By Helen Rishworth
This article was first published in Our Dogs (http://www.ourdogs.co.uk) in May, 2008. Published here with additional photography by Christine Chau.
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 whether an IG is the right breed for them.
The Italian Greyhound is in the Toy Group so are they similar to other breeds in this group?
The IG may be a member of The Kennel Club’s Toy Group but IGs 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 IG. They may be small, but the IG is an incredibly energetic dog – they are a Sighthound in miniature and they must be treated as such. Some of you may have seen IGs 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 IG 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 IG, however, needs much more stimulus. If you speak to any IG owners, they will probably say that they take their dogs for walks which exceed an hour at a time.
IGs 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 IG can return from a walk and then play for a good while longer in the house. In short, an IG 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, IGs should be walked by their owner or by someone who they are very familiar with. IGs 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 IGs, 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. IGs 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 IG 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 IGs with improved bone density. This is just one of the reasons why people interested in an IG must do their research properly and find an established, reputable breeder.
Once the owner of an IG, sensibility and common sense must be employed. IGs should not be allowed to race up and down stairs, they should be exercised with suitable canine companions (to run an IG 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 IG’s internal well-being is kept strong and healthy.
It is strongly recommended by breeders that IG 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 IGs 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?
IGs are a sensitive breed. They can be aloof at times and some IGs will be more reserved than others. What is crucial is that IGs 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 IG is an incredibly loyal and loving breed, close to their owner’s side at any given time. As described above, IGs are energetic and with this comes a very fun-loving breed who will never make for a dull moment in the home.
If the answers to any of the above questions have cast a query or slight doubt in your mind as to the IG’s suitability for you, please do not bury these thoughts. Unfortunately, too many people have a fleeting meeting with an IG, fall in love with their “cuteness” and take on an IG without truly understanding the breed. Yes, they are small and beautiful, but IGs are lively dogs who need and deserve due care and attention. Do not cause unnecessary heartbreak for either an IG or yourself by making the wrong decision.