Seeing the name “Italian Greyhound” may immediately conjure up images of a sleek, lithe dog racing along a track. But there’s more than meets the eye to this unique-looking dog. The toy version of the well-known Greyhound, Italian Greyhounds, frequently shortened to just IGs, are a one-of-a-kind breed.
The breed has existed for many, many years, but found its footing in Italy during the Renaissance. This period is when these little dogs began to be associated with the beautiful country of Italy.
If you’re looking for a quirky, energetic toy breed, then the Italian Greyhound might be the dog for you.
- The Italian Greyhound is the smallest sighthound
- The breed was a favorite among Italian nobles during the Renaissance
- Italian Greyhounds were first registered by the AKC in 1886
- The breed is thought to have originated over 2000 years ago
The Italian Greyhound’s history goes back to well before Italy was even a country. It’s thought that the IG’s past goes back some 2,000 years, where it was bred as a companion to nobles in a region of the Mediterranean that is now known as Greece and Turkey.
But companionship wasn’t the toy breed’s only skill. There is evidence that it may have also been used as a hunter for small game.
Italian Greyhound continued to be popular throughout the Middle Ages, although it was in Renaissance Italy that the breed truly solidified itself as a favorite. Nobles holding these little dogs can be found in various Renaissance paintings.
Being a favorite among nobles caught the attention of other parts of the world. There’s a story that an African king, Lobengula, traded in 200 head of cattle for a single Italian Greyhound.
Despite the loveable nature of the Italian Greyhound, the two World Wars nearly brought the dog to extinction. Once the wars had ended, however, American breeders revived the IG, and today these unique little dogs relax in the laps of owners around the world.
Appearance and Vital Stats
There’s no mistaking the Italian Greyhound for any other breed. These are lithe-looking dogs with alert and curious expressions. Almost identical to the Greyhound except in size, the breed exudes elegance and strength.
Like most sighthounds, the Italian Greyhound’s distinctive S-shape gives it a sleek and aerodynamic look.
Dog Breed Group
The Italian Greyhound is part of the Toy Group. These are generally social breeds that tend to be very affectionate. This is largely because most toy breeds have been bred primarily for companionship.
Although the Italian Greyhound may have been used for some hunting purposes, their desire to be in your lap rather than anywhere else solidifies their belonging in this group.
As a toy breed, these dogs are very small. The Italian Greyhound will stand between 13 to 15 inches high and weigh around 7 to 14 pounds.
Like most small breeds, the Italian Greyhound tends to live a longer life than its larger counterparts. You can expect your healthy IG to live around 14 to 15 years old.
Coat and Colors
The Italian Greyhound has very short fur. It should appear glossy and will be soft and almost velvety to the touch.
Any coloration is acceptable for the Italian Greyhound except for brindle coloring or coloring with tan and black patterns that are usually found on breeds like Doberman Pinschers or Rottweilers.
The Italian Greyhound sheds seasonally. One of the best things about the Italian Greyhound is that, because their fur is so short, you may not even notice when he is shedding except for a few tiny hairs on your clothes and furniture.
The Italian Greyhound’s Tail is slender and long, going down to the dog’s hocks. It will be set low on the dog’s rear, and will generally be carried low as well.
An Italian Greyhound’s ears are small, set wide on the sides of the dog’s head, folded over, and carried at right angles when relaxed. When the dog is alert, the ears may stand erect instead of folding over.
You’ll find that the dog’s ears are thin and fine in texture.
Like many toy breeds, the Italian Greyhound’s small stature belies a big personality. These are playful little dogs who adore their owners. If you end up adopting an Italian Greyhound, don’t be surprised if you find him trying to superglue himself to your hip.
You’ll likely also find that your Italian Greyhound is extremely sensitive. These dogs may easily feel slighted, but don’t worry—even if you’re the cause of his woes, it won’t take him long to start requesting regular cuddles again.
The Italian Greyhound is an extremely intelligent little dog. In some ways, this makes training easy, as they can very quickly grasp new concepts with ease.
On the other hand, the Italian Greyhound’s very sensitive nature may make training slow at times. Keep training fun and use plenty of positive reinforcement to keep your dog engaged during training sessions.
Italian Greyhounds do bark and have a surprisingly loud and deep bark. Luckily, he is not a frequent barker, and usually only does it to announce the arrival of visitors.
Italian Greyhounds make fantastic apartment dogs. They can adapt easily to small spaces because of their equally tiny stature. Although they do bark on occasion, they are generally quiet which your neighbors will appreciate.
If you’re inviting an Italian Greyhound into your apartment, then just be aware that these are fairly active dogs. A yard isn’t necessary for this little breed, but you’ll still need to make sure you’re giving yours enough exercise to prevent your dog from becoming anxious.
Children and Other Pets
Italian Greyhounds are friendly little dogs, though they may be more reserved around strangers than they are with their owners. They can do well with kids, but it’s important to be mindful of this dog’s sensitive nature as well as its small and delicate size. These dogs won’t do well with any rough playing.
Teach your children how to properly approach a dog, and remind them not to bother a dog while he’s eating. You should also make sure to tell your kids never to play rough with your Italian Greyhound.
As for other pets, the Italian Greyhound can get along well with other animals. Again, just make sure to supervise if he’s playing with larger dogs to make sure he doesn’t get injured.
As a small breed, the Italian Greyhound shouldn’t require much food. You’ll only need to feed him ½ a cup to ¾ of a cup of high-quality dog food every day.
The Italian Greyhound isn’t prone to obesity, but it’s still important to make sure you’re feeding your dog the correct amount of food to prevent him from becoming overweight. It’s best practice to take his food and split it into two meals to keep your dog feeling full throughout the day.
One of the best things about the Italian Greyhound is how minimal his grooming needs are. If you’re looking for a dog with a low-maintenance coat, you can’t get much better than this breed.
Brush and bathe your dog occasionally. You likely won’t need to brush him more than once a week, and even that will just be to get out any dirt or grime that’s accumulated rather than brushing out tangles or matting. A bath once or twice a year with a vet-approved and gentle shampoo will help keep your dog’s skin healthy.
The main things to be concerned about with your Italian Greyhound is making sure that you’re brushing his teeth at least every other day, and that you’re trimming his nails about once a week.
The Italian Greyhound is a fairly active breed that will require regular daily exercise. Taking him for a walk is one great way you can help him get his physical activity needs. But if you live in a colder climate, try to avoid taking him out in any extreme temperatures. Investing in a sweater or jacket for your IG will be beneficial.
If it’s not nice enough to take your dog outside, then twenty or so minutes of indoor playtime should be enough to meet his exercise needs.
Like all breeds, the Italian Greyhound can be prone to certain illnesses and conditions. Make sure to get your Italian Greyhound from a reputable breeder, and remember to request health clearances for the puppy’s parents to ensure that you’re getting a healthy puppy.
Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye begins to become opaque. Italian Greyhounds are especially prone to this condition. If your dog has cataracts, you may notice his eye beginning to gain a cloudy appearance.
Cataracts usually affect older dogs. If your vet diagnoses your dog with cataracts, then corrective surgery may be necessary for removing it.
Von Willebrand’s Disease
This is a disease that Italian Greyhounds tend to be prone to. It is a blood disorder that causes difficulties with clotting. If your dog is affected by Von Willebrand’s Disease, then you may notice frequent nose bleeds, bleeding gums, and excessive or bleeding that goes on for too long during female dogs’ heat cycles.
This illness is usually caught between the ages of 3 and 5 years old. If your dog is diagnosed with this condition, then your vet will recommend management practices.
Patellar Luxation is a genetic condition that frequently affects small breeds, like the Italian Greyhound. It occurs when the bones in the dog’s patella, or knee joint, do not line up properly. Although this condition is present from birth, the misalignment of the leg may not become obvious until adulthood.
Dogs with patellar luxation may require corrective surgery depending on the severity of the condition.
Also called the “Poor Man’s Racehorse,” the Whippet is slightly larger than the Italian Greyhound. These dogs look similar to the Greyhound and have calm, amiable, and playful personalities. They may live slightly longer than the Italian Greyhound.
Like Italian Greyhound, Whippets are generally low maintenance when it comes to grooming. Their short coats don’t show many signs of shedding, and only occasional brushing and bathing is all you’ll need to keep your dog’s coat healthy.
Like Italian Greyhounds, Whippets require regular exercise. However, don’t be concerned if you can’t get out for a walk. Also similar to IGs, Whippets can do perfectly well with indoor playtime as their exercise. What might be even more important than exercise for the Whippet is getting in some serious cuddle time with his owner.
These large dogs are almost identical in looks to the Italian Greyhound, except for their size, of course. These dogs share the same distinct S-shape as the Italian Greyhound, and both breeds have similar energy levels.
Frequently used for dog racing, the Greyhound has impressive speed. But don’t be fooled—they are speed runners rather than distance runners and experience this energy only in short bursts. Many Greyhound owners joke that the breed has only two speeds: 60 miles per hour and 0 miles per hour.
If you’re planning on adopting a Greyhound, trust that you are getting a sweet, noble dog with a lot of heart.
Toy Manchester Terrier
The Toy Manchester Terrier stands even smaller than the Italian Greyhound and generally weighs less, too. You’ll recognize these dogs by their eager, alert expressions, large batlike ears, and rich black coloration with tan accents.
Bred originally as a ratting dog, Manchester Terriers are eager and playful little dogs. The Toy variety was conceived during the Victorian era when women wanted smaller variations of this beautiful dog. These dogs are intelligent, easy to train, and when properly supervised can get along easily with other people and animals.
The Toy Manchester Terrier shares the same kind of short, sleek coat as the Italian Greyhound. Requiring minimal maintenance, a quick brush or wipe down once a week will be enough to maintain the Toy Manchester Terrier’s fur and keep him happy and healthy.