Living with Italian Greyhounds
Most people refer to them as Iggies or IGs. For the uninitiated, they are Italian Greyhounds, a breed that graces the Toy Group at AKC shows but is integrated with the larger Sighthounds in the FCI-based Standard used throughout most of Europe, Asia, and South America. They fit flawlessly into both. They also are fantastic companions for people with an eye for beauty, a love for fun and the unexpected, a willingness to accept a few charismatic foibles and no embarrassment at sharing love with a highly devoted animal.
These dogs are not couch potatoes indoors like their larger Greyhound cousins. They are small enough to enjoy romping and playing wildly in the tiniest apartment. They can be active almost to the point of being hyper, and that energy can remain with them into their double-figured years.
Activities like Agility or Lure Coursing or less structured active play on a regular basis can help to tone this down. Keeping two IGs is easier for some people, especially if no one is at home for quite a few hours during the day. More than two, however, can complicate housetraining problems and possibly accelerate the wild behavior.
It’s quite important to “IG proof” the home by eliminating high backed furniture or moving it against a wall, removing anything that could become a booby trap for an IG leg, such as a webbed chair, inviting window sill, or other high-up attraction. Most IGs consider it great sport to leap from one chair or sofa back to another. These dogs also have an amazing ability to sense that something on a table or countertop, although essentially out of sight, might be delicious or possibly a fun plaything; and they usually are sufficiently agile to do something about it.
Puppies and young adults can be surprisingly destructive chewers. The best solution is to keep temptation out of reach. The IG not only has excellent vision but the other senses are keen as well. Most of ours have been able to hear a magnetic refrigerator door being opened from two rooms away. They are adept at begging, those “to die for” expressive faces, making the house rules regarding no between meal human food treats difficult to enforce.
Above all, the IG, although generally cordially aloof with strangers, is extremely affectionate and loves to be with its person or persons. Walking, either on city streets or down country lanes—or anywhere in between—is a favorite pastime and is a healthful occupation for both dog and owner. Those walks must be on a lead, however, as the average IG is highly motivated to chase small animals and, although they are not the type of dog that is likely to run away from home for the sheer joy of exploring, the lure of going after something that is moving away rapidly has caused many an IG to become lost, not to mention that most of them have little sense regarding danger from automobiles.
Almost everyone has heard stories of the difficulties encountered in housetraining this breed. They aren’t the easiest dogs in the world in this respect; but they are far from impossible. If one keeps in mind that these are small dogs with small bladders, the first hurdle can be overcome. Don’t make them wait. They also don’t like going out into the cold, wind or rain. The best results are obtained with dual housetraining, which means supplying the little prince or princess with some kind of indoor potty device. The type that uses artificial turf has resulted in some great success and is not quite as unattractive as an area of sopping wet newspapers or a litterbox. For outdoor potty purposes, in areas where a doggie door is safe to use, most IGs can be fairly easily trained to use it.
Living with one or more Italian Greyhounds can be a sensuous experience. Not necessarily lap dogs, typically, IGs prefer to sit or lie next to their person, making as much body contact as possible, chin resting lightly on an arm or leg, and will nearly always remain in this position until the human gets up or something exciting is starting to go on somewhere. Gently stroking a silky neck or body is a calming influence for both human and canine.
Being bonded with its human also makes the IG a warm and cozy bed partner. Almost all of them appear to be genetically programmed to dive under the covers without having to be taught how to accomplish this.
There is also no need to worry about an IG suffocating while buried in a blanket or comforter. They will automatically know how to come up for air when necessary. Eight hours of sleep a night isn’t enough for most IGs, so they will appreciate a clamshell or snuggie type of dog bed that can be used for a snooze during the day—preferably several of these throughout the home.
Beds the humans share with their IGs should never be those exaggeratedly high ones that some people like for some reason. The lower the distance to the floor, the better. An Asian style platform bed is safe and ideal.
IGs are not yappy like some other small breeds, and a single dog is rarely a barker; but most are quite generous with their warning big dog woofs if something unusual occurs. They will respond in a different manner from one another to visual and audible stimuli. A group of them can be easily set off to howl if something prompts it, an activity sometimes referred to by adoring owners as “singing.” Neighbors tend to call it something else. Once started, they aren’t easy to stop.
There are those who say the Italian Greyhound is low in intelligence, but very likely these people are confusing intelligence with trainability. I find IGs to be highly intelligent, although this varies considerably from dog to dog. Even the trainability level is quite good as long as the training is done with the proper mixture of positive reinforcement and firmness. I’ve often been asked, since we have lived with IGs for nearly 50 years, what are their most common personality traits. This is extremely difficult to answer, since there have been no two completely alike. I believe more than any other breed these dogs are truly individuals, which actually explains one of the factors of their irresistible charm.