The Italian Greyhound is proof that great things come in small packages. As the miniature version of the Greyhound, they have catlike reflexes and lightning-fast speed. However, they’re most content cuddling up with their owners on the couch, especially if they have a warm lap to lay in. That being said, they are also an athletic breed. These dogs were bred as sighthounds, and many of them still take on hunting duties.
Italian Greyhounds are easier to handle than their regular-sized counterparts given their smaller size. They’re also pretty easy to groom and very affectionate and warm in temperament. However, they can be sensitive and prone to separation anxiety. For that reason, they are best in homes that will give them attention. It’s imperative that their family can attend to all of their needs.
Let’s explore everything you need to know about the fantastic Italian Greyhound (IG or Iggy for short). If you plan on bringing home one of these dogs to welcome into your life, you must do your research to make sure that you are adequately prepared to care for them in the best way possible.
We have outlined the breed history, their temperament, appearance, plus all the different things you need to know about caring for them, from common health issues to grooming. We’ll also tell you how to get an IG of your very own.
The Italian Greyhound is the smallest of all the sighthounds, bred for the purpose of helping out on the hunt some 4,000 to 7,000 years ago. Truly, they are one of the most ancient dog breeds in existence. Despite their name, their origins go as far back as ancient Egypt, where mummified remains of dogs similar could be found buried alongside the pharaohs.
While they were useful for hunting small game, they were bred for companionship— fit enough to be in the company of the kings of that time. Further archaeological evidence puts them closer to the present, around 2,000 years ago, where present-day Greece and Turkey are located. This was around the time that the Roman Empire held significant power over the region of the Mediterranean. Italian Greyhounds found great popularity in that area, and held it very long after. They were used as subjects of ancient art pieces, as a testament to their grace and beauty.
By the Middle Ages (from 5th Century to 15th Century CE), Italian Greyhounds found widespread fame in Southern Europe, including Italy. They came to get the “Italian” part of their name because of their popularity among the Italian nobility. It was quite fashionable to own smaller variations of larger dog breeds at that point in time. These dogs and other similar miniature dogs found themselves in the laps of the highest members of society. They continued their work as artists’ muses, finding themselves depicted in everything from playing cards, to paintings, to illuminated manuscripts.
It is said that during the 19th Century, there were attempts to shrink the Italian Greyhound even further by breeding them with English Toy Terriers. This caused damage to the breed as it weakened their gene pool. The ailments that came with frailer bodies truly made life for IGs difficult. In the year 1900, the Italian Greyhound Club formed and tried to bring the breed back to its original form. It was thanks to the conservation efforts of Iggy enthusiasts in the United States and Canada that the breed was able to thrive again, as populations in those areas hadn’t dwindled as badly as they had in Europe.
The American Kennel Club registered its first Italian Greyhound in the year 1886. Today, it is the 69th most popular breed in America, according to the AKC’s 2020 popularity poll. This breed may have come a long way from being pampered in the laps of the nobility, but they still find much renown today.
This small, toy-sized dog is peppy and submissive towards their owner. They have an eager to please personality, which makes them agreeable to be around. Provided that you can train them early enough in their life, they will be happy to listen to you give them commands.
They can be very playful, but are generally more content to be lazy. Giving them something to do in the home, like hanging out with their family, or playing with a toy, can really help to keep this breed well behaved. This laid-back nature makes it easy for many different people to care for them, including novice dog owners.
IGs definitely have a very sensitive nature, so be sure that you aren’t unkind to them. They can be very timid when they get nervous, and will need a patient and loving owner to be good to them. This gentleness is what makes them such good family companions.
They are very sweet dogs who will take well to children and other pets in the family. However, since they are hunting dogs, it may not be a good idea to keep small pets in the house, like birds and rabbits, as they may see them as prey. You don’t want your Iggy to be causing terror by chasing them around the house.
Beyond all this, your Italian Greyhound is a very affectionate and loving dog who will be happy to rest in the laps of their family members. They will need more attention than most other dogs, and as such may develop separation anxiety if they are left alone for too long.
Italian Greyhounds do a good job of alerting their family to new people in their midst. They have keen senses and will be able to notify you via a few good barks if you have visitors. This makes them a good choice for a watchdog. They are happy to meet new people as long as they aren’t over-eager to greet the dog. These dogs are fairly obedient and will do a good job of following commands when given them. For this reason, they’ve found success as therapy dogs, as well as in more athletic pursuits such as lure coursing.
Size and Appearance
The Italian Greyhound is similar to the Greyhound, but more slender. Since they are quite small dogs, there is very little discrepancy between the size of a male and female IG. Both males and females stand anywhere between 13 to 15 inches at the shoulder, and weigh 7 to 14 pounds. This lithe structure allows for fast running speed, given how highly aerodynamic their bodies are.
An Italian Greyhound’s head is narrow and long, tapering down to the nose. Their muzzle is long and fine, and the nose is dark– either brown or black depending on the color of the dog. They have medium-sized eyes that are dark, bright, and intelligent. The AKC does not allow very light eyes. The ears are small, thrown back, and folded. This is except when they are alert, they are then carried folded at right angles to the head.
The body is slender with a curved back. The necks are long and gracefully arched, making normal dog collars a challenge. So a harness or martingale collar is recommended for these slender necked pups. Their shoulders are long and sloping, and their chest is deep and narrow. Forelegs and hindlegs both allow for a great amount of power in running. Forelegs are straight and long, with strong pasterns. Their hindquarters are long, with muscular thighs. IG’s tail is slender and tapers to a curved end, long enough to reach the hind leg hocks.
Coat and Colors
You can expect Italian Greyhounds to have a thin coat, with short hair all over the body. The coat is smooth, fine, and allows them to be groomed fairly easily. Since they have thin coats, they are not suitable for colder temperatures as they can freeze very easily. Be sure to keep them warm when the winter comes. Despite the lack of coat density, they still shed, and are thus not hypoallergenic.
AKC standard allows the Italian Greyhound to come in most any color. This is with the exception of the brindle patterning, where dark flecks of color are present on a tawny coat. Black and tan markings indicative of being bred with other black and tan dogs are also not allowed. Some colors the Italian Greyhound can come in are gray, fawn, blue, silver, black, cream, red, and white. You may also see any combination of these colors, especially when mixed with white.
Despite being one of the fastest runners among all dog breeds, Italian Greyhounds do not have very high energy requirements. They will much prefer going out on walks with you at a leisurely pace rather than doing anything too strenuous. Still, be sure that when you go out, your “Iggy” is on a leash as they can very quickly outrun you. You don’t want to risk them getting lost, so be sure to do your leash training with them as soon as possible.
Your IG may be small, but they still have a high prey drive. Since they are susceptible to chase smaller animals they may see outdoors, it’s important that the yard that they spend time in is very well fenced. They are also prone to wanderlust, so you really must make sure that they are safe while hanging out outdoors.
You should also give them plenty of toys to play with to keep them occupied when they are at home and not doing anything else. This helps keep them mentally and physically stimulated so that they are on their best behavior. As long as you can meet these needs, you can count on your Italian Greyhound to be a good fit for apartment living. They will be fine living in urban as well as more rural areas.
Due to their short coat, Italian Greyhounds do not tolerate cold weather very well. During the winter, you should give your dog a nice sweater or jacket so they can still enjoy going out for walks. Your home must be well equipped with a heater so that your dog does not get chilly. Iggys enjoy warmer weather, though you should still give them a lot of shade and water in the summer months. Be sure to keep them indoors with a fan or air conditioning to help them stay cool on very hot days.
Training Italian Greyhounds should be fairly easy. However, you must do what you can to be kind to them during training. If you encounter any stubbornness from your dog, do your best to guide them patiently, but with firmness and confidence. By establishing your role as their leader, you can help them understand that you are someone to be taken seriously. You should begin obedience training from the moment they come home with you for the first time.
You will find training your dog to be a lot easier if you establish a good rapport with them first. The best way to do this is to include plenty of positive reinforcement in your training with them. This will get you great results as long as you compensate them with pets, praise, and treats. Positive reinforcement will do wonders in helping your dog stay motivated during training even if it is difficult.
After you have established the rapport needed to succeed, and obedience training is finished, you can then move on to more complicated tricks. Your Italian Greyhound will be especially adept at competitive agility and lure coursing, so it’s a good idea to let them try this too.
It’s important to socialize this tiny sighthound because they are prone to becoming nervous around new people. Just like with obedience training, socialization should begin from the moment that they come home with you for the first time. Exposing them to new people, animals, places, and situations, at a pace that is healthy, will do great for their personal development.
Just in case they are still timid around other members of the family, it may be a good idea to take a few weeks to introduce them slowly, and keep them separated when necessary. This is especially true with adopted Italian Greyhounds. It may be a good idea to enroll your dog in puppy kindergarten classes to teach them how to behave around other dogs. It does great for their self-esteem and may lead to fewer mishaps when dealing with other dogs in the home.
IGs have a lifespan ranging from 12 to 15 years. If you take good care of your dog’s health, you will be able to make the most of those years that you have together. In many cases, you may even extend the time that they have with you.
Like all dogs, Italian Greyhounds are still susceptible to illness. By being proactive, you can make a difference in the quality of your dog’s life. This will also help you know how to report to your veterinarian in case any symptoms show up. We have listed three of the most common diseases that affect your Iggy below.
Italian Greyhounds are susceptible to periodontal disease because of how large their mouths are. This can range anywhere from gingivitis to loss of tooth structure. You can usually spot periodontal disease if your dog exhibits bad breath or their gums are red and puffy and bleed during tooth brushing and eating. More seriously, gum recession, loose teeth, tooth root exposure, missing teeth, and pus oozing from around the gums are worse signs.
You can prevent periodontal disease from progressing by brushing your dog’s teeth regularly. You can also have them professionally cleaned so that all the plaque and tartar above and below the gum line is scaled off. Periodontal disease beyond gingivitis isn’t reversible, but you can prevent it from getting worse with the correct measures.
Patellar luxation is an illness where your dog’s knee cap is removed from its regular place in the groove of their thigh bone. This condition can be difficult to spot unless it has already progressed to the point of discomfort or pain for your dog. You may see Italian Greyhounds exhibiting hind leg lameness, trying to kick in an attempt to “pop” the kneecap back into its normal place. You have to address this condition as soon as you can, as this can often progress to degenerative arthritis, which can be extremely painful to your dog. Your veterinarian may suggest surgery as treatment, as regular medical treatment may not be able to alleviate the situation.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Your IG may develop progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) later on in their life. If it develops earlier, it is called retinal dysplasia, where the retinal cells do not develop properly. PRA occurs with the degradation of the retina, which can lead to partial or complete vision loss. While the condition is not painful, it will be difficult for your dog to get used to blindness. It is not reversible, but you should still consult with your veterinarian to see ways in which you can manage the condition.
If you want your Italian Greyhound to be healthy all throughout their life, you will need to give them a well-balanced diet. Good nutrition is the foundation of good health in every living being, and your Iggy is no exception. You will need to give your dog the right nourishment from a small-breed specific dog food to develop a healthy body and mind.
Puppyhood is the most important developmental stage of every dog’s life. When the adult and senior years come, the focus of nutrition will shift to maintaining their healthy body and overall vitality. You must give your dog food that is appropriate for their life stage no matter which point of life they may be in.
It’s a good idea to stay away from food that advertises itself as being for “all life stages”. Each life stage has very different needs, and cannot possibly be addressed by just one dog food. Avoid products that contain artificial ingredients as well, since this can be detrimental to your dog’s health.
Your dog’s portion sizes will depend on several different factors, namely age, size, and activity level. Since these sighthounds don’t require a lot of exercise, they will not need to eat as much as many other dogs in their breed size. This, of course, is dependent on them not engaging in strenuous sports like lure coursing and competitive agility. Your IG puppy will need nutrient-dense food to help them grow a healthy body and their portion sizes should change as they grow up.
In adulthood, dogs will need more food portion-wise, though the food will not be as calorie-dense as it used to be. Senior dogs need less food than adult dogs but will need plenty of protein to keep their muscles strong. Your veterinarian can help you decide on portion sizes so that you can give your dog the amount of food they need throughout their life. Feeding your dog too much food can lead to obesity, which paves the way for plenty of preventable diseases.
If you find your dog has developed pickiness, then you must address this immediately. You must be more firm about their eating times. Try leaving their food out for 30 minutes. If they refuse to eat, take it away until it is time for the next meal. This helps your dog understand that their food is not always going to be available to them. This gives them a sense of urgency and will prompt them to eat their food on time. You can also add wet food into the dry kibble to make it more palatable for them.
Even though their hair is short, it’s unfortunate that Italian Greyhounds shed a good amount. This makes them ill-suited for allergy sufferers. Since they shed so much, you may need to brush your dog daily to get rid of the excess fur. The best tool for this is a rubber curry brush. This is hardly a hassle given how small your dog is and they tend to enjoy the massage that comes with it too.
You do not need to bathe your IGs too often. Only whenever they get dirty. If you find them needing a bath, use a mild shampoo and warm water. Since Italian Greyhounds do not do well with the cold, it’s important that are bathed with water that is a comfortable temperature. Rinse your dog well, leaving no soap residue behind. Otherwise, this may cause skin irritation. In between baths, you can use a wet wipe to get any excess dirt off.
Do your best to clean your IG’s ears regularly, as this helps to prevent infection. You can wipe away excess wax and debris with a cotton pad moistened with an ear cleaning solution from your vet.
Since they do a lot of running around, their nails may wear down on their own. If they do not, it’s a good idea to trim them at least once a month. This will help prevent splitting, cracking, and injury.
Lastly, because this breed is prone to bad dental health, be sure to take very good care of your Iggy’s teeth. Use a toothbrush and toothpaste meant specifically for dogs, and brush your dog’s teeth at least three times a week. This will help their breath smell fresh and will remove tartar and plaque.
Using basic obedience commands can really make the bathing process much easier, especially for the sensitive Italian Greyhound. Since this is supposed to be a soothing experience, be sure to be gentle and calm during their grooming. As you kindly guide them, it will help them get used to the situation, and look forward to future grooming sessions together.
Breeders and Puppy Costs
Adopting an Italian Greyhound from a reputable source is one of the best ways to bring this fantastic dog into your life. However, you should always be careful and do your research because there are plenty of bad breeders out there. These unscrupulous breeders have set up puppy mills where they only care about profit. They do not take any consideration for the dog that they rear. There is little access to fresh air, food, and water. And many of these dogs are abused. These terrible, unsanitary operations should not be given any business, as they do not have any respect for the dogs and puppies that come out of there.
Conversely, there are many breeders who love and respect their IGs. You will easily see this if your breeder is enthusiastic about the breed and encourages you to see where the puppies are kept. They will be homed in a place that is comfortable and clean, with many different toys they can play with. Food and water are easily accessed, and there is plenty of fresh air.
Good breeders will also be happy to let you get to know your puppy in the few weeks before they are brought home. This makes for a better transition into home life. They will gladly answer any questions that you may have about the breed, as well as all of the important things you need to know about raising a new puppy. They will also have done the tests, deworming, and vaccinations necessary for a clean bill of health, and will provide you with the necessary certification.
If you are looking to bring home an Italian Greyhound, and need a resource for a good breeder, there are several different places that you can look. You can start by asking your veterinarian to see if they have any leads. You can also visit dog shows to get more information, especially from people who have their own beloved Iggys. This will also get you in touch with the local dog lover community, which is always a good idea.
There are also plenty of forums and social media sites online full of people who may be able to help you. Lastly, the AKC has a fantastic resource on their website for breeder referrals. Expect to pay around $1,400 to $2,000 for this prized pup, with show-quality dogs costing more.
Rescues and Shelters
While adopting a dog from a reputable breeder is always a good idea, we recommend that our readers first look into adopting from shelters versus adopting from a breeder. It’s possible to find an Italian Greyhound among the dogs at a rescue, so don’t let this deter you. Many of the dogs who are up for adoption are older dogs or dogs with special needs. This makes them less adaptable than many other younger, “normal” dogs. We urge you to try to give these dogs another chance at life since they will only need love and care to get back to living a happy life.
When picking out an Italian Greyhound at the shelter, be sure to ask the staff everything you need to know about your dog, since they know what goes into their best care. Understanding their temperament and knowing how best to give them their special needs can really make all the difference in having a harmonious home life together. This will help you give your dog the best life possible since there is little guesswork left to do.
Remember that your Italian Greyhound is a very sensitive dog. This is doubly so if they are from a shelter. Be patient with your furry friend and allow them to get used to their new home in their own time. They are likely to be scared of being in a new environment, and will thus be timid around the people and animals they have to get to know. This time is very stressful for them, so be sure to allow them to go at their own pace, and simply love them as gently as you can. Treat them well, with kindness and respect, and they will be back to their old selves in no time at all.
As Family Pets
Here is a summary of Italian Greyhounds. They are:
- Used to being great companions, since they have been the beloved companion dogs of royalty and nobility for centuries.
- Very gentle dogs that are kind and sensitive. This makes them a great fit for many different families, even those with children and other pets.
- However, they’re prone to chase other animals around and likely cause harm.
- Small in size, but big in cuddle potential. They will happily lay in their beloved humans’ laps.
- Known to have separation anxiety if left by themselves for too long. This can result in weakened mental health and destructive behavior.
- Low-energy, allowing them to be happy living in an apartment, as long as they have something to occupy them.
- Easy and do not need a lot of exercise, but still need a daily walk to help them burn off any excess energy.
- Susceptible to a few different health issues you should be aware of. One of the biggest concerns involves not over exercising them; too vigorous activity could lead to injury.
- Not adaptable to colder weather because of their thin coats. So they should wear a sweater or jacket to keep them warm outdoors during the winter.
- Shedders, but this is easily managed with daily brushing with a rubber curry brush.
- Easy to maintain and do not require a lot of bathing. When groomed, only use warm water and a mild dog shampoo.
These dogs may be little, but they have huge hearts and a lot of love to give. While you may run into trouble raising a new dog, we believe that the bond that you will foster with your Iggy will be more than worth it. Since your dog will be very devoted to you, you must return that devotion with all the love and care you can muster. This way, they can live their very best life, and you can enjoy all the time you have together.
Italian Greyhounds are wonderful dogs who are sweet and gentle, and more than eager to be your very best furry friend. Enjoying the life that you share together ensures that your dog is enjoying themselves too. Using the knowledge gained from this guide, you should be well on your way to giving your dog the best care they deserve. You’ll find this adorable little dog running their way into your heart faster than you think.