Unlike most wolf-dog hybrids this canine displayed a propensity to be used as a working dog, and its breeding was taken over by the Italian Government. A breeding facility was created in Cumana (Piedmont) and the number of dogs gradually increased to about 700 specimens. The breed was officially recognized by the Italian Government and laws were passed to provide financial resources for its breeding. Nowadays numerous Alpine rescue teams utilize these dogs to search for avalanche victims. Over time, it has proven superior to the German shepherd in locating persons buried under snow. It has also been used as a rescue dog to locate persons trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings in the aftermath of an earthquake. It has performed exceptionally well in this role.
Resembling a German Shepherd in appearance, its snout resembles that of a wolf. Height ranges between 60 to 70 centimetres (24–28 in) for male, and 58 to 65 centimetres (23–26 in) for female. The head and its expression defines the sex of the animal. The lips should be black. The jaw is strong, and there is a full complement of 42 teeth: the bite is scissors-shaped. The eyes give an intense and loyal expression,and range from amber to yellow in colour, blue colour is an unwanted trait. The body is sturdy, not too elongated. The abdomen is strong and tucked in. The spine is straight, and very well built. The rump is slightly lower set than the shoulders. The Lupo Italiano should always move quickly and gracefully, despite its size. Its trot should give the impression of 'elegant force', reminiscent of the wild wolf. the limbs are long, muscular, slightly angled. Its coat is of medium length and hardness, shorter and finer on the thighs, head and limbs. The Colour ranges from gray, with various markings, to cream, with a dark saddleback. The tail, without exaggeration, hangs low up to the hackles, and should not show any excessive curve (example: Siberian husky).
For the last 15 years the Italian State Forestry Corps have worked mainly with this dog, in Italy and abroad. The Lupo Italiano, when working with the forest patrol, is always competent and reliable. Its attitude to tasks such as avalanche and earthquake resque [sic] is formidable and it is extremely well suited for searching people or other animals lost in the mountains and woods. The Lupo Italiano was chosen to serve in Turin 2006 Olympic Games.
The Lupo Italiano is a loyal, fearless dog.
The Lupo Italiano is well adapted for work in a mountain environment, as an avalanche dog and as a rescue dog. It is resistant to adverse atmospheric conditions and bad weather. It is not affected by snow-glare. With its keen sense of smell, it is ideally suited to search for missing people or wounded animals. It therefore proves to be an ideal aid for park rangers, or game wardens. It can also be trained as a police dog and possesses great physical strength and incredible agility. It can also be trained as a flock guard to protect livestock.
For over 15 years the Italian State Forestry Corps has used this wolf-dog hybrid as their main working dog.