An energetic charmer

Tekst: The Italian Greyhound committee Norway (excerpt from the magazine Hundesport 2015 no.4)

The Italian Greyhound is an energetic breed who will accompany you in almost any activity. They are the center of the universe, and everything revolve around them. The breed is independent, but also very attached to its owner and has a great need for body contact. It usually won´t take long before they have invaded both the sofa and bed, so  not for you if you expect the dog to lie on the floor in a dog bed. They are masters of manipulation and easily get what they want. Usually the owner gives in as the reward of being an Italian slave is so great.

The Italian Greyhound is highly sensitive to their owners mood and desires.  The slightest que will get their attention, and they can get severely offended if they get yelled at. That said, it is still important to note that the Italian Greyhound would like to do what it´s not allowed, such as stealing food from the table.

The history of the Italian

The origins of the Italian greyhound lie very far back in time, and it is believed that it was first known in Egypt, where mummified small dogs have been found. It has also been found images of small sighthounds from the early Roman cultures. The name Italian greyhound comes from the breed’s popularity in Italy during the Renaissance. Although the breed has primarily been held as a company dog, larger individuals have also been used for hunting small animals. Often together with hunting falcons. Many artists have illustrated the Italian greyhound in their works, such as Velasquez, Pisanello and Giotto. Royals has served as protectors of the breed, among the most famous are Maria Stuart, Queen Victoria, Catherine the Great, Fredrik the Great and our Norwegian Queen Maud.

In the 1800s, especially in England, it was desirable to make the Italian Greyhound as small as possible. This resulted in health issues, and you would find dogs with a clear toy outlook. The way the breed stands out today, we can contribute to continental breeders. In particular, the Austrian, German and Italian breeders. The breed was almost extinct during World War II. For genetic variation the breeders made decisions to breed in selected Whippets as well as Italian Greyhounds from England and the United States.

The first registrated Italian Greyhounds in the Norwegian Kennel Club were three English imports from the Swedish kennel Sobers in 1959/60. Initially, the Norwegian population was built on imports from Sweden and England, but it would take a while for the breed to establish itself here. Kennel Dogcastle was the first known breeder to breed Italian Greyhounds in the 1960s, and is still active today.

Breed specifics

The breed standard describes the Italian as slender, high legged and square. Even though it’s a small dog, it is a typical sighthound, with the refined elegance of the image. The breed can stand model for terms such as grace and nobility, with its deep chest and s-curved silhouette. The movements are characteristic, almost dancing, with high elongated and elegant steps. Allowed coat colors are black, grey and isabella, In all shades from light to dark. White markings is only allowed on the chest and toes according to the FCI standards, but other countries have no limitations on white markings. The height is 32 – 38cm, for both male and female dogs.


The Italian Greyhound is considered as a healthy breed. But as in all breeds, various diseases can occur. Patella luxation and eye disorders are worth mentioning. These can be mapped through eye check and knee examination with approved veterinarians. Epilepsy is a more difficult disease to deal with. In addition to hereditary disposition, several conditions and diseases can cause seizures.

With long thin legs and a speed that most dogs can envy them, the Italian Greyhound is particularly vulnerable to bone fractures. In young age you have to be attentive and careful as they are more in the air than on the ground. And they will often use the furniture as an play park. It is important to let the puppy develop body control and respect for heights in a safe environment, as well as ensure that the dog is in good physical shape. Good insurance is important if the accident would be out.

The sporting dog

Although the Italian Greyhound is a smaller dog, it is also a fullblood sighthound with a need to run. With fast acceleration, high speed and quick turns, it is more enjoyable to run free, than walking on leash. The breeds working sport, as for all sighthounds, is Lure Coursing. Lure Couring simulates hare hunting on a field. The dogs run after a “lure” (plastic bag) that’s attached to a line dragged through a field setup. 5  different criteria are evaluated for up to 20 points each, a maximum of 100 points. More information can be found at (Norwegian language)

Variating hunting instinct and hunting ability, from strong to non-existent. Not all dogs will hunt. The participation for lure coursing within the breed in Norway is small but growing. Norway sets to participate with the breeds at the European Championship, and in recent years there have been Norwegian representatives on the national team. In Europe, many people are actively engaged in Lure Coursing.

Exercise and everyday life

The Italian Greyhound is a quick learner, where most can be thought at short intervals and through positive reinforcement. With a lot of energy, speed and excitement, the breed is perfect for agility. Despite this, they are not often represented in this sport in Norway. Otherwise, the Italian Greyhound is well suited for long walks and hikes, and you should not be fooled by the small size. They can easily cope with several miles, and have no trouble keeping up with you while cycling, skiing or jogging. Often they can go off leach, as they stay close to their owner. But keep in mind the hunting instinct, and even the best recalls can be ignored.

The summer time is a favorite, with sunbathing and active days with their owners. Winter and cold weather will require some considerations, such as clothing and other measures because of the short coat and low body fat. During the coldest periods they seem to almost hibernate, and you will face some reluctance when suggesting going out for a walk. But they often show great joy when they finally get outside. Soon your Italian Greyhound eventually ends up with larger wardrobes than yourself.

To sum up, the Italian Greyhound is healthy, beautiful and a devoted friend, in a matching sweater. Yet a distinctive sighthound that will not suit everyone.