Italian Greyhound

Breed At A Glance


Gentle, submissive and affectionate

Life Expectancy
12-15 years

Average Height
12-15 inches

Average Weight
6-10 lbs

Coat Color
Solid gray, slate gray, cream, red, fawn, black, or blue (all solid colors can also have white markings)

Coat Length/Texture
Short and smooth, with no undercoat

Shedding Propensity
Little or not at all

Also known as Piccolo Levriero Italiano, IG, Iggy

General Temperament

Gentle, affectionate and intelligent, the Italian Greyhound makes a wonderful companion pet. They enjoy the company of people and are great with children. They also usually get along well with dogs and other pets they are raised with. They like to bark at passersby and therefore make good watchdogs, although they are aloof with strangers and easily spooked, making them inadequate for actual guarding. They can sometimes be timid or high strung, and need extra consoling during stressful situations. Proper socialization from puppyhood is key to a successful relationship with an I.G., especially in a household with lively young children.

The I.G. is somewhat more active indoors that it’s Greyhound cousin, and enjoy the chance to run at top speed on occasion. They do well in either in a house or an apartment, as long as they have a good daily walk or jog. Young Italian Greyhounds can be quite active and may attempt ill-advised feats, causing injury to their frail bodies. They are also excellent climbers and can walk on their hind legs better than most other breeds, allowing them opportunities to scale fences or take items off of counters. Many Italian Greyhounds enjoy and excel in dog agility competitions.

Italian Greyhounds are sight hunters by nature, and as such tend to take off after any fast moving prey; for this reason, it’s important to keep the dog on a leash whenever a fenced enclosure is not available. (It is generally not a good idea to keep this breed tied up to a fixed spot, such as a tree or wall, as they have been known to break their own necks in an attempt to take off after sighted prey.)

Italian Greyhounds have small bladders relative to their size, so house training can be an arduous process. They can also be strong willed, so patience and consistency is needed with all forms of training. Positive reinforcement works best with this breed.

Breed History

Although the Italian Greyhound is considered a toy breed by the American Kennel Club, they originated as a working sight hound. It is believed to have originated more than 4,000 years ago in the countries now known as Greece and Turkey, although the mummified remains of a similar dog was found in an ancient Egyptian tomb, and there is pictorial evidence of this breed’s presence in Pompeii. Around the 16th century, this breed became popular amongst various European nobility, and individual dogs were known to have hunted alongside falcons.

The first Italian Greyhound was registered with the American Kennel Club in 1886.

Body Structure and Composition

The Italian Greyhound is considered “toy” because of it’s weight, but it is a tall and slender breed with a deep chest, tucked abdomen and long legs and neck. The face is long and pointed, like it’s full-sized Greyhound cousin. The fine narrow ears fold back along the head, but rise perpendicular to the head when the dog is alert. The tail is straight and ends in a slight curve, and the skin is thin with very short fur. The lightweight frame and strong hindquarters give the dog the ability to run at a top speed of 25 mph with a double suspension gallop (all four legs off the ground at the same time).

Medical Information

The fragile bone structure of the Italian Greyhound, especially in puppies and young dogs, can lead to fractures and other osteo-related conditions. Play with large dogs is not recommended. They are prone to slipped stiffle (also known as patellar luxation), a situation in which the kneelike joint above the hock in the hind leg slips and may require surgery. The I.G. also sometimes encounters Legg-Perthes disease, a degenerative disease of the hip joint in which a loss of bone mass to deformity of the ball of the femur and the surface of the hip socket. This breed is also prone to Epilepsy (recurrent seizures), but this can be controlled somewhat with medication.

Various forms of hemolytic anemia (bleeding disorders) exist in some lines of Italian Greyhounds. They can also be prone to certain eye conditions, including cataracts and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), a degeneration of the retina that can cause blindness. Periodontal disease can also be a problem for this breed, and it’s important to maintain regular dental cleanings.

Anecdotal Information

The grace and nobility of this breed has prompted centuries of artists, including Velasquez, Pisanello and Giotto, to include the dogs in paintings.

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