The Italian Greyhound

The Italian Greyhound
The Italian Greyhound
That’s amoré: this playful, alert and affectionate breed may steal your heart

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Diminutive and delicate, the Italian Greyhound is an ancient breed. So ancient, in fact, that we lack records to reveal the exact details of the I.G.’s origins—the how, when, and why of the Italian Greyhound’s early development are shrouded in mystery. 

Skeletal remains from archeological digs in the regions of Turkey and Greece suggest that the breed is at least 2,000 years old and, well, not Italian! Artwork, too, sheds some light on the story: the breed has been a favourite of many talented artists and is seen in portraits dating back to the Middle Ages. Drawings on Egyptian tomb walls also bear a striking resemblance to the breed, leading some to speculate on even more ancient origins. 

The Italian Greyhound’s original purpose is also the subject of some debate. What we have with the I.G. is essentially a finer-boned, miniature version of the Greyhound, achieved through selective breeding. Was he bred to hunt for small game as well as for companionship? There’s no way of knowing, but it’s likely that the Italian Greyhound was bred for both purposes. 

The breed gained popularity as a lapdog for royals and members of society’s upper crust in a number of countries, but most notably in Italy during the Renaissance; so prized and beloved was the tiny hound there that he earned his moniker and was from then on known as the Italian Greyhound.

The breed made its way to England in the early 1600s and quickly gave other Toy dogs, like the King Charles Spaniel and the Maltese, a run for the money as the most sought-after dog of the nobility. 

Officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1886, the Italian Greyhound made its first appearance at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show the following year. The breed has yet to earn the coveted Best in Show award, despite record-breaking cheers from crowds who are always delighted to watch the I.G.’s high-stepping prance. 

Today’s Italian Greyhound is a member of the Toy Group. The AKC standard notes ideal height for the breed is 13 to 15 inches at the withers (the I.G. weighs around eight to fifteen pounds), and all colours and markings are accepted, with the notable exceptions of brindle or black-and-tan. 

So what’s this little dog actually like to live with? In canine-speak, he’s the classic Velcro dog—so closely bonded with his guardians that it feels like he’s attached at the hip. The I.G. is an incredibly affectionate and loving dog, but known for being shy around strangers. He’s famously playful—delighting his people with hilarious antics well past the puppy stage.

Because of his shy nature, early socialization is important with this breed. Getting your I.G. out to meet new people and pets, and to experience a variety of surroundings will help him come out of his shell and build confidence. Basic good manners can be taught with obedience training, and these dogs are fast learners. One caveat: extra patience will likely be needed when it comes to potty training. Like many of the Toy breeds, the Italian Greyhound may take a while to get the hang of going potty outdoors—and he’ll need plenty of breaks throughout the day. Positive reinforcement methods only, please! The I.G.’s sweet and sensitive nature is a mismatch for harsh words or actions. Love him, be patient, and you’ll reap rewards for many years to come. 

By nature the Italian Greyhound is athletic and agile, but he’s also fine boned. Keeping nails trimmed is important to avoid slips and spills—broken bones are a concern for this breed. In puppyhood, safety precautions should be taken to ensure that the I.G. can’t jump on or off high surfaces. 

His sighthound genetic make-up means that the I.G. has an innate instinct to chase moving objects. For this reason, these dogs should be on-leash when out of doors or else kept in a properly-fenced yard. Watching these tiny performance athletes in their double-suspension gallop is a sight to behold—the Italian Greyhound loves to run! On the other hand, with his size he’s well-suited for apartment life. Daily walks are an absolute minimum, as are play sessions and, of course, cuddles—lots and lots of cuddles for these doting dogs.

Speaking of cuddles, I.G.’s are heat-seekers. You’re far more likely to find one on your lap than at your feet. They’re not built to withstand cold climates, so a stockpile of sweaters and coats for inclement weather is a must. 

Elegant and graceful, playful and loving, the Italian Greyhound packs a tremendous amount of personality in such a tiny package. The dogs that once belonged only to the nobility are now available to the masses—but rest assured your I.G. will still worship you like a king or queen.

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