Although often referred to as a "miniature Greyhound," this breed is actually officially recognized as the Italian Greyhound. It is the smallest member of the sighthound's group that includes the Whippet, Greyhound, Saluki, and Borzoi, just to mention a few. Learn some interesting facts about this very refined breed.
Origin and History
The Italian Greyhound is an ancient breed that has been around for more than 2,000 years. There have been artifacts discovered in modern-day Greece and Turkey resembling the remains of small Greyhound breeds. Scientists are unsure of their original purpose, but theorize they may have been small-game hunters in addition to family companions.
They found their way to Italy in the Middle Ages, which is why they are known as Italian Greyhounds today. You can see them in paintings by famous artists, including Giotto di Bondone and Pisanello.
American breeders began to fall in love with the breed in the mid-1800s. The American Kennel Club registered the first of the breed in 1886.
Italian Greyhounds are a type of sighthound that was likely bred to work with hunters. Like most sighthounds, they can be sensitive and timid in new situations, but once they know you, they will be loyal and affectionate companions.
A rather fine-boned, delicate dog, the Italian Greyhound stands approximately 15 inches high at the shoulder and only weighs between 8 and 12 pounds. This gives the animal its lean, elegant look.
The AKC acceptable colors include:
- Blue and tan
White markings on the face, chest, and feet, as well as blue or black masks, are acceptable.
No dog is 100 percent hypoallergenic, but for allergy sufferers, the Italian Greyhound is a good choice. They shed minimally and do not have an undercoat. Some owners may claim they do not shed at all, but it's likely because their hair is so small and fine that it's hard to notice it even when they are shedding.
The Italian Greyhound is by nature a rather quiet and shy creature. Like most sighthounds, they can be sensitive and timid in new situations, but once they know you, they will be loyal and affectionate companions. These dogs tend to do well with their immediate family/pack members, but they are wary of strangers. It's important to socialize them well as puppies to reduce this tendency so they aren't overly anxious about vet trips, spending time with the pet sitter, or meeting other dogs and people at the park.
Due to their fragile nature, they aren't recommended in homes with young children. Their temperament and personality, as well as their size, best suit a home with older children or adults. They do best in homes with another Italian Greyhound to spend time with as they tend to become anxious and develop separation anxiety without their desired amount of attention. Every member of the breed is different, and some may need more attention than others, but if you will be away for any amount of time, having two may be a good idea.
The Italian Greyhound, like other breeds, is responsive to positive reinforcement training. Using rewards, praise, and treats will go a long way. If you employ these methods, obedience training shouldn't be an issue.
Housetraining, on the other hand, can be difficult with the Italian Greyhound. Like other small breeds, they have a hard time holding it until it's time to go potty. You may never be completely successful housetraining this breed and may need a grass square or potty pads. Most dog lovers are unable to handle this and give up on their Italian Greyhound, which is why many end up in shelter organizations.
When they're puppies, Italian Greyhounds require early socialization, which includes exposure to a variety of people, sights, noises, and experiences. This will aid them in their journey of becoming well-rounded adult dogs.
Although these are toy dogs, remember their sporting heritage. These miniature Greyhounds do need regular exercise to keep them physically healthy and, perhaps more importantly, mentally fit. A bored Greyhound can become overly anxious and neurotic. It should also be noted that it's best to keep your pet on a leash in public places because they are apt to run uncontrollably if left to their own devices. This is a natural trait of nearly any sighthound, and it can lead to loss, injury, and even death.
The Italian Greyhound is susceptible to cold, wet weather due to their very short coats, so provide a sweater as needed. Other health concerns include:
- Broken bones: Puppies are more delicate than adult dogs of this breed, although you should be careful with all ages.
- Luxating Patella: When the kneecap slides in and out of place.
- Progressive retinal atrophy: A degenerative eye condition that can lead to blindness.
- Epilepsy: A disorder that causes seizures.
- Hypothyroidism: A condition affecting the thyroid gland often managed with medication.
On average, these dogs can live about 15 years, with some members of the breed living a little longer.
Grooming is a breeze for this breed. The coat is very short, so you mainly need to brush your pet with a soft bristle brush to remove a little loose hair. You can also use a chamois for the same purpose, and it will add a nice shine to the coat. These dogs do shed, but because their hair is short, their shedding will never seem excessive. Bathing is rarely called for, and you can opt for a traditional bath or use pet wipes to get the job done. The nails should be trimmed on a bi-weekly basis.
Fun Facts About the Breed
The Italian Greyhound is an interesting little breed. Some fun facts include:
- They almost went extinct during World War I and II, but fortunately, there were a sufficient number of breeders to begin bringing numbers back up.
- Some scientists believe this breed has been around for up to 7,000 years.
- The Italian Greyhound served as a hunter in ancient Egypt.
- They are extremely in-tune with the tone of your voice.
- Like the Greyhound, they are known for their speed, but require less exercise and are content relaxing on the couch as long as their exercise needs have been met.
Purchasing or Adopting an Italian Greyhound
If you decide to purchase an Italian Greyhound puppy, you should expect to pay as little as $500 and as high as $1,200. Show-quality puppies will cost even more. To find a breeder, start with the Italian Greyhound Club of America, which lists breeders from around the country.
If you prefer to rescue, the Italian Greyhound Rescue Foundation (IGRF) has listings of dogs in the U.S. that need homes. You can also search websites like PetFinder and Save-a-Rescue or contact breed-specific organizations, including:
- Midwest Italian Greyhound Rescue: An organization with more than 20 years of experience rescuing and rehoming Italian Greyhounds of all ages.
- Mid-Atlantic Italian Greyhound Rescue: A part of the IGRF, this organization serves to rescue, rehome, and educate the public about the breed.
- Beyond Italian Greyhound Rescue: This organization rescues purebred members of the breed and helps them find their forever home.
Is this the Breed for You?
The Italian Greyhound is a breed that needs regular exercise and stimulation in order to stay healthy. Without either of these, they can develop anxiety and depression. In order to keep your pet happy and in tip-top shape, you need to be prepared to spend time with them. If you're looking for a breed that is independent, this may not be the breed for you. On the other hand, if you're searching for a breed that will be a loving companion and you're ready to take care of their needs, begin taking the steps necessary to bring one home.