- AKC recognized in 1886
- Lifespan: 14-15 years
- Size: small
- Energy level: medium
- Recommended Crate Size: 24” dog crate*
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The Italian Greyhound is simply dashing...literally! He’s one of the fastest dogs on the planet, clocking in at top speeds of 25 miles per hour which he can achieve with a double suspension gallop. What’s truly astounding is that the rest of the Italian Greyhound package is equally as amazing as his athletic abilities.
Who would guess this quick guy is dubbed the “25 Mile per Hour Couch Potato”? Although he does love to run, he is oftentimes just as content to lounge around on the couch with his human. While he has a hunting dog heart, he also craves the attention of his human and can’t seem to get enough of lapping up all he can get.
If you would like to give this guy a run, read on to see if that idea is a winner...or not before you race out to get one.
The Italian Greyhound is a smart and swift fellow. Also called the “Miniature Greyhound”, “Iggy” or “IG”, he’s a small guy who’s classified as a sighthound (also called a gazehound) meaning he hunts small game by the use of his keen eyesight, his speed, and strong prey drive. The smallest of all sighthounds, the Italian Greyhound is super-fast with speeds up to 25 miles an hour which is quite impressive for a dog of his size. He is one of the oldest dog breeds in existence.
Created over 2000 years ago in Mediterranean Greece and Turkey, Italian Greyhounds can be traced back in mummified form to Egypt, and they also have an ancient history in Pompeii, and Emperor Nero’s court in first century AD Rome. They were wildly popular in the Middle Ages as well as Renaissance Italy and thus, their name was given...the Italian Greyhound.
By the sixteenth century, the dogs were in such high demand, especially among the Italians, they were irresponsibly and hastily bred with efforts being placed on making them even smaller. Sadly, the crossbreeding led to mutations with severely deformed features like bulging eyes, disfigured heads, and massive dental issues. The Italian came close to meeting his demise and would have if not for a team of devoted breeders who collectively got the Italian Greyhound back on track.
Once again, the Italian Grey was one of the most popular breeds in Southern Europe. They arrived in England within the seventeenth century where they were the inspiration for masterpiece paintings by Pisanello, Giotto, Velazquez, and other talented artists.
Although they were bred with the purpose of hunting in mind, they soon found themselves swaddled in the lap of luxury, beloved by such royal figures as Queen Anne, Mary - Queen of Scots, Queen Victoria, Frederick the Great of Prussia, Anne of Denmark, and Maud - Queen of Norway. Catherine the Great of Russia, had an Italian Grey named Zemire.
The Iggy graced America with their presence and was formally inducted into the notorious American Kennel Club in 1886. Although they were quite coveted, during World War II, they became scarce as they were a luxury not many could afford. Once the war was over, however, they grew in number and enjoyed a second renaissance. They continue to grow in popularity due to their awesomeness as a companion dog and their amazing physical abilities.
The Italian Grey isn’t for every small dog owner though. They have intense instincts for hunting small prey and are likely to give chase to anything that runs, scampers, or slithers. Even an innocent walk in the park can easily turn disastrous so pet parents must be vigil in keeping watch over this peppy and extremely quick dog.
The Italian Greyhound is very similar in looks to the Greyhound breed but is smaller in size and more slender in body proportion. Although small, he sports a hardy and athletic build with fine bones and an elegant high-stepping gait.
The back of the IG is arched much like the larger Greyhound’s is. Their abdomens are tucked, chest narrow and deep, and their forelegs are long and straight for swift running. The neck of the Italian Greyhound is long, sloping, slender, and gracefully arched.
There are two classifications of IGs which depends upon their weight. One category is for 8 pounds and under and the other is for those over 8 pounds. They are typically 12 to 15 inches in height with the average weight being around 8 pounds.
The head of the Iggy is very narrow and his ears are semi-prick, erect but slightly bent forward at the top towards his head. When he is alert, his ears raise up. His slender tail tapers out to the end and is carried low.
Italian Grey’s coats are short and satin-like and are soft to the touch and have a glossy sheen. They shed very lightly the year round. The coat colors can be found in shades of fawn, blue, cream, or black. Some are solid and others have some white markings on their body. Although tan and black or brindle colored dogs cannot be in showings, they are marvelous companions and family dogs all the same.
It is recommended to provide your Mini Grey dog food that is specially formulated to meet the unique needs of small-sized breeds. It is also highly recommended that you discuss your dog’s food requirements with your veterinarian and/or breeder in order to determine the size and frequency of meals in order to ensure a healthy, long life.
Initially, given he is a small breed, you may need to feed him small meals throughout the day. That schedule may change as he gets older.
As with all animals, it is also important to ensure that clean, fresh water is always available.
While the coat of the Iggy is short and sleek, it is given to shed lightly on a continuous basis. Regular brushing of once or twice a week will help tremendously.
Baths are not needed more than once every few months or in the event he gets dirty, muddy, or sprayed by a skunk. The Italian hates to get wet so fortunately, you can stretch his bathing routine out until he is stinky or dirty but, not too long or his coat and skin won’t be as healthy as they could be otherwise. Be sure to use a dog-friendly, hypoallergenic shampoo.
His ears will require cleaning to make sure they are free of dirt, debris, and bacteria that is apt to collect in them since they stand erect at times. Be sure to keep them dry too. If he is pawing at them or if you notice any redness, swelling, or irritation, be sure to take him to the vet clinic so they can be checked. Untreated ear problems can lead to the need for surgery or even deafness.
Brush your IG’s teeth once a week with a doggie toothbrush and toothpaste so you keep tartar from building up and for healthy gums as well. Dental issues were a problem in the days this breed was overpopulated by irresponsible breeding techniques so he still has a tendency to get cavities or gum issues. Regular brushing will help prevent those issues from occurring.
Pay close attention to his toenails. Although if he has his way, he’ll be outside running and romping quite often and may wear them down naturally, if he doesn’t, you’ll need to give them a good close trimming. Even if he does wear them down, you’ll want to check for cracks, splits, and chips and tend to them immediately.
Italian Greyhound is considered an active breed that has regular daily exercise needs such as brisk walking for an hour or so per day. You can break the hour into two thirty minute walks if you’d rather. It can’t be stressed enough that this breed must get his fair share of exercise each and every day or you’ll find he is hyper and naughty. He’s a hunter, remember, and hunting dog breeds are used to being very active, mentally and physically.
Early on, you will need to establish yourself and your Italian Greyhound’s pack leader or he’ll be dragging you on your walks and chasing after every little animal and child that crosses his path. Be sure you lead the way, not him. There are collars and harnesses that are specially constructed for slim faced dogs who have fragile necks and it is highly recommended that you look into purchasing one for him.
In between his formal walks, playtime is in order. This breed has a keen sense of sight, smell, sounds, and touch so incorporating those into his play is ideal. He’s a fun-loving breed so he’ll entertain you as he plays. Interactive play is always a blast with him too.
Even if you are inside with your Italian Grey such as keeping him warm and sheltered on a cold winter’s day, you can play active inside games like fetching a small rolling ball or Hide and Go Seek. If you can keep him steadily using his energy, he’ll have a less energetic outburst. Still, at the best, he’ll probably have some. That’s just something that is unique to this breed, no doubt instilled from his days of hunting in the wild.
It wouldn’t be fair if this astounding athlete didn’t get the chance to run at full speed from time to time. If possible, find a safe, open space for him to race in occasionally.
Mental stimulation is required of the Iggy on a regular basis. He’s highly intelligent and can get mentally bored very easily. Brain games are an excellent way to challenge his thinking and problem-solving skills. You’ll be amazed at just how sharp he is and he’ll love showing off his brainy talents.
Pet Crates Direct recommends 24” dog crates* for most adult Italian Greyhounds.
This breed is very affectionate but can also be a bit on the nervous and shy side. Early socialization is imperative because they are not given to like strangers very much and can become frightened easily. The Iggy is not the optimal choice for novice dog owners.
The Italian Greyhound does love his family and adores physical activity with them yet will cuddle up on the sofa as well. They do much better with older children than with the youngsters and since they are fragile, it is highly recommended that for the sake of the children and the Iggy, he is only in a home where there are no extremely young or boisterous little ones.
If he is raised alongside other family pets, he’ll likely do alright as long as the others aren’t too rough or aggressive. He may always fall into the temptation of chasing a cat that is running though.
The Italian Grey is not fond of being cold or being wet. He likes to be warm and dry and can be found sunbathing oftentimes during the summer months. You may also find him snuggled under your throw covers on the sofa or nestled in your pile of laundry. He’s one breed that does well-wearing doggie apparel because his short coat doesn’t provide much heat or waterproofing.
Be ready to give this guy loads of love and affection. He’s a needy soul. And don’t think he won’t get upset if you leave him alone. He suffers from severe separation anxiety and will have your house in shreds if left to himself long.
If you do have to, be aware it’s best to crate him. This pup definitely has a naughty side when he attempts to make you pay for abandoning him (if only for twenty minutes, it’s an eternity to him). If your schedule calls for being away much of the time, this breed is not for you.
The Mini Greyhound is always up to go along with you though. He’s a great hiker and is not only fast, but he’s also good in endurance too. He even enjoys a nice ride in the car. The fact of the matter is that his two favorite things to do aside from showing off his lightning speeds are being active and being with his family so when you combine the two things, this dog is in heaven.
Interestingly, the Italian perceives himself as a scary dog...a little dog in a big dog’s body, you might say. He tends to bite off more than he can chew when approached by unfriendly or larger dogs so be prepared to intervene if necessary.
While on one hand, the Italian Greyhound appears to be the perfect one to cozy up with you all day while you watch movies and eat bonbons, he certainly isn’t. He will get a burst of energy out of nowhere and...he’s off! The explosion of leaps and running of circles can be amusing but alarming as well.
He’ll literally bounce off the walls at times. It’s all part of his bounding energetic nature and is completely normal for his kind. Do watch him during his energetic bursts though because it is not uncommon for Italian Greyhounds to actually break a leg when they are on such a roll.
The sprite spirit of this dog and his hunter’s heart makes him not only a flight risk but an avid escape artist too. You’ll need at least a six-foot fence to contain him. He’s a great jumper and can disappear in no time flat.
Inquisitive, fun, intelligent and a little on the demanding side, the Italian Greyhound is a quirky, unique breed. He’s a package of interesting qualities, both physically and temperamentally, a gift that has been adored by many throughout the ages.
There are few, if any, who claim that training the Italian Greyhound is an easy task. Then again, you’ll not likely find anyone who says it isn’t worth the time and energy. These dogs are extremely bright, eager to please, and are physically capable of amazing feats.
You simply must make it known to him that you are the teacher and he is the student. Calm and assertive measures are the only way this will happen. Scolding him will produce an unruly spirit that will be hard to tame. Plenty of praise and pats and an occasional yummy treat will help gain his full cooperation, however.
Potty training can be a challenge. It’s advised that you not let him play until he has done his business providing you are fairly sure he needs to. This pup hates the cold and the rain. If the weather isn’t ideal during his housebreaking time, you might consider an alternative spot to “go” like on a puppy training pad or in a kitty litter box. Be sure to lavishly praise and treat him for a job well done!
Crate training is a good idea with this rambunctious breed. Although it might seem cruel, dogs actually are den animals who find security in cozy places. This greyhound breed is a fearful one by nature so consideration of crate training is advised.
Socialization is important as well. Expose him to as many sights, sounds, and situations are you can while he is still young. Since he leans on the nervous side, taking him to busy, noisy places are good. Also, bring him around people of various ages and personalities and let him meet up with some dogs and cats too. Early socialization will help this breed live up to his full potential rather than him being a scared and shy dog.
Obedience training is another class that is not optional for this breed. He must learn to mind. It’s imperative for his safety and well-being and for the sake of other animals and humans. Sit, stay, and come are definitely commands he’ll need to know but once you get him in the hang of it, he’ll master much more of them.
Agility training is right down this dog’s alley! Agility is still a relatively new dog sport and is becoming very popular. The Italian Greyhound seems to have been custom cut for it. He can do it for fun and exercise or you may even find he’s a good candidate to go all out and enter into a competition.
Whatever you do though, keep it fun. While he’s a pup, just let him freestyle run the track. Once he is older though, he can be trained to actually jump through hoops and master the track. You can expect to get much more voluntary cooperation from him when he’s doing what he loves, like the agility course.
Lure course training is another fun dog sport Italian Greyhounds tend to love and excel in. Lure coursing is great for all dogs who love chasing things such as sighthounds. He’ll be a natural at it because it digs down to his very roots. It does require a little smarts but this breed has plenty of that. Chances are you’ll both get hooked on this fun activity training. You can find out more about this kind of training online in books and videos.
Brain game training is ideal for the Iggy. He’s so smart, you’ll not want to waste what he has “upstairs” by failing to train him mentally. Brain games are fun and you can teach him some smart tricks to show off his intelligence too.
Trick training is tons of fun with this dog. He is bright enough to catch on and willing to please you so he’ll be a shining star in no time. If you keep the tricks within his natural range of likes and abilities, he is likely to do excellent and love showing off his new antics.
Patience is indeed a virtue when training the Italian Grey. He’s so good at most anything he attempts but the trick is to get his cooperation. Persistence and consistency cannot be overstressed. Once you see him advance, you’ll be encouraged and inspired and...so will he.
The Italian Greyhound usually enjoys a happy and healthy life expectancy of around 14 to 15 years. Getting your pup from a responsible, reputable breeder is imperative. This breed miraculously survived cruel breeding decades ago so make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again. Paperwork from the puppy’s parents should be readily available for review to help ensure you get a pup with the best chance possible for long life. If you get a chance to adopt one from a shelter or rescue organization, all the better.
There are some health problems you should keep a watchful eye out for that tend to run in the genes of the Italian Greyhound. Here are some of them:
Bloat is a serious and potentially fatal problem in dogs that Italian Greys can be genetically prone to suffer from. The condition, also known as Gastric Dilation and Volvulus”, involves the dog’s stomach filling up with gas which applies undue pressure on the diaphragm that can cause severe breathing problems or even failure in breathing. The exact cause of this ailment is unknown. If your dog is experiencing stomach pain or having trouble breathing, seek professional medical help for him immediately.
Anesthesia sensitivity is very common with the Italian Greyhound. If your dog is going to have a surgical procedure done or if he’ll be put under for anything (even to clip his nails or a simple and short round), be sure to have your vet keep a watchful eye for any reactions and when you take him home, you’ll need to have a vigil watch over him as well.
Dental disease is prevalent in the Italian Greyhound. The problem stems back to the days where he was carelessly and recklessly bred. Regular brushing of his teeth and routine dental check-ups are a must to ensure he doesn’t get a dental disease. And...he may still get it. If so, your vet can help you with the treatment for it.
Patellar Luxation is also known as the dislocation of the kneecap. It is common in many small breeds including the Italian Grey. The condition entails the knee coming out of joint. It can be debilitating and very painful. If your dog is limping or unable to walk, take him to the clinic right away to see if his kneecap is dislocated.
Hypothyroidism is a hormonal disease that can affect dogs and humans alike. It has to do with a deficiency of hormones in the thyroid. The condition shows up in symptoms like loss of hair, extreme lethargy, and even unexplained weight gain (or loss). Your vet can conduct a test to see if your dog has this problem. It is generally easily treated when it is caught early.
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is also another health concern. This is the degeneration of the eye and will need to be watched out for as part of a regular veterinarian check up.
Deafness is not unheard of in this breed. While the inability to hear can be caused from injuries, untreated ear infections, and environmental factors, it can also root in the predisposition genes which is the case in the majority of deaf Italian Greyhounds, sadly. If your dog seems to be having trouble hearing his name called or doesn’t respond to commands or loud noises, take him in to have his ears checked as soon as possible.
Fractured bones happen all too frequently in this breed. They are a bit rambunctious for their small and fragile bones and tend to do things that are dangerous and put their bones in compromising situations. The bursts of energy that they are known to get quite frequently are problematic too.
The dogs tend to run full blast into items like sofas or parked cars. He is not going to take heed not to burst into action and be careful so you’ll have to be the one to oversee him and by all means if he does appear to have hurt himself, have him checked immediately. He may require an x-ray and if he did experience a fracture, your vet can treat it.
Diarrhea caused by stress is common with the Italian Greyhound, perhaps because he is one who is given to be a worrier and can experience stress and anxiety fairly easily and often. If your Iggy is having diarrhea for more than a day or if it is happening regularly, speak to your veterinarian. There are viable treatments that can be recommended for this ailment.
Regardless of the seemingly long list of medical woes the Italian might be susceptible to, he is known to be a fairly healthy dog. The list is just for precautionary measures. By catching any abnormality early on, you can seek speedy treatment and get him back on track right away.
Is an Italian Greyhound Right for Me?
If all the information above about the Italian Greyhound has you itching to run right out and get one, hold up just a moment. There are a few things you should weigh out in your heart of hearts.
If you have very small children or overly active youngsters, you might not want to risk this pup. He himself can be high strung but fearful which isn’t a good combination. Not only might he get scared and snap at a kid, but he might also get hurt as well because his bones are tiny and fragile as is his neck. The same is true if you have large or aggressive pets in the household.
Are you willing and able to provide all the exercise this breed needs? He is medium energy but his energy comes in spurts and those can be overwhelming for some pet parents. Rescue centers are full of Italian Greyhounds whose prospective owners were not willing or weren’t able to handle all this peppy little package entails.
Know this breed and make a soul-searching decision. He is a needy fellow in many ways, given to insecurity and fear if not properly loved and socialized. In return, however, he gives of his whole heart and is loyal almost to a fault.
Are you able to be with this dog much of the time? He cannot and will not stand for being left while you go to work or go out on the town. He’ll become a “bad boy” the minute you walk out the door. It’s not his fault. He just loves people and adores being with them every minute of every day.
If you do think that an Italian Grey is the perfect dog for you, hold on to your hat. This fast, funny, and friendly dog is about to change your life...furever!
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