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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.

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In praise of Italian dogs

When you think of Italy, you may think of art, ancient ruins, delicious cuisine, and that Italian sense of effortless style and flair for fashion. But did you know there are several dog breeds that originated in Italy, and that are still some of the most popular pet choices among Italians? Whether they’re working dogs out protecting the sheep or companion dogs lounging on the divano—that’s Italian for couch—these small dog breeds and big dog breeds are smart, lovable, and—since this is Italy—handsome and dignified. So say Buongiorno to these top Italian dog breeds! Ready to learn more about international dog breeds? Find out about Chinese dog breedsGerman Dog breeds, and Japanese dog breeds.

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Portrait of italian greyhound standing on roadJus O/Getty Images

Italian greyhound

His 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 an Italian runway model, this petite, short-haired breed may have originated in the Middle East, but has 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 that instinct to chase prey, don’t ever walk them off-leash or let them run in an unfenced area. Travel around the world and check out these Australian dog breeds and Russian dog breeds you’ll absolutely love.

Breed Overview
Height:13 to 15 inches
Weight:7 to 14 pounds
Life expectancy:14 to 15 years
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Bolognese dog rest on the benchsssss1gmel/Getty Images

Bolognese

Similar in looks to Bichon, Havanese, and other fluffy dog breeds, toy-sized Bolognese—they’re sometimes called 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 one of the rarest dog breeds. Even though they have fluffy white coats, Bolognese dogs do not shed and are compatible with most allergy sufferers. 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
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group of Bracco Italiano pointer dogs hunting for fowlolgagorovenko/Getty Images

Bracco Italiano (Italian pointer)

Prized as hunting dogs as far back as the ancient Roman era, Bracchi Italiani are gentle, smart, medium-sized 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
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Typical Spinone Italiano dog on a green grass lawnCaptureLight/Getty Images

Spinone Italiano

Their wiry coats were 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 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
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Maremma SheepdogKen Griffiths/Getty Images

Maremma sheepdog

The Maremma sheepdog, called Pastore Maremmano in Italian, is still very much a working dog in Italy, serving as a protector of his herds of sheep, fearlessly facing down wolves and the occasional passing car. The breed is named for the Maremma area of Tuscany, but they are 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 his protective instincts. This thick-coated breed does a fair amount of shedding and “blows” his coat twice a year. He needs regular brushing and de-matting.

Breed Overview
Height:26 to 27 inches
Weight:66 to 100 pounds
Life expectancy:11 to 13 years
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A subject of Lagotto Romagnolo waiting for the preparation of his coat on a specially placed table during a dog showDvcDvd84/Getty Images

Lagotto Romagnola

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. The breed is eager to please and makes a good house pet as long as they’re kept busy. If there are no truffles where you live, you can keep a Lagotto happy with frequent walks in the woods or ball retrieving sessions. Their soft, curly coats shed only minimally, making this breed a good choice for allergy sufferers.

Breed Overview
Height:16 to 19 inches
Weight:24 to 35 pounds
Life expectancy:15 to 17 years
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Cane Corso, a Dog Breed from Italy, Male standing on Grassslowmotiongli/Getty Images

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 up to 120 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 activities and do best when they have a large, securely fenced area to run in. Their short coats are surprisingly sheddy 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
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Cirneco dell’Etna

Easily one of the most unusual-looking among short-haired dog breeds, the Cirneco dell’Etna is distinctive for his wrinkled brow, erect, oversized ears, and sleek, smallish build. It’s thought that the Phoenicians first brought the breed from North Africa to Sicily, but he’s named for Mount Etna, the island’s iconic, active volcano. Originally used for hunting small game, today these intelligent, fleet-footed pups make great companions. Because they retain a strong prey drive, their owners must be vigilant that they aren’t allowed to run off-leash in unfenced areas—lest they chase a squirrel over the horizon. They are low- to no-shedding, and 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
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NEAPOLITAN MASTIFF, NEAPOLITAN MASTIFFOkikukai/Getty Images

Mastino Napoletano (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, used in combat and as a guard dog by the ancient Romans, is today a loyal, loving family pet—if you can put up with his less-than-desirable personal habits and his 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 not a generally aggressive breed 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
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Portrait Of White Dog On FieldJan Kjerrman/Getty Images

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 this feisty little guy. Their puffy coats will “blow” twice a year, and these shedders need to be brushed a few times a week. These all-around easy pets are great with small children and tend 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
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Bergamasco Sheepdog or Bergamese Shepherd 052955 Gerard LACZ Imagesslowmotiongli/Getty Images

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 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
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Segugio Italiano (Canis lupus familiaris)...DEA/C. POZZONI/Getty Images

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 him an elegant air, despite his working-class roots. Segugios have been present in Italy since the ancient era, and are still used as individual or pack hunters. Yet given the chance, Segugi 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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Elizabeth Heath
Elizabeth Heath is a travel, culinary and lifestyle writer based in rural Umbria, Italy. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, HuffPost, Frommers.com, TripSavvy and many other publications. Her guidebook, An Architecture Lover's Guide to Rome, was released in 2019. Liz's husband is a stonemason and together they are passionate about the great outdoors, endless home improvement projects, dogs, their unruly garden and their slightly less unruly 8-year-old.

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