Say Ciao to These 14 Adorable Italian Dog Breeds (With Pictures)

By: Christine BorgesUpdated:

Photo of an Italian Greyhound
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Say Ciao to These 14 Adorable Italian Dog Breeds (With Pictures)

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You already love Italy for its pasta, pizza, art and architecture, but its treasures don’t stop there. That’s right: We’re talking about Italian dog breeds. Ranging from extra small to extra large, these affectionate and often sociable dog breeds can be playful, docile and even kid-friendly. Whether you’re searching for active and attentive or a lazy lapdog, an Italian breed may be right for you. So how do you choose which one is right for you? Check out these 14 Italian dog breeds that offer a wide variety of appearance, temperament and life expectancy.
Photo of a Bolognese dog
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1Bolognese

Size: Small

Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

Temperament: Playful, calm, loving

How Italian is this dog breed? It shares its name with a beloved pasta sauce. Bolognese dogs were once a favorite breed of Roman nobility—their mellow demeanor and laid-back personality make them the ideal lap dog. A member of the Bichon family and hailing from northern Italy and the city of Bologna, these white-coated companion dogs are easily trainable couch potatoes with a bit of pep. You’ll love their personality as much as you love the easy-going nature of these small dogs.
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Photo of a Cane Corso dog
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2Cane Corso

Size: Extra Large

Life Expectancy: 9 to 12 years

Temperament: Loyal, smart, bossy

With lineage dating back to ancient Roman times and a name that’s translated from Latin to mean “bodyguard dog,” the Cane Corso’s intimidating appearance may fool you at first. But this dog breed, while considered by many to be assertive and guardian-like to their pet parents, is also fiercely loyal and eager to please. While the Cane Corso can easily adapt to family life, don’t confuse this pup for a mellow one; these pups tend to be high-energy and intelligent.
Photo of an Italian Greyhound
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3Italian Greyhound

Size: Extra Small

Life Expectancy: 14 to 15 years

Temperament: Alert, playful, sweet-natured

 The Italian Greyhound dog breed's temperament tends to vary widely. In general, this is an alert and sweet-natured breed—but while some love to run with notorious Greyhound speed, others prefer nap time on the couch. They’re both affectionate and mischievous, and their playful nature translates to plenty of playtime. But be sure to be mindful of their prey drive—while the instinct can be higher in some and not in others, you don’t want them to confuse other furry friends for food or small game.
Photo of a Lagotto Romagnolo puppy
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4Lagotto Romagnolo

Size: Medium

Life Expectancy: 15 to 17 years

Temperament: Feisty, amiable, energetic

They have wooly curls and an adorable beard, but don’t let the Lagotto Romagnolo dog breed’s good looks fool you; they are known as durable workers. Their specialty? Sniffing out truffles. These rugged pups originated in the marshlands of the Delta del Po in the eastern part of the Romagna sub-region of Italy, and they’re best suited in homes that have plenty of space to roam. These are also Italian water dogs, so they love to go for swims in bodies of water big and small. No matter the adventure, Romagnoli are in—the only question is, are you?
Image
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5Maltese

Size: Extra Small

Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Temperament: Gentle, eager to please, lapdog

The Maltese dog breed is known for its floor-length coat, but these playful family dogs are more than just their glamorous fur. Known by the American Kennel Club as “adaptable toy companions,” these small dogs are surprisingly alert watchdogs who are happy to make friends of all ages. The perfect lapdog, they are low-shedding and can pack a peppy personality—just be mindful that they can be stubborn if not encouraged with rewards-based training.
Image
iStock.com/Salima Senyavskaya

6Neapolitan Mastiff

Size: Extra Large

Life Expectancy: 7 to 9 years

Temperament: Loving, chill, protective

Imagine a huge, powerful guard dog. Chances are that the dog in your head looks a lot like the Neapolitan Mastiff dog breed. These big dogs are known for their abundance of wrinkles which create a sad-looking appearance—but don’t worry, Neapolitan Mastiffs are happiest just being a family pet (especially when they’re the only family dog). Get ready to snuggle—Neos love being giant lap dogs with their pet parents.
Photo of a Saint Bernard dog
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7Saint Bernard

Size: Extra Large

Life Expectancy: 8 to 10 years

Temperament: Social, attentive, laidback

We’re happy to confirm that the "Beethoven" films’ portrayal of the Saint Bernard dog breed as the quintessential family dog is entirely accurate. These lovey-dovey gentle giants are originally from the Swiss Alps, but their Italian connection comes from their past as the original rescue dogs of the Italian-Swiss border. This ancient breed’s rescue missions go as far back as 1050, and it was widely known as the rescue dog of monks. Today, these dogs prefer larger homes, focused training and plenty of cuddle time.
Photo of a Bergamasco Sheepdog
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8Bergamasco Sheepdog (Bergamasco Shepherd)

Size: Large

Life Expectancy: 13 to 15 years

Temperament: Sociable, independent, intelligent

 Don’t mistake the Bergamasco Sheepdog dog breed’s fur for unkempt matting. Their mop-like fur is distinct and showstopping—and perfectly normal for the breed. Hailing from the alpine town of Bergamo, these ancient breed herding dogs use this distinct “flock” fur to protect them from the fierce cold and wild predators of the Italian Alps—the breed’s ancestral homeland. These loyal and loving pups are typical mountain dogs who make great family pets, and their minimal shedding is ideal for those with allergies.
Photo of a Bracco Italiano dog
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9Bracco Italiano (Italian Pointer)

Size: Large

Life Expectancy: 10 to 14 years

Temperament: Intelligent, affectionate, enthusiastic

The Bracco Italiano dog breed was the 200th breed recognized by the AKC—a distinction that was made just last year. But they’re not exactly newbies. While the Bracco Italiano’s true origins remain a mystery, they’re believed to date back 500 years to the Egyptian hound. Known for its sighthound abilities, the Bracco Italiano often works as a gundog, aka a type of hunting dog who helps hunters find and retrieve prey. Docile and easy to train, they require a lot of exercise—couch potatoes need not apply.
Photo of a Spinone Italiano dog
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10Spinone Italiano (Italian Pointer)

Size: Large

Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

Temperament: Sociable, patient, docile

The Spinone Italiano dog breed is another hunting dog that’s known for their docile demeanor. Typically used for tracking, pointing and retrieving, this ancient breed hails from northern Italy, though its exact origins are unknown. The breed is versatile, too; they are well-suited for hunting on any kind of ground and feel equally comfortable swimming in cold, deep water. This breed needs early socialization to really thrive, and its high prey drive makes them jumpers, diggers and fans of small game.
Photo of a Volpino Italiano dog
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11Volpino Italiano (Italian Pointer)

Size: Small

Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Temperament: Loyal, energetic, loving

Closely related to the Pomeranian and the German Spitz, The Volpino Italiano dog breed was common in Tuscany in the 18th and 19th centuries, where it was used as a guard dog by carters and shepherds. American Eskimo dog breeders bred the Volpino Italiano to their Eskies to create the toy-sized American Eskimo. Today, dog parents of Volpino Italianos can enjoy a best friend who’s both a lover of agility exercises as well as being a lap dog when the fun is done.
Photo of a Maremma Sheepdog
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12Maremma Sheepdog

Size: Large

Life Expectancy: 11 to 13 years

Temperament: Alert, friendly, intelligent

Also known as the Maremmano, the Maremma Sheepdog dog breed originated from ancient shepherd dogs with a history of being used in Italy’s Maremma and Abruzzi regions. Maremmas were used as herding dogs and flock guardians, as well as estate guardians, especially in Tuscany. Maremmas can be traced back to at least ancient Roman times, and they are still very popular in Italy. Their original purpose of guarding livestock continues, and they make great big dogs to have on farms.
Photo of a Segugio Italiano dog
iStock.com/Wirestock

13Segugio Italiano

Size: Medium

Life Expectancy: 11 to 13 years

Temperament: Intelligent, friendly, eager to please

The Segugio Italiano dog breed is a scent hound who requires a lot of exercise, both mentally and physically. This pup has a stubborn streak, and is often kept as a pack hound who captures and kills game like wild boar. They’re renowned for their scenting ability and stamina, capable of working for up to 12 hours without needing a break. Though they have high exercise needs, the extra effort pays off—Segugio Italianos are excellent companion dogs because of their great heart, easy trainability and friendliness.
Photo of a Cirneco dell'Etna dog
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14Cirneco dell’Etna

Size: Small

Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

Temperament: Independent, friendly, affectionate

The Cirneco dell’Etna dog breed is an ancient breed of hunting dog that originates from Sicily and is often used to hunt small game. According to the AKC, Cirnechi can be mild, low-maintenance companions who are cherished for their loyal and gentle nature. These sighthounds are sweet-natured, fast and independent—though they are a bit more trainable than the typical sighthound. This rare breed is a small dog, but under the right conditions can make a good family pet.
Italy is truly a cornucopia of culture—and it has such a treasure trove of pups that would make a great addition to your family. But Italian dog breeds aren’t the only breeds bred around the world. Curious about exploring the globe via dog breeds? Check out how many varieties and traits abound with Japanese dogs and French dogs to get you started.

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By: Christine BorgesUpdated:

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