When we saw our first Italian Greyhound in 1995, we had to ask what breed he was. Although there are more Italian Greyhound owners now, IG owners often hear things such as, "What breed is that?," "Is that a Whippet?," "Oh, that's a baby Greyhound", or, as one child asked about my IG, "Is that a baby goat?" Between their small, sighthound appearance and beautiful gait, it is not unusual for cars to slow down while the occupants smile.
Before you increase your smiles by bringing an Italian Greyhound into your home, please be sure to learn about the breed and their needs.
IGs are sighthounds - Italian Greyhounds are the smallest member of the sighthound family so you should expect them to chase movement i.e. squirrels. When they chase, they can reach speeds of up to 25 mph! For this reason, a securely fenced play area is ideal, but adequate exercise can be provided through leashed walks or, once growth plates have closed, jogging. Dog sports such as agility and lure coursing are also an option. I would also recommend teaching your IG a "no chase" followed by a "look at me" command to use when walking him/her to prevent or decrease chasing behavior. My IG is allowed to chase squirrels, birds, etc. in our fenced yard, but not while walking.
IGs are a toy breed - Italian Greyhounds are an AKC registered, toy breed with short, smooth, soft fur. They have no "doggy" odor and, with minimal shedding, are often appropriate for individuals with allergies (always spend time with IGs before acquiring one though). They are tall for their weight, having long, fairly thin legs and therefore, leg breaks can be a possibility, especially during their first two years of life. Is a leg break inevitable? Of course not, but this is a reason that IGs are often not recommended for families with young children. It is important to not overly restrict IGs, since exercise will lead to good muscle tone and stronger bones. Unlike most toy breeds, Italian Greyhounds have a deep bark (as opposed to "yappy") for their size.
IGs do not tend to like rain, wind, or cold weather - Italian Greyhounds can be particular about what weather they find acceptable to go out in. My IG does not like to go outside when it is raining or snowing, but once the precipitation has stopped, he is fine going on walks if dressed appropriately. Depending on the season and where you live, that could be no clothing, a sweater, a light coat, a heavy coat, or even multiple layers with a snood (to cover his ears) and boots (to protect from snow and salt). IGs love to find a patch of sunlight, inside or out, and sunbathe.
IGs often like using litter boxes - Italian Greyhounds, having definite likes and dislikes regarding the weather, often appreciate having an inside litter box. Litter box training an IG can be very successful because the dog is not inclined to sneak off somewhere inside to eliminate when he has a litter box in a nice, warm spot. Having a litter box also means that when your IG is home alone, he has a place to eliminate and does not have to be uncomfortable "holding it" or have an "accident." Do IGs have to be litter boxed trained? No, but it is an option that works for many Italian Greyhounds and their people. If you choose not to use a litter box, an outside sheltered area to use as a potty area in inclement weather would be appreciated by your IG.
IGs need a safe environment - Some Italian Greyhounds need to be protected from their own antics. My first IG was a jumper, liked high spots, liked to explore nooks and crannies, and sometimes thought he could fly. Even IGs that generally stay closer to the ground, need protection. What does this mean in regards to your home decorating? Well, some things to consider might be placing sofas and armchairs against walls so your IG cannot jump off the backs of the furniture; placing area rugs in front of sofas, chairs, and beds to provide a softer landing spot and a non-skid surface; utilize non-skid area rugs in strategic locations so that your IG can regain traction when running; closing in any open-back stairs and putting carpet on the treads; placing gates at the bottom and tops of stairs to restrict access; creating a double entry system at outside doors i.e. front door with a gate at porch entrance, baby barrier with a gate to create a vestibule inside the front door, and considering a product such as the Bow Wow Barrier; using chicken wire or something similar on deck railings that your IG could fit through (this also applies to loft railings); ensure any fenced in outside area has a high enough fence to prevent your IG from jumping over it and that there are no gaps in or under the fence; make sure that fence gates can be securely latched, perhaps only opening from the inside, and consider a double entry system; and, as you would do for a child, puppy/dog-proof your home.
IGs appreciate the opportunity to exercise - I have heard people refer to Italian Greyhounds as high, medium and low energy. The energy level will certainly vary from one IG to another, but most IGs enjoy the opportunity to exercise and, young ones especially, tend to be active. When getting any dog, it is best to take into consideration your level of energy and the energy level of the specific dog that you are considering; the best match being a dog with an equal or lower energy level than yours. If your dog has a higher energy level than you, you may resent providing the necessary exercise or not provide it at all - not a good situation for dog or human. If you desire to have an Italian Greyhound, but are not interested in dealing with high levels of activity, a low to medium energy level IG that is a couple of years old or older might be the best choice. Also, as they get older, many IGs will adapt themselves to their human's lifestyle and activity level, making a senior IG a good companion for someone not wanting an active dog. Appropriate exercise, however, is important to a dog's health at any age.
IGs need an appropriate collar or harness - Due to the structure of the Italian Greyhound's head and neck, standard collars tend to slip off of them, pulling over their heads if they suddenly pull or get excited. This is very important, especially since Italian Greyhounds tend to bolt if suddenly scared. IG owners often feel strongly regarding whether a properly fitting martingdale collar (designed for sighthounds) or harness is best. I have used both with success. The key point is that the martingdale collar or harness must fit properly and, if a harness, designed to be "escape proof."
The following video demonstrates the proper fit for a martingale collar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGPOMx6CaNU
If choosing a harness, the design and fit must be such that the IG cannot, under any circumstance, pull out of it. One recommended harness is the Web Master Harness by Ruffwear. Another is the Reversible Harness Vest by Linda.
IGs are sensitive - Italian Greyhounds are a sensitive breed, very attuned to the actions and tone of voice of their humans. It is not necessary or kind to yell loudly at, or use harsh discipline with, an IG. This breed will not tend to be comfortable in an environment with a high amount of yelling and arguing.
IGs are generally healthy - Italian greyhounds tend to be healthy (many live into their teens), but like any breed of dog, they are prone to certain health conditions. Although your IG might not get any of these conditions, it is beneficial to be aware of, and alert to, any appearance of them. These conditions include idiopathic epilepsy (in many cases the seizures are infrequent and mild); progressive retinal atrophy, an eye disease which eventually leads to blindness; petellar luxation, a condition in which the patella (kneecap) becomes luxated (dislocated) from the groove of the femur (thigh bone) and slips in and out; and color dilute alopecia, hair loss affecting non-white areas of dilute colored dogs (only occurs in a small percentage of dilute-colored IGs). Responsible breeders will screen their breeding dogs for inherited conditions - when considering a breeder, check for screenings such as CERF (eyes) and OFA (patellas).
IGs need their teeth brushed - Italian Greyhounds, as well as many toy dogs, tend to develop periodontal disease without proper dental care. You should plan on brushing your IG's teeth once daily with an enzymatic dog toothpaste.
IGs are trainable - Italian Greyhounds are definitely trainable, whether it be obedience, sport, or trick training. However, they can also be somewhat stubborn when they truly do not want to do something (treats, toys, and praise go along way in convincing them it's what they want to do), and fairly persistent when they do want something (which is where a good relationship and training comes in). I actually think these qualities add to their character and provide many moments of amusement. These moments might even teach you to be more flexible!
IGs want to be with their people - Italian Greyhounds are affectionate and loving, curious about what is happening around them, and notorious for following their people around. They are true companion dogs, curling up next to, or on, you and, if permitted, burrowing under bedcovers. An IG needs your attention to thrive!
If an Italian Greyhound seems right for you, you will certainly increase your smiles by bringing one into your home.
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