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The Italian Greyhound
The Italian Greyhound is a small purebred developed to be a sight hound and also called Iggy or IG. In Italy in the Middle Ages it was a beloved companion for noblewomen too and there are many portraits with them in from those times. Today it is commonly found in racing events and also does well at rallys, obedience, and agility events. Its top speeds are 25 miles an hour and it still loves to give chase after anything that moves.
|Here is the Italian Greyhound at a Glance|
|Other Names||French: Petit Levrier Italiane, Italian: Piccolo Levriero Italiano, German: Italienisches Windspiel, and Spanish: Galgo Italiano|
|Average weight||7 to 14 pounds|
|Average height||13 to 15 inches|
|Life span||12 to 15 years|
|Coat type||Silky, short, fine|
|Color||Black, brown, blue, grey, yellow, red and white|
|Popularity||Somewhat popular – ranked 71st by the AKC|
|Intelligence||Fair to average|
|Tolerance to heat||Good – can handle warm and fairly hot weather but not very hot or extreme|
|Tolerance to cold||Low – does not do well in the cold and will need protection|
|Shedding||Low – little hair around the home if any|
|Drooling||Low – this is not a breed prone to lots of slobber|
|Obesity||Moderate – not prone to gaining weight|
|Grooming/brushing||Easy to groom – brush once or twice a week|
|Barking||Average – does bark but it is not constant|
|Exercise needs||Fairly active – has a lot of energy but easy to meet its needs|
|Trainability||Moderately difficult – it is not easy to train unless you have experience|
|Friendliness||Excellent – social and happy dog|
|Good first dog||Good to very good – but some experience will help|
|Good family pet||Very good with socialization|
|Good with children||Very good with socialization but best with older children|
|Good with other dogs||Very good with socialization|
|Good with other pets||Good but needs socialization as has high prey drive|
|Good with strangers||Good with socialization – can be wary|
|Good apartment dog||Very good due to size but a yard while not a requirement would be good for this active dog|
|Handles alone time well||Low – does not like being alone for long periods and can suffer from separation anxiety|
|Health issues||Has several health issues it can be prone to so not a terribly healthy breed, they include eye problems, hypothyroidism, allergies, epilepsy and patellar luxation|
|Medical expenses||$435 a year for basic health care and pet insurance|
|Food expenses||$75 a year for good quality dry dog food and treats|
|Miscellaneous expenses||$195 a year for license, toys, miscellaneous items and basic training|
|Average annual expense||$705 a year as a starting figure|
|Cost to purchase||$600|
|Biting Statistics||None reported|
The Italian Greyhound’s Beginnings
The Italian Greyhound is an old breed dating back several thousand years in fact. On ancient Egyptian tombs there are pictures of dogs similar to the Italian Greyhound as well as mummified dogs. Their image can also be found on art from the Mediterranean as long as 2000 years ago and skeletons have been dug up in areas now called Greece and Turkey. Throughout the South of Europe it was a popular dog in the Middle Ages. Its name comes from how popular the dog became in Renaissance Italy around the 16th century as a companion dog. It was also used to hunt small game. Many paintings from the time show the dog in some form some by famous artists like Giotto di Bondone and Pisanello.
In fact because making dogs smaller was so popular at this time many breeders attempted to do so with the Italian Greyhound but ended up causing mutations and great damage to the breed. The original dog was almost gone when some breeders got together to save it. The mutations were corrected and it went on to be popular around the rest of Europe.
New Lease on Life
Many European royal families were fans of the breed including Queen Anne, Catherine the Great, Mary, Queen of Scots, Frederick the Great, Maud Queen of Norway and Queen Victoria. When Frederick of Prussia’s Italian Grey hound died it is said he buried it himself at the palace and his remains were moved to lie next to the dog’s by his family 200 years after his death as he had wanted.
In 1886 it was recognized by the AKC and this was when breeders in the US began to build on the numbers bred there. This actually saved this breed a second time as during both world wars it was hard to own and breed dogs and numbers in Europe plunged at this time. After each war breeders used American bred Italian Grey hounds to rebuild the breed’s numbers in the UK and Europe. Today it is ranked 71st by the AKC.
The Dog You See Today
The Iggy is a small dog weighing 7 to 14 pounds and standing 13 to 15 inches tall. It has a short, fine and silky coat that comes on colors that include cream, black, red, blue, white, grey, yellow and brown. It can also have markings. It is a slim dog with fine bones, a long arched neck and a narrow but deep chest. Its tail is long, set low and thin. Its legs are long and slender, with the front legs being straight. In countries where it still happens the dewclaws could be removed.
On top of the long neck is a narrow and long head that is flat up top and has a muzzle that tapers into a point. The color of its coat will dictate whether the nose is black or brown. Its eyes are dark and medium sized and its ears are small held back along the head.
The Inner Italian Greyhound
The Italian Greyhound is an affectionate, loyal and social dog. It is very friendly and happy, quite intelligent and quite alert. It is a good watchdog as it will let you know of any intruder and it can be a good dog for new owners, though experience can help. It loves to play and it has a lot of energy but being small that energy is easy to cater to. It is also quite sensitive and does not like harsh tones or loud sudden noises.
This is not a dog to get if you are out most of the time as it does want and need attention and does not like being left alone for long periods. It can suffer from separation anxiety which can lead to destructive behavior. It will stay close to you when you are home and loves to cuddle with you when it is not having some play time. It also enjoys finding those cozy warm spots to nap in so check under the couch throws or blankets before you sit down! Be prepared though as after those naps it will be zipping around, playing and jumping and so on. Watch out for its tendency to jump from high places as it can hurt its legs and break bones doing this.
It is curious, eager to please, quirky, gentle and kind with the right socialization, but it can be strong willed. It is important to be firm with it and to not over baby it. If overprotected it can become overly timid and high strung. When it is stressed or scared avoid offering coddling, it needs its owner at this point to be strong and in control. Otherwise it can become snappish and it can develop small dog syndrome. With socialization it is a great family or companion dog but is best in homes that do not also have smaller children.
Living with an Italian Greyhound
What will training look like?
IGs can be moderately difficult to train so some experience is a bonus. You will need to be patient and consistent about it, be firm but be fair and stay positive. There is the option of using a professional school or professional trainer to help if needed. This is a somewhat stubborn but definitely sensitive dog so scolding or punishments are not going to be effective. Keep it interesting, reward and praise its successes, use treats and encouragement. Some are touch sensitive so do not like physical correction at all.
House breaking as with most small dogs is hard too. Often it will refuse to go out if it is cold or wet outside and it is easy for it to sneak off and do its business around the house. Some owners use crate training and some opt to have large cat litter like trays and teach it to use that. Or they build a covered area in the yard the dog can get to without getting wet.
Early socialization is important as with any dog. Once it has learned how to respond to many different places, people and situations it is more confident and happier. It is also a dog you are more able to trust when out with it.
How active is the Italian Greyhound?
This is a fairly active dog it likes to play, jump and run and will mix their active side with the odd nap somewhere warm and snuggly. It can live in an apartment due to its size but while it can manage without a yard it would be good to have one where it can explore and play. It is well suited to people who are not super active but who can take it for a walk twice a day and have the occasional trip to a dog park where it can socialize.
Time off leash is also something it loves, as it is very good at running! Make sure any yard is well fenced as it does like to chase after moving things it spots. For the same reason always keep it leashed when walking until somewhere safe. When out in cold weather make sure it has something warm to wear as it does not have a coat that keeps it warm. It also should be careful in very hot weather that it does not get sunburn.
Caring for the Italian Greyhound
The coat of an Iggy is quite easy to take care of, it sheds only a little and it is usually a breed most allergy sufferers can stand to be around. Brush its coat once or twice a week or just give it a rub down with a chamois or towel to remove burrs, debris and give it a nice shine. Bathe just when it needs it as over bathing can cause its skin to dry out.
Its teeth should be brushed two to three times a week to keep it in good oral health. Its ears should be checked for infection and then wiped clean once a week, do not insert anything into them. Its nails will need trimming when they get too long. Dog nails are unlike ours, there are blood vessels and nerves in the lower part, if you cut too low down and cut through those it will really hurt your dog and cause a lot of bleeding. If you do not know how to cut dog nails learn how, or have a groomer or vet do it for you.
It should be fed about ½ to 1 cup of a good quality dry dog food a day and that should be split into at least two meals. Exactly how much it needs depends on its metabolism, rate of activity, size, health and age.
How is the Italian Greyhound with children and other animals?
The Italian Greyhound is best with children who are older as it does not like sudden loud noises and being startled or manhandled. It can learn to get along with children with socialization but the younger ones should be supervised since this is quite a delicate dog. Make sure children are taught how to touch dogs carefully and nicely. Some breeders will not sell to owners who have children younger than ten.
It gets along well with other dogs with socialization and can also get along with other pets like cats if raised with them. Remember it can have a prey drive so smaller animals that are strange are more seen as something to hunt and chase.
What Might Go Wrong?
The Iggy lives for 12 to 15 years and is not a terribly healthy breed being prone to several health issues, as well as being prone to leg injuries. Those issues include eye problems, epilepsy, fractures, Legg-Perthes, Von Willebrands, Patellar Luxation, color dilution alopecia, liver problems, anemia, periodontal disease, hypothyroidism, hip dysplasia, cryptorchidism and allergies.
When looking at reports of dogs attacking people over the last 34 years in Canada and the US there is no mention of the Italian Greyhound. The fact is though that any dog can become aggressive, snap or act out. Certain situations or stress factors can have an affect on any breed. The best way to minimize the risk of your dog attacking somebody is to give it what it needs in terms of exercise, stimulation, attention, training and socialization.
Your Pup’s Price Tag
An Italian Greyhound puppy is going to cost about $600. That will get you a pet quality puppy from a good breeder. If you want something from a top breeder then this will go up to the several thousand. Getting a shelter or rescue dog is another option to consider as you get the benefit of giving one a second home. It will cost about $50 to $300 and there will be medical needs taken care of for you, but in general most dogs that need re-homing tend to be adolescent or adult age not a puppy. Please avoid places like pet stores, backyard breeders and their ads and other places like puppy mills who mistreat their animals and knowingly sell dogs of ill health.
Initial costs covering things like a carrier, crate, collar and leash, other items along with medical needs like an exam, blood tests, deworming, vaccinations, micro chip and spaying or neutering come to about $400.
Annual costs for a good quality dry dog food and treats come to about $75. Miscellaneous items along with toys, license and basic training come to about $195 a year. Health costs each year for check ups, health insurance, shots and tick and flea prevention come to around $435. Annual total costs come to $705 a year as a starting figure.
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The Italian Greyhound is a small, delicate dog so needs a home that is not too boisterous or loud as it can make it snap. It can get along with children with socialization but is best not in homes with young ones. It is easy to to take care of them and it is low shedding if you want a dog that does not leave a lot of hair around the home.
Care should be taken when owning an Iggy though. It likes to jump off high places and easily damages its bones in its legs this way. It does have several health issues it is prone to and being such a fast dog it needs to be on a leash when out walking, and in a yard that is well fenced in.
Popular Italian Greyhound Mixes
Beagle and Italian Greyhound Mix
|Weight||12 to 30 pounds|
|Height||13 to 15 inches|
|Life span||12 to 15 years|
|Barking||Occasional to frequent|
Italian Greyhound, Chihuahua Mix
|Height||8 to 15 inches|
|Weight||6 to 18 pounds|
|Life span||13 to 16 years|
Featured Image Credit: Alexandra Morrison Photo, Shutterstock
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.
- The Italian Greyhound’s Beginnings
- New Lease on Life
- The Dog You See Today
- The Inner Italian Greyhound
- Living with an Italian Greyhound
- Caring for the Italian Greyhound
- How is the Italian Greyhound with children and other animals?
- What Might Go Wrong?
- Your Pup’s Price Tag
- Popular Italian Greyhound Mixes