italian dog breeds, the segugio Italiano wins by a nose. This Italian hound dog, traditionally used for hunting, has a long, arched nose that gives it an elegant air despite its working-class roots. Segugi have been present in Italy since ancient times and are still used as individual or pack hunters. Yet given the chance, they are loving, friendly family dogs who adapt well to living indoors. They do best with a fenced yard and should be kept on a leash in unfenced areas. Their smooth, short coats shed a moderate amount—a weekly brushing with a grooming mitt should do the trick.

Breed Overview
Height: 19 to 23 inches
Weight: 40 to 60 pounds
Life expectancy: 11 to 13 years

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At Reader’s Digest, we’re committed to producing high-quality content by writers with expertise and experience in their field in consultation with relevant, qualified experts. For this piece, Elizabeth Heath tapped her experience as a dog behavior and health writer, and then Caroline Coile, PhD, an award-winning journalist specializing in canine breeds, health and science, gave it a rigorous review to ensure that all information is accurate and offers the best possible advice to readers. We verify all facts and data, back them with credible sourcing and revisit them over time to ensure they remain accurate and up to date. Read more about our team, our contributors and our editorial policies.

Elizabeth Heath
Elizabeth is a travel writer based in rural Umbria, Italy. Her work regularly appears in national and international publications, including Reader's Digest, the Washington Post, Discover Magazine, Travel + Leisure, Smithsonian and U.S. News & World Report. A full-time resident of Italy, she is the author of several guidebooks on Rome, including the Rome sections of Frommer's travel guides, and has written scores of articles about travel and culture in Italy, elsewhere in Europe and further afield. A lifelong "dog person," she also writes about dog breeds for Reader's Digest and her current mixed-breed pooches, Toppi and Winnie, distract her from work way too often.