All About Italian Greyhound

black and white italian greyhound with a blue collar gold tag and blue leash

Italian Greyhounds are small dogs with strong personalities. These loving companions adore spending time with their family, especially when they can curl up in someone’s lap. Often abbreviated as IG, there is much to learn about these dogs before you adopt your own.

About the Breed

The Italian Greyhound personality is quite likable. These canines often form a strong bond with their parent or family. They even get along dashingly with kids, cats, and other dogs.

However, due to their petite frame, care should be taken if your IG plays with larger dogs. The same rule applies if your pup will be around kids. While teens and older kids may know how to handle a small dog gently, young kids could accidentally get too rough or even try and climb on your dog. Be sure to monitor any interaction your dog has with children.

Although they are a friendly breed, it is not uncommon for IGs to be shy around strangers or to bark when newcomers are at your home. Given time, and as long as a new person is not pushy, Italian Greyhounds will often warm up to them and accept them as a friend.

Around their own family, these dogs are dependent. They prefer to be in a room with other people or follow people around the house as tasks are completed. Not to mention, these dogs are curious—some would say nosey—so they always want to be a part of the action.

One of the many great things about this breed is that they enjoy being both lazy and active. An Italian Greyhound will happily join you for a jog, walk or hike in the morning, but then curl up in your lap for a movie in the afternoon.

Due to their small size, Italian Greyhounds can accommodate apartment living as long as they are still given a chance to stretch their legs and burn off some energy outside. If you live in a house and have a yard, it is essential to have your yard fenced in before you can let your dog out to run around. IGs have a strong prey drive, so if something catches their interest, they’ll be gone before you even know what happens.

fawn colored Italian greyhound lying atop a blue and tan dog bed with a brown teddy bear

Breed History

Italian Greyhounds are an ancient dog breed. On various archeological digs in Turkey and Greece regions, 2,000-year-old artifacts have been discovered with depictions of miniature Greyhounds. Some of these digs have even turned up small Greyhound skeletons. Although there is no definitive record of what the Italian Greyhound’s original purpose was, it is known that these dogs were used for hunting small game and for companionship.

By the Middle Ages, these dogs made their way to southern Europe, and they became increasingly popular, especially with the aristocracy, in Italy—thus where they received their name.

Around the 1600s, Italian Greyhounds arrived in England, and they just as quickly gained the attention of nobility and royalty. Over the years, some of these proud Italian Greyhound parents included Mary, Queen of Scots, James I of England, Princess Anne of Denmark, Catherine the Great of Russia, Charles I, Frederick the Great of Prussia, and the prominent Italian families of Medici and Visconti. Even Queen Victoria had Italian Greyhounds, and it was during the Victorian Era that this breed’s popularity peaked.

This breed was so well-liked during this time that artists such as Giotto di Bondone, Sassetta, Pisanello, Memling, Bosch, Carpaccio, and Tiepolo often included Italian Greyhounds in their work.

During the 1800s, IGs were brought to the United States. Although there weren’t many at first, the Italian Greyhound population in the States turned out to be vital for the breed as a whole. During both World Wars, most Englanders did not have the resources to continue breeding dogs, so the IG’s numbers plummeted. After both wars, the American-born Italian Greyhounds helped revive this breed’s population in Europe.

Near the turn of the 21st century, Italian Greyhounds were no longer a rare sight in the U.S. Today, IGs have once again caught dog parents’ attention for their cute looks, kind demeanor, and cuddlable qualities.

Piccolo Levriero Italiano is the Italian translation for Little Italian Greyhound.

Attributes

The Italian Greyhound resembles the Greyhound—they are just the mini version. These dogs, which are lean and muscular, are considered to be the smallest of the sighthounds. Sighthounds are a hunting dog that utilizes their speed and sight, instead of smell and endurance. If given the opportunity, this breed is capable of running up to 25 mph.+

Before adopting an IG, most pet parents have some questions about the breed. Common queries include:

What Are Common Italian Greyhound Colors?

Italian Greyhounds can come in various colors, including black, red, grey, and isabelline. Some will also have white markings on their feet and stomach.

Do Italian Greyhounds Shed?

Lucky for IG parents, these canines shed hardly at all.

What’s the Average Italian Greyhound Weight

This breed’s typical weight range is 7-10 pounds, but it is not unusual for them to weigh up to 15 pounds. Height-wise, Italian Greyhounds stand around 13-15 inches.

As puppies, this breed is pretty active. Like many puppies, Italian Greyhounds have an excess amount of energy that rarely seems to dwindle. By the time they are adults, most IGs calm down and are willing to settle into their more relaxed demeanor.

brown and white Italian greyhound in a brown collar resting on a gray couchawn colored Italian greyhound lying atop a blue and tan dog bed with a brown teddy bear

Grooming and Care

The Italian Greyhound’s coat is overall low maintenance. They typically only need brushed if their coat becomes dusty or if you notice they are shedding more than usual. Your dog will need a bath every few months unless they get into something messy in the meantime, which isn’t uncommon. Around once a month, your dog’s nails will need to be trimmed as well. Some dogs can be particular about people touching their feet, so be sure to reward your pup with treats and praise after allowing you to handle their paws.

You will need to brush your canine’s teeth multiple times a week. These frequent brushings can help prevent periodontal disease, and they can keep stinky dog breath at bay.

Every week, you should also check and clean your pup’s ears. You will want to look for any signs of redness or a bad odor, which could be a sign of infection. To clean your IG’s ears, you can use a pet-safe ear cleaner and cotton balls to wipe the outer ear gently. Be sure never to use cotton swabs or to clean down into your dog’s ear canal as this could cause pain or accidental injury.

It is most helpful to introduce your dog’s grooming routine as early as possible. It may take some time for your pal to become acclimated to each grooming item, so remember to take things one step at a time, remain positive, and be patient.

An essential part of caring for an Italian Greyhound is to provide them with a nutritious diet. Be sure you are feeding your dog the appropriate amount of food per meal to ensure that they are not overeating. Weight gain can affect any dog breed, and once they become overweight, they have an increased chance of developing a long list of other health issues. If you are ever unsure about what type of food or how much you should be giving your pal, talk with your veterinarian about recommendations.

Besides providing yummy, healthy food, it’s additionally necessary to provide plenty of exercise. Daily, your Italian Greyhound will require one or two walks and some playtime. If you can find a fenced-in area, these pups also appreciate the opportunity to run and stretch their legs freely.

Because of their slender size, IGs can burn off a reasonable portion of their energy in the house. This can be achieved through playing various games or by them having a zoomy inside. When they are running around, and this is especially true for puppies, keep an eye out that they do not make any daredevil moves. Young Italian Greyhounds can be fearless, and they have been known to leap off of higher spots. Because of their delicate build, this can sometimes result in a broken leg.

Due to their short coats, IGs can quickly get chilled in cooler temperatures, so having a coat, jacket, or sweater on-hand is always helpful. These dogs are also not overly fond of the rain. By having an overhang or a covered grassy spot, you can protect your pal from the rain and, hopefully, coax them outdoors in less than desirable weather.

When it is warm and sunny, your Italian Greyhound will often seek a cozy spot for sunbathing. To protect your four-legged friend’s skin from the sun and to help prevent issues such as skin cancer, be sure to give them a good helping of dog-safe sunscreen. Even with this added protection, chances are, you will still have to call them inside from time to time.

Want to protect your Italian Greyhound from skin problems? Read up on more sun-safety tips.

Training

Italian Greyhounds are an intelligent breed, and they are relatively easy to train, although these dogs do tend to adopt the notion of “what’s in it for me?” To entice your dog to listen to commands, rewards such as food, treats, or a favorite toy can be helpful. For some dogs, it may be most beneficial to keep training sessions short and sweet. By practicing in intervals, you may be able to keep your dog’s attention better.

Like many other toy breeds, Italian Greyhounds are not at the top of their class when it comes to being housetrained. It can take a while before IGs understand that their business needs to be done outdoors. Not to mention, these dogs are not great at holding it or waiting a minute. If they let you know that they need to go out and you don’t take them out right away, don’t be surprised if an accident occurs. Even after your IG is housetrained, it may still be necessary to have them stay in their crate when they are home alone. Otherwise, you could come home to a bit of a mess.

It is vital that training begins the same week or the very day that you bring your dog home. At a young age, IGs are still able to learn basic commands and tricks. This breed does not react well to raised voices or harsh commands, so remember to keep training sessions positive and to use happy tones.

Going hand-in-hand with training is socialization. Introducing your dog to other animals, people, and places starting from a young age can help them be less shy as an adult. Plus, by being well socialized, your dog will have a greater chance of developing a more even temper and a more well-rounded personality.

Common Health Issues

Italian Greyhounds, like any dog breed, are susceptible to some health conditions. According to our claims data,^ the top Italian Greyhound health issues include,

  • Cancer
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Prophylaxis
  • Periodontal disease
  • Elevated liver enzymes

Although these health problems are common among the IG breed, there is no guarantee that your dog will develop any or all of these issues. One of the best ways to manage your dog’s health is to schedule them for a yearly appointment with their veterinarian.

Living a happy and healthy lifestyle, on average Italian Greyhounds will have a life expectancy of 12-15 years.

+“Italian Greyhound.” Dogtime.
^Internal Claims Data, 2015-20 The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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