Italian Greyhound

For those with noble laps, meet the Italian Greyhound. From Cleopatra to Julius Caesar, just to name drop a few owners of this toy breed, the I.G. is the smallest Gazehound around. Additionally, the I.G happens to be one of the oldest sighthounds as well.

You know their bigger relatives, the Greyhound and Whippet. Although similar in name as well as appearance, the I.G. is a distinct breed.

Fast and agile, many historians assume the breed was a hunting hound of small game. Yet, there is no assumption when it comes to the breed’s history of companionship.

Where does the breed come from and what makes them such a great family dog?

Here is what you need to know about the Italian Greyhound.

History

Couple with the American Kennel Club’s claims and numerous sources citing skeletal remains found of a dog resembling the Italian Greyhound, it is safe to assume this breed is over 2,000 years old. Indeed, many historians cite archeologists discovering the bones of a small dog in Turkey and Greece.

At first, it is safe to believe that the Italian Greyhound was a hunting dog. In fact, there are many drawings that can corroborate these beliefs. 

However, it is Italy that had the most lasting effect on this breed’s development. Much like other kingdoms and countries, the Italians and Romans had a profound love for this dog. Obviously their small size, ability to track and chase gave them great credibility as hunting hounds. But it was their sweet loyalty and affection, that many ruling elites fell in love with. 

Moreover, the Italian Greyhound has a long list of admirers and fandom. Once the breed began spreading outside of Italy, other countries found the Italian Greyhound irresistible. The Queen of Scots, Mary, is said to be one of those admirers from the 16th century. Just as Prince Anne of Denmark did in the late 16th and early 17th century. King Charles also had Italian Greyhounds during the 17th century and Queen Victoria, the ever obsessive dog lover, had some I.G.’s of her own.

It is safe to say that the greatest time to be alive for an Italian Greyhound was during the 1600’s hitherto today. The breed was especially popular and had its greatest development in southern Europe and Italy. England was also beneficial for the breed.

However, you can’t forget America’s role during the 20th century in preserving the breed in Europe by returning them after both world wars. Much like other breeds of dog, the I.G. didn’t fare well during the wars. Although they were and still are popular in Germany as well as Russia.

The first Italian Greyhound in America most likely came in around the 1880’s. In 1886, the American Kennel Club gave the breed official recognition. The United Kennel Club would wait until 1948 to give the Italian Greyhound official recognition.

Today, the breed enjoys its constant role as companion lapdog all around the world. In the United States, according to the American Kennel Club, the I.G. is the 72nd most popular breed.

Size

The Italian Greyhound is a medium energy breed and belongs to the small class size. Both males and female Italian Greyhounds can stand between 13 to 15 inches.

With regards to weight, the breed can weigh from 7 to 14 pounds.

Personality and Temperament

As puppies, and for the most part as adults, the Italian Greyhound is full of life and very playful. A true coursing breed at heart, the I.G. just loves to run and run. And yes, you will have to watch that gardening project of yours with this critter. In essence, this isn’t a couch potato type. Although, as they age, the breed is likely to find relaxing with their family just a tempting. Expect a dog that loves to explore and investigate sight and smell. These are the lovable qualities of a highly active breed when outdoors. However, squirrels and neighboring cats may have their own opinions. 

They aren’t the quietest of all dogs, and do have tendencies to be a bit naughty as pups. The good thing is they do respond well to training. That’s because they are bright, playful, intelligent and looking to make their master happy. 

Of course, for centuries, more like, thousands of years, the Italian Greyhound has given their master something they can cherish forever. That is, affection and plenty of it. The breed looks for close contact with family and loves to form a bond with their people. Whatever way possible, the Italian Greyhound will seek out to garner your attention.

They can excel at many k-9 sports like coursing, agility, luring, and obedience when they aren’t practicing their independent streak. As active outdoors they are, on the inside, the breed is just a big cuddle bug.

Ultimately, a wonderful family companion that does great with other dogs. Older children may find it easier bonding with this dog, especially those sensitive to the dog’s feelings and needs. They may be small but they have big warm hearts, that just want to light up the day for their people.

Health

With general regards, the breed is a healthy dog. Of course, like any other breed, they do have certain issues to be wary about. However, if you buy an Italian Greyhound from a breeder, do your homework. Make sure the breeder is reputable and can provide you with the right paperwork and proper health clearances. It’s always best to keep a close relationship with your veterinarian and be up to date with their vaccinations.

There are some issues that the breed has with their legs. Before the age of two, generally, the Italian Greyhound has a tendency to suffer from broken legs.  They also suffer from the following conditions on occasion: liver shunts, peridontal disease, and problems with their coat pigmentation.

The breed did test well for Hip and Elbow Dysplasia. In fact, the biggest authority for these conditions, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals found .05 dysplastic rate on the I.G. This puts them at 186th on the list out of 319 evaluations along with the Chinese Crested and German Pinscher.

Watch out for a serious orthopedic condition, Patellar Luxation, which is when the knee cap slips out of place or from the groove of the trochlear groove. Furthermore, the OFA ranks the breed 63rd on their survey along with breeds like the Border Terrier, Bloodhound and Bull Terrier with a 2.5 dysplastic rate out of 921 evaluations.

Hypothyroidism is another concern for the breed. This is a lack of hormonal production of the thyroid gland resulting in lethargy, weakness and loss of hair to name a few resulting signs. The OFA ranks the breed 58th along with the Barbet and German Pinscher. The survey claims that only 78.4% of the 487 evaluations had normal thyroid gland levels.

A common condition, which is a progressive degeneration of the rod cells or cones resulting in a failure of those rod cells in the retina, that can lead to complete blindness, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, has been found with the Italian Greyhound. Night blindness, cloudiness of the eye are other signs your dog may suffer from PRA. Collies, Irish Setters, Briards and Labs also have PRA issues.

Legg Calves Perthes disease is a necrosis of the femoral head or disintegration of the hip joint, that often leads to bone and joint inflammation. Arthritis may occur as well. This is common among toy breeds such as the Italian Greyhound. Therapy and surgery may be necessary to treat your dog of this condition.

A bleeding disorder, Von Willebrands, may also occur with this breed.

Care

As puppies, these bad boys are sure to be chasing and running for the finish line. A coursing breed’s finest quirk, you’ll have to be wary of this breed’s chances of prey drive. So, if you have smaller animals like cats or mice, or don’t want them running in the road, get a leash. It also helps having space for this dog. They will bark, and their barks are more vibrant than what you may think. Their size may mislead you into believing the Italian Greyhound is cut out for the apartment life. Although it is possible, they are better off with a bigger backyard.

It also helps to be active and engaging. This is a breed that likes to swim, jump, dig, and chase. Of course, like other breeds, early socialization is a key for this dog’s success. That way, you can bring your I.G. to a dog park or for two short walks per day. Regular exercise will keep this trouble maker out of trouble.

Not the biggest fans of alone time, and it is best you supply the Italian Greyhound either with the adequate amount of attention or a companion. A small dog should suffice their social needs. The heat and cold will spell trouble for this breed. Their bodies don’t respond well to the heat and may suffer some of the effects in dealing with the direct sun.

You’ll want to keep up with their teeth by brushing regularly. You should also check their nails and ears for any type of bacterial infection and nail overgrowth.

This isn’t a low maintenance breed, as far as energy and social requirements concern. If you want an Italian Greyhound, you better be ready for their playful nature. In return, you’ll get a loyal and affectionate dog.

Feeding

The Italian Greyhound doesn’t require a special diet aside from one that is top quality and a balance of healthy food. Of course, how much your I.G. eats depends on their age, activity rate and metabolism. 

Generally, your Italian Greyhound should do fine with a 1/3 to 1/2 cups of food per day. It’s always best to spread that out into two meals per day. This helps reduce the chances of Bloat, a serious condition that can be fatal, just as it can help avoid obesity. The Italian Greyhound should have their own feeding bowl.

Chicken, turkey, fish and beef are fine sources of protein. According to a breeding kennel, Gentle Giant Rescue, the I.G. should get about 9 percent crude fat and 22 percent crude protein. 

As always, you should provide your Italian Greyhound with fresh drinking water.

Coat

Italian Greyhounds are seasonal shedder. Occasional grooming will be necessary for this breed. They do have a short coat, that does shed more than you may think. It should have a glossy finish and should be soft to touch.

According to the standard, the breed has five markings: black mask, blue mask, white marking, white markings and black mask, white marking and blue mask.

There are seventeen color variation, the AKC cites: white and seal, white and sable, white and red fawn, white and red, white and fawn, white and blue fawn, white and blue, white and black, sable, seal, red fawn, red, fawn, cream, black, blue, blue fawn.

Fun Italian Greyhound Facts

  • According to Pravada Report and Piccino Italian Greyhounds, every year in St. Petersburgh, Russia, a holiday celebrating Empress Catherine and her dog, Zemira, is held in honor. The goal of the event is to find the most beautiful hound dog.
  • The Vision of Eustice appears to feature a couple of Italian Greyhounds with their masters and horses hunting game during the 15th century.
  • According to Dogster.com, the Italian Greyhound can run upwards of 40 miles per hour.
  • 1954 was the formation of the Italian Greyhound Club of America.

Closing Words

It is said that the Italian Greyhound is the “toy of the wind,” due to their speed and sighthound abilities. As a Gazehound dog, it’s hard to believe this was once their full time job, as it often takes the back seat, when one thinks of this breed.

That’s because much like the Italians during the Middle Ages, the royal classes from the 16 to 19th century, the Italian Greyhound seems to have been bred to be the ultimate lapdog and companion.