Italian Greyhounds are an incredibly loyal and loving breed but they are not suitable for everyone. Here, I will explore the Italian Greyhound’s character, personality and needs in an attempt to help prospective owners decide, is an Italian Greyhound the right breed for them?
The Italian Greyhound, also referred to as an “Iggy”, is in the Toy Group so are they similar to other breeds in this group?
The Italian Greyhound may be a member of The Kennel Club’s Toy Group but Italian Greyhounds are a Sighthound at heart. Overseas (under FCI governing rules) they belong to the Sighthound Group and it is worth all prospective owners bearing this in mind when considering an Italian Greyhound. They may be small, but the Italian Greyhound is an incredibly energetic dog – they are a Sighthound in miniature and they must be treated as such. Some of you may have seen Italian Greyhounds being carried around in “designer dog-carriers” but they are not a breed which can simply be carried and caged away. They love their exercise and it is vital part of their daily well-being.
Do Italian Greyhounds require much exercise?
Yes. The energy levels of an Italian Greyhound can often surpass the energy levels of bigger breeds, such as the Whippet and Greyhound. A Greyhound, for example, will be very happy with two short walks in the morning and afternoon either side of spending the rest of the day on the sofa. The Italian Greyhound, however, needs much more stimulus. If you speak to any Italian Greyhound owners, they will probably say that they take their dogs for walks which exceed an hour at a time. Your ability to provide this level of exercise and stimulus is a factor in asking is Italian Greyhound the right breed for me?
Italian Greyhounds love to explore, run with one another, investigate every corner of the fields they exercise in, and much more! At the end of the walk, some of the energy reserves will have been used up but please do not be deceived. An Italian Greyhound can return from a walk and then play for a good while longer in the house. In short, an Italian Greyhound will sleep when necessary (and they do make the perfect sofa partners) but they have an abundance of energy which most humans are envious of.
When it comes to exercising, Italian Greyhounds should be walked by their owner or by someone who they are very familiar with. Italian Greyhounds can be easily spooked so if they are on a walk, they need to be with the person with whom they have the strongest bond and who understands their character and behaviour. This is why breed specialist organisations, such as the Italian Greyhound Rescue Charity, do not recommend that Italian Greyhounds, especially rescues, are exercised by external dog walkers or placed into day care centres where they may not know the people who are looking after them. Italian Greyhounds are not like any other breed so they must be looked after by those who have a thorough understanding of the breed.
Are Italian Greyhounds prone to health problems?
The most common health problem that people will associate with the Italian Greyhound will be leg breaks. Their slender legs can be more prone to accidents and, dogs will be dogs so accidents can and do happen. But reputable breeders have thoughtfully bred and produced Italian Greyhounds with improved bone density. This is just one of the reasons why people interested in an Italian Greyhound must do their research properly and find an established, reputable breeder.
Once the owner of an Italian Greyhound, sensibility and common sense must be employed. Italian Greyhounds should not be allowed to race up and down stairs, they should be exercised with suitable canine companions (to run an Italian Greyhound with a larger, heavier build of dog is not advisable), and jumping from heights at high speed should be prevented too. Furthermore, a high quality diet should be fed so that an Italian Greyhound’s internal well-being is kept strong and healthy.
It is strongly recommended by breeders that Italian Greyhound owners take out suitable pet insurance for their dog. None of us know precisely what the future holds and the time may come when a dog requires treatment which can be costly. Dog owners take on the huge responsibility of caring for their canine companions from the moment they collect them through to the time they pass over the rainbow bridge. By having adequate insurance in place, owners can have the peace of mind that some of the costs of veterinary fees are covered.
How well do Italian Greyhounds get on with other dogs?
As with any breed, dogs must be introduced carefully and sensibly to other animals in the household. Most Italian Greyhounds make friends very easily as they enjoy both human and canine company, playing, exercising and snoozing together. Each dog is different, with some preferring to be the sole focus of their owner’s attention whereas others thrive on being with other dogs.
What is the Italian Greyhound’s temperament like?
Italian Greyhounds are a sensitive breed. They can be aloof at times and some Italian Greyhounds will be more reserved than others. What is crucial is that Italian Greyhounds are sympathetically handled, well socialised from a young age and throughout their life, and given routine and structure so that boundaries are established as part of their training. The Italian Greyhound is an incredibly loyal and loving breed, close to their owner’s side at any given time. As described above, Italian Greyhounds are energetic and with this comes a very fun-loving breed who will never make for a dull moment in the home.
Is an Italian Greyhound the right breed for you? If the answers to any of the above questions have cast a query or slight doubt in your mind as to the Italian Greyhound’s suitability for you, please do not bury these thoughts. Unfortunately, too many people have a fleeting meeting with an Italian Greyhound, fall in love with their “cuteness” and take on an Italian Greyhound without truly understanding the breed. Yes, they are small and beautiful, but Italian Greyhounds are lively dogs who need and deserve due care and attention. Do not cause unnecessary heartbreak for either an Italian Greyhound or yourself by making the wrong decision.
This article was first published in Our Dogs (http://www.ourdogs.co.uk) in May, 2008. Published here with additional photography by Christine Chau.