Those of us that have a Volpino Italiano are passionate about the Volpino!! We love our dogs and we
are proud of them. We are also very proud of the absolute beauty they exhibit. Those of us that know
the Volpino are also proud of their breed’s history. We consider the Volpino a ‘special’ breed.
The Volpino has a character unlike many others. Of course each individual is different but they all seem
to share the same basic traits which I just like to call ‘happy’!! They also have a sensitive side which too
many may often seem like ‘insecurity’. Their attachment to their masters and their immediate family
may cause problems, but it is the core to their being. These are the friendliest and most loving dogs you
Unfortunately there is not a great deal of information on the Volpino Italiano. At one time they were
‘misrepresented’ in the past as being an animal with very few defects or health problems (i.e. only the
strongest surviving specimens were used). While this may have been honestly thought by some of the
individual breeders in some respects it is not totally accurate. The Volpino, though, when compared to
many other breeds will have far fewer health concerns!!
I have written the following articles (summaries actually) that should help you understand the Volpino
Italiano, its history and a few of the major genetic problems it faces. In most cases the individual articles will also apply to other breeds. As time allows I will try to add to the story.
If you are so inclined there are many websites on the internet that can offer more in depth information
I would like to hear back from anybody that reads my articles. If you have any criticisms, suggestions, or would simply like to send me a note then please does so.
Send any correspondence or suggestions to
Michel B. Rubini
My Volpino Italiano
For many of us there will always be that one special dog that enters
our lives at a particular time and grows with and becomes part of the
family. This dog becomes close to all (or most of) the family members.
He/she grows up with our kids and greets them all at the door happily.
They grow up with us at the family table, lying beside us as the family
watches TV and often sleep in a bed with us. That dog will be the one
that enters our heart at a fast-paced time of our lives with our
growing family. You will know this dog if you ever had one. He will be
in the grad photos, the beach photos, the Christmas pictures and yes,
even the wedding photos. It will be the dog that deeply affected your
family when his or her short life ended. That dog will be the one you
will always seem to think of and are reminded of.
Our beloved buddy was that dog. He entered our lives in Feb of 1989
and left us in June of 2004. He grew up with our kids and he was
there when they grew up and left. His passing left emptiness in Karen and me, and our hearts hung
deep and heavy in our stomachs.
Even though Buddy lived a long life, in truth he was a frail dog, as most Pomeranian's tend to be. He had
too many health issues. And so, when we began searching for another pet, we decided against another
Pomeranian. Getting another Pom would also have seemed a betrayal of sorts to our Buddy.
And so we began our search for another dog. Our
criterion was that the animal would be bigger and
would not have the number of health issues that Poms
We first looked at the American Eskimo! While this
animal is beautiful, we quickly learned that the breed
at that time was being devastated with eye problems.
We were also warned-- and saw-- that the animal’s
disposition on average was not quite a friendly one.
Later we almost bought a Shiba Inu, which we saw
at an exhibition. We turned away from this beautiful animal because of its aggressive and independent nature.
Then we discovered the Volpino Italiano. The breed was like a Pomeranian we thought, but somewhat
larger and stronger so we were intrigued and studied it more. Back then, the advertising on the Volpino
was that they were long lived and without any major health concerns - because of their selection from
strong health farm animals. This is what we were looking for.
In 2005 during a trip to Italy we wanted to see some Volpino, and so we visited the beautiful home of
Roberto Francini in Tuscany. There we met Roberto, his lovely wife, and his daughter Elisa. Elisa spoke
good English and translated for us. It is quite an experience to walk into a location with over 20
wonderful barking dogs warning of our presence
and then to be happily mobbed by them. After a few
minutes we noticed an absolutely beautiful Volpino. He was confident and headed towards another male which he immediately challenged. This was Geo. Geo was one of the most beautiful dogs I had ever seen. I told Roberto that I wanted a puppy that was sired by him. And so a deal was struck between us that I would receive a male puppy from Geo and a female puppy to breed.
In May of 2006 I traveled to Italy to pick up our puppies, which Karen had already named Dezi and Bella.
True to form they were beautiful. I was so pleased. Roberto was kind enough to give me tips on
grooming and taking care of them. I then left Italy with my dogs and headed back to Canada.
House training was a breeze and both settled in with us wonderfully. It was good to have two happy puppies to play with. There was no danger of the house being too quiet. Dezi was inquisitive but showed a timid nature indoors, while Bella was seemingly fearless. Outdoors though Dezi would run up to any dog or person while Bella would unleash a chorus of warning howls.
In May of 2007 we entered Dezi into his first dog show, a rare breed competition in Tillsonburg, Ontario.
We were so inept at showing that the judges actually took us aside and gave us instructions on how to handle and walk the dogs. Several judges stated they were very impressed with Dezi’s gait and how he looked. He won BOB, BOG and Best in Show.
After several other shows, Dezi kept winning BOB over poor Bella and also won many group awards. Later we entered them into the UKC Kalamazoo show and it was here we met Kevin Joiner and his beautiful Volpino’s. Kevin’s dogs were the first Volpino to ever gain champion status at UKC. These were also the first Volpino’s we ever met outside of Italy. For those of you interested in showing your dogs, I will say the show experience is rewarding, and I recommend it to anyone who has the time, and money (it can get expensive) to invest in their dogs.
In 2008 we received a note from Terralea Collins in southern Tennessee. She had imported four Volpino puppies from Roberto Francini and had started breeding her dogs in 2007. We kept in contact and struck up a relationship that exist to this day. She started the North American Volpino Club in the hope of receiving AKC recognition for the Volpino Italiano. Although we tried, on several occasions tried to cross breed our dogs the attempts were never successful.
Dezi and Bella had 3 litters with 13 puppies. Having a growing litter of puppies is wonderful!! Bella was a wonderful mother and even Dezi took a roll at being a parent. Although the puppies at times were highly energetic and playful, both parents took their turns in playing with them. The puppies grew up fast. Most are healthy but one female did develop Atkinson’s disease and another was killed by a Bobcat in California.
Now, our dogs are healthy. Dezi likes to eat
Now, our dogs are healthy. Dezi likes to eat too much and try as we might he has always been ‘chubby’. Bella is slim and dainty. There
are no major health concerns with our dogs, but Bella (since she was a puppy) always had tendency to throw up. In late 2009 we received an email from Raija Kokkonen of Finland asking us about our dogs.
In her note she stated that her dog’s brother, mother and grandmother all developed the eye disease Primary Lens Luxation (PLL).
Apparently four other Volpino’s had also developed the eye condition and went blind. At the time the genetic test to isolate the mutated gene causing PLL had not yet been developed. To be truthful we really didn’t understand the situation or the meaning of the disease at first. We had our dogs checked and they were fine.Karen and I started to research the problem, but the hereditary information was missing since the gene causing the disease was not yet found.
By late 2009 the mutated gene that caused PLL was finally isolated and a genetic test was available. We contacted Liz Hansen at the OFFA lab at the University of Missouri in 2010 to learn more about the disease and the test. To our amazement she already knew about the PLL infliction in the Volpino race but did not know that any Volpino existed in North America. She then set up a program for us where we could send blood samples from 20 dogs, free of charge. They would analyze it for the defective gene that causes PLL and also for the genetic disease called canine Degenerative Myelopathy (DM). I sent blood samples to the university and then contacted all the other owners and breeders of Volpino’s to share the information with them. Dezi tested positive as a carrier while Bella tested normal (clear). Eventually blood samples from 18 other dogs were sent to the university and the results were 4 PLL carriers and 16 PLL normal/clear (see section on PLL). All the DM results returned were negative, so it seems that Volpino’s are spared from this disease. Now, the thing with PLL is that it can devastate a family. Unlike other eye diseases, PLL can become unbearably painful for the animal and is very, very expensive to treat. Treating the disease can cost the family thousands of dollars. So the family must choose between the money and the dog, and for most families the money will understandably win. They will be forced to euthanize their pet or watch it suffer from this painful and devastating disease.
After some more research, we ran across an Italian veterinarian report written in 1995 about PLL in Volpino’s. Unfortunately, at that time the only way to know if your dog carried the mutant gene was if the animal actually developed the disease.. So the obvious conclusion is that the breed must have suffered from this condition for many, many years prior to 1995. It is surprising, therefore, that more than ten years later when I bought my Volpino’s, there seemed to be a complete silence or denial about the condition, (and other eye conditions) amongst all the breeders.
In early 2010, I wrote letters to Roberto Francini and Antonio Crepaldi about the condition. Antonio did know about the PLL situation in Scandinavia and did understand the condition among the Volpino population. I then sent out letters in early 2011 explaining the genetic mutation PLL to all the breeders and the ATAVI. We also started a campaign to inform everyone interested to check and ask about the disease. There is now enough information published on the internet about PLL that anyone doing a quick check on Volpino’s should be able to learn and read about it.
In Sept 2011, Karen Brennan, Terralea Collins and I traveled to Italy to attend a meeting and dog exhibition in Sassuolo, Italy! Here we heard many views and worries about PLL and future plans, many.
of which have taken hold. Some did not understand the nature of the disease and gave arguments that those Volpino that had Primary Lens Luxation were not real Volpino’s . Some others tried to minimize the effects of the disease by stating that ‘in their situation’ they had not seen it. In some cases it came down to simple pettiness and that they would not listen to ‘Americans’ telling them about their Volpino’s.
I do understand that before genetic testing and before the meetings in Sassuolo that the breeders may have been bewildered about what to do about the disease. A disease that doesn’t manifest itself until later in life is hard to control. I can also understand that some breeders had a large investment in their breeding stock! At any rate, what happened before 2011 is in the past and should remain in the past! It is unrealistic to place blame and place accusations on those before that could not have known there was a problem with their dogs until several generations had passed. However, in the present situation I
I would recommend the following.
Test all bloodlines of Volpino Italiano to find the disease ‘Primary Lens Luxation’ (PLL). Sterilize all dogs that are sold to families that carry the mutant gene.
Enter the eye certification program!
Write up a pamphlet with information about the Volpino Italiano authorized by the ATAVI and
FCI about the Volpino Italiano and given to all persons purchasing a Volpino.
Make it mandatory that all Volpino’s are sold with a pedigree (if it is not).
Rewrite the standards on size of the Volpino to insure the Volpino doesn’t breed down too small.
We do not want a ‘tiny’ Volpino and all the problems associated by it.
Do not award a LIR registration number to any ‘rustic’ Volpino unless it has been tested for PLL and PRA!
Rewrite the standards allowing for a black Volpino and loosen the standards on color.
The Volpino Italiano is truly a beautiful animal. It is perhaps one of the most loyal and loving breeds of
all the Spitz dogs. In truth, it is a breed worth keeping and protecting. It is not, however, a dog for
everyone. I would not generally recommend this vocal breed for those living in apartments or those
that may move a lot. The Volpino needs stability, and perhaps another Volpino or another dog in the
same household. The breeder should look at the family’s entire household and should not be afraid of
telling the purchaser he should not have a Volpino.
I have written up the following summaries as a small guide explaining the major problems possible in a Volpino Italiano. I hope it will be useful to those wishing to obtain a Volpino and for breeders raising Volpino.
Feel free to email us with your comments
Michel (Mike) B. Rubini
Edited by Laura Fox & Terralea Collins
Website by Terralea Collins
NAVC 2013 CLUB MEMBERS