Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Italian Greyhound
Average Cost to keep/care for a Italian Greyhound
The Italian Greyhound is the smallest of the "sight" hounds and they were once the preferred dog of royals and nobility. There are some people who believe the mummified remains of similar dogs found in ancient Egyptian tombs may well be the breed's ancestors. They are fragile looking dogs being a much smaller version of their larger Greyhound cousins. Today, they are popular choice with people both here in the UK and elsewhere in the world as companions due to their charming, delicate looks and affectionate, loving natures.
It was the Romans who bought these small hounds with them to other areas of Europe as they marched across the lands during the 6th century BC. It is thought the Italian Greyhound was developed some 4000 years ago in countries we now know as Greece and Turkey, a theory that is helped by decorative arts from this period in history and the skeletal remains of small greyhound-type animals found in these regions of the world. There are mummified dogs found in the tombs of Pharaohs in Ancient Egypt which are thought to be the ancestors of the breed although this is yet to be proved.
Later during the 16th and 17th century, the hounds were often seen in many courts both in Europe and here in the UK, with Mary Queen of Scots and Charles I both owning them. Often depicted by the masters in their paintings, the Italian Greyhound although often used to hunt rabbits, were in the main really bred as companion dogs.
Miniature dogs were held in high esteem by Italians in the Renaissance period and the breed spread further south as its popularity grew throughout the land. The Italian Greyhound as a breed suffered when unscrupulous breeders attempted to cross them with smaller dogs with an end goal being to create even smaller greyhounds. Fortunately, the breed was saved by enthusiasts who through careful and selective breeding managed to rescue these lovely dogs from the brink of extinction. Today, the Italian Greyhound remains a popular choice as companions all over the world, including here in the UK thanks to their adorable looks and kind, loyal natures.
Height at the withers: Males 33 - 38 cm, Females 33 - 38 cm
Average weight: Males 3.6 - 8.2 kg, Females 3.6 - 8.2 kg
The Italian Greyhound is a smaller version of their larger Greyhound cousins, being slender and delicate, yet larger than other toy breeds. They have long, flat and narrow heads with dogs only having a slight stop. Their muzzles are fine and long with dark coloured noses. They have large eyes with a kind expression in them. Ears are rose shaped and well set back on a dog's head being fine to the touch and which are never pricked. The Italian Greyhound has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Their necks are long which dogs hold gracefully arched. Shoulders are long and sloping with these fine dogs having straight front legs that are well set under their shoulders.
These little dogs have deep and narrow chests with a nice length to their ribs and brisket. Their backs are slightly arched over their loins and their hindquarters are lean yet powerful with well-muscled thighs and straight, strong back legs. Feet are very hare-like in appearance and their tails are set low being long and fine which dogs carry low.
When it comes to their coat, the Italian Greyhound boasts hair that fine, short and extremely glossy with their skin being supple and fine. The accepted breed colours are as follows:
The Italian Greyhound is a very good choice as a companion dog and loves nothing more than being in the company of people. However, because the breed is so slender and delicate care should be taken when handling them as they can injure easily. A home with older people or no children would be best for IGs because they prefer a quieter and calmer lifestyle. They are highly adaptable by nature and are just at home living in towns as they are in a country environment.
The Italian Greyhound is an athletic, albeit fragile and delicate looking dog. They like nothing better than to run "free" in a safe and well enclosed area. However, care needs to be taken and dogs should only be allowed to run off their leads where the land is flat and safe for them to do so because Italian Greyhounds boast having fragile bones which can easily break if they run over rough ground.
They tend to be rather aloof and wary of people they do not know, but would rarely show any sort of aggressive behaviour towards a stranger, preferring to just keep their distance. With this said, an IG would soon let an owner know when there are any strangers around. They boast a very strong prey drive and being sight hounds, it would be a mistake to let an Italian Greyhound off their leads in areas where they are small animals and livestock.
In a home environment, the Italian Greyhound is a loving and affectionate character and they love to snuggle up to their owners whenever they can. They are known to take a little time to bond with an owner, but once an IG does, the bond remains extremely strong throughout their lives. It cannot be stressed enough the importance of socialising puppies as early as possible in order for an IG to mature into a more outgoing and confident character.
They are very intelligent little dogs and are quick to pick new things up which means both the good and the bad. As such they need to be trained and handled with a firm, yet fair and gentle hand in order to get the best results.
The Italian Greyhound is an intelligent little dog, but they often use this to their own advantage to get their own way. They are known to be a little hard to housetrain, but with perseverance and a lot of understanding it is possible to teach an IG to do their business outside. Being sight hounds, it can be challenging to teach these dogs the "recall" command which is why their training has to start early and it has to be consistent bearing in mind that even the best trained IG might well ignore to respond to an owner if they have spotted something in the distance they find more interesting.
Italian Greyhounds are very sensitive dogs by nature and as such do not respond well to any sort of harsh correction or heavy handed training methods. They do answer well to positive reinforcement as long as their training is fair and consistent throughout their lives. However, it would be a mistake to let an IG off their leads anywhere near livestock or small animals no matter how well trained and responsive they are.
Italian Greyhounds are known to be calm, placid dogs by nature. They are very gentle characters rarely showing any sort of aggressive behaviour. However, they are not a good choice for people with young families because these little dogs prefer living in a quiet environment because noise tends to stress them out.
They are generally good around other dogs especially if they have been well socialised from a young age. However, care has to be taken when an Italian Greyhound is anywhere near smaller animals and pets because they will see them as fair game thanks to the breed's high prey drive.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of an Italian Greyhound is between 12 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the Italian Greyhound is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active and good looking dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, Italian Greyhounds need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Italian Greyhounds are low maintenance when it comes to keeping their coats tidy and their skin in good condition thanks to their coats being so short. However, it is best to give them a brush at least twice a week as this allows you to check for injuries and skin issues that may be flaring up. They do shed throughout the year, but like other breeds they tend to shed more during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent brushing may be necessary to keep on top of things.
They are known to suffer from quite a few dental issues, as such it's really important for dogs to have their teeth cleaned and checked on a regular basis. It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
Although small in stature, the IG needs to be given the right amount of physical exercise every day for them to be truly happy, well-rounded and healthy dogs. As such they need at least 40 to 60 minutes a day. A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. Halters and leads work best on the delicate IG as they spread the pressure across a dog's chest and shoulders rather than around their necks.
These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these lively and athletic little dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, IG puppies should not be given too much exercise because their joints and bones are very fragile and too much pressure on them could result in a dog breaking one. They should not be allowed to jump up or off furniture nor should they be allowed to run up and down the stairs because this puts too much pressure on their still growing joints and could end up with an IG breaking a bone.
If you get an Italian Greyhound puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again. It's also important that puppies be fed frequently throughout the day because they are susceptible to developing hypoglycemia.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
If you are looking to buy an Italian Greyhound, you would need to pay anything from £700 to over £1000 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Italian Greyhound in northern England would be £21.20 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £41.22 a month (quote as of May 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £20 - £30 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with an Italian Greyhound and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £900 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for an Italian Greyhound would be between £50 to £80 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree puppy.
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