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Italian Greyhounds: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em

Italian Greyhound temperament, personality, training, behavior, pros and cons, advice, and information, by Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Italian Greyhound dog breed

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...

  • Looks like a small Greyhound
  • Has a sleek easy-care coat that comes in many colors
  • Doesn't shed very much (though 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.

Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament is less predictable than the inheritance of physical traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.

More traits and characteristics of the Italian Greyhound

If I was considering an Italian Greyhound, I would be most concerned about...

  1. Fragility. You can seriously injure an Italian Greyhound puppy by accidentally sitting on him when he's curled under a blanket or pillow, where he frequently likes to sleep. Young Italian Greyhounds can seriously injure themselves by launching off your bed or the high back of your sofa and fracturing the growing bones in their long spindly legs. Italian Greyhounds seem to believe they can fly and won't hesitate to leap without thinking. You need to protect this breed not only from others harming him, but from himself.

    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 or squeezed too hard. Even Italian Greyhound adults often feel overwhelmed by the loud voices and quick movements that children can't help making – and stress and shyness may be the result.

  2. Housebreaking problems. As a behavioral consultant, I put the Italian Greyhound on my Top 20 List of "Hard to Housebreak." Consistent crate training is mandatory. Sometimes a doggy door is necessary. Some unfortunate owners never do get their Italian Greyhounds fully housebroken.
  3. Providing safe space to exercise. Italian Greyhounds exercise in short bursts of all-out galloping. They need a good-sized fenced yard or they will practically run up and down the walls of your house. This is not a breed for an apartment with no fenced yard. Your fences should be high and solid – these dogs are amazing jumpers and climbers who can scale a six-foot fence.
  4. 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. Italian Greyhounds are peaceful, sensitive dogs who need a peaceful, harmonious home.
  5. The independent temperament. Italian Greyhounds belong to the sighthound family of dogs, and sighthounds are very different from other kinds of dogs. Sighthounds are independent thinkers who don't particularly care about pleasing you. They may display passive resistance by bracing their legs and refusing to move. You must show them, through patient persistence and absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.
  6. 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.
  7. Potential health problems. Injuries lead the list, from fractured legs and toes to torn ligaments. Italian Greyhounds also tend to have bad teeth, leading to dental disease. Read more about Italian Greyhound Health.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.

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