Italian Greyhound

Breed Group: Toy

Temperament and Behavior

The Italian Greyhound, or IG (EYE-GEE) to its fanciers, are more energetic than most breeds but may be happiest when napping on a sofa next to their owner. They enjoy physical contact including petting and lap time which can make them seem demanding. Extremely affectionate, they can sometimes be a one person dog. Their gentle nature makes them good around children. But because their light frame is so easily injured, they do much better in homes with responsible teenagers than with young children. Most enjoy other pets, especially other dogs, sometimes preferring them to humans. Fairly active indoors and extremely active outside, long walks on lead are a necessity and play in a safely fenced area is relished. With their sighthound heritage, they have an instinct to chase anything that moves including cars; so off-leash confinement is required. But even though small, they excel at jumping. Any fence less than six feet tall should not be relied upon to confine them. But they do fairly well without a yard as their small size lets them get the exercise they need by following their people around the house or playing a rollicking inside game. Although swift afoot, IGs lack the great need to run possessed by the larger sighthounds. This makes IGs almost as well suited to an in-town apartment as they are to a large estate. Young Italian Greyhounds seem to believe they can fly, leaping into space, spreading out their fine-boned legs as they go. Even though they are athletic dogs, their dainty frame is easily injured. Even a jump down from a sofa can result in a broken leg with anything less than a perfect landing. Owners must be ever watchful. They are much quieter than most toy breeds; but when they bark, it is with a much deeper voice than one expects from such a delicate dog. When combined with their aloof reaction to strangers, the result is an above average watchdog. But with their frailty, they make poor guard dogs. In stressful situations, they may require reassurance and they can be snappish when frightened. Seemly to be born with the desire to sleep with their owners, they can get between the sheets without assistance. Although many have been trained to sleep in their kennels at night, rest assured that even those IGs would rather be in bed with their owners.

Physical Characteristics

The Italian Greyhound is an exquisite animal that stands between 13 and 15 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs between 9 and 12 pounds. They have an easy-care, short, sleek coat that sheds very little. One of the easiest dogs to groom, they usually need only a rubdown with a towel. Their coat colors include red, fawn, black, and blue all frequently with white markings. Italian Greyhounds dislike cold weather, especially when accompanied by wind or rain. Even in cool weather, they need a sweater for an extended outdoor romp. Special attention should always be given to keeping them warm. But with their middle east heritage, they have much greater heat tolerance. Regular brushing of their teeth is important as they are prone to periodontal disease. Their nails also grow more quickly than other breeds, so nail trimming is needed every two or three weeks.

Trainer's Notes

The Italian Greyhound has a moderate need for early ongoing socialization to increase their acceptance of new people and children. They are more easily trained than many sighthounds, but like most hounds, they have a stubborn streak. If obedience training is made enjoyable, they are eager participants; but, they can be willfully disobedient. Humor is is a prerequisite for dealing with them, but consistency is important. Housebreaking is usually a challenge and their aversion to cold or wet weather makes it even more difficult. Patience and consistency are needed. Owners who install dog doors, or who paper, pad, or litter box train usually get the quickest results. They are best with experienced owners.

Photo © by Just chaos available under the CC BY 3.0
Italian Greyhound

Italian Greyhound


A number of diseases that affect Italian Greyhounds are known or strongly suspected to be inherited including their most common issue which is Periodontal Disease. Less frequently seen are the problems of Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Cataracts, Von Willebrand’s Disease, Hypothyroidism, Demodectic Mange, Luxating Patella, Legg-Calvé-Perthes, Epilepsy, and Vitreous Degeneration. Lastly, dogs with a blue coat color are susceptible to Color Dilution Alopecia. To avoid pressure sores, provide soft bedding. Italian Greyhounds typically live into their early to late teens.


The American Kennel Club rankes the Italian Greyhound 59th in popularity. During the year, the AKC registers about 2,000 animals.

Breed History

There is debate as to whether the Italian Greyhound was originally bred for hunting small game or was simply meant to be a companion animal. Perhaps both are true. Although remains of greyhound-like sighthounds have been found in Egyptian tombs dating back thousands of years in the areas now known as Greece and Turkey, there is some question as to whether this is the Italian Greyhound we know today. By the Middle Ages, the breed had spread throughout Southern Europe. During the sixteenth century, they became popular with European nobility. Renaissance artists such as Bosch, David, Giotto, and Carpaccio frequently included the Italian Greyhound in their works. During this time, like many other toy dogs, they were bred solely as companion animals. In fact, there is reason to believe a miniature Greyhound similar to today’s Italian Greyhound may be the first dog bred exclusively as a pet. It is an accepted fact that the Latin sign “Cave Canem” (Beware of the Dog) of ancient times did not mean that trespassers should beware of a guard dog, but, a warning to beware of stepping on the tiny Italian Greyhound. The breed was imported into England during the seventeenth century, reaching its peak of popularity there during the reign of Queen Victoria. The breed was brought to America in the late nineteenth century.

Additional Information

Italian Greyhounds were a favorite pet among many royal families, including Anne of Denmark, Mary Beatrice d’Este of Modena, Frederick the Great of Prussia; both Peter the Great and Catherine the Great of Russia, and both Queen Victoria and Charles the I of Great Britain. The always elegant Italian Greyhound makes a worthy companion for anyone who appreciates fine art when it walks into the room. The National (US) Breed Association is the Italian Greyhound Club of America.

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