ALL DOG BREED PROFILES

Italian Greyhound

Italian Greyhound dog breed
John Walton
Written by John Walton

A gentle, lean and playful toy dog, the Italian Greyhound is the perfect little snuggle and running buddy! They are known to hide under blankets and burrow into couches (you may actually have to watch where you sit!) yet get a burst of energy to play. In fact, this breed is well known for their jumping skills. They can clear fences easily so having a tall fence in the yard should be a must.

While a very loving and affectionate dog with their owner, the Italian Greyhound is not recommended for families with small children. If you do have small children, however, and are determined to own an Italian Greyhound, it is important that your children know rough housing with the family pet is off limits. They must be very gentle and soft-spoken around their family pet and must never startle them.

They are a fragile breed that doesn’t like to play rough and gets startled easily when touched. While they aren’t good with small children, they are open and polite with strangers. This breed is not known to be a barking breed which is music to any dog owner’s ears!

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessHigh
Exercise NeedsHigh

Dog Breed Group: Toy
Height: 12-15 inches at the shoulders
Weight:between 6 and 10 pounds
Life Span: 12 and 15 years

Italian Greyhounds have quite the quirky personality and are often compared to cats. They are known to jump and scale counter and tabletops throughout the household and the owner must be cautious with this as it can lead to broken bones or fractures. Their inquisitive personality will lead them to chase things outside as well. As long as you address these issues quite quickly, you shouldn’t have problems with your pet.

This breed is well-worth some of the slight issues they have as they are a very loving and affectionate breed, known best for to snuggle up closely to their owner or a sunny spot on a warm pillow. They are quite the famous little breed with an interesting history and an infectious personality.

Main Highlights
  • A friendly, snuggly little dog, the Italian Greyhound is a sweetheart of a dog that is also known for his athletic and playful nature
  • They are cordial and welcoming with strangers and other dog breeds
  • They are relatively small and lightweight with a very slender build so they won’t be pulling you along with the leash as you walk them
  • Italian Greyhounds are notorious for perching on high areas such as the back of couches and even on kitchen tables! It is important to keep an eye on this as they are prone to break their long slender legs if they jump or fall from these high peaks

With any breed selection (when choosing a puppy) you should always go toward a puppy in the pack. One that is off in the corner by his or herself will most likely be timid and shy. One that is attacking the rest of the litter and beating up on his or her brothers will probably be a more forward, hard-to-train, stubborn dog. Watching the puppies play for a while and watching how the parents behave will give you great insight into your new pal selection.

Breed History

The Italian Greyhound dates back to 2,000 years ago or around first century AD in Egypt, Greece and Turkey. Mummified versions of what appear to be similar to the Italian Greyhounds have been found in Egypt and hieroglyphics of the breed are pictured in ruins in Pompeii.

What is known as the current Italian Greyhound or a similar breed are also recorded in history as accompanying Emperor Nero in Rome. The popularity of the breed was known best during the Italian Renaissance period which is where they famously got their name from.

During the 17th century, the breed was seen in England and rapidly became very popular amongst Italian nobility as the breed was from their homeland. In 1820, the Italian Greyhound was one of two breeds mentioned in a book regarding dogs and their heritage.

This dog breed became exceptionally popular during the reign of Queen Victoria. They were especially famous during the Italian Renaissance in world renowned paintings completed by masters including Giotto, Capaccio, Van Der Weyden, Memling, David and Bosch.

After this period, their number began to decline rapidly and almost became extinct in Great Britain. However, the United States shipped over new litters which showed they had high considerations for the breed and its quality. In 1886, the Italian Greyhound was recognized and became part of the American Kennel Club.

Today, the Italian Greyhound is the 74th most popular breed of all dog breeds in the American Kennel Club and is admired for its small size and please demeanor.  They are still common amongst pet owners that love a smaller breed that is peaceful and not overly rambunctious. As they are known not to bark too much, they are peculiar in this aspect for a small breed.

Size

Italian Greyhounds are part of the toy group according to the American Kennel Club. They are a smaller breed, weighing in at only 8 to 18 pounds at the most. Their height is between 13 to 15 inches tall. They fall into the toy category mostly based on their weight, because they are actually quite tall and slender compared to other dog breeds.

In comparison, the Italian Greyhound looks most like a miniature greyhound.  This breed got its small structure due to selective breeding by European breeders.

Personality and Character

Italian Greyhounds are a sensitive breed that does not do well around a lot of commotion. They can development anxiety and stress problems quickly, especially in a rowdy household with a lot of yelling or tension. This can lead to digestive issues and neurotic behavior. This breed does best in a quaint, quiet household where they can lounge in peace and enjoy feelings of calmness and happiness during their playtime.

Their temperament is known to be very loving and compassionate, but they also have a stubborn independence streak. Their first thought is not going to be to please their owner. They can be a bit stubborn and even sometimes manipulative. It is important to follow up with your commands and show them that you mean what you say.

This breed doesn’t like to be left alone for an extended period of time and can develop separation anxiety if done so too often. Leaving him alone for too long of a time can cause destruction in your household such as chewing and marking. If you have a job or lifestyle that keeps you away from your home for extended periods of time, this breed may not be the best fit for you.

This breed is best left in a high fenced-in yard. A fence that is too low will be easy for the Italian Greyhound to jump over. They are known to chase anything that moves including small animals, bicycles and cars. It is also very important to always keep him on a leash when outside of the fenced in area. They are not known to be easy to train to come on command and will run when they have the chance. They have a very independent attitude in this sense.

Health and Potential Problems

The Italian Greyhound’s lifespan is typically (on average) 13 years. Some health problems they are known for, periodontal disease being the most common, include:

  • epilepsy;
  • patellar luxation which is slipped stifles;
  • hip degeneration;
  • von Willebrand disease which is a bleeding disorder;
  • leg fractures and breaks from perching on too high of peaks;
  • eye diseases including cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy.

Italian Greyhounds are infamous for periodontal disease due to their scissor-bite, thin jaw bones. As with any breed, these health problems are only common if you don’t take proper care of your beloved pet. Routine visits to his veterinarian and teeth cleanings will help prevent health issues from prevailing. It is also recommended to brush your greyhound’s teeth yourself.

Care Features

Italian Greyhounds are relatively easy to take care of. It is important to keep an eye on them so they don’t go to the top of high areas as they are susceptible to leg and tail fractures if they fall. Training your Italian Greyhound is important to keep these accidents from happening. Some owners try a no-furniture policy altogether so their dog doesn’t jump on the high point of the couch.

Housebreaking is the most common problem with Italian Greyhounds so it is extremely important to address this issue when they are a puppy and keep with it as they grow. Many dogs in this breed are left at rescue sites due to the owner’s impatience and aggravation of lack of housebreaking. The issue can be addressed, however, if you take your pet out whenever he or she gives any sign that they have to go to the bathroom.

If it is inclement weather outside, it is important to put a sweater or coat on your Italian Greyhound to make sure they are comfortable. They will also be more willing to go outside if they are dry and warm. Keeping up with these aspects as well as frequent exercise and walks will result in a housebroken pet. It is critical to keep this pattern up even as they grow older as some may still have accidents if their routine changes or they are ignored.

The breed’s intelligence is superior compared to other breeds so training them can be quite easy. They do not like physical punishment. Instead, they learn best with praise, compliments, play time and treats. In other words, you should only reward your Italian Greyhound for getting a trick or trait right, never punish them when they get it wrong.

A puppy training or kindergarten class can be the best route to take as the trainers in these classes known breeds fairly well and know the best actions to take in training. This will also allow for good socialization with other dog breeds. Socialization is very important with Italian Greyhounds so they become accustom to interacting with other pets and are less likely to develop needy tendencies and separation anxiety issues.

Feeding Schedule

As with any dog breed, feeding your Italian Greyhound a high-quality brand of dog food is of the utmost importance for a healthy, long life.

They are to be fed twice a day and their food should be a higher calorie content. Since they are an energetic and playful breed, they need exercise often and it should be paired with a well-rounded diet.

If you notice your pet is hungry or constantly lingering by his food dish, you can give him more food if he’s had a lot of exercise in that day. Any other odd food behavior should be addressed with his veterinarian.

Coat, Color and Grooming

Italian Greyhounds are known for their hypoallergenic, short hair. In fact their hair is so short that they are not the biggest fan of the cold outdoors or wet weather, including rain or snow.

Due to their lack of interest in going outdoors in these conditions, they can be somewhat hard to housebreak. It is important to try and address any accidents and work with your pet to ensure proper house training. Purchasing a jacket or sweater for your Italian Greyhound will keep them warm and dry during the cold months and wet days.

As they do not like the cold, wet weather, they do love the warm hot weather! They are known to be drawn to the hot sun and lay in sunny, warm spots. You should be cautious of this though while outside, as your dog could develop dehydration or, over time, skin cancer if left in the sun for too long.

Due to their short hair coat, they do not require professional grooming. A bath once a month or after a muddy day outside is all an Italian Greyhound really needs. Even a doggy wipe that allows for “freshen up” type grooming would be fine once a month.

The coat color of the breed varies and can differentiate between 17 different colors and 5 different markings. Colors can vary from blacks, blues, dreams, reds, whites and chocolates.

Handling your pet’s paws as a puppy is the best thing you can do to ensure they are okay with having their nails trimmed and kept up. Leaving your greyhound’s nails too long can cause breakage and infection or possibly damage your hardwood floors.

If you are unsure of how to cut your pet’s nails, you should ask the veterinarian to do this for you as cutting them too short can cause excessive bleeding and infection. Rewarding your pet after a visit to the veterinarian signifies a good thing and they won’t be as scared to go next time, whether it is a routine visit or nail grooming or a specific health issue.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

They aren’t the best with small children as they scare easy if they are touched by surprise and could nip. Their fragility is not as intense with their adult owners, but a small child could be confused with a small animal or small moving object that they would rather attack than allow to rough house them.

They do, however, do well with other pets if properly introduced and socialized together. It is important to keep them away from or keep an eye on them at all times if they are around larger breeds. Italian Greyhounds are a very fragile breed and can get hurt quite easily if a larger dog plays too rough with them.

Italian Greyhounds are a fragile, sensitive and very sweet-natured little dog. They are active, playful and loving. If taken care of properly, they can be the perfect snuggle buddy as long as they know the top of furniture is off-limits. They enjoy warm weather the most, so if you live in a tempered climate, this dog breed would be quite fitting. Their intelligence is incredible and paired with their tender personality; they can be quite the quirky little companion.

If you are a pet owner seeking a small breed dog with a compassionate, fun personality, an Italian Greyhound would be a perfect fit. In selecting an Italian Greyhound puppy, it is important to evaluation his or her parents. This will be the best method to see the type of dog yours will grow up to be.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

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