Italian Greyhound Temperament
What's Good About 'Em,
What's Bad About 'Em
Italian Greyhound Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2014
The Italian Greyhound is sweet-natured and gentle, yet also exceptionally playful and athletic.
This warmth-seeking, comfort-loving dog can usually be found basking in sunspots or snuggled into soft furniture, often hidden under a blanket, pillow, or towel. When you own an Italian Greyhound, you need to watch where you sit!
But if this breed sounds like the perfect couch potato . . . he isn't! In between his placid snuggles, Italian Greyhounds will suddenly explode into a burst of vigorous running and leaping, tearing pell-mell around the house or yard, darting and zigzagging at breakneck speeds and literally bouncing off the walls, fence, sofa, or beds.
Perching themselves up high on the back of your sofa to better see out the window, young Italian Greyhounds are notorious for breaking their long fragile legs as they launch themselves fearlessly into space and crash to the floor. Their spurts of reckless abandon can be nerve-wracking to live with!
The same is true outdoors. A yard that hopes to contain an Italian Greyhound should have a high (at least six-foot fence), because this racy, agile breed is a fantastic jumper. Off-leash walks would be foolish for a similar reason: he can be out of sight in seconds.
Polite (often a bit aloof) with strangers, there is potential for timidity, so he should be socialized early and thoroughly.
The Italian Greyhound is amiable with other dogs and cats, but some have a high prey drive and will run squeaky creatures into the ground.
IGs (pronounced eye-jees) or Iggies are mildly stubborn and very sensitive. They respond favorably only to gentle, upbeat training methods that emphasize cheerful praise and food rewards. Physical corrections upset them because they can be "touch-sensitive", startling when touched unexpectedly or grabbed suddenly (one reason I don't recommend these dogs for young children).
Italian Greyhounds have marvellously quirky, inquisitive, demanding personalities that are unique from other breeds. With all of their special needs, they are not good choices for inexperienced dog owners.
Housebreaking is especially difficult, as Italian Greyhounds often refuse to go outside in the cold or rain. Some owners build special (large) litterboxes for their Italian Greyhound, or teach him to use a doggy door that leads out to a COVERED and PROTECTED potty yard.
If you want a dog who...
- Is small and lightweight, with a unique slender, curvy build that he often shows off by posing like an elegant porcelain statue
- Has a sleek easy-care coat that comes in many colors
- Doesn't shed very much (though is not a hypoallergenic breed)
- Moves with light-footed grace and a high-stepping gait
- Can switch from couch potato to fast, agile athlete in an instant
- Is polite and peaceful with everyone
- Doesn't bark much
An Italian Greyhound may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- The fragility of toy breeds (see below)
- Shyness when not socialized enough
- Keeping him on-leash or in a safe enclosure, as he would otherwise dash away, oblivious to your calls, in pursuit of anything that moves
- Emotional sensitivity to stress and abrupt changes in schedule
- An independent "what's in it for me?" attitude toward training
- Notorious housebreaking difficulties
An Italian Greyhound may not be right for you.
- choosing the RIGHT breeder and the RIGHT puppy
- or choosing an ADULT dog from your animal shelter or rescue group – a dog who has already proven that he doesn't have negative traits
- training your dog to respect you
- avoiding health problems by following my daily care program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy
More traits and characteristics of the Italian Greyhound
If I was considering an Italian Greyhound, I would be most concerned about...
- Fragility. Too many people acquire an Italian Greyhound puppy without understanding how incredibly spindly and fragile he is. You can seriously injure an Italian Greyhound puppy by sitting on him when he's curled under a blanket or pillow, where he frequently likes to sleep. Leg fractures are extremely common in young Italian Greyhounds, who seem to believe they can fly.
Italian Greyhound puppies are NOT suited to small children, no matter how well-meaning the child. Children cannot help being clumsy, and that a child meant well is little solace to an Italian Greyhound puppy who has been accidentally stepped on, sat on, rolled on, squeezed, or dropped onto the patio. Even Italian Greyhound adults may feel overwhelmed by the loud voices and quick movements that children can't help making -- and stress and shyness (even defensive biting) may be the result.
- Separation anxiety. Italian Greyhounds are clingy with their owners and need a great deal of companionship. They do not like being left alone for more than a few hours and tend to express their unhappiness through destructive chewing. If you work all day, this is not the breed for you.
- Providing room to exercise. Italian Greyhounds need regular opportunities to vent their energy through short bursts of galloping in a good-sized fenced yard. Without some space to move, they will practically run up the walls of your house. This is not a breed for an apartment with no fenced yard.
- Emotional sensitivity. Be honest . . . is there tension in your home? Are people loud or argumentative? Italian Greyhounds are extremely sensitive to stress and can end up literally sick to their stomachs, with severe digestive upsets and neurotic behaviors, if their people are having family problems. Sighthounds are peaceful, sensitive dogs who need a peaceful, harmonious home.
- Housebreaking problems. As a behavioral consultant, I would put the Italian Greyhound on my Top 20 List of "Hard to Housebreak." Consistent crate training is mandatory. Sometimes a doggy door is necessary. And some owners never do get their Italian Greyhounds fully housebroken.
- The independent temperament. Italian Greyhounds are independent thinkers. "Pleasing you" is not their highest priority. Most Italian Greyhounds are at least mildly stubborn and can be manipulative. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.
To learn more about training Italian Greyhounds to be calm and well-behaved, consider my dog training book, Teach Your Dog 100 English Words.
It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will make your Italian Greyhound the smartest, most well-behaved companion you've ever had.
Teaches your dog to listen to you, to pay attention to you, and to do whatever you ask him to do.
- Finding a healthy one. Italian Greyhounds can suffer from dental disease, cataracts and other eye diseases, skin disorders, loose knees, epilepsy, heart disease, and more.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a healthy Italian Greyhound. Health problems have become so widespread in dogs today that this book is required reading for ANYONE who is thinking of getting a purebred, crossbred, or mixed breed dog.
If you'd like to consult with me personally about whether an Italian Greyhound might be a good dog breed for your family, I offer a Dog Breed Consulting Service.
Once you have your Italian Greyhound home, you need to KEEP him healthy -- or if he's having any current health problems, you need to get him back on the road to good health.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy is the book you need. Raise your dog the right way and you will be helping him live a longer, healthier life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.
Please consider adopting an ADULT Italian Greyhound...
When you're acquiring an Italian Greyhound PUPPY, you're acquiring potential -- what he one day will be. So "typical breed characteristics" are very important.
But when you acquire an adult dog, you're acquiring what he already IS and you can decide whether he is the right dog for you based on that reality. There are plenty of adult Italian Greyhounds who have already proven themselves NOT to have negative characteristics that are "typical" for their breed. If you find such an adult dog, don't let "typical breed negatives" worry you. Just be happy that you found an atypical individual -- and enjoy!
Save a life. Adopt a dog.
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