Table of Contents
Everything. Okay, so I'm passionately devoted to this fabulous breed,
maybe even obsessed. They're beautiful and clean without expensive or
time-consuming grooming. They're small enough to fit into any living
situation yet large enough to be real dogs. Although small in size,
they bark rather than yap. Most of all, they have an extremely loving,
devoted nature and a scintillating, sometimes unpredictable charm that
never allows for a dull moment. They are sweet, gentle, affectionate,
sprightly, and imaginative. Most Italian Greyhounds are one person or
one family dogs that want to be physically close to their humans. The
Italian Greyhound is a unique breed that has the ability to completely
entrance its devotees, although a few of its more whimsical attributes
might charm some and be a turnoff for others.
There is some question whether the Italian Greyhound was originally
intended to hunt small game or vermin or mainly to be a beloved
companion. Most likely both of these theories are true. Many Italian
Greyhounds have a strong instinct to hunt and chase. Others have none,
since, at least during the past century or so, they have not been bred
for this characteristic. It is also likely that they became a popular
household pet during the days before central heating, because their warm
little bodies can be very comforting in an otherwise cold bed.
The Italian Greyhound goes back a long way in history as does the
large Greyhound, probably originating as long as 2,000 years ago in
the areas that are now the countries of Greece and Turkey. A small
sighthound is depicted in the early art works of these nations, and
bones indicating a dog of this type have been found in archeological
sites. The breed became popular in Southern Europe during the Middle
Ages and by the 16th Century many were depicted in Italian paintings and
sculpture. It is for this reason, not because of its origin, that the
little hound became known as the Italian Greyhound. Its larger cousin,
the Whippet, originating in England in the 19th Century, is a relatively
new breed that started as a mixture of large Greyhound and terrier and
later incorporated some Italian Greyhound blood to add refinement. The
Italian Greyhound has always been a favorite of royalty and aristocracy,
and many paintings show historical figures such as Princess Anne of
Denmark, Queen Victoria and Catherine the Great of Russia with their
beloved Italian Greyhounds. It is a well known fact that Frederick the
Great was a great fan of this breed and was almost always seen with one
or more of them.
The first Italian Greyhound was registered by the American Kennel
Club in 1886, but the breed remained quite rare in the United States
until fairly recently. The first Italian Greyhound ever to attain the
honor of being Best in Show at an all-breed show was Ch. Flaminia of
Alpine in 1963. The number of BIS Italian Greyhounds has gown steadily
since then. The record holder for the most BIS wins is Ch. Donmar's
Scarlet Ribbons, with 22. The breed's top producing sire was Ch. Dasa's
King of The Mountain, with 78 title holding offspring. Top producing
dam was Ch. Dasa's Ebony Queen, with 30. Since Italian Greyhounds have
small litters --usually 2 to 4 puppies --these records are quite likely
to stand for some time.
13" to 15" at the shoulders is ideal for the show ring. The average
weight is eight to 12 pounds. Larger ones (17" or 18") are fairly
common and make great pets.
13 to 14 or 15 years is normal. 16 to 18 is not unusual.
Hypothyroidism and other autoimmune diseases, PRA, seizure disorders,
luxating patellas, Legg-Perthes. None of them is rampant but all of
these as well as some other genetic maladies have been diagnosed in
some. A few bloodlines have a predisposition for leg fractures because
of lack of bone density.
At this time the Italian GreyhoundCA is working with Dr. Acland of
Cornell University to try to develop a blood test that would show up
carriers of PRA. In the meantime, although no screening is required
for any of the conditions named, the Italian GreyhoundCA and other
responsible breeders strongly recommend testing for PRA. Responsible
breeders also have their dogs checked for Legg-Perthes, luxated
patellas, heart irregularities and, if suspected, hypo-thyroidism. Some
veterinary orthopedic specialists claim that bone density can be checked
by x-rays, but there is some doubt as to the effectiveness of doing
this. The Italian GreyhoundCA's health committee has been working on a
study of patterns of heredity in excessive leg breaks but thus far there
is no positive method of identifying the problem. Prospective owners of
Italian Greyhounds should inquire of the breeder whether the sire and/or
dam or any of their offspring have experienced fractures.
The energy level is quite high in healthy puppies and young dogs.
Mature Italian Greyhounds are quite adaptive and responsive to the
energy level of their owners. They are true sighthounds in miniature,
and the attention span can be short if they're bored.
Although Italian Greyhounds reach physical maturity between eight
months and a year and a half, depending on their bloodline and their
size (larger ones tend to keep growing for a longer period) most of them
retain their puppy energy and playfulness well beyond that age. Some
do not attain mental maturity until they are three or four years old
--another characteristic which many fanciers consider to be part of the
charm of this breed. Some other owners might be impatiently waiting for
their dog to "grow up."
A single Italian Greyhound is usually submissive in nature; but in a
situation that involves several Italian Greyhounds or other breeds of
similar or smaller size there can be fights for dominance in the pack.
A caveat here is that many fanciers new to this lovable and affectionate
breed refuse to believe that these normally sweet dogs may be small, but
they are true hounds and they have a strong tendency toward pack behavior.
More owners than I care to mention have come home to find that an ill, old
or otherwise weak "pack member" has been severely attacked by the stronger
Again, these are sighthounds and individuals vary greatly in these
characteristics. If they were human they would do better in a liberal
arts school than at a military academy. Some do superbly in obedience
competition, and others don't do well at all. Much depends on the
trainer's ability to keep the Italian Greyhound interested. Agility is
a sport that could have been invented for the Italian Greyhound, and
they make excellent therapy dogs. Some are even adept at lure coursing,
although the latter should be undertaken with a degree of caution.
Some owners say they are, and some Italian Greyhounds can be stubborn
about it. It's especially hard to persuade an Italian Greyhound to ask
to go out in extreme weather. Owners who install doggy doors and those
who paper train have the best results. [How about a litter box?]
Most Italian Greyhounds will bark an alert warning when someone or
something strange approaches. They aren't likely to do more than bark and
behave in an agitated manner in the face of danger to their owner or
property, although there are exceptions to this too.
The Italian Greyhound is definitely an "inside dog." Outdoor
play and walks on warm days are enjoyed, but this isn't a dog that can be
left alone to fend for itself in the back yard.
This is minimal, but teeth and toenails need
regular attention. The coat is so short and fine that a bath is rarely
Yes, but the hair is so short and fine that it can hardly
The amount of time not used for bathing
and grooming is required tenfold for attention and love. Italian Greyhounds can be almost
needy in their desire for affection.
Italian Greyhounds have great rapport with gentle children who
understand that this is a living creature and not a toy that can be
manhandled. An Italian Greyhound could be injured by a thoughtless
child. The same is true of interaction with other animals. They
get along well with cats and other dogs of similar size but must be
protected from rambunctious larger pets.
A sweater or jacket is in order in cold weather. Although the Italian
Greyhound is not as delicate as he looks, care must be taken to avoid
"booby traps" that might result in a broken leg. Not likely to run away
simply to explore, many Italian Greyhounds would run into the street or
even take an incredible leap from a balcony or open window in playful
pursuit of a cat or other animal ---or to follow their masters. This
breed should NEVER be walked off lead, since another dog or something
unusual might spook them, causing them to bolt.
People who have too little time to devote to their dogs, who have unruly
children, who expect instant and unerring obedience, who expect their
dog to stay in the back yard, or who are embarrassed to share love with
an animal should not own this breed.
They require and demand lots of love and attention. Denied this, they
can become shy or hyper or both. They must be properly socialized as
puppies. Those that are kennel raised under impersonal conditions can
have difficulty adjusting. If expected to spend much time outdoors
they are not suitable for cold climates. Italian Greyhounds are very
athletic, and their jumping and climbing abilities can get them into
trouble. They also have no traffic sense, and an Italian Greyhound
that gets into the street is almost destined to be hit. Since they are
hounds, they can be quite stubborn.
Certainly, but please don't confuse crate training with house training.
All dogs should learn to stay in a crate quietly for short periods of
time, up to three or four hours; but a crate should not be used to
confine an Italian Greyhound all day long every day while its owner
is at work or play. Dogs are not intended to be caged animals like
Unfortunately many breeders find it easier to tell their puppy
buyers to keep the dog crated when no one is at home than to explain
the process of house training. Italian Greyhounds are lovers of warmth
and can be stubborn about going outside when the weather is cold, wet
or windy, and there is a tendency for owners to just keep them crated
instead of addressing this issue. The most successfully house trained
Italian Greyhounds are the ones that have free access to a dog door
rather than having to learn to ask to go out.
Italian Greyhound FAQ