Volpino Italiano breed: favorites of Michelangelo

Molnár Enikő

2023. October 24 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

A true rarity, the Volpino Italiano is cheerful, active and a good watchdog. It is a multi-faceted creature who requires physical activity and tasks, but likes to relax with its owner at least as much.


At first glance, when you see a Volpino Italiano the German Spitz or the Papillon breeds may come to your mind. The truth is not too far from that. Italian breeders neglected the Volpino Italiano for a while, so the breed was almost on the verge of extinction. Fortunately from the 1960s, they started to take interest in it again and brought it back into the public consciousness.

The Volpino Italiano can be white, solid red black.


The beginning of the breeding of the Volpino Italiano breeding would be difficult to define, becasue it goes back a long time. It is said that even Michelangelo knew and liked the breed. So it must have been widespread by the 1400s. It has a common ancestor with the German Spitz, so the similarity is not accidental, they are actually distant relatives. It was a popular breed of dog in noble circles, but you could also find it in an average household, in the working class, because they are very good watchdogs.

Breed standard

They are small dogs, with a height of 27-30 cm at the withers and a body weight of only 4-5 kilograms. The characteristic of the breed is that it has a deep chest, a raised belly, a pointed head, dark brown eyes, and small, erect ears. It has thick, long and straight fur that forms a collar on its neck. The breed can be found in snow-white or solid color. Its upturned belly and parallel limbs, as well as its tail curling over its back, give it a fine stance.

A Volpino Italiano in bow tie.


For a small dog, the Volpino Italiano has an average energy level. Mental stimulation is very demanding, and the day must be planned in such a way that this need is fully satisfied, with walks and games of the right quality. If it doesn’t get this, it tends to destroy things out of boredom. Intelligent, very affectionate, loyal breed. It can get used to children, but you have to pay attention, because its patience is not infinite.

It is distrustful and protective of strangers. The Volpino Italiano will not barking excessively, it only signals when it feels important. It has a curious nature, is easy to train, can focus even for 10-15 minutes if there are enough snack involved. It can be a bit stubborn sometimes. The Volpino Italiano has very good qualities for agility dog sports, as it is energetic and athletic. Routine and predictability are extremely important to these dogs, so it is recommended for an owner who can provide this.

Ideal environment

The advantage of small dogs is that they often do well in an apartment, and the Volpino Italiano is no exception, if it gets the right amount of exercise. It can be kept as a single dog, but it also gets along with other dogs as well. It feels the best when it can spend the day with its owner. All dogs are happy if there is a garden where they can run around, but for small dogs it is very important that the fence is intact everywhere.


Even though it has a double coat, it is not difficult to groom. The fur is easy to manage if it combed 2-3 times a week. It is not recommended to be bathed often, a few months may pass between two washes. Among other things, this is important so that its skin does not dry out, thus avoiding irritation. It is worth noting that keeping the claws short and checking the teeth are also an important part of grooming.

Health problems

It is a fundamentally healthy breed of dog that can live up to 16 years under the right conditions. Unfortunately, they can have hereditary problems.

  • PLL (Primary Lens Luxation): It is a genetic eye disorder. The lens of the eyes moving out of place, and can cause inflammation and glaucoma. The latter attacks the fibers of the optic nerve and is often associated with their destruction, so it will slowly but very likely end in blindness. There is no cure for this, but it can be treated. Usually, the first signs of PLL (watery, red eyes) appear between the ages of 3 and 8, but it can be tested earlier. If symptoms appear, a veterinarian must be consulted urgently!
  • Patellar Luxation: An orthopedic problem that often occurs in small dogs as the kneecap sprains.
breed description dog in the apartment glaucoma Italian dog breeds Michelangelo volpino volpino italiano

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