Italian Greyhound FAQ

By Lilian S. Barber
Author of The Italian Greyhound, 21st Century

SIZE: 13” to 15” at the withers is ideal. Average weight is eight to twelve pounds. Somewhat larger specimens are quite common and make excellent companion dogs.

INDOOR/OUTDOOR REQUIREMENTS: Definitely an “inside dog”. Enjoys some outdoor play and activities like walks on warm days, but this is not a breed that can be left alone to fend for itself in the back yard.

PROTECTION LEVEL: Most IGs will bark an alert warning when someone or something strange approaches. It is not common for them to do more than bark and behave in an agitated manner in the face of danger or threat of danger to their owner or themselves.

ENERGY LEVEL: Quite high for healthy puppies and young dogs. Mature IGs are highly adaptive and responsive to the energy level of their owners.

ATTENTION SPAN: This is a true sighthound in miniature, and the attention span can be short if the dog feels bored. If the owner/trainer can hold the IG’s interest, the attention span can be very good.

LIFE EXPECTANCY: 13 to 15 years is normal. 16 to 18 is not uncommon.

GROOMING REQUIREMENTS: Minimal. Teeth and toenails need regular attention. The coat is so short and fine that a bath is rarely necessary. A quick brushing will easily remove dust and loose dirt.

GOOD WITH CHILDREN: IGs usually have excellent rapport with gentle children who are old enough to understand that this is a living creature and not a plaything that can be manhandled. Since a properly raised IG is not likely to defend itself, it could be injured by a thoughtless child.

FRIENDLY WITH OTHER ANIMALS: Yes, especially if raised with them; but the same holds true as in the interaction of an IG with small children. The IG must be protected from a rambunctious larger animal.

DOMINANCE/SUBMISSION: A single IG is usually submissive. However, in a situation that involves more than two or three IGs or other breeds of similar or smaller size there can be some serious fights for dominance in the pack. IGs are hounds and hounds are pack animals.

TRACTABILITY/TRAINABILITY: Again, these are sighthounds and individuals vary greatly in these characteristics. If they were human they would do better in a liberal arts school than in a military academy. There have been some excellent performers in obedience competition as well as some hopeless ones. Much depends on the trainer’s ability to keep the IG interested. Positive reinforcement training usually works best with this breed.

PERFORMANCE ABILITIES: They do extremely well in Agility, are excellent therapy dogs and some are quite adept at lure coursing, although the latter should be undertaken with some caution. Facilities intended for larger dogs may not be completely safe.

DRAWBACKS: IGs require and demand a great deal of love and attention from their humans. Denied this, they can become shy or hyper or both. They must be properly socialized as puppies. Specimens that are kennel raised under impersonal conditions can have difficult adjusting. If expected to spend much time outdoors they are not suitable for cold climates. IGs are very athletic, and their jumping and climbing ability can get them into trouble. They have little or no traffic sense, and and IG loose in the street is almost destined to be hit. They are hounds and can be quite stubborn.

CHARACTER: Sweet, affectionate, sprightly, gentle and imaginative. Most IGs are one person or one family dogs that want to be physically close to their humans. They can be cordial but not overly demonstrative with strangers. Intelligent and quick to learn things that they want to learn on their own, they may balk at extremely regimented training.

SPECIAL CARE: Sweaters or jackets are required for cold weather. Although the IG is not as delicate as he looks, care must be taken to avoid possible “booby traps” that might cause the dog to incur an accident that could cause a broken leg. Although not likely to run away simply to explore, many IGs would run into the street or even take an incredible leap from a balcony or open window in playful chase of a cat or other small animal —or to follow their masters.

SHEDDING: Minimal. Hair is so short it can hardly be seen on furniture, etc.

HEALTH CLEARANCES: Parent club members are asked to adhere to a code of ethics that includes not breeding specimens that possess any known genetic defect. OFA eye exams and hip clearances, thyroid panels and patella examinations are highly recommended for all breeding stock.

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR PEOPLE WHO have too little time to devote to their dog, who have unruly children, who expect instant and total obedience, who expect their dog to live in a back yard, or who are embarrassed by sharing love with an animal.

MEDICAL PROBLEMS IN THE BREED FOR WHICH TO BE ALERT: Hypothyroidism and other autoimmune problems, PRA (progressive retinal atrophy), some seizure disorders, luxating patellas. None of these is rampant in the breed but all, as well as some other genetic maladies, have been diagnosed in some specimens. A few bloodlines have a predisposition for leg fractures because of lack of bone density.

BRIEFLY, WHAT IS THE MAIN REASON TO LOVE THIS BREED: It’s difficult to be brief about this. I have had IGs for over 50 years and cannot imagine life without them. They are naturally beautiful and clean without expensive or time consuming grooming. They are small enough to fit into any living situation and yet large enough to be real dogs. Considering their small size, they bark rather than yap. Most of all, they have an extremely loving, devoted nature and a scintillating, sometimes unpredictable charm that rarely allows for a dull moment.

OTHER COMMENTS: This is a unique breed that has the ability to completely entrance its devotees, although a few of its whimsical qualities might charm some and be a turnoff for others.