Italian Greyhound

Very Intelligent Little Dog Will Need Firm Guidelines and Exercise

Italian Greyhound

This Very Intelligent Little Dog Will Need Firm Guidelines and Plenty of Exercise

This smallest of the sighthounds (also called gazehounds) is indeed delicate and tiny, usually only reaching 8 to 16 pounds in adulthood. However, its athleticism and energy belie its small size.


Although it's not quite known when Italian Greyhound puppies actually appeared in history, miniature dogs that appear to be Greyhounds are shown in ancient artworks in the Mediterranean, going back 2000 years and more. In fact, one drawing in an Egyptian tomb shows a miniature Greyhound-like dog that dates back 6000 years. Beginning in the 16th century, southern Europeans and Italians highly coveted the Italian Greyhound, thus giving it its official name of "Italian" Greyhound. It was also popular in England in the 17th century and remains so today.

The remains of a dog similar to the Italian Greyhound were found in a lava flow in the city of Pompeii, near modern Naples. Nobility were extremely fond of the Italian Greyhound, especially during the Renaissance after the Italian Greyhound had been brought to Europe by the Phoenicians. Queen Victoria of England, Anne of Denmark, Catherine the Great (Russia), and James I of England all possessed Italian Greyhounds. In fact, Frederick the Great of Prussia, who ruled in the 1700s, took his Italian Greyhounds to war with him. When a favorite dog died at the Sans Souci Palace, Frederick buried the dog himself and then requested that he be buried next to his faithful companion upon his own death. On August 17, 1991, that wish was granted, some 205 years after his death when his family brought Frederick's remains to the palace and buried them there next to his beloved little dog.

Rather unfortunately, this focus on the Italian Greyhound as a companion lapdog led to efforts to breed smaller and smaller dogs that would then be used for "lap adornment," mostly for royal ladies. This weakened the breed extensively, nearly ruining it, as this excessively selective breeding caused unwanted changes in structure and temperament, and a weakening of the gene pool. However, the Italian Greyhound was saved as a breed when fanciers took it upon themselves to establish wellmanaged breeding programs that focused on the Italian Greyhound's original traits of build, agility, physical strength, including sound temperament and body. This is likely why the breed continues to thrive today, with innate power and grace that are unusual for its size.

The American Kennel Club first registered the Italian Greyhound in 1886. Like many purebred dogs, Italian Greyhounds were in danger of extinction after World War I, most notably in Great Britain. Dogs were exported from the United States to Britain to remedy this situation, and it was noted that Italian Greyhound puppies bred in the United States were of extremely high quality. In 1924, the Italian Greyhound Club of America was formed.

While the Italian Greyhound is very good at hunting small game, it's not clear whether it was originally bred to be a small game hunter or rather a companion animal which is largely its role today. Most likely, the original breed’s purpose was to fulfill both companionship and hunting roles, but today, the Italian Greyhound is almost exclusively a companion dog. It's an excellent show dog, with good standing in conformation, lure coursing, and obedience.


The Italian Greyhound greatly resembles its full-sized counterpart, but in miniature. These sleek little dogs are fine-boned and svelte, athletic, and very nimble, usually weighing about 8 pounds in adulthood and standing just 12 to 15 inches at the shoulder. Although they are designated as a "toy" breed, they are quite tall for this designation, but because of their fine-boned structure, their weight puts them in the toy category.

Sleek and deep-chested, the abdomen is tucked up, and the legs long and slender. The face is pointed and long. Italian Greyhounds are indeed Greyhounds since they share the ancestry of the Greyhound, with a blood line that goes back more than 2000 years. They have attained their small stature simply because of selective breeding.

Your little pet is extremely lithe. Rather than the normal "trot" of the average small dog, your pet's gait resembles that of a horse. At double suspension gallop, with all 4 feet off the ground, your pet can achieve speeds of 25 miles per hour at full run.

The coat is sleek and short, the tail long and low set, tapered at the tip. A graceful long neck arches beneath a small and finely-shaped head. Coat colors can be white, gray, blue, black, red, fawn, dark gray, or cream. Italian Greyhound dogs often have markings as well, with colored markings on a mostly white coat, or white markings on a mostly colored coat.


Your pet is a very loving, eager-to-please little dog, but can develop something called "small dog syndrome" if spoiled. Quite often, loving owners treat their very small pets like children, causing the small dog to become very spoiled and temperamental, thinking that he or she can rule the roost. Remember, your little pet is a dog first and foremost despite its small size, and should be treated as such. With proper socialization, constant guidance with you as pack leader, and firm but gentle boundaries, your pet will be docile, peaceful, dependent, sensitive, and very affectionate. Also a very intelligent dog, your little pet will be very easy to train, although again, consistency is the key to success.

Proper Environment

Italian Greyhounds are vivacious and dynamic little dogs, and they need a lot of exercise. However, despite their relatively hardy constitution, their bone structure is delicate, and they can be injured quite easily. Therefore, it's best to keep an Italian Greyhound as a pet in a quiet household with no small children or large dogs. A household with one or two adults, or a family with older children who will understand the need to handle your pet gently is ideal.

Even though delicate, the Italian Greyhound is at heart an athlete and needs quite a bit of exercise. A daily walk is a must, and your pet will do best in an environment where he or she is allowed to run on a regular basis. Apartment living will work just fine for your pet as long as you give him or her plenty of opportunity for physical exertion.

One thing your pet will not be able to withstand, though, is cold weather. His or her thin, fine, short fur is very sleek and pretty, but doesn't provide much protection against the elements. If you must take your dog outdoors in cold weather, provide proper clothing such as a dog sweater for walks and other activity.


Italian Greyhounds are strong, hardy little dogs once they develop into adults. However, Italian Greyhound puppies are very delicate and should be handled with extreme caution physically – although you shouldn't baby them emotionally in order to avoid the aforementioned small dog syndrome. Once they reach adulthood, you can expect your pet to live 12 to 15 years on average, perhaps longer, as long as proper veterinary and dietary care is provided and rough handling is restricted.


&bill Nail care: An Italian Greyhound's nails are best managed with a nail grinder, 2 to 3 times a week, rather than with clipping.

• Oral health: The Italian Greyhound's very thin jawbones mean that they are susceptible to periodontal disease and should have their teeth brushed daily. In addition, regular dental cleanings by a veterinarian are necessary.


The Italian Greyhound has a coat that is very easy to care for. A simple wipe-down with a damp cloth after a daily walk should be all that's needed, with only a very occasional bath if necessary. Your pet sheds very little, and may be able to coexist even in households where allergies normally make it impossible to own a pet.

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