From the water-loving Lagotto Romagnolo to the impish Cirneco dell'Etna, Italy is home to a variety of people-loving and hardworking breeds.

By Maressa Brown
June 22, 2021
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When you think of Italy, your mind might automatically go to picturesque scenes like the Colosseum in Rome, the canals of Venice, or overflowing glasses of Tuscan wine and plates full of handmade pasta. But the romantic country is also known for a bevy of dynamic, diverse, intriguing dog breeds.

Courtney Campbell, DVM, DACVS-SA, a board-certified veterinary surgeon and veterinary advisor for DOGTV, says that one of the most beautiful and fascinating aspects about the canine species is their incredible diversity of size, energy, and temperament-and the panoply of Italian dog breeds underscores this diversity. "Some Italian dog breeds are tenacious hunters and workers, others are dedicated and loyal guardians, and some are so closely bonded with their humans that they are reluctant to leave their lap," he notes. "Enjoying the myriad of Italian dog breeds is to appreciate the various hair coats, appearances, personalities, and their sundry peculiarities."

That said, while you'll always do best to choose a pet that's compatible with your lifestyle, regardless of the country their breed hails from, you could find one of these 11 Italian dog breeds is a perfect fit.

Lagotto Romagnolo on rock
Those cute curls need to be brushed weekly. And if your Lagotto likes to go for a swim, it's recommended you trim their coat short to avoid matting.
| Credit: Beba73 / Getty

Lagotto Romagnolo

If you're a fan of water sports or simply prioritize spending time at your nearest dog-friendly beach, the truffle-hunting and water-loving Lagotto Romagnolo-which translates to "lake dog from Romagna"-could be right for you. They love to play and frolic in the surf, says Campbell. "Lagottos tend to be affectionate, eager to please, and trainable," he adds. "They also love to 'talk.' They can be quite vocal, and if they are bored, they will dig."

They do require plenty of grooming time because they have a curly coat that can get matted-especially after spending all that time splashing around in the waves.

bergamasco sheepdog standing in grass
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Bergamasco Sheepdog

In addition to having a showstopping coat-which protects them from harsh weather and predators-this muscular herding dog is great with kids and other animals and is quite low-maintenance 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 pleasers," he notes. "Highly intelligent and patient, they are truly family dogs and can be protective."

bolognese dog on picnic table
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Bolognese

This small companion breed is considered a cousin to the Maltese, bichon frise, Havanese, Coton de Tulear, and Lowchen. They're calm, affectionate, and truly love being around people. In fact, "Bolos" have such an affinity toward humans that they can be prone to separation anxiety, notes Campbell.

Still, they don't require constant, unyielding mental stimulation. "Leash walks and gentle playtime in the backyard is generally sufficient," he says, adding that it's important to moderate strong outbursts of energy around this breed as they can find excessive energy overwhelming. You'll also want to introduce a Bolognese puppy to grooming early, as regular grooming of their non-shedding, fluffy coat is a must.

bracco italiano standing in water
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Bracco Italiano

Known as the Italian pointing dog, this large pup is known to be tough, driven, smart, and well-behaved, according to Laura Robinson, DVM and veterinary advisor to Pawp. "They can be calm, loving, and loyal if someone is dedicated to giving them the exercise and stimulation they need," she notes.

Bracco Italianos are also methodological and meticulous hunters and family dogs, says Campbell. "Braccos form strong bonds with their human family members," he says. "When properly exercised and mentally stimulated, they can be great with kids."

Adult dark brown cane corso dog lays on rocky beach
A cane corso is a large Italian breed that carries itself with a dignified nature. You'll know him by his obvious strength, broad chest, and wrinkly forehead.
| Credit: Sbolotova / Shutterstock

Cane Corso

You can learn a lot about a cane corso from their name alone. It translates (roughly) to "bodyguard dog" in Latin, explains Klein. "With a lineage going all the way back to ancient Roman times, this smart and trainable breed is a fearless protector," he adds. "They are muscular and athletic and can also hunt wild boar. Since they are natural guard dogs, they are very protective of their owners."

Nonetheless, when properly socialized and trained, they can be gentle, though this breed is not typically recommended unless you're a truly experienced dog owner. "They do have a strong prey drive so exercise caution when a cane corso is around a dog with whom he is unfamiliar," he says.

italian greyhound wearing blue collar
Credit: stelo / Getty

Italian Greyhound

This alert, playful, strong, and athletic pup can take off like a rocket, says Campbell. "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 bonding very well with humans and actually curling up in your warm lap, according to Campbell.

Klein says these elegant pups make the perfect companion dog-especially for city dwellers.

Spinone Italiano white-brown dog looking upward at the camera
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Spinone Italiano

This hunting dog of ancient Italian lineage can be patient, docile, and stubborn all at the same time, explains Klein. "Their strengths include their intelligence and their ability to retrieve on land and in water," he says. "The Spinone is built for endurance and to withstand any terrain. They have a thick skin to enable them to work under brush and in cold water."

Campbell adds that in addition to being an avid swimmer, the Spinone Italiano is a real people pleaser.

maremma sheepdog profile
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Maremma Sheepdog

Another breed that's born to do their job, which is to guard sheep and livestock, the muscular, majestic Maremma sheepdog comes from a line of ancient shepherd dogs used in the Maremma and Abruzzes 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. With their owners, they tend to be very friendly, devoted, and demonstrative.

cirneco dell’etna in autumn forest
Credit: Justyna / Adobe Stock

Cirneco dell'Etna

The Cirneco dell'Etna is a slender, elegant, and strong ancient coursing hound from Sicily, says Klein. They are athletic hunters known for their quick bursts of speed, but they can also be cherished low-maintenance home companions, he notes.

If you have an active lifestyle, Campbell notes the Cirneco could be a great match, as they have an innate athleticism, the gift of natural agility, and enjoy lure coursing.

He also explains that it's important to keep this dog breed active regularly, noting that boredom will cause these pups to look for their own fun. "They can also be somewhat mischievous and tend to dig under fences or jump over fences," Campbell says, so building a sturdy 6-foot fence around your backyard is a must to give this pup space for playtime.

Neapolitan Mastiff lying on stone
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Neapolitan Mastiff

This ancient breed is heavy-boned and massive, characterized by loose skin over their entire body. Campbell adds that adult Neapolitan mastiffs are known for being calm and sleeping a lot. "However, Neapolitan puppies are very active, curious, cute, and cuddly," he says. "And regardless of your pup's age, it is important to watch their caloric intake because many of these dogs will engage in lounge activities rather than physical exertion."

volpino in a city
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Volpino

Playful and smart, Volpini have been around since ancient times. Sporting a fluffy white double coat, these small pups are full of energy and can be vocal (though friendly!). With a history as an indoor companion pooch, these dogs form strong bonds with their people. Robinson says it's worth noting that the talkative Volpini does bark a lot, so unless you and your neighbors are ready to hear their singing voices on the regular, their chatty demeanor may not be suitable for apartment living or lots of 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.