Italian Greyhound

Table of Contents

italian greyhound portrait
Welcome to the world of Italian Greyhounds, where speed meets style in one adorable package! These petite, graceful pups are the epitome of elegance and are known for their boundless energy and affectionate demeanor.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Italian Greyhound is an ideal companion for those who appreciate a blend of elegance, affection, and athleticism in their furry friends. Their low-shedding coats make them a popular choice among allergy sufferers, while their moderate exercise needs fit well with active urban dwellers or suburbanites.

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMEItalian Greyhound
OTHER NAMESItalian Sighthound, Piccolo Levriero Italiano
ORIGINItaly
BREED GROUPToy Group
BREED SIZESmall
HEIGHT13-15 inches
WEIGHT7-14 lbs
LIFESPAN14-15 years
LIVING SPACESmall
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERModerate
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERModerate
GROOMING NEEDSLow
EXERCISE NEEDSModerate
TRAINABILITYModerate
BARKING TENDENCYLow
BITING TENDENCYLow
DROOLING TENDENCYLow
SHEDDING LEVELLow
POPULARITY RANK63rd
italian greyhound running
Photo: Luigi Panico/Getty Images

Appearance

The Italian Greyhound is a true embodiment of grace and elegance, with a streamlined physique that’s both alluring and athletic.

This miniature sighthound stands at a petite height of 13 to 15 inches at the shoulder and weighs between 7 to 14 pounds, making it the smallest of all greyhound breeds. Despite their diminutive stature, they possess the same sleek contours and agile build as their larger counterparts.

The body of an Italian Greyhound is slender yet muscular, with a slightly arched back that contributes to their distinctive silhouette. Their slim, elongated neck flows seamlessly into a narrow, tapered head, giving them an air of refinement.

The breed’s long, pointed muzzle and dark, almond-shaped eyes further enhance their aristocratic appearance. Their bright, intelligent expression is often described as gentle and endearing, capturing the hearts of many who encounter these charming canines.

Italian Greyhounds boast large, folded ears that sit high on their head, framing their face beautifully. When alert or excited, their ears may perk up, resembling a rose shape. The breed’s long, tapering tail is another elegant feature, often carried low and sometimes curved when in motion.

One of the most striking aspects of the Italian Greyhound’s appearance is its fine, silky coat. The short, smooth hair lies close to the body, revealing the graceful contours that make this breed so visually appealing. Their coat comes in a variety of colors, including black, blue, fawn, red, cream, and various shades of brindle, as well as any of these colors combined with white markings.

The overall appearance of an Italian Greyhound exudes a sense of speed and agility, as they are built for swift, efficient movement. Their long, straight legs and compact, hare-like feet enable them to cover ground quickly, while their deep chest provides ample space for their heart and lungs, allowing for great endurance.

three italian greyhounds on leash
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Temperament

The Italian Greyhound is a breed with a delightful disposition, known for its affectionate, sensitive, and intelligent personality. These elegant canines form strong bonds with their human companions and are happiest when they’re spending quality time with their loved ones. Their gentle nature makes them an excellent choice for those seeking a devoted and loving pet.

With people, Italian Greyhounds are incredibly affectionate and thrive on human interaction. They are often described as “velcro dogs” due to their tendency to stick close to their favorite humans, frequently seeking cuddles and lap time. Their warmth and loyalty make them wonderful companions for singles, couples, and families alike.

When it comes to children, Italian Greyhounds can be a good match for families with older, more considerate kids who understand how to interact gently with pets. Due to their delicate build and sensitivity, they may not be the best choice for families with very young or boisterous children, as rough play or accidental mishandling could cause injury or stress to the dog.

In terms of socialization with strangers, Italian Greyhounds can be somewhat reserved at first. However, once they become familiar with new faces, they typically warm up and display their friendly, affectionate nature. Early and consistent socialization is essential to help them develop confidence and adapt well to various situations.

Italian Greyhounds tend to get along well with other dogs and pets, especially if they have been raised together from a young age. Their peaceful temperament and adaptable nature make them generally agreeable companions for other animals in the household.

However, as sighthounds with a strong prey drive, they may be inclined to chase smaller pets, such as cats or rodents, so supervision and proper introductions are crucial in multi-pet homes.

A unique personality perk of the Italian Greyhound is their innate playfulness. These lively dogs love to engage in bursts of energy, often referred to as “zoomies,” where they race around the house or yard with great enthusiasm. Their spirited antics can be highly entertaining and endearing, providing amusement for their human family members.

Another notable characteristic of the Italian Greyhound is their intelligence. They are quick learners and can pick up on new commands and routines with relative ease. However, their sensitive nature means that they respond best to positive reinforcement and gentle training methods, as harsh corrections can cause them to become anxious or shut down.

italian greyhound running on a road
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Ideal Environment

The Italian Greyhound is a versatile breed that can adapt well to various living situations, but there are certain factors to consider when creating an ideal environment for these elegant dogs. With their slim build and short coat, they are best suited for indoor living and thrive in homes where they can enjoy the comfort of being close to their human family members.

Physical Environment

In terms of physical environment, Italian Greyhounds can do well in apartments or smaller living spaces, as long as they have access to a safe area for daily exercise and playtime. This could be a securely fenced yard or a nearby park where they can stretch their legs and indulge in their natural inclination to sprint.

Keep in mind that Italian Greyhounds are known for their impressive jumping abilities, so a high fence is essential to prevent them from leaping over and escaping.

Climate Adaptability

One important consideration for Italian Greyhound owners is their adaptability to different climates. Due to their short coat and lean body, they are more sensitive to cold temperatures and may require extra protection during chilly weather. Fitting them with a warm coat or sweater can help keep them comfortable when venturing outside in colder conditions.

On the other hand, their short coat also means they are prone to sunburn and overheating in hot climates. In such situations, it’s essential to provide ample shade, access to cool water, and avoid outdoor activities during the hottest parts of the day.

Ideal Owner

The ideal pet parent for an Italian Greyhound is someone who is patient, gentle, and understanding of their sensitive nature. They respond best to positive reinforcement training methods and require consistent guidance to help them develop confidence and good manners.

Potential owners should also be prepared to invest time in socializing their Italian Greyhound, as early exposure to different people, animals, and environments is crucial for their overall well-being.

Other Pets

When it comes to other pets, Italian Greyhounds generally get along well with fellow canines and can coexist peacefully with other animals if raised together from a young age. However, due to their strong prey drive, supervision and proper introductions are necessary when introducing them to smaller pets like cats or rodents.

italian greyhound relaxing under the sun
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Grooming

Italian Greyhounds are a relatively low-maintenance breed when it comes to grooming, but they still require regular care to keep them looking and feeling their best. With their short, sleek coat and minimal shedding, these elegant dogs are easy to maintain with a few basic grooming practices.

Coat Care

The Italian Greyhound’s coat is short and fine, which means that it doesn’t need extensive brushing or trimming. However, a weekly brushing session using a soft-bristle brush or grooming glove is recommended to remove any loose hair and distribute the natural oils evenly across their coat. Regular brushing will help maintain their coat’s natural sheen and keep their skin healthy.

Italian Greyhounds do not have a strong odor, so they don’t require frequent baths. Bathing them every couple of months or as needed should be sufficient to keep them clean and fresh. Use a gentle dog shampoo specifically formulated for short-haired breeds, and be sure to rinse thoroughly to prevent any residue buildup on their skin.

It’s essential to dry your Italian Greyhound thoroughly after bathing, especially during colder months, as they can become chilled easily due to their thin coat.

Skin and Wrinkle Care

While Italian Greyhounds don’t have wrinkled skin like some other breeds, they do have thinner skin that can be prone to scrapes or tears. Regularly check your dog’s skin for any signs of injury, irritation, or allergies, and consult your veterinarian if you notice any issues.

Dental Care

Like all dog breeds, Italian Greyhounds require regular dental care to maintain good oral health. Brushing their teeth two to three times a week with a canine toothpaste and toothbrush can significantly reduce the risk of dental problems such as plaque buildup, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. In addition to brushing, providing dental chews and toys can also help promote healthy teeth and gums.

Nail Trimming

Regular nail trimming is crucial for Italian Greyhounds, as overly long nails can cause discomfort or even lead to more severe issues like injuries and joint problems. Ideally, their nails should be trimmed every three to four weeks, depending on how quickly they grow.

Use a pair of dog nail clippers or a nail grinder, and be cautious not to cut the quick, which is the blood vessel inside the nail. If you’re unsure about trimming your dog’s nails yourself, seeking professional help from a groomer or veterinarian is a good option.

Ear Care

To prevent ear infections, it’s essential to check and clean your Italian Greyhound’s ears regularly. Inspect their ears once a week for any signs of redness, irritation, or foul odor, which could indicate an infection.

Gently clean the outer ear with a soft, damp cloth or cotton ball moistened with a canine ear-cleaning solution. Avoid inserting anything into the ear canal, as this can cause damage or push debris further into the ear.

three italian greyhound puppies
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Exercise

Although Italian Greyhounds are small in stature, they are an energetic and agile breed that requires regular exercise to maintain their physical and mental well-being. As sighthounds, they have a natural inclination for sprinting and chasing, which should be taken into consideration when planning their exercise routine.

Exercise Amount & Types

On average, Italian Greyhounds need about 30 to 45 minutes of daily exercise, which can be broken down into multiple shorter sessions. A combination of activities such as brisk walks, indoor playtime, and outdoor exploration will help keep them engaged and satisfied.

While they enjoy leisurely strolls, they also appreciate the opportunity to stretch their legs and unleash their speed in short bursts, like sprinting in a securely fenced area or engaging in a game of fetch.

Dog Sports

Italian Greyhounds can also excel in various dog sports and competitions, such as agility, lure coursing, and obedience trials. These activities not only provide physical exercise but also offer mental stimulation and help strengthen the bond between you and your dog. Training for these events requires consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement, as Italian Greyhounds can be sensitive to harsh training methods.

Exercise Precautions

It’s important to note that Italian Greyhounds are sensitive to extreme temperatures, so exercise should be adjusted accordingly. During colder months, ensure your dog is dressed appropriately with a coat or sweater, and limit their time outdoors if it’s too cold. In hot weather, avoid exercising during the warmest parts of the day and provide ample shade and water to prevent overheating.

When exercising your Italian Greyhound, always be mindful of their delicate build and propensity for injury. Avoid rough play and high-impact activities that could cause stress on their joints or result in accidents. Additionally, remember that their strong prey drive may lead them to give chase to smaller animals, so always keep them on a leash or in a securely fenced area to ensure their safety.

Training

Training an Italian Greyhound can be a rewarding experience, but it’s essential to approach it with patience and understanding of their unique traits. These intelligent dogs are generally eager to please their owners, but their sensitive nature and independent streak can make training a bit challenging at times.

Italian Greyhounds are highly trainable when the right methods are used. They respond best to positive reinforcement techniques, such as praise, treats, and playtime, as opposed to harsh punishment or negative feedback. Consistency is key when working with these dogs, as they can be stubborn and easily lose interest if the training is not engaging and enjoyable.

Socialization should begin early in your Italian Greyhound’s life to ensure they develop into well-rounded, confident adults. Expose them to various people, animals, and environments from a young age to help them become accustomed to different sights, sounds, and experiences. Puppy socialization classes can be a great way to kickstart this process while also providing a foundation for basic obedience training.

Housebreaking can be particularly challenging for Italian Greyhounds, as they can be sensitive to cold or wet weather and may be reluctant to go outside in unfavorable conditions. To overcome this, establish a consistent routine for bathroom breaks and use positive reinforcement to reward successful trips outdoors.

Crate training can also be helpful in reinforcing housebreaking habits, as long as the crate is used as a safe and comfortable space rather than a form of punishment.

When it comes to teaching basic commands and obedience, start with short training sessions that focus on one command at a time. Gradually increase the complexity of the tasks as your Italian Greyhound becomes more comfortable and confident in their abilities.

Keep in mind that these dogs have a strong prey drive, so working on a reliable recall command is especially important to ensure their safety when off-leash.

italian greyhound relaxing on a couch
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Diet & Nutrition 

Maintaining a balanced diet is crucial for the overall health and well-being of your Italian Greyhound. Proper nutrition ensures they receive the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to support their growth, development, and daily activities. When choosing a diet for your Italian Greyhound, it’s important to consider factors such as their age, weight, activity level, and any specific dietary needs.

What to Feed & How Much

It’s recommended to choose high-quality dog food that follows the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines, as this ensures the food meets or exceeds the minimum nutritional requirements for your pet.

There are various options available on the market, including dry kibble, wet food, and raw food diets. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s essential to consult with your veterinarian to determine the most suitable choice for your Italian Greyhound.

When determining how much to feed your Italian Greyhound, consider their age, size, and activity level. Puppies typically require more frequent meals – around three to four times per day – to support their rapid growth and development.

As they grow into adulthood, you can gradually reduce the number of daily feedings to two meals per day. Adult Italian Greyhounds should be fed according to their weight, with adjustments made depending on their activity level and individual metabolism.

Always refer to the feeding guidelines provided by the dog food manufacturer and consult with your veterinarian for personalized recommendations.

Treats & Water

In addition to their regular meals, treats can be used as a valuable tool for training and rewarding good behavior. However, it’s important to practice moderation, as excessive treats can lead to obesity and other health issues. Treats should make up no more than 10% of your dog’s daily calorie intake, and healthier options such as fresh fruits, vegetables, or low-calorie dog treats are preferable.

Fresh water should always be readily available for your Italian Greyhound, ensuring they stay well-hydrated throughout the day. Clean and refill their water bowl regularly to encourage proper hydration and prevent bacterial growth.

Health

Italian Greyhounds are generally healthy dogs with a life expectancy of 14 to 15 years. However, like any breed, they can be prone to certain health issues. It’s crucial to maintain a healthy diet, schedule regular veterinary check-ups, and ensure your Italian Greyhound receives the necessary vaccinations to keep them in optimum health.

Here are common health issues associated with Italian Greyhounds:

Dental issues: Due to their small mouths and crowded teeth, Italian Greyhounds are prone to dental problems such as periodontal disease, tooth decay, and early tooth loss. Regular tooth brushing and dental cleanings can help prevent these issues and maintain good oral health.

Hip Dysplasia: This genetic condition occurs when the hip joint doesn’t develop properly, leading to arthritis and pain over time. Although less prevalent in Italian Greyhounds compared to larger breeds, it’s essential to ensure your dog’s parents have been screened for hip dysplasia before breeding.

Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease: This condition affects the blood supply to the femoral head, causing the bone to deteriorate and leading to arthritis and pain. It typically occurs in young dogs and requires surgical intervention to alleviate discomfort and improve mobility.

Patellar Luxation: Also known as “trick knee,” this condition occurs when the kneecap becomes dislocated from its normal position. It can cause pain, limping, and ultimately lead to arthritis. Treatment may involve surgery, depending on the severity of the condition.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): This inherited eye disorder causes the gradual degeneration of the retina, leading to vision loss and eventual blindness. Responsible breeding practices and genetic testing can help reduce the prevalence of PRA in Italian Greyhounds.

To keep your Italian Greyhound healthy, provide a balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs. Consult with your veterinarian for personalized recommendations on the appropriate food and portion sizes.

Ensure your dog receives regular veterinary check-ups to detect and address potential health issues early. Keep their vaccinations up to date to protect against common canine diseases.

italian greyhound outdoor
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History

The Italian Greyhound is an ancient breed with a rich history that dates back over 2,000 years. They are the smallest of the sighthounds, known for their elegance, speed, and affectionate nature. This breed has captivated the hearts of royalty and artists throughout history and continues to be a popular companion dog today.

The origins of the Italian Greyhound can be traced back to the Mediterranean region, particularly Egypt and modern-day Turkey. Ancient artifacts, such as Egyptian tomb carvings and decorative art from the Pompeii ruins, depict small greyhound-like dogs, suggesting the breed’s existence during these ancient civilizations.

It is widely believed that these small dogs were brought to Europe by Phoenician traders, where they eventually made their way to Italy.

During the Middle Ages, the Italian Greyhound became highly sought after by Italian nobility, who admired their grace, beauty, and companionship. The breed was so cherished that it became a symbol of wealth and status, often appearing in the works of renowned artists like Giotto and Pisanello.

By the Renaissance period, the Italian Greyhound had captured the hearts of European aristocracy, including monarchs such as Queen Victoria, Mary Stuart, and Catherine the Great, who all owned and cherished these elegant dogs.

As the popularity of the breed grew, Italian Greyhounds became more than just a status symbol – they also played a role in popular culture. They were featured in literature, paintings, and sculptures, showcasing their elegant form and gentle demeanor.

In Shakespeare’s play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the character Hippolyta refers to her Italian Greyhound, demonstrating the breed’s presence in 16th-century England. Additionally, famous painter Jean-Baptiste Oudry depicted an Italian Greyhound in his painting “La Chasse,” further solidifying the breed’s cultural significance.

The Italian Greyhound’s journey to America is believed to have occurred in the late 19th century, brought by immigrants who cherished their beloved companions. The breed’s popularity quickly grew in the United States, and the American Kennel Club (AKC) first registered the Italian Greyhound in 1886.

Since then, the breed has been a popular choice for dog enthusiasts who appreciate their affectionate nature, agility, and speed.

In recent years, the Italian Greyhound has gained even more recognition in popular culture. The breed has been featured in movies, television shows, and advertisements, showcasing their unique charm and elegance.

One notable example is the character “Iggy” from the popular animated film “The Nut Job,” where an Italian Greyhound plays a lovable and comedic role. Additionally, internet-famous dog “Tuna,” known for his adorable overbite, has amassed a large following on social media, further endearing the Italian Greyhound to audiences worldwide.

Throughout its long history, the Italian Greyhound has captured the hearts of many with its grace, beauty, and gentle disposition. From ancient civilizations to modern-day popular culture, this elegant breed continues to be a beloved companion and symbol of refinement.

With their rich history and enduring charm, it’s no wonder that the Italian Greyhound remains a popular choice for dog lovers around the world.

Parent Club

The official parent club for the Italian Greyhound in the United States is the Italian Greyhound Club of America (IGCA). Founded in 1958, the IGCA is dedicated to promoting and protecting the interests of the Italian Greyhound breed.

The club offers resources, educational materials, and organizes events for enthusiasts and owners alike. For more information about the IGCA and its initiatives, visit their website here.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed. It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities.

Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

You can check the Italian Greyhound’s breed standard set by the American Kennel Club (AKC) here.

two italian greyound puppies cuddling
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Acquiring

When considering acquiring an Italian Greyhound, it’s essential to prepare for the responsibility of dog ownership and ensure that your home and lifestyle are suitable for this breed. Italian Greyhounds require a safe, enclosed space for exercise, gentle handling, and companionship.

Rescuing an Italian Greyhound can be a rewarding experience, as it provides a loving home to a dog in need. The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Italian Greyhound Club of America (IGCA) can assist you in finding reputable rescue organizations and available dogs for adoption.

Before bringing your new Italian Greyhound home, gather necessary supplies such as a crate, bed, collar, leash, toys, and grooming tools. Additionally, research local veterinarians and obedience training options to ensure your dog receives proper care and socialization.

By rescuing an Italian Greyhound, you’re giving a deserving dog a second chance at a happy life while also gaining a loyal and affectionate companion.

FAQs

Are Italian Greyhounds expensive?

The cost of an Italian Greyhound can vary depending on factors such as the breeder, location, and pedigree. Typically, prices range from $800 to $2,000. Keep in mind that owning a dog also involves ongoing expenses such as food, grooming, and veterinary care.

Are Italian Greyhounds good family dogs?

Yes, Italian Greyhounds are generally good family dogs. They are affectionate, gentle, and bond closely with their families. However, they may not be suitable for very young children, as they can be sensitive to rough handling. Supervision during interactions with young kids is advised.

Why do Italian Greyhounds bark so much?

Italian Greyhounds are not known for excessive barking. However, like any dog, they may bark when they are excited, scared, or seeking attention. Proper training and socialization can help manage barking behavior.

Can Italian Greyhounds be left alone?

Italian Greyhounds can experience separation anxiety if left alone for long periods. They thrive on companionship and prefer being with their family. If you must leave your dog alone, gradually acclimate them to your absence and consider crate training or using a dog walker to minimize stress.

Are Italian Greyhounds hypoallergenic?

No dog breed is truly hypoallergenic. However, Italian Greyhounds have short coats and minimal shedding, which may make them a better option for those with allergies. It’s essential to spend time around the breed before committing to ensure your allergies can tolerate them.

How much exercise do Italian Greyhounds require?

Italian Greyhounds are moderately active dogs that need 30-45 minutes of daily exercise. They benefit from daily walks and playtime in a securely fenced area. While they do enjoy running and playing, they are also content to snuggle on the couch with their family.

Are Italian Greyhounds easy to train?

Italian Greyhounds are intelligent but can be somewhat stubborn when it comes to training. Consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement techniques are key to successful training. Socialization from an early age is also essential to help them become well-adjusted, confident dogs.

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