Before acquiring a new dog, stop and consider your lifestyle...
Are you aware of the specific health needs of Italian greyhounds?
Are you aware that optimum oral heath for Italian greyhounds requires daily teeth brushing?
Are you aware that their nails are best maintained by grinding with an electric nail grinder 2‐3 times a week?
Are you aware that most IGs will NOT potty train themselves and need consistent scheduling of exercise, food, water, confinement and free periods?
The majority of IGs in Rescue are there because the owners didn’t understand or didn’t have the time and patience necessary to house train a dog. Are you willing to learn?
Do you have the even greater time needed to raise a puppy or would an adult be more suitable?
Due to their fine bone structure and sometimes timid or sensitive personality, they do not make good pets for households with very young or rambunctious children or large, active dogs.
The Italian Greyhound coat is short, sleek and carries no odor. Because of their short hair, they do like to stay warm by lying in the sun, sleeping in your bed – under the covers! – and wearing coats or sweaters when temperatures dip. Italian Greyhounds are not outdoor dogs. They cannot tolerate cold weather and would prefer to be close to their owner even on the warmest of days. They also do not like getting wet, and many owners have built shelter areas to protect their dog from the elements when going outside for potty on cold or wet days, or instead use indoor potty pads on bad‐weather days. As creatures of comfort, IGs do not like to put their feet on wet grass and will often utilize the sidewalk instead.
Their greatest joy is to be with you. Once you acquire an Italian Greyhound you will never be alone again. If you like your privacy, the Italian Greyhound may not be the breed for you. This breed is not content to lie at your feet – they demand your attention!
To be a responsible IG owner we advise reading everything in this section thoroughly before you start your inquires with responsible breeders and/or rescue.
IGs: the Good, the Bad and the Downright Ugly, by Debbie Wolfenbarger
Italian greyhounds are one of the most loyal dogs in the world. They ADORE their owners. They are VERY intelligent. They are VERY athletic. They stay VERY playful well past puppyhood. They are a long‐lived breed (12‐14 years average, 14‐18 not uncommon and I’ve known of two that have lived to 21 years of age). They LOVE to give and receive affection. They have a short coat that requires minimal grooming. (Notice, I said the “coat” requires minimal grooming − keep reading).
They ADORE their owners, meaning they will follow you everywhere. They will want to be on you, next to you, lick your ears, your nostrils, etc… You will never be alone again, not for a second. For the men: My husband has nicknamed IGs “crotch crushers”. For some reason, no matter what angle they are jumping from ‐ they will land well ‐ on your “twigs and berries”.
They are VERY intelligent ‐ and will be more intelligent than you, if you aren’t careful. They can be master manipulators and you’ll be second in command before you know it.
They are VERY athletic. They can scale a six foot fence if motivated and can squeeze through the tiniest of openings and steal your Thanksgiving turkey off of your kitchen counter or the cat food off of the top of the washing machine and can catch, birds, opposums, lizards, snakes, rabbits, squirrels and just about anything else that catches their fancy, and is small and not faster than them.
They are playful well past puppyhood. You will still be waiting for them to “calm down” when they are 2. Mine usually start to mellow a bit between 5 and 8 (YEARS).
They are long‐lived. Are you willing to make this long of a commitment? Nothing makes me angrier than a dog being turned into rescue because it is old. Except maybe someone turning a dog into rescue that is old and has never had proper care and fully expect that I have a long line of people just waiting to adopt old dogs with no teeth and health problems. (Anyone who thinks that can contact me about some swamp land I have for sale in Arizona).
They love to give and receive affection. When they want it, not when you decide you have time. If they do not receive the attention they need, they can become destructive and have behavior problems.
What they don’t require in grooming, they require in dental attention. I brush my dogs’ teeth daily. Failure to provide adequate dental care will result in breath capable of wilting flowers and bacteria flowing through your dog’s bloodstream that can result in other health problems. Bone loss due to poor dental care can also predispose the dog to jaw fractures.
The Down Right Ugly ‐ Housetraining
Yes it can be done with an Italian greyhound and most people start with a positive attitude towards it ‐ yet, it is one of the biggest reasons that Italian greyhounds are relinquished to rescue. If you expect that your Italian greyhound will be completely housetrained in a few short weeks or that your dog will bark and scratch at the door to go out ‐ or that the dog you got from the breeder or rescue which was housetrained in its former home will be fine in your home with little or no work on your part ‐ THINK AGAIN.
The biggest element of failure in housetraining the owner waivering from the two components of successful housetraining: consistency and confinement. When I say confinement, I don’t mean keeping your dog crated 24/7 ‐ I don’t personally believe in that. However, while you are training ‐ when you can’t watch your dog (and I mean your eyes watching your dog, not doing something in the kitchen knowing that Fido is in close proximity) the dog must be confined. One accident will quickly multiply into several and you will find yourself peeing in the wind (nice visual, huh?)
Italian greyhounds have a small gene pool. While the breed is hardy ‐ there are significant health problems that affect this breed, many of which do not show up until the dogs are between 3‐5 years of age. While responsible breeders do their best to screen their dogs of problems, the risk is still there. It is unavoidable due to our limited gene pool. Buying from a responsible breeder will minimize your risk. Beware of health guarantees of only a year.
Do you have $1,500.00‐$3,000.00 set aside in case of a leg break? While leg breaks aren’t as big of an issue in the breed as they once were ‐ they are still a possibility with a breed like the IG that has long slender legs and thinks it can fly. You must be prepared for the possibility and be able to deal with it financially.
Italian greyhounds can be escape artists and should not be allowed to run off leash in an unsecured area, ever. If they get spooked or decide to give chase to something you will not catch them unless you are the Bionic Man, Flash, Superman or have other superhuman abilities.
Beware of the sale or "rehoming" of Italian Greyhounds on Facebook, Craigslist and from Pet Stores. They are notorious for scammers and most of the time these dogs come from backyard breeders and puppy mills. These dogs typically have health issues that can be costly.
If you are looking for an Italian Greyhound puppy from a reputable breeder, visit the Italian Greyhound Club of America (IGCA) website as they have a list of reputable member breeders you can sort by state, here.
The Italian Greyhound is a small breed of dog of the sight hound type, sometimes called an "I.G." or an "Iggy". Appearance The Italian Greyhound is the smallest of the Sighthounds, typically weighing about 8 to 18 lb (3.6 to 8.2 kg) and standing about 13 to 15 inches (33 to 38 cm) tall at the withers. Though they are in the "toy" group based on their weight, they are larger than other dogs in the category due to their slender bodies, so owners must be careful when sizing clothing or accommodations.
The Italian Greyhound's chest is deep, with a tucked up abdomen, long slender legs and a long neck that tapers down to a small head. The face is long and pointed, like a full sized greyhound. Overall, they look like "miniature" Greyhounds. Though many Italian Greyhound owners dispute the use of the term "miniature Greyhound" in reference to the breed itself, by definition of the American Kennel Club they are true genetic greyhounds, with a bloodline extending back over 2,000 years. Their current small stature is a function of selective breeding. Their gait is distinctive and should be high stepping and free, rather like that of a horse. They are able to run at top speed with a double suspension gallop, and can achieve a top speed of up to 25 miles per hour (40 km/h).
The color of the coat is a subject of much discussion. For The Kennel Club (UK), the American Kennel Club, and the Australian National Kennel Council, part colored Italian Greyhounds are accepted, while the Fédération Cynologique Internationale standard for international shows allows white only on the chest and feet. The modern Italian Greyhound's appearance is a result of breeders throughout Europe, particularly Austrian, German, Italian, French and British, making great contributions to the forming of this breed. The Italian Greyhound should resemble a small Greyhound, or rather a Sloughi, though they are in appearance more elegant and graceful.
The Italian Greyhound makes a good companion dog and enjoys the company of people. However, the breed's slim build and short coat make them somewhat fragile, and injury can result from rough or careless play with children. The breed is good with the elderly or a couple without any children for it prefers a quiet household, but they are also generally fine with older children. They also are equally at home in the city or the country, although they tend to do best in spacious areas. They are fast, agile and athletic. Like any dog, daily exercise is a must for a happier, well-adjusted pet.
Italian greyhounds LOVE to run. The young dog is often particularly active, and this high level of activity may lead them to attempt ill-advised feats of athleticism that can result in injury. Due to their size, and in some lineages poor bone density, they are prone to broken legs. Italian Greyhounds make reasonably good watchdogs, as they bark at unfamiliar sounds. They may also bark at passers-by and other animals. However, they should not be considered "true" guard dogs as they are often aloof with strangers and easily spooked to run. As Sighthounds, Italian Greyhounds instinctively hunt by sight and have an extremely high predator drive. Owners of Italian Greyhounds should typically keep their dogs leashed at all times when not in an enclosed area to avoid the risk of even a well-behaved pet breaking away at high speed after a small animal, or something else alluring like a leaf blowing in the wind. It is true what they say....they really are 35mph "couch potatoes".
Harnesses and Collars
Like most sight hounds, because the Italian Greyhound's slender skull is near the same width as its neck, the use of a Martingale Collar or a proper fitting harness is advised for walking. The way Martingale collars are designed, they tighten up when pulled while remaining comfortably slack when the dog is walking politely. Properly fitted harnesses can also be an asset, like the Webmaster and Flagline harnesses from Ruffwear. Proper fitting collars and harnesses prevent the dog from backing out and escaping. Breakaway collars are advised for identification, because this active and acrobatic breed could easily injure themselves when put in a collar they cannot escape from, and this leads to possible neck injuries and strangling.
Some Italian Greyhounds enjoy dog agility. The breed's lithe body and its love of action provide potential to do well at this sport, although not many Italian Greyhounds participate, and their natural inclination is for straight-out racing rather than for working tightly as a team with a handler on a technical course. Lure coursing is another activity well-fitted to the Italian Greyhound, and they seem to enjoy it tremendously. Although the Italian Greyhound is a very fast dog, it is not as well suited to racing as its larger cousin. Regardless, many Italian Greyhounds participate in amateur straight-track and oval-track racing.
Dogs of this breed have an extremely short and almost odorless coat that requires little more than an occasional bath about once a month (though many veterinarians suggest that even bathing one per month is too frequent for this breed), but a wipe-down with a damp cloth is recommended after walks as seeds, burrs and floating dust in the air can get into the coat and irritate the skin. This breed sheds medium to little hair.
The teeth of an Italian Greyhound should be brushed daily. Their scissor-bite and thin jaw bones make them susceptible to periodontal disease, which can be avoided with good dental care. Daily brushing has been shown to be very beneficial as well as regular dental cleanings from the vet. Without regular dental oral care, IGs are prone to developing dental disease which is a very painful - and expensive - health issue to resolve. Dentals with a lot tooth extractions can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. So it pays to take care of their dental health on a regular basis rather than wait until they have a whole mouth of painful decayed teeth to deal with.
The Italian Greyhound has a median lifespan of 13.5 in a 2004 UK Kennel Club survey. A 1993 US breed club survey gives an average lifespan of 9 years but more than a quarter of the dogs had "accidents" recorded as cause of death.
Health problems that can be found in the breed:
Responsible breeders will routinely check their dogs for the onset of various inherited disorders, these commonly include (but are not limited to): CERF examinations on eyes OFA patellar examinations OFA thyroid function panels von Willebrand's factor OFA hip and Legg-Perthes disease x-rays, and others.
In research by the Ortheopedic Foundation for Animals, the Italian Greyhound was found to be the least affected by hip dysplasia out of 157 breeds. Tests were conducted on 169 individual Italian Greyhounds, of which none were found to have hip dysplasia and 59.2% scored excellent on their hip evaluations.
It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to purchase veterinary health insurance for your Italian Greyhound to help with routine healthcare and emergency costs. Don't be caught having to make a decision to surrender your IG to a rescue or shelter if something major happens and you cannot afford the veterinary care. Veterinarians do not offer credit accounts, so be prepared to apply for Care Credit if needed.
A few of the major pet insurance companies are:
Check with your regular personal insurance provider as many of them do offer pet insurance policies too.
Choosing the Right Veterinarian
Choosing the right veterinarian for your Italian Greyhound can mean all of the difference when it comes to their regular - and potential emergency - care. Asking friends and family for veterinarian references can help, but contacting local veterinarians and verifying whether or not they have experience with Sighthounds - especially the "Sightound Protocol for Anesthesia" - will make all of the difference, as they metabolize anesthesia different than other dog breeds to do their low body fat content. Sighthounds normally have slightly different bloodwork levels than other dog breeds, and a veterinarian familiar with these breeds is best.
The name of the breed is a reference to the breed's popularity in Renaissance Italy. Mummified dogs very similar to the Italian Greyhound (or small Greyhounds) have been found in Egypt, and pictorials of small Greyhounds have been found in Pompeii, and they were probably the only accepted companion-dog there. Dogs similar to Italian Greyhounds are recorded as having been seen around Emperor Nero's court in Rome in the first century AD.
Although the small dogs are mainly companionship dogs they have in fact been used for hunting rats or mice, often in combination with hunting. It is believed that this was the reason they were bred in the first place by the Greeks.
The Italian Greyhound is the smallest of the family of Sighthounds (dogs that hunt by sight). The breed is an old one and is believed to have originated more than 2,000 years ago in the countries now known as Greece and Turkey. This belief is based on the depiction of miniature greyhounds in the early decorative arts of these countries and on the archaeological discovery of small greyhound skeletons.
By the Middle Ages, the breed had become distributed throughout Southern Europe and was later a favorite of the Italians of the sixteenth century, among whom miniature dogs were in great demand. Sadly, though, 'designer' breeders tried, and failed, to make the breed even smaller by crossbreeding it with other breeds of dogs. This only led to mutations with deformed skulls, shorter muzzles, bulging eyes and dental problems.
The original Italian Greyhound had almost disappeared when groups of breeders got together and managed to return the breed to normal. From this period onward the history of the breed can be fairly well traced as it spread through Europe, arriving in England in the seventeenth century.
The grace of the breed has prompted several artists to include the dogs in paintings, among others Velázquez, Pisanello, and Giotto. The breed has been popular with royalty throughout, among the best known royal aficionados were Mary, Queen of Scots, Queen Anne, Queen Victoria, Catherine the Great, Frederick the Great and Maud, Queen of Norway.
Italian Greyhounds are also represented in popular culture. Nelly from the film Good Boy! is an Italian Greyhound played by "Motif" and "Imp".