The Italian Greyhound (Piccolo Levriero Italiano, in Italian) is a small dog breed in the toy group, and of the sighthound (gazehound) type. This is the smallest of the family of sighthounds (dogs that hunt by sight). This is an old breed and is believed to have originated more than 2,000 years ago in the countries that are now known as Turkey and Greece. This belief is based on pictures of miniature greyhounds in early works of art in these countries, and also on archaeological discovery of small greyhound skeletons. While the dogs are mainly companion dogs, they have also been used for hunting mice or rats and often in combination with hunting. It may be the reason the Greeks bred the dog in the first place.
This breed is the smallest of the sighthounds, and normally weighs between 8-18 pounds, and stands between 13-15 inches tall at its withers. The head of the dog is long and narrow and tapers to the nose, with a slight suggestion of stop. The skull is almost flat, and rather long. His nose is dark (it may be black or brown or in keeping with the color of the dog) and the muzzle is long and fine. The teeth are as scissors bite, and the eyes are medium in size, dark, bright, and intelligent. The ears of the breed are fine in texture and small. They are thrown back and folded except when it is alerted. When alerted they should be carried folded are right angles to the head. The dog’s tail is slender and tapers to a curved end. It is long enough to reach the hock, is set low, and carried low. The Italian Greyhounds coat is short, glossy like satin, soft to the touch, fine and supple.
This breed makes a good companion dog and loves the company of people. Due to its slim build and short coat, they are somewhat fragile and injury can result from rough or careless play with children. As this dog prefers a quiet household, it is good with the elderly or a couple with no children. However, they are generally good with older children. While they seem to do best in areas with lots of space, they are also equally at home in the city. This dog loves to run and is fast, athletic, and agile. For this the breed needs daily exercise to be happy. The Italian Greyhound make pretty good watchdogs, as they will bark at sounds that are unfamiliar to them. However, they should not be regarded as “true” guard dogs as they are easily spooked to run and are often aloof with strangers. AS this breed instinctively hunts by sight and has a high predator drive, it may be best to keep the dog leashed at all times when not in an enclosed area, as it will break away at high speeds to chase a small animal.
The average lifespan of the Italian Greyhound is 13.5 years in a UK Club survey. The US club survey gives the lifespan of 9 years, but reported that more than ¼ of the dogs had “accidents” recorded as death. Some health problems that can be found within the breed include:
– Legg-Perthes disease (degeneration of the hip)
– Patellar Luxation (slipped stifles)
– von Willebrand disease (vWD) (Bleeding disorder)
– Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
– Color dilution alopecia (hair loss in dilute pigmented dogs, i.e.: blues, blue fawns, etc.)
– Leg Breaks (most common under the age of 2)
– Vitreous degeneration
– Liver shunts
– Autoimmune hemolytic anemia
– Periodontal disease, gum recession, early tooth loss, bad tooth enamel
– Hypothyroidism, Autoimmune Thyroid Disease (Hashimoto’s disease)