The Italian Greyhound is also known under the names of: IG, Iggy and Piccolo Levriero Italiano, its correct Italian name.
- Exercise Needs: Medium.
- Typical Health Problems: Several.
- Average Life Expectancy: 14 to 15 years.
- Grooming Requirements: Medium.
- Training Difficulty: Medium.
- Diet: Normal.
- Price and Cost: Puppy prices for the Italian Greyhound start at $400, typical additional costs are special collars and clothes for bad weather.
Originating in Old Egypt, the Italian Greyhound, or Iggy, as it is called lovingly by its fans, is the smallest of the sight hound breeds. Elegant and delicate, it is an ideal dog for the city and for people that like to have a dog that is always in close contact to them. This dog needs a fair amount of care, but, on the other hand, sheds remarkably little hair and can therefor be a good choice for people with allergies to other dog breeds. On the downside, this is a small dog breed that often suffers from separation anxiety problems and that literally insists in living in close contact to its human family. If you don’t like to share your bed and couch with a dog, this breed is not for you.
The beginning of this breed is hidden in the darkness of history, but some sources say, that its origin is in Ancient Egypt. Mummified dogs that resemble this breed remarkably have been found in ancient tombs and frescoes often show a small hunting sight hound, called the ‘Tesem / TSM’. All this makes it probable that the roots of this breed really are in Ancient Egypt. From there the dogs were brought to the Mediterranean, and especially Italy, where the Italian Greyhound, as we know it today, developed. Kept less as a hunting dog and more as a companion and status symbol, these dogs were never meant to work hard, nor being kept by the working class. Palaces and grand houses became the home of the Iggys and soon the breed even became fashionable at royal courts. Famous Iggy owners of that time included Catherine the Great of Russia and King Frederick of Prussia. After the Renaissance the breed suffered a decline in popularity and only the 20th century saw a revival of this breed. The Italian Greyhound is now recognized by all major kennel clubs and associations, alas with different standards regarding the coat color (see below).
The body frame is square and slender with elegant, slim limbs and covered by a very fine, silky coat. All colors are allowed, with the following exceptions: tan or brindle markings. Bi-colored coats are allowed by the national standards of the USA and the UK, but not by the international standards published by the FCI for international competitions. In general this dog resembles a miniature greyhound, but with even finer and more delicate features. Because of its low weight, between 8 and 18lb (3,6 to 8,2kg) the Italian Greyhound is classified by kennel associations as belonging to the group of ‘toy’ breeds despite the fact that with 13 to 15in (33 to 38cm) height he is larger than the other breeds in this group.
There is nothing what the IG loves more than to snuggle, preferable in its owners bed and under the duvet cover. Many Iggys are prone to suffer from separation anxiety and need to be trained carefully to stay alone at home without making a drama out of it. These are very docile and intelligent dogs that get along well with other animals and pets, as long as they know them. But being a Greyhound breed means also that these dogs like to chase and their recall will be extremely poor when they are chasing after something.
These are intelligent and docile dogs that are only happy if their owner is happy, which, in theory, should make them easily trainable. In reality this wish to please their owner often clashes with the Iggys own desire for comfort. This is especially noticeable when it comes to potty training them. Some will be perfectly house broken when the weather is nice, sunny and warm and less so when it is cold and rainy. Many dog owners actually offer their Iggys a cat toilet (litter box) inside to avoid this conflict.
Like all sight hounds the Italian Greyhound is utterly attracted by fast moving objects like birds and cats and their recall is close to nil if they have started the chase already. It is therefor strongly recommended to let this dog only off the leash if it is in a fenced, or otherwise secured, area.
Apart of these two typical training problems the IG lives up to the expectation of a perfect lap and companion dog that forms an exceptionally close bond with its owner and family.
Small as the Italian Greyhound might be, it is still a wind hound breed and needs the appropriate exercise. Care should be taken to let it only run in enclosed and safe areas as this dog loves to chase birds and other temptations. Iggys can do well in dog sports such as agility, but they really do excel in racing and luring. Sometimes it can be difficult to find racing or luring events that allow smaller dogs, contacting your local Italian Greyhound club or association is often a good way to find out about events and activities in your area.
Apart of the occasional wipe with a pet glove and the clipping, or better electrical grinding, of the toe nails, the Italian Greyhound would be low maintenance if it wouldn’t be for its teeth. Puppies should get used to from the beginning to having their teeth brushed daily and regular dental controls by the vet are a must to avoid, or at least post pone, periodontal disease.
Common Health Problems
Most of the health problems an Italian Greyhound can suffer from can be prevented with the right care. For example broken legs and tails occur frequently in younger dogs and can be prevented by supervising the play and ‘puppy proofing’ the surroundings.
Teeth and gum problems are frequent in this breed, but can be prevented, or at least delayed, with daily brushing of the teeth. Periodontal disease is a real curse in this breed and is caused, partly, by the relatively small gene pool and the resulting inbreeding. Additionally Iggy puppies often have problems when their permanent teeth break through and the ‘milk teeth’ don’t want to give way. In this case the vet has often to remove the first teeth surgically in order to allow for a normal, dental development.
Other common health problems of the Italian Greyhound are over-sensitivities to medications such as anesthetics or to vaccination combinations. It is therefor wise to always make sure that the vet you choose is familiar with the special needs of the breed.
Price and Costs
Puppy prices for the Italian Greyhound start at around $400, but can go higher depending on the lineage of the parents. While feeding and grooming costs are low, veterinarian control of the dental situation and other possible health issues can raise the overall costs of having an Iggy.
Other Important Points to Consider
Due to its fine coat and relatively little body fat, when not overweight, the Iggy doesn’t tolerate cold and inclement weather very well. If kept in a cold climate, it is essential to buy warm doggie clothes for it. Additionally this dog also needs a special wind hound collar, of the martingale type for example, to ensure that the head does not slips out easily.
An ideal dog for somebody that has the time and commitment to take care of this lovable love-bug, but not ideal for families with small children or people that need to leave their dog alone due to work and other commitments. Its small size and low weight makes it an ideal dog for older or frail people and its affectionate nature makes for a perfect companion dog. The Italian Greyhound is perhaps one of the most affectionate breeds around and, despite some drawbacks, as close to the ideal, small companion dog as possible.