Italian Greyhound Breed Guide

Italian Greyhounds are slender and small dogs with fine skin and short, satin, glossy coats. Their coats can come in any color, except brindle and the classic black and tan. These dogs have dark, bright, medium-sized eyes and small ears. Their muzzles are long and their noses are dark. Italian Greyhounds range in size from 13 to 15 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 7 to 15 pounds.

Italian Greyhounds do not like the cold and should be protected with a sweater or other covering when outside in winter.

Intelligent, friendly, and playful, Italian Greyhounds enjoy spending time with their human family members and love lots of affection and attention. They are gentle with children and make excellent companions for families. However, these dogs are active and require time every day for walks and runs. While their small size may make them suitable for apartment living, their high exercise needs mean they benefit from a house with a yard, especially if their human family is too busy to take them for regular walks on a leash.

Italian Greyhounds are sensitive and gentle, devoted to their human family members, and very affectionate. These dogs form very strong bonds with their loved ones, but they are often reserved, or even timid, around strangers. The breed gets along well with other pets, but is easily injured by rough play with small children and other dogs. They are very adaptable and do well in small apartments and large homes.

These dogs are more energetic than most people realize when adopting or purchasing them. They need time outside every day, preferably in a warm climate. Italian Greyhounds do not like the cold and should be protected with a sweater or other covering when outside in winter. The breed loves playing games with its family, and tug of war is a favorite. Of course, these dogs also enjoy stalking and chasing real or pretend prey, and should therefore always be contained in a securely fenced yard when outdoors unsupervised.

Most Italian Greyhounds are outgoing, but a few may be shy and puppies tend to be more reserved than adults. These dogs need time to warm up to unfamiliar people. An overly shy or suspicious dog is not normal, however.

Italian Greyhounds are known to suffer from a number of health conditions that negatively affect length or quality of life. Common health problems in the breed include periodontal disease, hypothyroidism, epilepsy, deafness, leg fractures, and patellar luxation. Progressive retinal atrophy, a serious eye disorder, and several other eye conditions, including glaucoma and cataracts, are also known to affect the breed.

These dogs are also prone to a skin problem known as color mutant alopecia. Additionally, they may suffer from various testicular disorders and are at increased risk for von Willebrand's disease, a bleeding disorder. Also of note: Italian Greyhounds are sensitive to barbiturates and anesthesia and are prone to tail fractures.

Routine veterinary care, proper nutrition, regular exercise, timely vaccinations, and prompt attention to health problems help ensure these dogs live a long life of up to 15 years.

Generally, Italian Greyhounds are easy to train. However, the breed definitely has a stubborn and defiant side that can make it challenging for some trainers. Fortunately, the breed is highly intelligent, very neat, and fairly well behaved, which takes some of the pressure off training. However, early training is still very important to ensure a tolerant and calm adult dog.

Barking and nipping are not usually a problem with these dogs as with some other small breeds, but Italian Greyhounds may be resistant to housetraining. Consistent, gentle training and established (and enforced) routines are key for getting these dogs to go when and where they should. Punishment and harsh criticism will not help and may actually delay housetraining. To improve success rates, keep training sessions short. These dogs have very short attention spans.

Early socialization can help reduce some of the natural shyness seen in this breed and make them more tolerant toward strangers and other animals. Starting from just a couple months of age, these dogs should be exposed to a variety of sights, sounds, smells, and people.

Italian Greyhounds are one of the easiest dogs to groom. Their short, fine coats are resistant to mats and tangles and need minimal care. An occasional brushing to remove loose and dead hair is generally sufficient, with more frequent brushing if shedding is a problem. In most cases, standard grooming is enough to control shedding in this breed.

Bathing is only necessary before dog shows or if the Italian Greyhound has rolled around in something stinky or sticky. Otherwise, an occasional rubdown with a cloth will remove any dust and loose dirt and shine the coat. Because these dogs have such fine skin, it's important to use only pH-balanced shampoos designed for use specifically on dogs.

The teeth need daily brushing to prevent cavities and gum disease, and the nails need trimming every few weeks to prevent snagging and breaking. Weekly ear examinations to check for signs of infection, such as redness, odor, pain, or discharge, are important and can be combined with removal of excess ear wax, if necessary. It is essential to clean the outer ears with a cotton ball and a veterinarian-approved otic cleanser. Cleaning deep into the ear canal is never a good idea.

Brought to Europe thousands of years ago, the Italian Greyhound was likely bred to create a smaller, more compact hunter than the standard Greyhound. The breed's elegance and small size made them instantly popular as companion animals, and over time they won the hearts of many nobles in Europe, especially the Italians. Italian Greyhounds appear in many ancient decorative arts dating back 2000 years.

The breed almost became extinct in England during World War I, but it was fortunately well established in America. Breeders in the United States helped replenish numbers of the dog around the world.

Today, these dogs are primarily kept as family pets and are popular in both urban and suburban areas. The breed's small size and pleasant personality makes it highly adaptable and suitable for nearly any living situation.

The American Kennel Club officially recognized the Italian Greyhound in 1886.