Owning a Bracco Italiano:
Owning, or being owned by a Bracco Italiano is certainly a privilege. These ancient working gundogs can be found in writings of the 4th and 5th centuries.
The Bracco has been accepted as a distinct breed in Italy since the Middle Ages, a more detailed history can be found here.
The Bracco Italiano falls under the HPR category of gundogs; Hunt, Point, Retrieve.
Whilst you may or, may not want to use the working side of your Bracco, or as a hunting companion, an appreciation of their heritage, purpose and breeding is required.
These are highly intelligent dogs, bred over hundreds of years to hunt independently and at great distances to find game. The Working Standard can be found here. The dog and their senses have all evolved over the years to be the most effective hunting companion; their looks, whilst they may make you want the breed, the wrinkles and long ears for example, are all designed so that the dog is a better game finder.
The breed are considered both stubborn and aloof, whilst also being sensitive, this does not mean the Bracco cannot and should not be trained but they can be very different to other dogs and understanding that their nose and hunting instincts will take over may help you avoid future issues.
Dogs can be considered gamblers, they are always weighing up the odds, the consequences vs reward for an action. If the reward outweighs the consequence then they will choose the reward. The reward that will outweigh say, stealing the roast chicken off the counter and or chasing a deer, or squirrel, needs to be significant indeed.
There are many positive reasons to own a Bracco Italiano but there are also lots of reasons not too.
In our opinion the Bracco is not a dog that will thrive with a small garden and a short walk to the school gates each day. Equally a dog who is allowed to run free and do it’s own thing, all day can become problematic. Without a purpose, some structure, a job, or mental training, the Bracco has been known to find its own entertainment and we see many dogs who become extremely destructive, or difficult to live with.
They are not always dogs who are easy to walk on a lead and no a harness won’t fix that.
The Bracco also takes some time to mature, up to 3 years of age is typically when they may begin to mentally and physically mature. Are you willing to wait up to 3 years for the ideal dog you might want?
A young obedient Bracco puppy will become more powerful, strong willed, independent and your early training will encounter many set backs, as the wheels will inevitably ‘fall off at some point.
As a large breed and especially in the first 12 months, extra care must be taken with them and the amount of physical exercise they receive, exercise should be limited to protect their bones and development for their future life, health and wellbeing, it is recommended re formal exercise, lead walks etc that you consider 5 minutes for every month of their life in the initial first year. Are you willing to take care of your young Bracco and its development in the early first years?
The Bracco is a demanding dog and given it is a large potentially boisterous companion, it is recommended that a level of basic training is also put in place by every owner to avoid potential situations, such as being knocked over. We recommend even if you do not want to work your dog to seek out a HPR trainer and to understand the way the dog thinks and to get the best out of your relationship. There are a number of HPR trainers throughout the UK and some basic training exercises here. Are you willing to put in this time, effort, investment and consistency?
The Bracco can be a noisy dog, many lines have dogs who ‘talk’ but this can also manifest into whining, crying and they have a very deep loud bark or bay…How will this work in your life?
There are very few ‘good’ breeders of the Bracco Italiano and not many litters every year, so if you decide a Bracco is for you, you are likely going to be made to wait. As the breeds popularity rises, many people are becoming breeders with very little experience in the breed, whilst this does not always mean that is a bad thing, as everyone has to start somewhere, there are certain problems and very serious health issues appearing in the breed. Breeders are the custodians of the breed, the decisions they make directly impact to the future health, standard and ability of our dogs and we should not be willing to accept shoddy or poor practice for the sake of any puppy.
We are seeing many breeders using similar lines of Bitches, and Stud Dogs being used far too many times. We are starting to see lots of young dogs be taken from their owners through Kidney disease, this is a hereditary issue and it could be a potential ticking time bomb, due to a lack of research and selection of the right dogs used for breeding, as opposed to just any dog selected for breeding by Breeders. Are you willing to do your research and wait for the right dog?
There are also dogs with severe allergies, skin issues and we are seeing some terrible eye issues come out of certain kennels and breeding lines as well.
The Bracco and other HPR breeds are meant to be of sound temperament but again, behavioural issues and some aggression is starting to be seen in some lines, these dogs should not be used for breeding.
We suggest you speak with and meet as many breeders and Bracco Italiano as you can, visit shows and or game fairs to see the various lines, look at the pedigree of the dogs, the temperament of both any future bitch and or stud dog you may consider, consider how many litters a breeder may, or may not have, the research they have done, their knowledge of the breed and any known health issues. Why are they having a litter of dogs?
Different lines of dogs can look and behave differently, some may well have a much stronger hunting instinct than others for example. The Bracco Italiano has a breed standard, if it does not follow that breed standard then it is inevitably not a good example of the breed. The breed standard can be found here.
Firm but fair that is the best way to achieve the best from a Bracco Italiano and remaining consistent.
Before you get the dog, make a list of commands you will want followed:
Your list of training commands does not need to be long but everyone in the house should agree and be aware of what the commands will be.
“Sit” is different to “Fido Sit”, or “please sit Fido”, “Fido will you sit”, “just do what you are told” etc etc. As with any other dog, a Bracco does not speak English, if you want them to Sit and the command you have chosen for that is Sit, then Sit is what you say, over and over if needs be.
Training can be started from day one, lots of praise and fuss when the dog does something right. Ignoring, removing and or saying no for the Bracco if it does something you do not want.
Although puppies seem to have a boundless amount of energy, an overtired puppy can become problematic and once those teeth start to arrive, chewing and nipping with what can feel like very sharp razor blades can begin, again a good idea to have your action plan ready and be consistent with your boundaries and training.
Whilst long lead walks are off the agenda with a young Bracco Italiano, some free play/running in a ‘safe place’ like the garden and 5-10 mins of ‘brain training’ will work wonders.
As will a routine; allow the dog a ‘safe place’ a space which is it’s own, whether that be a crate and or a corner, or room in the house where it can retreat and rest, being left alone by young children and other dogs, or humans. Encourage the dog to settle and or go to it’s safe place after any training or exercise, this will also help you out if you need to go out and or leave the dog behind.
Equally we would not recommend allowing a puppy free reign of the house or room with no supervision. When your new shoes, settee, glasses or magazine have been destroyed then if left unsupervised the young dog can not be to blame, this can also be extremely dangerous, there have been many young dogs who swallow anything from tissues, stones, balls and or, toys which results in an expensive, worrying trip to the vet, or sometimes, sadly, a much worse consequence. Are you ready for the responsibility?
The Bracco Italiano is not for the feint hearted, they will change your life, this may be good or bad, but if you are unable to accommodate this large, working gundog breed, have you considered the consequences, as we are seeing more and more young Bracco being rehomed due to many and all of the issues we have highlighted, this is a significant problem for the health and wellbeing of this breed and for you and your family too. Are you truly ready?
If you have any questions or require any advice at all regarding owning, or training a Bracco Italiano then please contact the Bracco Italiano Club via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are not already a club member and would like to join, go here.