Judging the Italian Greyhound – The Essentials
When asked to judge the Italian Greyhound National, I was very much humbled to judge a breed I hold so close to my heart. Thinking through the process of judging such a large entry, I decided to ask myself, “How would I sort through so many and place them according to the importance of breed characteristics and hallmarks of the breed?” With this inquiry to guide me, sorting became easy. Three essential qualities, in order of importance, are silhouette, movement, and details.
The Italian Greyhound should be elegant and graceful, very similar to the Greyhound but smaller and more slender in all proportions. What does elegant look like? What is graceful? To understand the Italian Greyhound, you first must understand the premise of the form and function of the Greyhound. Therefore, my first criterion was “type,” consisting of outline, balance, elegance, and grace.
When looking at a line-up of Italian Greyhounds, the outline should become the most important thing. With the proper outline, the “S” curves, layback of front assembly, and a balanced rear assembly easily become noticeable. In addition to sufficient shoulder layback to create the breed’s hallmark front action, the front assembly should be set under the dog at the shoulder, with legs perpendicular to the ground.
Finally, when looking at the silhouette, the dog must have smooth “S” curves. This series of “S” curves starts with the slender, gracefully arched neck curving into the withers, which is the highest point on the topline. The “S” curve then continues across the “medium length, short coupling” of the dog, meaning the Italian Greyhound’s body is in the rib cage. The next two “S” curves highlight the underline (definite tuck-up at the flanks) and the balanced rear assembly (long, well-muscled thighs, hocks well-let-down, and well-bent stifles). The highest point of this last “S” curve should start at the loin, with a gradual drop in the croup. When I examined each class, I would write down every exhibit that met this qualification, since correct silhouette is key to type in the Italian Greyhound.
When looking at a line-up of Italian Greyhounds, the outline should become the most important thing. With the proper outline, the “S” curves, layback of front assembly, and a balanced rear assembly easily become noticeable.
Movement on an Italian Greyhound should be what distinguishes itself from other breeds. Therefore, this would be my second determining factor in making selections. The Italian Greyhound should move effortlessly, covering ground easily. “High stepping and free, front legs and hind legs to move forward in a straight line,” this part of the Breed Standard could be up for interpretation when judging.
However, most breeders have concluded that high stepping means reach with a slight bend at the pasterns, and not a stiff-legged, goose step, or hackney action. My preferred visual for people learning the breed has been a bicycle moving in a circular motion, with the lift being between 3 and 4 o’clock and with equal drive from the rear. Together, the appropriately laid-back shoulder and the balanced rear should be the driving force that produces the correct front action of the Italian Greyhound. Upon closer evaluation on the table, you should be able to physically see where the dog’s shoulders lie and if the legs are set under correctly. The chest should also be deep and have fill between the front legs.
Furthermore, the Italian Greyhound should have the same silhouette standing as it does on the move. Frequently, a standing dog could appear to have the correct silhouette, but once it walks, its outline is lost by becoming flat or, sometimes, moving downhill. Though many Italian Greyhounds could have a good coming and going, the side gait should be key to proper movement. Never should you base your decision on a down and back, but instead, watch the side view to clearly see the hallmark movement of the Italian Greyhound that instills breed type. Finally, tail carriage would be best evaluated when on the move. Reaching the top of the hocks, the tail should be long and tapered; set low and carried low. Both ring tails (a serious fault) and gay tails (a fault) have become more prevalent in the breed.
My final decisions would then be based on the details. During my examination on the table, I look for the details on the head, including pigmentation, eye shape and color, ear set, the fullness of muzzle, and presence of underjaw. Eyes should be DARK and almond-like, with light eyes being considered a fault. The Italian Greyhound should have an almost flat topskull with a slight stop. Small and fine in texture, the ears should be carried at a right angle off the skull. Correct ears should be rosed and easily noticeable without needing manipulation. Erect or button ears must be seriously penalized.
The Italian Greyhound is not always a great show dog. As a result, if the silhouette and movement are present, a dog’s refusal to use ears should not be a determining factor in placement. I do not expect the dog to use ears every time, but allow the owner to get the dog’s attention after doing the down and back. If I see them once, that is all I need.
My last deciding factor would be the coat, which should be soft, subtle to the touch, and satin-like. Though these details are very important, they should not take precedence over silhouette and movement. However, when comparing two dogs of equal type and movement, these details should be the next consideration in making the final decision.
During my examination on the table, I look for the details on the head, including pigmentation, eye shape and color, ear set, the fullness of muzzle, and presence of underjaw.
Many contributing factors could affect how this breed looks on the day of judging. The weather, show building, noises and the like could make judging the Italian Greyhound more difficult than other breeds. Form follows function and, being a true sighthound, the Italian Greyhound could be aloof to strangers and might pull back slightly from examination, as many small dogs do. Try not to man-handle this breed, because a short and efficient exam should be all that is needed.
When all comparisons have been made, size should also be a consideration. The ideal size of 13-15 inches is desired, but silhouette, movement, and details should not be sacrificed just for size. Therefore, when given the privilege of judging this wonderful breed and its elegant, graceful attributes, remember that silhouette should be the priority, followed closely by the breed’s hallmark movement, with the final consideration being reserved for the fine details.