Italian Greyhound, Good Companion Dog

The Italian Greyhound is a small breed of dog of the sight hound type. They are sometimes called an "I.G.", or "Iggy" for short.

Dog Appearance

The Italian Greyhound is the smallest of the sighthounds, typically weighing about 8 to 18 lb (3.6 to 8.2 kg) and standing about 13 to 15 inches (33 to 38 cm) tall at the withers. Though they are in the "toy" group based on their weight, they are larger than other dogs in the category due to their slender bodies, so owners must be careful when sizing clothing or accommodations.

The Italian Greyhound's chest is deep, with a tucked up abdomen, long slender legs and a long neck that tapers down to a small head. The face is long and pointed, like a full sized greyhound. Overall, they look like "miniature" Greyhounds, though many Italian Greyhound owners dispute the use of the term "miniature Greyhound", in reference to the breed itself. By definition of the American Kennel Club - they are true genetic greyhounds, with a bloodline extending back over 2000 years. Their current small stature is a function of selective breeding. Their gait is distinctive and should be high stepping and free, rather like that of a horse. They are able to run at top speed with a double suspension gallop, and can achieve a top speed of up to 25 miles per hour (40 km/h).

The color of the coat is a subject of much discussion. For The Kennel Club (UK), the American Kennel Club, and the Australian National Kennel Council, parti colored Italian Greyhounds are accepted, while the Fédération Cynologique Internationale standard for international shows allows white only on the chest and feet.

The modern Italian Greyhound's appearance is a result of breeders throughout Europe, particularly Austrian, German, Italian, French and British breeders, making great contributions to the forming of this breed. The Italian Greyhound should resemble a small Greyhound, or rather a Sloughi, though they are in appearance more elegant and graceful.

Dog Temperament
The Italian Greyhound is affectionate and makes a good companion dog. The breed is excellent for families and enjoys the company of people. While they are excellent with children, the breed's slim build and short coat make them somewhat fragile, and injury can result from rough or careless play with children under the age of 12.

Because they are sight hounds and love to run, Italian Greyhound must never be walked outside off-leash. Even well-trained Italian Greyhounds are known to bolt into traffic despite their owner's commands to stop.

The dog breed is equally at home in the city or the country. They are fast, agile and athletic. Like any dog, daily exercise is a must for a happier, well-adjusted pet. Italian greyhounds love to run. The young dog is often particularly active, and this high level of activity may lead them to attempt ill-advised feats of athleticism that can result in injury. Due to their size, and in some lineages poor bone density, they are prone to broken legs which can be expensive to repair. They enjoy running as fast as they possibly can, typically faster than other larger dogs, at around 25 miles per hour.

In general the Italian Greyhound is intelligent, but they often have a "what's in it for me" attitude and do not exactly throw themselves into training with great excitement, so patience, firmness, gentleness, and reward in training seem to work best. They are also known for their mischievous ingenuity; despite a high center of gravity, they can easily walk upright on their hind legs to reach items up on tables. They may also use their 'hidden talent' of jumping to unusual heights to reach high-up items of interest to them, including leaping atop kitchen countertops from the floor.

Italian Greyhounds make reasonably good watchdogs, as they bark at unfamiliar sounds. They may also bark at passers-by and other animals. However, they should not be considered "true" guard dogs as they are often aloof with strangers and easily spooked to run. They often get along well with other dogs and cats they are raised with.

Due to their slim build and extremely short coat, Italian Greyhounds are at times reluctant to go outside in cold or wet weather, so some owners lay old newspaper on the floor near an exit so their pets can relieve themselves. Some respond well to dog-litter training as well. This breed tends to gravitate to warm places, curl up with other dogs or humans, or burrow into blankets and under cushions for warmth. Some smaller Italian Greyhounds are adept at burrowing into difficult places (e.g. pillowcases, laundry baskets containing warm clothes) as the breed has a strong affinity for warmth. Care must be taken near heat sources, such as fireplaces, baseboard heaters and electric space heaters as the dog may choose to sit dangerously close to them, especially during winter when ambient indoor temperatures are generally lower.

As gazehounds, Italian Greyhounds instinctively hunt by sight and have an extremely high predator drive. Owners of Italian Greyhounds typically keep their dogs leashed at all times when not in an enclosed area to avoid the risk of even a well-behaved pet breaking away at high speed after a small animal. Also, a short leash is highly suggested to owners due to reports of animals breaking their own necks when running a full lead mounted to the ground or a wall. Sometimes a dog harness is a good option; since the IG has a tapering neck and small head, they can often "slip" their collar and leash. Because of their frame, it is important to select a harness especially designed for this breed; a regular harness could dislocate their shoulder. This can also be used to avoid the above-mentioned neck injury if your dog is prone to bolting. It also gives the dog the freedom of a long leash.

Owners of Italian Greyhounds should be extremely mindful of any unknown dogs, no matter what size, because Italian Greyhounds can be extremely territorial, and may even "have a go" at any larger unknown dogs on their property.

Dog Grooming

Dogs of this breed have an extremely short and almost odorless coat that requires little more than an occasional bath, but a wipe-down with a damp cloth is recommended after walks as seeds, burrs and floating dust in the air can get into the coat and irritate the skin. Shedding is typical as of other dog breeds, but the hair that is shed is extremely short and fine and is easily vacuumed.

Dog Health

Health problems that can be found in the breed:
  • Epilepsy
  • Legg-Perthes disease (degeneration of the hip)
  • Patellar Luxation (slipped stifles)
  • von Willebrand disease (vWD) (Bleeding disorder)
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
  • Color dilution alopecia (hair loss in dilute pigmented dogs, i.e.: blues, blue fawns, etc)
  • Leg Breaks (most common under the age of 2)
  • Cataracts
  • Vitreous degeneration
  • Liver shunts
  • Autoimmune hemolytic anemia
  • Periodontal disease, gum recession, early tooth loss, bad tooth enamel
  • Hypothyroidism, Autoimmune Thyroid Disease (Hashimoto's disease)

Responsible breeders will routinely check their dogs for the onset of various inherited disorders, these commonly include (but are not limited to): CERF examinations on eyes, OFA patellar examinations, OFA thyroid function panels, von Willebrand's factor, OFA hip and Legg-Perthes disease x-rays, and others.In research by the Ortheopedic Foundation for Animals, the Italian Greyhound was found to be the least affected by hip dysplasia out of 157 breeds. Tests were conducted on 169 individual Italian Greyhounds, of which none were found to have hip dyplasia and 59.2% scored excellent on their hip evaluations.

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