Italian Greyhounds have increased in popularity over the last 10 years, with almost 600 registrations with the Kennel Club in 2022 – with many more puppies born that were not registered with the KC. Many people see or meet an Italian Greyhound and fall in love with the breed, wanting one of their own. We explain what you need to know before welcoming one into your home.
What is an Italian Greyhound?
An Italian Greyhound is an ancient breed of dog, with references to the breed dating back to over 2000 years ago. It is a small breed of dog, typically a companion dog, and is categorised by the Royal Kennel Club as a Toy breed. They are, in fact, sighthounds, and other countries have categorised them as a Hound breed. Italian Greyhounds are often referred to as “iggies” or “IGs”.
Are Italian Greyhounds miniature Greyhounds or Whippets?
No. Italian Greyhounds are a separate breed of dog to Greyhounds and Whippets, although many people believe they are puppy Whippets, or even Lurchers, when they see them out and about. Like Greyhounds and Whippets, they are sighthounds, but this is where the connection between the breeds ends. The IG Breed Standard can be found on the Italian Greyhound Club website here.
When is an Italian Greyhound fully grown?
Italian Greyhounds usually reach their full height and length at around 8 months old. They will continue to develop and mature until they are about 2-2.5 years old. This means that their height and length will not alter a great deal after their 8th month birthday, but they will continue to increase in body mass, size and weight until approximately 2 and a half years old. This can be affected and adjusted for individual dogs and if they have been neutered/spayed and at what age.
Are Italian Greyhounds as fragile as they look?
Yes and no. Italian Greyhounds are dogs and in as much they need and enjoy all the stimulus and activities that any other dog needs. However, their leg size to body weight ratio does make them susceptible to broken legs, especially during their puppyhood. An IG will not bounce back from a fall or collision as easily as most other breeds. Dog insurance is a must, from the day you bring your puppy home.
Are Italian Greyhounds high maintenance?
As dog breeds go, the Italian Greyhound will be a more high maintenance breed than the majority of dog breeds.
While they do not need a lot of home grooming and visits to a Dog Groomer, they do have care needs many other dogs thrive without. Iggies are fiercely loyal dogs and they love to be with their owner/person – all the time. So much so, they are often referred to as “velcro dogs”, because they are always stuck to you! They are not a great choice of breed if you go out to work full time, or have a very busy lifestyle.
They need warm coats, jumpers, and blankets in colder weather; far more so than a hairier breed of dog. They need care and consideration regarding their risk of breaking a leg.
For someone who wants a canine companion to share their life with, an IG can be ideal, but they are not always a good choice of dog to fit in alongside a busy lifestyle.
Do Italian Greyhounds need lots of exercise?
Italian Greyhounds need plenty of exercise and stimulus. They are not miniature Greyhounds, and they don’t have the same exercise needs as standard Greyhounds. IGs will happily go out for an hour or more walk, even twice a day. They enjoy play and stimulus between their walks. While they enjoy a good snuggle with you on the sofa, they are not the sofa-loafa’s standard Greyhounds and Whippets are.
How fast can an Italian Greyhound run?
Italian Greyhounds can run at speeds up to approximately 25-30 mph. However, they are “sprinters” and can only maintain top speeds for under one minute. Although Iggies are lively, energetic dogs, they are not tireless runners!
How long do Italian Greyhounds live?
Typically, Italian Greyhounds live 12-14 years, but a good number have lived to their late teens, and some even to 20/21 years.
Are Italian Greyhounds healthy dogs?
On the whole, Italian Greyhounds are a healthy breed of dog. While health issues like Epilepsy, Patella Luxation, and Autoimmune Disease are seen in the breed, it is no more prevalent than in any other breed of dog. Leg breaks are the most commonly seen veterinary matter, which are more a matter of management, breeding, and sheer unfortunate luck.
Are Italian Greyhounds good with children?
Italian Greyhounds are usually very good with children. They are typically very sociable, playful dogs (with the exception of the odd individual IG), and will get on with everyone; dog and human.
It is perhaps more prudent to ask if children are good with Iggies. Due to IG’s being predisposed to leg breaks, younger children do not always mix well with young IGs. Young dogs are highly likely to leap from someone’s arms, or wriggle/struggle and be dropped, which will almost certainly result in a broken leg/s. Great care must be taken in a home with young children and young Iggies.
Are Italian Greyhounds good with other dogs?
The vast majority of Italian Greyhounds are extremely sociable. Just like people, dogs are individuals and different; you might have the odd individual that is a bit of a loner, and isn’t keen on other canine company, but mostly IGs are friendly dogs that enjoy both human and canine companionship.
Can Italian Greyhounds live with bigger dogs?
Plenty of Italian Greyhounds live quite happily with bigger dogs. Clearly, they have vulnerabilities in size and weight differences, and we have to consider their fragility in the event of falls and collisions. However, with the correct introduction and initial management, Iggies will live quite happily with bigger dogs.
Are Italian Greyhounds good with small pets?
Italian Greyhounds are sighthounds, and they are switched on to fast moving, small furry creatures. There are owners out there who are successfully mixing their IGs with smaller domestic pets and outdoor animals, but it is not a given that an IG will coexist peaceably with potential prey animals.
Are Italian Greyhounds nervous dogs?
Yes and no. They are a mixed bag! One minute an Italian Greyhound will be outgoing, sociable and confident, the next they will be worrying about something they’ve seen or heard, then they will be back to having confidence in abundance. They are easily spooked and, if they can, will very often flee a situation that scares them.
Why do Italian Greyhounds shiver/shake?
Italian Greyhounds shiver/shake for a number of reasons:
- They are cold
- They are feeling vulnerable
- They are upset
- They are in pain
- They want something you have/another dogs has and they are not getting it!
If you cannot see a reason for shivering/shaking, it’s best to check them over and consult a veterinarian. Despite the apparent stereotype, it is not normal for an IG to shiver/shake continually.
Are Italian Greyhounds difficult to train?
Italian Greyhounds are no more difficult to train than any other breed of dog. It is perfectly possible to train an Iggy to walk on a loose lead, to recall on command, to participate in Agility, and even in scent work. They are a dog, and they are capable of all things a dog can do. Possibly, people’s expectations of IGs are not demanding, and such curious, energetic dogs can be perceived to be skittish, naughty, or obstinate. Very often, training and structured activity channels their mind and energy, resulting in a much easier dog to manage and live with.
Can I let my Italian Greyhound off-lead?
As with absolutely any dog, no matter the breed, you must not let your dog off lead until you have a solid, reliable recall. Not only is it unfair to other people, dogs, and other animals to release a dog without adequate recall, it is dangerous for your own dog! It’s perfectly possible to train a solid, reliable recall in an Iggy. While doing so, use long lines, hire dog paddocks, and consult a professional dog trainer to achieve the results you need to SAFELY let your IG off lead.
Can an Italian Greyhound live alone?
Italian Greyhounds are sociable dogs and thrive in company, especially of their own kind. Iggies do live alone, apparently quite happily, but a lone dog will need dog-friends to interact and socialise with very regularly.
Iggies recognise other sighthounds; their reaction on seeing one is different to that when seeing any other breed-type. Most people who have taken the plunge and taken on a second (third/fourth!) Iggy say it is the best thing they have done for their original Iggy.
If you are taking on a dog with a view to it being an only dog, do consider how realistic it is for you to 100% commit to providing very regular dog>dog social activity for your IG. Iggies will want (and need) to socialise with other Iggies. There are a number of “meet-up” groups around the UK, organised via Facebook and/or Whatsapp. Contact us if you need help locating one for your region.
Where can I buy an Italian Greyhound?
If you decide to buy an Italian Greyhound, please do exercise caution in allowing your heart to rule your head. Securing a well-bred puppy from a reputable breeder is not easy, as IGs are still comparatively uncommon compared to many other breeds.
Most people do not want to fund puppy farming activities, and back yard breeders, however well-intentioned, are not yet engaging in health testing, or studying breed-lines before making a pairing between dogs. It can be quicker and easier to throw caution to the wind when securing your Iggy puppy/dog but, at the end of the day, it will be you who suffers the consequences if the gamble doesn’t pay off – the breeder has your money either way. The way to stop poor/bad practices is for puppy buyers to stop funding them.
- Be prepared to travel to get your puppy
- Be prepared to wait to get your puppy
- KC registered/five generation certificates does not assure you are getting a nicely-bred puppy
- A health test or two does not assure you are getting a nicely-bred puppy
If you are quite prepared to throw caution to the wind, please do consider adopting a rescue from the Italian Greyhound Charity. You will be doing a wonderful thing by offering a home to a rescue Iggy, and you will have the life-long advice and support of the charity, too.
Find out more about finding the right puppy for you here.
How can I adopt a rescue Italian Greyhound?
The Italian Greyhound Rescue Charity is a non-profit organisation staffed by a team of volunteers and funded by voluntary donations. Their network of friends includes home-checkers, foster homes and IG specialists all over the country which enables them to provide care for any IG in need wherever he/she is in the UK.
Adopting an Italian Greyhound that needs a good home can be hugely satisfying and a life-enriching experience, providing that you and your lifestyle suit the needs of the dog, and that you are able to provide the love and care that the dog deserves. Find out more about an Italian Greyhound’s care needs here.