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rec.pets.dogs: Italian Greyhound Breed-FAQ

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Archive-name: dogs-faq/breeds/italgreys
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Last-modified: 03 Mar 1998

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                             Italian Greyhounds
Table of Contents

     * What's so special about Italian Greyhounds?
     * How big do they get?
     * How long do they live?
     * Are there medical problems common in the breed?
     * What is their energy level and attention span?
     * What about dominance and submissiveness?
     * Tractability and trainability?
     * Are they hard to housetrain?
     * Are they protective?
     * Can they live outdoors?
     * What about grooming?
     * Do they shed?
     * Are they low maintenance pets?
     * Are they good with children and other pets?
     * Do they need any special care?
     * Who should not own an Italian Greyhound? 
     * Are there any bad things about Italian Greyhounds?
     * Should they be crate trained?
What's so special about Italian Greyhounds?

   Everything. Okay, so I'm passionately devoted to this fabulous breed,
   maybe even obsessed. They're beautiful and clean without expensive or
   time-consuming grooming. They're small enough to fit into any living
   situation yet large enough to be real dogs. Although small in size,
   they bark rather than yap. Most of all, they have an extremely loving,
   devoted nature and a scintillating, sometimes unpredictable charm that
   never allows for a dull moment. They are sweet, gentle, affectionate,
   sprightly, and imaginative. Most Italian Greyhounds are one person or
   one family dogs that want to be physically close to their humans. The
   Italian Greyhound is a unique breed that has the ability to completely
   entrance its devotees, although a few of its more whimsical attributes
   might charm some and be a turnoff for others.
Where did the Italian Greyhound come from?

   There is some question whether the Italian Greyhound was originally
   intended to hunt small game or vermin or mainly to be a beloved
   companion. Most likely both of these theories are true. Many Italian
   Greyhounds have a strong instinct to hunt and chase. Others have none,
   since, at least during the past century or so, they have not been bred
   for this characteristic. It is also likely that they became a popular
   household pet during the days before central heating, because their
   warm little bodies can be very comforting in an otherwise cold bed.
   The Italian Greyhound goes back a long way in history as does the
   large Greyhound, probably originating as long as 2,000 years ago in
   the areas that are now the countries of Greece and Turkey. A small
   sighthound is depicted in the early art works of these nations, and
   bones indicating a dog of this type have been found in archeological
   sites. The breed became popular in Southern Europe during the Middle
   Ages and by the 16th Century many were depicted in Italian paintings
   and sculpture. It is for this reason, not because of its origin, that
   the little hound became known as the Italian Greyhound. Its larger
   cousin, the Whippet, originating in England in the 19th Century, is a
   relatively new breed that started as a mixture of large Greyhound and
   terrier and later incorporated some Italian Greyhound blood to add
   refinement. The Italian Greyhound has always been a favorite of
   royalty and aristocracy, and many paintings show historical figures
   such as Princess Anne of Denmark, Queen Victoria and Catherine the
   Great of Russia with their beloved Italian Greyhounds. It is a well
   known fact that Frederick the Great was a great fan of this breed and
   was almost always seen with one or more of them.
   The first Italian Greyhound was registered by the American Kennel Club
   in 1886, but the breed remained quite rare in the United States until
   fairly recently. The first Italian Greyhound ever to attain the honor
   of being Best in Show at an all-breed show was Ch. Flaminia of Alpine
   in 1963. The number of BIS Italian Greyhounds has gown steadily since
   then. The record holder for the most BIS wins is Ch. Donmar's Scarlet
   Ribbons, with 22. The breed's top producing sire was Ch. Dasa's King
   of The Mountain, with 78 title holding offspring. Top producing dam
   was Ch. Dasa's Ebony Queen, with 30. Since Italian Greyhounds have
   small litters --usually 2 to 4 puppies --these records are quite
   likely to stand for some time.
How big do they get?

   13" to 15" at the shoulders is ideal for the show ring. The average
   weight is eight to 12 pounds. Larger ones (17" or 18") are fairly
   common and make great pets.
How long do they live?

   13 to 14 or 15 years is normal. 16 to 18 is not unusual.
Are there medical problems common in the breed?

   Hypothyroidism and other autoimmune diseases, PRA, seizure disorders,
   luxating patellas, Legg-Perthes. None of them is rampant but all of
   these as well as some other genetic maladies have been diagnosed in
   some. A few bloodlines have a predisposition for leg fractures because
   of lack of bone density.
   At this time the Italian GreyhoundCA is working with Dr. Acland of
   Cornell University to try to develop a blood test that would show up
   carriers of PRA. In the meantime, although no screening is required
   for any of the conditions named, the Italian GreyhoundCA and other
   responsible breeders strongly recommend testing for PRA. Responsible
   breeders also have their dogs checked for Legg-Perthes, luxated
   patellas, heart irregularities and, if suspected, hypo-thyroidism.
   Some veterinary orthopedic specialists claim that bone density can be
   checked by x-rays, but there is some doubt as to the effectiveness of
   doing this. The Italian GreyhoundCA's health committee has been
   working on a study of patterns of heredity in excessive leg breaks but
   thus far there is no positive method of identifying the problem.
   Prospective owners of Italian Greyhounds should inquire of the breeder
   whether the sire and/or dam or any of their offspring have experienced
What is their energy level and attention span?

   The energy level is quite high in healthy puppies and young dogs.
   Mature Italian Greyhounds are quite adaptive and responsive to the
   energy level of their owners. They are true sighthounds in miniature,
   and the attention span can be short if they're bored.
   Although Italian Greyhounds reach physical maturity between eight
   months and a year and a half, depending on their bloodline and their
   size (larger ones tend to keep growing for a longer period) most of
   them retain their puppy energy and playfulness well beyond that age.
   Some do not attain mental maturity until they are three or four years
   old --another characteristic which many fanciers consider to be part
   of the charm of this breed. Some other owners might be impatiently
   waiting for their dog to "grow up."
What about dominance and submissiveness?

   A single Italian Greyhound is usually submissive in nature; but in a
   situation that involves several Italian Greyhounds or other breeds of
   similar or smaller size there can be fights for dominance in the pack.
   A caveat here is that many fanciers new to this lovable and
   affectionate breed refuse to believe that these normally sweet dogs
   may be small, but they are true hounds and they have a strong tendency
   toward pack behavior. More owners than I care to mention have come
   home to find that an ill, old or otherwise weak "pack member" has been
   severely attacked by the stronger dogs.
Tractability and trainability?

   Again, these are sighthounds and individuals vary greatly in these
   characteristics. If they were human they would do better in a liberal
   arts school than at a military academy. Some do superbly in obedience
   competition, and others don't do well at all. Much depends on the
   trainer's ability to keep the Italian Greyhound interested. Agility is
   a sport that could have been invented for the Italian Greyhound, and
   they make excellent therapy dogs. Some are even adept at lure
   coursing, although the latter should be undertaken with a degree of
Are they hard to housetrain?

   Some owners say they are, and some Italian Greyhounds can be stubborn
   about it. It's especially hard to persuade an Italian Greyhound to ask
   to go out in extreme weather. Owners who install doggy doors and those
   who paper train have the best results. [How about a litter box?]
Are they protective?

   Most Italian Greyhounds will bark an alert warning when someone or
   something strange approaches. They aren't likely to do more than bark
   and behave in an agitated manner in the face of danger to their owner
   or property, although there are exceptions to this too.
Can they live outdoors?

   The Italian Greyhound is definitely an "inside dog." Outdoor play and
   walks on warm days are enjoyed, but this isn't a dog that can be left
   alone to fend for itself in the back yard.
What about grooming?

   This is minimal, but teeth and toenails need regular attention. The
   coat is so short and fine that a bath is rarely necessary.
Do they shed?

   Yes, but the hair is so short and fine that it can hardly be seen.
Are they low maintenance pets?

   The amount of time not used for bathing and grooming is required
   tenfold for attention and love. Italian Greyhounds can be almost needy
   in their desire for affection.
Are they good with children and other pets?

   Italian Greyhounds have great rapport with gentle children who
   understand that this is a living creature and not a toy that can be
   manhandled. An Italian Greyhound could be injured by a thoughtless
   child. The same is true of interaction with other animals. They get
   along well with cats and other dogs of similar size but must be
   protected from rambunctious larger pets.
Do they need any special care?

   A sweater or jacket is in order in cold weather. Although the Italian
   Greyhound is not as delicate as he looks, care must be taken to avoid
   "booby traps" that might result in a broken leg. Not likely to run
   away simply to explore, many Italian Greyhounds would run into the
   street or even take an incredible leap from a balcony or open window
   in playful pursuit of a cat or other animal ---or to follow their
   masters. This breed should NEVER be walked off lead, since another dog
   or something unusual might spook them, causing them to bolt.
Who should not own an Italian Greyhound?

   People who have too little time to devote to their dogs, who have
   unruly children, who expect instant and unerring obedience, who expect
   their dog to stay in the back yard, or who are embarrassed to share
   love with an animal should not own this breed.
Are there any bad things about Italian Greyhounds?

   They require and demand lots of love and attention. Denied this, they
   can become shy or hyper or both. They must be properly socialized as
   puppies. Those that are kennel raised under impersonal conditions can
   have difficulty adjusting. If expected to spend much time outdoors
   they are not suitable for cold climates. Italian Greyhounds are very
   athletic, and their jumping and climbing abilities can get them into
   trouble. They also have no traffic sense, and an Italian Greyhound
   that gets into the street is almost destined to be hit. Since they are
   hounds, they can be quite stubborn.
Should they be crate trained?

   Certainly, but please don't confuse crate training with house
   training. All dogs should learn to stay in a crate quietly for short
   periods of time, up to three or four hours; but a crate should not be
   used to confine an Italian Greyhound all day long every day while its
   owner is at work or play. Dogs are not intended to be caged animals
   like laboratory rats.
   Unfortunately many breeders find it easier to tell their puppy buyers
   to keep the dog crated when no one is at home than to explain the
   process of house training. Italian Greyhounds are lovers of warmth and
   can be stubborn about going outside when the weather is cold, wet or
   windy, and there is a tendency for owners to just keep them crated
   instead of addressing this issue. The most successfully house trained
   Italian Greyhounds are the ones that have free access to a dog door
   rather than having to learn to ask to go out.
    Italian Greyhound FAQ
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