UDPATED! Italian Greyhound: Breed of the Week
Are Italian Greyhounds Good City Dogs?
Beautiful, sleek, and agile are the words that come to my mind when I think of the Italian Greyhound.
Italian Greyhounds (IGs) are the smallest of the sight hound group, which also includes breeds like the Saluki, Afghan Hound, and the IG’s larger cousin, the Greyhound. Like most other sight hounds, IGs love to run! They can reach speeds of up to 25 miles per hour and turn on a dime, they’re the Ferraris of the dog world.
Italian Greyhounds are an old breed, dating back some 2,000 years. You will find them in art spanning the ages: you can see them on pots and urns excavated in ancient Turkey and in works by Renaissance artists.
They were the preferred breed of nobles like Mary, Queen of Scots and Queen Victoria. They are still found in some pretty good company these days with the likes of Sigourney Weaver, Seth Myers, and Uma Thurman all being owners of IGs.
Italian Greyhounds were originally bred to hunt vermin. Their small size, lightning speed, and intelligence made them superb hunters. They are sweet natured, but somewhat needy companions. They not only want to be near their owners, they also have a need to touch them as well. Italian Greyhounds love to lick your face, your hands, eyes, and noses. They become very attached to their owners and will want to spend every moment with them. Darren Davis-Kandler, the owner of Bentley (seen in some of the photos in this article) says: “They are loyal, loving Velcro-like dogs who love cuddling all day if possible and enjoy sleeping under the blankets. They would spend the entire day and night laying with you if you allowed them to.” They live long lives, around 15 years, so they will be around a long time.
They come in several colors, fawn, brown, black, red, white, and also those colors with white patches.
Italian Greyhounds can be susceptible to ailments like cataracts, hip dysplasia, and more breed-specific issues like epilepsy and patellar luxation. One way to avoid some of these problems is to get your IG from a responsible breeder. Find a breeder who will show you health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and or from Auburn University.
Urban Dog reader and IG enthusiast Fran Wickham says you need to make sure to pay attention to their dental care as well.
Do Italian Greyhounds Bark?
Just looking at them, you can tell Italian Greyhounds are delicate dogs. Broken bones are common problems. Architect Matt Bremer, the owner of IG Geoffrey, says: “Many potential owners are fearful of the fragility of Iggies, and this is a legitimate concern. They are natural daredevils, prone to potentially break a (very thin) leg over their lifetime. So pet insurance and a vigilant parental eye are both highly recommended.
And they get cold. You will need to buy a wardrobe for them if you live in colder climates. Matt says Geoffrey “… has more and lovelier winter clothes than I do, and in fact needs them. Hairless, and with no body fat to speak of, Italian Greyhounds need fleece and wool for their delicate little frames. And given their rather distinctive profiles they tend to require breed-specific clothing. Luckily, there’s www.houndzinthehood.com and www.iggycouture.com.”
(Editor’s note: Geoffrey, seen in some of the pictures in this post, is probably second to our dog Bodhi, when it comes to being an Urban Dog model. You can see him here, here, here, and here.)
Another difficulty IG owners face is housebreaking. Like many small dogs, housebreaking Italian Greyhounds can be a challenge. It takes lots of time and lots of patience and there still may be the occasional accident. According the Italian Greyhound Club the number one reason IGs are given up is the owner couldn’t housetrain them.
Training is important for any city dog. And while Iggies are not going to pose much of a threat of knocking down little old ladies in your lobby, you do want your pooch to be well-behaved in your building’s common areas. They score “Fair” when it comes to understanding new commands. They obey first command about 30% of the time according to Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia who studies dog behavior. That means it takes about 40 to 80 repetitions for them to learn new commands.
We did a little research and the consensus is that Iggies are not nuisance barkers.
They don’t take up much space — weighing in at about 15 pounds — and are relatively healthy. Grooming is easy, the occasional bath, brushing, and nail clipping is typically all the grooming an IG needs.
So, if you are patient and willing to dedicate the time, the IG can be a wonderful Urban Dog. Here’s more from the American Kennel Club.
For tips on how to find a pet-friendly apartment in New York and other cities read Urban Dog’s guide.