An Introduction to the Italian Greyhound
(From the official IGCA breed brochure)
Welcome to the wonderful world of Italian Greyhounds. This material was prepared by the Italian Greyhound Club of America (founded in 1954) to give you sources of information about the newest member of your family, to help you take proper care of your Italian Greyhound, and to assist you to become a responsible dog owner.
Characteristics of the Breed
The Italian Greyhound (or I.G.) is a true greyhound, his small size the result of selective breeding. There is some difference of opinion as to whether he was originally bred for hunting small game or was meant to be simply a pet and companion. It seems most likely that he filled both roles. For this reason he is very adaptable to both city and country living. He is rather luxury loving and enjoys the comfort of an apartment; at the same time being a true hound, he likes exercise and outdoor activities.
Perhaps the most outstanding characteristic of the Italian Greyhound is his affectionate disposition. He thrives best when this affection is returned and is happiest with his owner and immediate family. For this reason, he may sometimes seem a trifle aloof with strangers. He is sensitive, alert, and intelligent and remains playful until long past puppyhood. Due to fine bone structure and sometimes timid or sensitive personality, Italian Greyhounds in general do not make good pets for households with very young or rambunctious children or large, active dogs. IGs are brilliant at problem solving and are quick learners who don’t necessarily equate obedience with love, to the chagrin of many a newcomer to the breed! Some have done well in obedience trials and many excel in the new sport of Agility.
Care of Your New Italian Greyhound
Your puppy needs exercise and attention. Sufficient exercise helps to prevent destructive behavior as well as builds physical strength and dexterity. Teach your puppy how to jump. At first concentrate on helping the puppy jump off low objects until he can safely negotiate household furniture. Italian Greyhound puppies think they can fly and will blithely leap out into space. The highest bed or table holds no terrors for the unknowing puppy. Frequent bursts of energy will be followed by periods of rest. Until your I.G. develops common sense you will want to be alert to situations that could lead to a leg break.
Although Italian Greyhounds need little in the way of coat grooming, nails must be done on a regular basis: 1-3 times weekly with an electric grinder or file for conformational health and to help prevent leg breaks. Greyhounds’ nails grow longer and faster than other breeds. This robust growth often includes the quick (soft interior of the nail) so you should grind nails as often as necessary to maintain nails that clear the floor on the free standing dog.
As soon as the adult teeth have come in, you can begin brushing them using an unflavored toothpaste and brush designed for canines. Brush daily for optimum oral hygiene and to prevent gum disease, which is a common problem for Italian Greyhounds that do not receive this level of care. A yearly professional dental examination is highly recommended.
While Italian Greyhounds bond strongly to their owners, they are less interested in strangers or children unless they are socialized to children, many people, and new situations early and constantly. Take your puppy with you as often as you can and for walks around the neighborhood. Teach your dog where he lives.
Puppies need to be fed three times a day, usually until the age of at least 6 months. An Italian Greyhound’s stomach capacity is too small to obtain the necessary nutrition it needs from a low quality dog food. He just cannot eat enough to meet his own high energy requirements. Feed a premium puppy food. After the age of 6 months, some puppies will let you know they can do without the noon time meal. Others will need three meals a day for months longer. An adult should be fed twice a day with fresh water always available. Italian Greyhounds should be fed a quality, premium food.
Destructive behavior is sure to occur if your puppy is left unattended and unrestricted in the house for long periods of time. The puppy will find something to occupy his time and most certainly it will not be what you would suggest. If you must leave the puppy alone, it should be crated (for not more than 2-3 hours) or safe in an exercise pen with lid with papers on the floor and toys and chew bones to help pass the time. Crating puppies for extended periods of time will lead to elimination in the crate - a very difficult habit to break and no help in house-training.
Italian Greyhound puppies do not have the ability to go without eliminating for long periods of time. They must be taken outside for housetraining very often or reminded to go on their papers for paper training. As a consequence, housetraining can be very difficult if there is no one home during the day. For the first couple of years it will be your task to make sure the puppy does not eliminate in the wrong place and gets praise for going where you choose. Do not expect a very young pup to be reliable about holding “it” or getting to the papers in time. Between 14-16 weeks, the Italian Greyhound puppy begins to develop true bladder control but mental maturity factors can undermine your house- training program. Diligent attention to housetraining for the first couple of years of your pet’s life will result in a clean companion that you will enjoy for many, many years.
A puppy that is not a show and breeding prospect should be spay/neutered to prevent accidental breeding. Italian Greyhounds are, as a rule, quite healthy but do maintain a good relationship with your vet and schedule yearly wellness visits for your dog. Vaccinate and use other preventative treatments as advised by your veterinarian for your locale.
The adolescent Italian Greyhound is active and energetic and needs continuing attention and exercise. Long walks on a martingale collar and lead and free play in a safely fenced area will be greatly enjoyed by both owner and puppy. Italian Greyhounds have not lost their hunting instinct. They will chase anything that moves, and that includes cars. Be very careful with your puppy and even grown dog anywhere there is traffic. An Italian Greyhound can dart out into the road, even pulling the leash out of your hand, to chase the cat or squirrel it has seen on the other side of the street.
Since the Italian Greyhound is a very short-coated canine, it does react negatively to extremely cold temperatures and rain. IGs do not seem to mind cavorting in the snow but they dislike rain in their faces. However, brief periods of exercise are enjoyed even in bad weather. They are not kennel, backyard or basement dogs. While in the house, on cool, nasty days, your Italian Greyhound will want to snuggle under the covers on the bed or the family room sofa. On the whole, the breed would much rather be in your lap or bed than on the floor.
It is not unusual for an Italian Greyhound to live until 14 or 15 years and many times a longer life can be expected. The time and attention you lavish on your puppy will be rewarded by many years of cherished companionship from your devoted Italian Greyhound.
Click here for full IGCA Breed Brochure pdf
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Official AKC Standard
Purebred dogs are judged against individual breed standards,
which have been established for the AKC-recognized breeds by their
national breed clubs. These written standards describe the ideal
size, color, and temperament of each breed, as well as correct proportion,
Conformation dog shows help to preserve these characteristics
by providing a forum for evaluating breeding stock.
Click here to read the Italian Greyhound breed standard
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IGCA's visual guide to understanding our breed standard
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NOTE: Adobe Reader is needed to view and print PDF files.
here for the FREE Adobe Reader download
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Is an IG the Right Breed for You?
Before acquiring a new dog, stop and consider your lifestyle.
Are you aware of the specific
health needs of Italian greyhounds? Are you aware that
optimum oral heath for Italian greyhounds requires daily teeth brushing? Are
you aware that their nails are best maintained by grinding with an
electric nail grinder 2--3 times a week? Are you aware that
most IGs will not potty train themselves and need consistent scheduling
of exercise, food, water, confinement and free periods? The
majority of IGs in Rescue are there because the
owners didn't understand
or didn't have the time and patience necessary to house
train a dog. Are you willing
to learn? Do you have the even greater time needed to raise a puppy
or would an adult be more suitable?
Due to their fine bone structure and sometimes timid or sensitive
personality, they do not make good pets for households with very
young or rambunctious children or large, active dogs.
The Italian Greyhound coat is short, sleek and carries no odor. Because
of their short hair, they do like to stay warm by lying in the sun,
sleeping in your bed – under the covers! – and wearing
coats or sweaters when temperatures dip. Italian Greyhounds are not
outdoor dogs. They cannot tolerate cold weather and would prefer
to be close to their owner even on the warmest of days. They also
do not like getting wet, and many owners have built shelter areas
protect their dog from the elements when going outside for potty
on cold or wet days, or instead use indoor potty pads on bad-weather
days. As creatures of comfort, IGs do not like to put their feet
on wet grass and will often utilize the sidewalk instead.
Their greatest joy is to be with you. Once you aquire an Italian
Greyhound you will never be alone again. If you like your privacy,
Greyhound may not be the breed for you. This breed is not content
to lie at your feet – they demand your attention!
To be a responsible IG owner we
advise reading everything in this section
thoroughly before you
start your inquires with responsible breeders and/or rescue.
The Good, The Bad and the Downright
© copyright Debbie Wolfenbarger
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Care & Training
Crate & House Training
Familial Enamel Hypoplasia test for Italian Greyhounds
Canine Good Citizens
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by Teri Dickinson, DVM
Chair, Health and Welfare Committee, Italian Greyhound Club of America
Despite their fragile appearance, Italian greyhounds (IG's) are
both sturdier and healthier than they appear to the casual observer. Obviously,
due to short
hair and little body fat, they are not suited to prolonged exposure to
extremely cold temperatures, but many do live happily in northern climates.
for their owners, IG's, on the whole, are not often plagued by some of
the more common canine diseases. Allergies, digestive problems, heart problems,
arthritis and back injuries can be found in IG's, but certainly not to
extent that they are represented in some breeds.
Despite their overall good health, there are a few problems that are very
common in IG's and there are some inherited problems that all IG owners
aware of, and for which the dogs should be monitored.
Without question, the biggest health problems involving Italian greyhounds
involve the teeth and gums. Most IG's will develop severe periodontal (gum)
disease at a relatively early age, if their teeth do not receive proper
care. Theories abound about why this occurs and the answer probably lies
in a combination
of factors. Like most toy dogs, IG's have relatively large teeth for the
size of their heads, and this can result in crowding of the teeth in the
IG's have tight lips which can trap food against the gums, and a relatively
dry mouth which causes a reduction of the cleansing effects of saliva washing
food from the gums.
Regardless of the cause, the fact remains that it is not uncommon for IG's
to begin losing incisor (front) teeth to periodontal disease at 1-3 years
of age. All IG's owners should begin a preventive dentistry program as
the permanent teeth erupt, and should plan on brushing the teeth as often
as possible, preferably daily. Brushes and canine tooth paste are available
the veterinarian. In addition, the veterinarian should be recruited to
help monitor the condition of the gums, and the dog should have professional
as often as is necessary to keep the gums in good condition. This may require
annual dentals, or in come cases, semiannual visits, just like your dentist
insists on for your teeth. Teeth cleanings should include polishing the
teeth as the final step, as smooth teeth will trap less calculus on the
Selecting dogs as breeding stock that have healthy teeth and gums seems
to lessen the incidence of gum disease in the puppies. In addition, teeth
be strong, smooth and shiny white, indicating healthy enamel. There is
a condition in IG's where the teeth are small and pointy, and the enamel
rough and yellow.
These rough teeth trap a lot of calculus, and special attention must be
paid to brushing these teeth if one is to keep them healthy. In addition,
teeth are very soft compared to normal teeth, and will wear down much faster,
just in the normal chewing activities of the dog. It appears that the presence
of the rough, yellow teeth is hereditary in nature, and most breeders recommend
against using an affected animal in a breeding program.
Retained deciduous (baby) teeth are also fairly common.
The IG should be monitored as the adult teeth erupt (4-7 months), and if
a permanent tooth erupts and
the corresponding deciduous tooth remains, the deciduous tooth should be
extracted by a veterinarian. The upper canine teeth (fangs) are most commonly
Drug sensitivities are a known issue in IG's. Anesthetics
of the barbiturate class, and organophosphate insecticides should be avoided,
just as they are
in the larger sighthounds. IG's can be successfully and safely anesthetized
with gas anesthetics, particularly isoflurane. It is recommended that the
veterinarian administer the gas through a special set of hoses known as
a "non-rebreathing" apparatus
to insure that the IG gets adequate amounts of oxygen through its relatively
IG owners should find a veterinarian who is interested in dentistry, and
who uses the described anesthetic techniques, and should not let fear of
prevent them from getting proper dental care for the dog.
Fractures of the radius and ulna (forearm) are a common
problem in IG's, particularly between the ages of four and 12 months. New
IG owners should be aware that
IG puppies are fearless, and believe they can fly. The puppy should be
safely confined when unsupervised, and the house should be puppy-proofed
as possible by removing potential "launching pads." The puppy
should be closely supervised when loose in the house, and where possible,
of hard, slippery floors.
Some broken legs are inevitable in a breed with the long, slender legs
of an IG. However, dogs that have a lot of relatives with broken legs seem
at increased risk, and again, many breeders recommend against breeding
dogs from families with a high percentage of leg breaks.
Idiopathic epilepsy is another condition which affects
IG's. Otherwise healthy dogs begin having seizures at 2-5 years, and no
the seizures can
be identified. In many cases, the seizures are mild and infrequent, and
no treatment is necessary. If the seizures become violent, more frequent,
occur in "clusters" the veterinarian will recommend the dog be
placed on anticonvulsants. Phenobarbital is currently considered the drug
and is widely used in IG's. Phenobarb (as it is known) is a member of the
barbiturate class of drugs, but given orally is as safe in IG's as in any
In every breed in which research has been undertaken, idiopathic epilepsy
has been determined to be an inherited disease. It is not recommended to
an animal that has seizures.
Hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) is diagnosed regularly
in the breed. Symptoms can be variable, ranging from weight loss to weight
gain to hair loss.
The veterinarian now has a wide range of blood tests available to help
ascertain the level of thyroid function, and if necessary, supplemental
can be given in tablet form. Once again, breeding of affected dogs is not
Color dilute alopecia (CDA) is also known as color mutant
alopecia, blue Doberman syndrome or blue balding. Alopecia (hair loss)
affects the colored areas of
hair on dogs that have dilute coats. Dilute colors can include blue, blue-fawn,
fawn, etc. The hair loss usually starts in the dorsal stripe (middle of
the back) and spreads to include most of the body. White-haired areas are
affected. There is no pruritus (itching) associated with this disease,
and there is no
treatment for the hair loss. In some breeds (Dobermans) the majority of
dilute (blue and fawn) dogs are affected, but in IG's, only a small percentage
dilute dogs seem to be affected. Many dilute IG's retain a full hair coat
all their lives. CDA affected dogs should not be bred.
Retained testicles (cryptorchidism or sometimes called
monorchidism) are frequent findings in male IG's. Dogs with undescended
testicles are at
of developing testicular cancer, and should be neutered at an early age.
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an eye disease wherein
the cells in the retina (back of the eye) which register the visual image,
begin to die. Dogs
are born with normal vision but at three to four years of age develop lack
of night vision (night blindness). Vision loss is normally progressive,
and eventually results in total blindness. A veterinary ophthalmologist
the eye may be able to detect changes in an affected IG at two to three
years of age. There is no treatment for PRA.
PRA is known to be hereditary nature in nature. It is inherited as a simple
recessive which means that two normal dogs may be carriers of the gene,
and when bred together can produce an affected dog. Any dog which produces
affected dog is a carrier and should no longer be bred. In addition, affected
their littermates should not be used as breeding stock. IG's used for breeding
should have annual eye exams performed by a veterinary ophthalmologist.
Juvenile cataracts (which are also heritable) are occasionally
diagnosed in IG's as well.
Luxating patellas (slipped stifles) are a common problem
in toy breeds and the IG is no exception. The patella (knee cap) does not
remain in the groove
on the femur (thigh bone) and thus becomes luxated (dislocated). The affected
dog will often hold up the affected hind leg, and may exhibit a hopping
gate in the rear, as the patella moves in and out of the groove. Once again,
animals should not be bred, but surgery can be used to stabilize the patella
and make the dog more comfortable.
Legg-Perthe's disease (LPD) is another orthopedic problem
found in IG's. LPD affects the hip joint, and the primary sign is lameness
in one or both hind
legs at 5-12 months of age. In LPD, part of the hip joint loses its blood
supply, and the surrounding bone dies and collapses. There is a surgical
for this disease. LPD is known to be hereditary.
IG's can be affected by a number of autoimmune or immune mediated diseases.
In these conditions, the dog's immune system becomes confused, and fails
to differentiate the cells that belong to the dog from those of invading
viruses, etc. As a result, the immune system begins attacking the dog's
own cells. A wide variety of diseases can occur including pemphigus (all
and lupus (local or systemic). The symptoms can usually be controlled by
treating the dog with a variety of drugs to suppress the immune system
(immunosuppresants), and these dogs too should be removed from the breeding
Portal systemic shunts (liver shunts) may occur in IG's.
An abnormal pattern of blood vessels allows blood to be routed around the
dog's liver, instead
of through the liver. As a result, the toxins in the blood cannot be removed
by the liver, and affected dogs may suffer seizures (hepatic encephalopathy).
In some cases, it is possible to surgically repair the blood vessels, and
allow the dog to live a more normal life, but affected dogs should not
Inherited deafness has been reported in IG's particularly
in individuals which are solid white or have only small patches of color
on their heads or ears. Von Willebrand's disease (VWD),
an inherited blood clotting disease, has also been detected in IG's.
Considering buying an IG? Ask the breeder if their breeding stock is free
of the above conditions, and has had appropriate health screening tests
performed. Already have an IG? Be on the lookout for the symptoms described
share the information in this article with your veterinarian. Have an IG
with one of these problems? Please contact the breeder and give them as
much information as possible. Conscientious breeders need and want to know
any health problems which crop up in their lines. Above all, remember to
brush those IG teeth!
© copyright Teri Dickinson, DVM, 1997
Reprinted with permission from Top Notch Toys
Further Health Study, Medical Research & Health Databases
Can be found on our Links & Resources page
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Where to Get an IG (and where not to get an IG) and
The best places to get IGs are from responsible breeders or rescue
A responsible breeder's primary concern is the health and well-being of
dogs they produce. They will be doing careful genetic research and
heath testing before breeding a litter. IGs have a very limited gene pool
so this is very important. Many genetic issues won't show up for
2-6 years so heath testing and knowledge are required to minimize the chances
of your dog developing PRA, idiopathic epilepsy, slipped patellas, etc. Responsible
breeders care about dogs of their breeding and want buyers to keep in
touch with them, especially if a health issue arises.
breeders will be actively showing their dogs to be certain of breeding
to the breed standard.
breeder would never advertise: WILL SHIP ANYWHERE. They know that
a good measure of the success of a dog's placement depends on hands-on
follow-up counseling. Responsible breeders are loathe to send a dog out
of their area unless they have someone they personally know and trust in
the buyer's area to provide hands-on counseling. References
only from a vet or friends and bank statements would NOT be enough.
You should meet the breeder in person to verify that their
dogs are properly cared for. Check with heath testing registries
(CERF, OFA) to see if their dogs really are health tested. They should
be able to show you how to brush teeth and groom nails with a grinder and
to help you teach
your dog to accept this type handling.
Responsible rescue reps are also primarily concerned with the dogs well-being
and will not be sending dogs out of their immediate areas for the same
reasons stated above. They will do follow-up visits to be sure that
you are comfortable with doing teeth and nails and to help you with any
training issues that might arise. The original source of rescue dogs
is usually commercial breeders who sell direct via the internet or through
pet stores and inexperienced backyard breeders. By purchasing dogs
directly from pet shops, commercial breeders or backyard breeders you are
contributing to the problem
heath testing or concern for their well-being.
Rescue reps take on
the responsibility of re-homing dogs bred by irresponsible breeders.
The internet has been a boon to irresponsible breeders as a profitable
outlet for puppy sales. They can be very deceptive in their advertising,
presenting themselves as caring breeders, lying about heath testing, saying
they take dogs back or will help you re-home them. Offers of a year long
health guarantee are meaningless when it comes to genetic issues that don't
show up for 2-6 years. Even when they know their dogs produce genetic problems,
they can get away with continuing to breed because the
won't show the problem until the guarantee is expired. Many now are active
in showing their dogs to give the inexperienced buyer the
responsibility. You must do your research!
Buying or Selling an IG (Buyer
For breed information in your area, please contact:
While all IGCA members are required to sign the Code of
Ethics, it serves primarily
as a guideline for breeders, with No Warranty Expressed or Implied
by IGCA. When researching breeders it is the consumer’s
responsibility to personally verify information
received on health testing, condition dogs are maintained in, references,
Please note that this list consists of those
members who have chosen to have their information on
the web and is not a complete listing. Please send a stamped, self-addressed
envelope for a list of members in your geographic area and a copy of the
IGCA breed brochure, which should answer many of your questions about the
IGCA - Referrals
c/o Lilian Barber
35648 Menifee Rd
Murrieta, CA 92563
IGCA MEMBERS PLEASE NOTE: To have your information updated on this referral list you MUST contact Darlene Wallace. Any enquires about updates should go directly her.
Thanks! Linda Kennedy
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