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Volpino Italiano Dog Breed Info: Pictures, Temperament & Traits

Written by: Dogster Team

Last Updated on June 3, 2024 by Dogster Team

two Volpino italiano dogs on a green background

Volpino Italiano Dog Breed Info: Pictures, Temperament & Traits

Named for their foxy look, the Volpino Italiano is an old spitz-type breed that was a common guard dog for Tuscan and Lazio carters and shepherds. Dogs that resemble the Volpino have been featured in classic Italian paintings from the 1500s.

Despite a rise in popularity in the 19th century, Italians lost interest in the Volpino breed, and their numbers started to decline. Planned breeding efforts in the mid-20th century brought their numbers back up, but Volpino dogs (plural Volpini) remain a rare breed—especially outside of the Western Hemisphere.

Learn more about the Volpino Italiano, what they’re like to own, and some considerations if you’re planning to add one to your family.

Breed Overview

Height:

9.5–12 inches

Weight:

8–16 pounds

Lifespan:

12–15 years

Colors:

Red, white

Suitable for:

Attentive owners, families with older children

Temperament:

Energetic, playful, loyal, attached

Volpini are ancient dogs that almost faced extinction when Italians lost interest in them. However, Italian breeders in the 1960s sought to restore the breed by crossing them with American Eskimo Dogs to achieve a toy-sized version, which saved the Volpini breed. These dogs look similar to Eskimo Dogs and are remarkably adaptable for owners with different lifestyles. They’re playful and athletic enough for canine sports and outdoor adventures, but they’re happy enough to relax at home as well.

Volpino Italiano Characteristics

Volpini Italiano Characteristics

Energy
+
High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Trainability
+
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Health
+
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Lifespan
+
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Sociability
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Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

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Volpino Italiano Breed Puppies

three volpino italiano puppies
Image By: Natalia Fedosova, Shutterstock

Volpini are still relatively rare in the US, so it may take time and searching to find a reputable breeder. You may need to get on waitlists for available litters as well. Avoid the temptation to work with a puppy mill breeder, as these dogs may not actually be Volpini and are prone to health and behavioral problems.

It’s unlikely that a Volpino will show up in a shelter or rescue because of their rarity. Still, it’s worth searching rescue databases to see if you can find an available Volpino, though it’s more likely to be an adult than a puppy.

Volpino Italiano Breed Origin & History

Spitz-type dogs that closely resemble the modern Volpino breed have been identified in paintings dating back to the 1500s, including St. Augustine in His Study by Vittore Carpaccio, and this breed was reportedly owned by Michelangelo.

Volpini were common in the 18th and 19th centuries in Tuscany and went by the name Cane di Firenze. They were used as guard dogs for carters and shepherds. When Queen Victoria visited Florence in 1888, she brought back four dogs that could’ve been Volpini or Pomeranians.

The Volpino Italiano gained recognition from the Kennel Club Italiano in 1913 and later by the Federation Cynologique Internationale in 1956. The breed was nearly extinct by the 1960s, but breeding programs restored Volpini in recent decades.

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Volpino Italiano

The Volpino Italiano was a close companion of Italian carters and shepherds for centuries. They get extremely attached to their owners and like to work alongside them, so these dogs are not ideal for owners who work long hours or spend a lot of time away. They can get along with children, but it’s crucial that children know how to behave around the dog to avoid injuries or conflict. Volpini are high-energy dogs that can participate in canine sports or become a walking companion, but they will relax if they have enough exercise and your home is mellow.

Are These Dogs Good for Families?👪

The Volpini get extremely attached to their family members, particularly their “one person” like many spitz breeds. They get along with children, but they’re not tolerant of rough handling. Interactions between the dog and children should be supervised until children are older and understand how to play with the dog safely and gently.

Volpino Italiano dog walks down the street
Image By: Honcharuk Andrii, Shutterstock

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets?🐶 😽

Volpini may get along with other dogs with socialization and proper introductions. Because of their size, it’s best to monitor play with larger breeds to avoid injuries. Volpini, and their crossbreed, the Eskimo Dog, may have a high prey drive that encourages them to chase smaller animals. If you keep cats, birds, or small mammals, avoid allowing them to interact.

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Things to Know When Owning a Volpino Italiano

Considering a Volpino for your next dog? Here’s everything you need to know before you bring one home:

Food & Diet Requirements🦴

The Volpino Italiano needs a high-quality dog food that suits their energy needs and life stage. These dogs like food and can become overweight easily if you overfeed, which can lead to health problems like arthritis, diabetes, and certain types of cancers. Check with your vet if you’re concerned about your dog’s body condition or diet.

two Volpino italiano dogs on a green background
Image By: Degtyaryov Andrey, Shutterstock

Exercise🐕

Volpini are active, curious dogs that need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation. If you leave them alone or allow them to get bored, they may develop destructive behaviors like chewing. Though small, Volpini benefits from a securely fenced-in yard to run around and playtime for bonding. Volpini get strongly attached to their owners and don’t do well left alone.

Training🎾

Volpini are smart and eager to please dogs. Short training sessions using treats as a motivator work well for obedience and trick training. Avoid aversive methods with Volpini, as they don’t respond well to harsh treatment. Because these dogs can be aloof with strangers, early socialization is important for a well-adjusted adult.

Volpino italiano dog running on grass outdoors
Image Credit: Degtyaryov Andrey, Shutterstock

Grooming✂️

The Volpino Italiano has a signature fluffy double coat that’s pure white, like the Eskimo Dog. They’re naturally very clean, but they do need weekly brushing to remove dead hairs and prevent matting and skin problems. Unless your dog gets dirty outside, baths every few months with a specialized shampoo are usually enough to keep their coat healthy without drying out their skin. You should also brush their teeth and trim their nails on a regular basis.

Health and Conditions🏥

Volpini have a few health conditions that are common in the breed. Dogs bred by American breeders are tested for PLL CLEAR for primary lens luxation, but dogs bred in Italy are not. They can be prone to anal gland issues and conditions that are common in all dogs, including parasites and cancer. Regular wellness exams are a crucial part of keeping your Volpini healthy and identifying problems early on.

Minor Conditions
Serious Conditions
  • Primary lens luxation
  • Cancer
  • Obesity

Male vs Female

Choosing between a male or a female Volpino Italiano comes down to personal preference. The sexes have similar temperaments, but the males may be a little larger. Both males and females should be neutered or spayed, which helps to reduce behavioral problems related to hormones and minimizes the risk of reproductive health conditions, including certain types of cancer.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the Volpini Italiano

1. Their Name Means “Little Fox.”

Volpino means “little fox” in Italian, which is due to the dog’s naturally foxy look that’s common among the spitz breeds. They’ve also gone by the names Cane di Firenze and Cane del Quirinale.


2. They’re Still Rare.

After nearly facing extinction, deliberate breeding efforts from Italian breeders brought the Volpini numbers back up. Still, they’re a rare breed, with only about 3,000 existing in the world.


3. They’re Often Mistaken for Other Breeds.

Spitz-type dogs that resemble the Volpino have existed in Italy for centuries, and they’re still fairly rare outside of Italy, the UK, and North America. Their similarities with Pomeranians and American Eskimo Dogs, which were included in their later breeding, make it more difficult to identify a true Volpino.

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Final Thoughts

Closely resembling the Pomeranian and a miniature version of the Eskimo Dog, the Volpino Italiano is a pint-sized spitz breed that has been in Italy for centuries. These dogs are hard to come by, but if you can get one, they’re extremely loyal and playful companions who love to be part of the family and serve miniature guard duty.


Featured Image Credit: Degtyaryov Andrey, Shutterstock

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