Let's talk Italian Greyhounds

Packing speed, grace, and balance into a piccolo package, the Italian Greyhound is a lively, intelligent breed once favoured by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, both for companionship and hunting small game. Today, these toy beauties add instant chic to any setting, bringing a touch of Renaissance elegance with them wherever they go. The Italian Greyhound combines sensitivity, beauty, and adaptability, making them a wonderful companion for anyone ready to receive loads of affection from a stunning pet.

Official name: Italian Greyhound

Other names: Piccolo Levriero Italiano

Origins: Italy

Italian Greyhound sitting in black and white
 Drooling tendencies

Very low

Warm weather? Medium
 Shedding level Low
Suited to apartment living?  Very high
 Energy Level (high, low, medium)* Moderate to high Family Pet?* 
Very high
 Compatibility with other pets High
Can stay alone?* Very low

 * We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication.
 
For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs).
 
Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.
 
Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice.
 
All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company.  However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age.  Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

 
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Illustration of Italian Greyhound
Male
33 - 38 cm Height
4 - 5 kg Weight
Female
33 - 38 cm Height
4 - 5 kg Weight

 Baby age  Birth to 2 months
 Puppy age  2 to 10 months
 Adult age 10 months to 8 years
 Mature age  8 to 12 years
 Senior age  From 12 years

Italian Greyhound sitting amongst grass and sand

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Get to know the Italian Greyhound

All you need to know about the breed

The smallest of the sighthounds, the Italian Greyhound resembles a miniature version of their cousin, the standard Greyhound. With a lithe, well-proportioned body that captures the aesthetics of the Renaissance period, it’s no wonder Italian Greyhounds found their way into the paintings of numerous masters. 

Extremely gentle and good-natured, the Italian Greyhound thrives on attention and will follow you wherever you go - so be prepared to say goodbye to your privacy. But while the Italian Greyhound appreciates a good lounge, preferably on your lap, their other favourite pastime is indulging in sporadic bursts of energy that can send them whizzing around the house. True to their coursing hound nature, these canine Lamborghinis are born sprinters; but regular exercise and an enclosed space to run around in will help satisfy their intrinsic need for speed. That said, when out for a walk in the open, the Italian Greyhound should be kept on a lead since they have a strong prey drive and will break into a chase at the slightest prompt. Additionally, the Italian Greyhound does not handle the cold very well and should be dressed in dog-appropriate sweaters or coats for walks in colder months!

While good with family and other pets, the Italian Greyhound can be shy around strangers. Introducing this inherently sensitive breed to new faces and situations as early as possible will benefit both them and you in the long run. And remember: by calmly establishing yourself as the pack leader, you can avoid the little dog with a boss-of-the-house mentality and enjoy the total devotion your Italian Greyhound will eagerly give you. 

Two Italian Greyhounds sitting on grass

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2 facts about Italian Greyhounds

1. Finding royal favour

For millennia, the Italian Greyhound has enjoyed an enviable existence as the preferred canine companion to nobles, aristocrats – and even royals. Mary Queen of Scots, Princess Anne of Denmark, Charles I, and Queen Victoria all owned Italian Greyhounds. But it was perhaps Frederic the Great of Prussia who made the greatest display of affection. It’s said that the monarch was buried alongside his beloved Italian Greyhound. 

2. Eat your heart out, Mona Lisa

The Renaissance era produced a wealth of art that still draws immense crowds, eager to see the genius of artists like da Vinci and Michelangelo with their own eyes. For Venetian Renaissance painters, dogs were a symbol of fidelity, which is perhaps why the doting, affectionate Italian Greyhound found itself either included in or the subject of their works. Masters including Pisanello and Giotto di Bondone incorporated the Italian Greyhound into their paintings, immortalising the ancient breed for the pleasure of generations to come.

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History of the breed

An ancient breed, the Italian Greyhound is thought to have originated in the Mediterranean basin - modern-day Greece and Turkey - over 2000 years ago, as evidenced by archaeological finds from the region. Some believe the Phoenicians are responsible for bringing these dogs to Europe where they were bred as companions and possibly used for hunting small game. By the Middle Ages, the breed was a popular status symbol amongst wealthy and noble southern Europeans, particularly in Italy, where it earned the name that it bears today.

In the 16th century, the breed made its debut on English soil where it soon became a Royal favourite, achieving peak popularity under the reign of Queen Victoria. The American Kennel Club registered its first Italian Greyhound in 1886 and significant breeding efforts were subsequently initiated. 

However, in the meantime, the breed’s European popularity had waned significantly, and the destruction and poverty caused by both world wars nearly wiped them out altogether. Fortunately, British breeders were able to use dogs from the small but pure U.S. Italian Greyhound population to restore European numbers. Today, the Italian Greyhound is enjoying a rebirth in popularity with many happily choosing this small, loving breed as their family companion. 

Close-up of Italian Greyhound in black and white

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Italian Greyhounds

1. Eyes

Medium-sized, dark, expressive eyes.

2. Head

Long, narrow head that tapers toward a black nose.

3. Body

Sleek, muscular body with a curved back and deep, narrow chest.

4. Coat

Soft, short and glossy coat.

5. Tail

Slender, low set tail that tapers to a curved tip.

Close-up of Italian Greyhound looking at camera

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Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Italian Greyhound
Italian Greyhound paused on path with one paw in the air

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Caring for your Italian Greyhound

Grooming, training and exercise tips

Fortunately, the Italian Greyhound’s short, silky coat doesn’t shed much and is easily maintained with a weekly brushing. The breed is prone to periodontal disease, so it’s important to brush their teeth at least every two to three days in addition to a yearly cleaning done by the vet. While their nails should be trimmed regularly, this breed has a hare foot, meaning their middle toes are longer than the others, allowing for speedy takeoffs from a resting position - just like hares. As such, the two middle nails can be left a bit longer than the outer two. The Italian Greyhound is an agile, active breed that should get a good amount of daily exercise. This can come in the form of playtime or a brisk walk outside, provided they’re kept on a lead. The Italian Greyhound responds best to rewards-based training using consistent, firm commands and generous praise. As is the case with many small dogs, house training your Italian Greyhound can be a challenging affair. Doggy doors and paper training can be solutions for this breed. And patience.

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All about Italian Greyhounds

Though little, the Italian Greyhound doesn’t yap; however, they do bark and won’t hesitate to do so to let you know a stranger is coming your way. Which is a good thing, right?

Italian Greyhounds are quite content living indoors. In fact, they thrive in a warm environment and don’t particularly care to go out in cold or inclement weather.

Other breeds that might interest you.

Sources

1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/